Today I’m conducting a session with…Helen Henderson!
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Me: Tell me about an experience that had a profound impact on your life.
Helen: A number of events come to mind: the death of a family member, getting married, the first time I took on the role of caregiver. However, despite the passage of time one event still haunts – the series of events that are often collectively referred to as 9-11. Although the fall of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, can technically be considered two events, to me they are one, inextricably entwined.
As was the attack on Pearl Harbor a generation earlier, the impact on the national psyche would be enough to justify the phrase “profound.” There was also a personal component. I lived across the bay and stood on the boardwalk watching the smoke rise from the towers and their eventual collapse. Other connections are working in the north tower for several years and knowing someone who died on Flight 93.
September 11th also impacted me as a writer. At the time I was finishing up a local history. The impact as a nation and on the community dictated some acknowledgement. A short note became a chapter listing the people the town lost.
Me: What personality trait of yours helps you most as an author?
Helen: I admit I like organization and structure. That is a great ability for a computer programmer, system analyst, and sometimes as a fiction writer. I hate to redo scenes or even more so to write scene after scene that ends up on the cutting room floor because they were too similar or didn’t fit the storyline. Organizing as I write keeps my storyline on track and not doing it all up front keeps the freshness I want.
Me: What personality trait of yours hinders you most as an author?
Helen: I love to research. You would think that would be a benefit to an author. However, it can present a challenge. If you’re lost in the past, you’re not writing. And, once you gather the information there is the challenge of its use. You want to share all the interesting tidbits you found, but too much and the story turns into a data dump. Still, that doesn’t stop me from enjoying reenactments, museums, and archives, and keeping shelves full of history books in my office.
Me: What was your high point as a writer—a time when you were happiest, on cloud nine, flying high? What happened?
Helen: Instead of choosing my first contract as the highest point, I ‘m choosing the email notifying me of my first talk at a major conference. The talk was recorded as was an on-camera interview afterwards. Adding to the high point was the energy of the conference itself, the excitement of speaking in front of a large crowed. And, during lunch, seeing my book cover scroll across the giant screen in the companionship of those of New York Times best-seller authors.
Me: What was your low point as a writer—a time when questioned your path as a writer, a time when you felt really crappy about your writing? What happened? How did you get over it?
Helen: Just because you make a living as a writer, doesn’t mean the future will continue to accommodate your desires or provide an income. However the low point didn’t come because of changes in the industry. Bad critiques, rejections by the ultimate publisher, and the collapse of not one, but two publishers would test any author’s commitment. If we weren’t driven to write, didn’t have to write and were able to stop, that would be the year to do so. However, the event that stopped me dead in my tracks was none of the above. In fact the low point didn’t come from my fiction, but my work on the dark side, non-fiction.
An organization wanted a history to commemorate an event. And since research notes would be supplied it didn’t seem like the task would be too involved. Then came the first push-back of the release date, the first of several. What followed over the course of the next two decades were multiple changes of administration (each of which re-authorized the project only to delay because of money) and repeated rewrites to bring the book up to date. Then yet another anniversary approached and the release was finally going to happen.
The date was selected and approvals for a special anniversary program, a heritage exhibit, and book launch were all acquired. The program was written, list of people to be invited prepared, and one last update of the book made. Then the low point. Days before the meeting to finalize the plans, the head of the organization overrode the governing bodies and cancelled the anniversary events. With no event, there went the book lauch. If that wasn’t bad enough, since it was to be a public event, promotion had started months before, so for the next year I had to field questions as to when the program would be held or try to explain why was it cancelled.
Me: Which of your characters are you most like? Why?
Helen: Like many authors, I leave a little bit of myself on the pages. It might be a character’s attitude, a place I’ve been, or a dream I’ve held. Glyn bodyguard to the newest dragon lord is chosen as most like me because of her sense of duty. To protect her charge, she kept her gender secret, and risked her one chance at love. Even after she found her mate, duty called her one more time. And this time the stakes and price of failure was even higher.
Me: What’s the most painful rejection or review you’ve ever received? How did you get over it?
Helen: The most painful rejection I ever received was the comment by a reader that could not continue reading past the second page. His critique came with a recommendation to rewrite the entire novel. As to how I got over it. After the cursing, throwing things, and despair, I stopped and looked at the source. It was from an unpublished author who had just received their first contract. And after looking at the person’s comments on other works (including several novels by a multi-published author), I discovered the person had a bias towards anything with romance. After a review of the positive comments given by every other reader. I dismissed the negative one and forced myself to continue writing.
Me: How do you deal with rejection or bad reviews? What advice can you give others about how to handle rejection and bad reviews?
Helen: The first step to dealing with bad reviews is Not look. If I don’t know about a 1-star review, it can’t depress me. Evaluate the reviewer. (See the question above for one example.) Look at the comment. If a criticism makes sense, use it.
Me: Tell me about your romantic fantasy, Windmaster Legacy.
Ellspeth and the dark-haired archmage Dal, are escorting his mother to her ancestral lands. Their plans change when mercenaries under the control of Bashim, a rogue mage, attack. Dal’s mother is fatally wounded. Ellspeth is captured and her sole hope for escape is Nobyn, an untrained wizard going through the throes of awakening magic. However, Nobyn is Bashim’s apprentice and under the mage’s total control.
Dal must make an impossible decision — Rescue Ellspeth, save his mother, or get revenge. As archmage, Dal might be able to survive killing the future of magic, but as a man could he live with the knowledge he caused the death of a loved one.
Me: Share with us a favorite paragraph or two from Fire and Ice.
Instead of a snippet from Windmaster Legacy, here’s an excerpt from the upcoming release from my other series, The Dragshi Chronicles. First Change is a collection of short stories and novellas of tales of history and legend of the dragshi, humans who can take on the dragon form.
As to why the selection is special? As those in the service of their country have left loved ones to defend those who needed it, so does Mirabeesh. She could have refused to take part in the lottery, or denied a selection she knew was rigged, yet she didn’t. For to be Empress meant more than pretty clothes. With the privilege came responsibility and the price of duty. And I particularly liked the way that with nothing more than a glance she stopped those who would humiliate her. Dignity, beauty, and honor, Mirabeesh was an empress worthy of the name.
From: “Fire and Ice,” a novella from First Change, Book 5 of the Dragshi Chronicles
An icy cold emanated from the man, who Mirabeesh acknowledged, was her enemy and that of all she believed in. Again she wished her expression was as impassive as her husband’s. Like the emperor, she too had to maintain proper face for her servants. At least Aneko is safe. She and the young ones are protected from the selection.
For now, fear whispered.
Xelme pulled a jade cube from the silk sash around his waist and held the token aloft. “Tagachim’s demands must be obeyed or fire will flow from the mountain. The ice will melt and rivers of burning rock shall submerge the city.” He spun to show the token to the crowd and returned his attention back onto Mirabeesh. “There is one here who meets the age—and is childless.”
Mirabeesh wanted to run, but couldn’t move. The urge to plunge her blade into the daxa’s heart ballooned into life. Anything to silence Xelme, to stop him from saying the name associated with the token. In the end, she remained still.
Xelme radiated satisfaction as he announced his selection, “Mirabeesh, come forth.”
Roars ripped from the throats of the palace guards and the assembled townspeople prevented Kai’s low growl from being heard by any but her. She lay her hand over the fingers tight on her arm. “My lord, it is the law.”
Tendons bulged, his grip turned into bands of iron. He let out his breath in a gush, releasing his grip.
“It is all right, my love,” Mirabeesh whispered. “I understand.” She walked to stand at the end of the line of white. The embroidery and light blue color of her gown stood out, a flare against other diovi.
Two red-robed men grabbed for her.
Her glare stopped them in mid-action. They dropped their arms and stood in attentive silence. Instead of presenting the image of captive and captor, they became humbled servants.
You can find Helen here:
Abbie Roads writes dark emotional novels featuring damaged characters, but always gives her hero and heroine a happy ending… after torturing them for three hundred pages. RACE THE DARKNESS and HUNT THE DAWN are available now! SAVING MERCY Book 1 in the Fatal Truth Series is now available for pre-order.