Jen: Today we welcome Helen J Rolfe to Romancing the Book. Helen, will you share a short bio with us?
Helen: Helen J Rolfe writes contemporary women’s fiction, often touching on serious themes. She promises to give readers uplifting books with central characters to relate to and fall in love with.
Helen J Rolfe worked as an I.T consultant until she couldn’t ignore her passion for writing any longer. She studied journalism and writing and worked as a freelance journalist for women’s magazines. She also volunteered as a media assistant with a not-for-profit agency where she was responsible for the corporate newsletter and media releases. In 2011 the fiction bug bit and Helen has been writing fiction ever since.
After fourteen years of calling Australia home, Helen has returned to the UK with her family and they now live in Bath. Her debut novel, The Friendship Tree was published in February 2015. The Friendship Tree tells the story of Tamara Harding who runs from her past only to find herself falling for Jake Manning, direct competitor for the family business and a man with dark secrets. Tamara must fight her attraction to Jake, deal with an ex who refuses to give up and deal with long-buried family secrets. And when danger comes to town, a friendship tree has the power to unite an entire community.
Helen J Rolfe’s second novel, Handle Me with Care was published June 30th 2015.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Helen: My newest release is Handle Me with Care. I got the idea for my story as I was reading a magazine article about a woman who started dating a man and very early on found out that she had cancer. I started to think about how hard it must be to go through something so physically and emotionally draining, and how much harder it would be if you barely knew each other.
I decided to give both Maddie and Evan – the main characters in Handle me with Care – their own emotional and physical baggage and follow their journey as they both learn about themselves and life. I really enjoyed working with these characters through their emotional times, sad times and the fun that they encounter along the way.
Does true love come along more than once in a lifetime? Maddie Kershaw doesn’t think so. She lost the love of her life in the 9/11 attacks, and since then has hopped from one casual fling to the next. But when she delivers an erotic cake to a one-hundredth birthday party by mistake, she meets Evan and starts to believe in second chances … until she realises there’s a risk of getting hurt all over again.
Evan Quinn is serially single, yet when he meets Maddie he feels an instant connection, so much so that he confesses on their first date that he may have testicular cancer. Was it a mistake to tell her? He wants Maddie more than he has ever wanted any other woman. But he doesn’t want her pity.
With the odds stacked against them both, finding love won’t be easy. But beneath the Australian sun, a Happy Ever After could be worth fighting for.
Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Helen: I’m definitely a mixture of the two. I get the seed of an idea and then expand on it, jotting out ideas, usually on my phone when I’m out and about. Then I like to sit down and plan the story including contents of each chapter, hooks and main events. I also do a C.V for each of my characters covering everything from eye and hair colour to their likes and dislikes or funny habits. This helps to keep me on track when I’m writing.
Once I start on my first draft however, I often find my characters doing something that I hadn’t planned. It’s an exciting time when I can’t write / type fast enough but it also means a bit of reworking with my original plot to ensure consistency.
Jen: How do you remember ideas that come to you at odd times?
Helen: The beauty of the iPhone! I have ideas at the strangest of times…on the school run or on the way to the gym, or even in the supermarket. I put everything in the notes section on my phone and then email it to myself. My email is full of new ideas and I’ve attempted to organise them into folders!
Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Helen: Handle Me with Care took a lot of research. I knew nothing about testicular cancer and so I interviewed an oncologist in Melbourne. He was incredibly helpful in answering my questions so that I could create Evan, my male character, and take him on a realistic journey.
Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest? Most rewarding?
Helen: I absolutely love all stages of actual writing although including the first draft and editing. The most rewarding challenge is when the book is finally at that stage where you can say ‘done’ and send to the editor. It’s a great feeling, even though you know there’s still work to be done.
The most challenging aspect for me is the promotion side. It takes a lot of work and I end up missing the writing stage. But, in the electronic age, promotion is essential or books are just buried beneath the thousands that are out there.
Jen: If this book was made into a movie, who do you see playing the main characters?
Helen: Now that would be really exciting! I’d have to say Channing Tatum alongside Isla Fisher. Of course, Channing would have to learn the Australian accent!
Jen: What’s next for you?
Helen: Novel number 3 is with my editor at the moment and I’m hoping to publish the book towards the end of 2015. It’s romantic fiction and involves a house-sitter who gets more than she bargained for when she looks after a property and meets the owner’s son.
I am busy planning novel number four now and embarking on the first draft!