Gannon: Hi, Helen and welcome to The Romance Dish! Your latest book, The Phoenix Charm, was released on December 29. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Helen: The Phoenix Charm is the sequel to The Magic Knot, set in my Celtic contemporary fantasy world. (The book works as a standalone story as well.) The hero of The Phoenix Charm, Michael, is left in charge of his small nephews. Michael is a storyteller with an eye for the ladies, a taste for Irish whisky, and heaps of fairy glamour. In short, he’s a bit of a rascal. When one of his nephews is trapped in the Underworld, he has to shape up fast. With the help of the Cornish pisky wise woman, Cordelia, and Nightshade, a vampiric winged fairy, he travels to the Underworld to rescue the child.
The story is a journey of discovery for Michael as he comes to terms with the nature of the power he has inherited from his father, and a journey of self-acceptance for Cordelia as Michael helps her come to terms with her secret water nymph sensuality.
Gannon: I really loved Michael--charming and sexy from head to toe! But it was his tenderness with Cordelia that really won me over. Where did you come up with the idea for this series?
Helen: The first book in the series, The Magic Knot, started life in my head as a short contemporary story about identical twin Irish brothers who ran a pub in Cornwall. This is because when I started writing I attempted short contemporary romance before I tried paranormal. When Harlequin rejected my first story because my characters were too unconventional, my Irish brothers morphed into fairies and my Magic Knot world was born. When I wrote the first book, I intended it as a standalone, but my subconscious must have wanted to make it a series as I wrote in a number of secondary characters who begged for their own stories. I have a soft spot for Michael. Even though he was a rascal in the first book, he has a heart of gold. He was the obvious choice for the second book. The third book, The Ruby Kiss, about Nightshade the vampiric nightstalker, is scheduled for release at the end of 2010.
Gannon: I'm looking forward to book #3. Do you plan to have more books in this series?
Helen: I’m planning five books in the series. The fourth will be about Devin, the djinn character who appears for the first time in The Phoenix Charm. I went to Morocco to do research for his character and I’m looking forward to writing his book. Much of the setting will be very different to anything I’ve written before. The final book in the series will be about Troy, the father of some of my other heroes. He will be the only character to appear in every book and I’m enjoying discovering more about him with each installment. I also have two novellas allied to the series. The first is called The Feast of Beauty and is in The Mammoth Book of Irish Romance due out in a few weeks. This story is about King Esras, who is mentioned in both my first two books. It is a little different, as Esras is a sea fairy, one of the people of the Irish Sea god Lir. The other novella will be in a fantasy anthology with four other authors due out October 2010. I am writing that story now.
Gannon: I love “call” stories. Can you tell us about your call telling you had sold your first book?
Helen: My ‘call’ was a little different to most authors. I sold the Magic Knot to Dorchester by winning The American Title IV contest run jointly by Dorchester and RT Bookreviews magazine. Excerpts and details of the finalists’ stories appeared in the magazine and readers voted on which they liked best. Luckily for me, the readers liked The Magic Knot. So my ‘call’ was actually an email from one of the editors at RT Bookreviews saying I’d won. The following day my Dorchester editor Alicia Condon called me to discuss the book.
Gannon: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Helen: I have tried plotting before I write a story, but my brain then thinks I’ve written the story and wants to move on to the next one. I get to know my characters well, then watch them as they live their story. I simply write it down. There is a scene near the end of The Phoenix Charm where Michael the hero has to defeat a huge, aggressive nightstalker. Going into that scene, I had no idea how Michael would triumph. He solved the problem in his own inimitable fashion. I’m still surprised by what he did. I usually don’t know what’s going to happen during the book, although I have to give it a best guess so I can write my editor a synopsis.
Gannon: Who are your favorite authors? Is there a particular one who influenced you?
Helen: My favorite genres are romance, women’s fiction, fantasy, and mystery. I love a good cozy and read authors such as Michele Scott and Melinda Wells. I read so much romance it’s difficult to pin down favorite authors, but I always love Nora Roberts, Jayne Anne Krentz, and Julia Quinn to name a few. Trudi Canavan is one of my favorite fantasy authors and in women’s fiction I enjoy Santa Montefiore’s books. I’ve recently started reading the Little Black Dress imprint—a mix of romantic comedy and chic lit. I also enjoy reading YA stories. I’m currently reading a fabulous book called Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon. I can’t think of any author who influenced me especially. I tend not to read much paranormal romance. I like to keep my ideas pure and not be influenced by other authors’ ideas.
Time for quick six.
Coffee or tea? Coffee or Earl Grey tea.
Diamonds or pearls? Diamonds.
Winter or summer? Summer.
Cake or pie? Oh, hard one. Depends on the type of cake or pie.
Mountains or beach? Mountains.
Milk chocolate or dark? Both. :)
Thanks again, Helen, for dishing with us today. If anyone would like to know more about Helen and her books, check out her website. You can also read my review of The Phoenix Charm here.
Helen is giving away a signed copy of The Phoenix Charm to one lucky commenter today! Tell us readers, What type of paranormal or magical creature would you love to discover was real?
She has a new book video for The Phoenix Charm, too!