Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Interview with Helen Scott Taylor and You Can Ask Questions Too

I’m so excited to have Helen Scott Taylor in the house today. She’s an amazing author and last year’s American Title winner with Dorchester Publishing. Her world building is great and you’re immediately pulled into Niall O’Connor and Rosenwyn Tremain’s world.

Helen it’s great to have you here. I’ve been waiting for your book to hit the shelves since the first time I read the excerpt on your website. Yes, I said first time, as I’ve re-read it several times.

Me: Needless to say, I’m already a huge fan. Can you tell us how you came up with this idea and what’s coming up next?

Helen: I initially conceived the idea for The Magic Knot to be a contemporary story of identical twin Irish brothers running a pub in Cornwall. When I changed my focus from contemporary romance to paranormal, I wanted to write something a little different from the vampire and shape-shifter stories other authors have done so well. I researched myths and folk law and decided the fairy world provided great scope to develop my own interesting characters and a world a little different to anything else that is available.

I have two male secondary characters that play sizeable roles in The Magic Knot. Michael is the hero’s brother, and Nightshade is a winged vampiric fairy who can’t decide if he is their ally or enemy. I’m hard at work on the sequel due out in December. The Phoenix Charm features Michael as the hero, and the next book I have planned is Nightshade’s story.

Me: You won the American Title with Dorchester. What was the call like? How did you celebrate?

Helen: The day after voting closed, I had an email from the Romantic Times editor who was coordinating the contest to tell me I’d won. By the final round we were down to two entries, so I knew I had a 50:50 chance of winning. But I was still disbelieving when I received the email with the good news. My family took me out for a celebratory dinner, and we had to take a photograph of us celebrating to appear in Romantic Times!

Me: With the release of The Magic Knot and working on the next book, have you found it easier or harder when you sit in front the computer? What has changed for you now that you have deadlines?

Helen: I’ve read other newly published authors say that the first book they wrote after being published was the hardest, because they have greater expectations of themselves. I’m definitely finding this is true. The first hurdle was having my second book accepted for publication, then the worry over whether it is as good as the first book. I’ve not written a sequel before, so I’m learning how to write a stand-alone book that is also a continuation from the first. I’m sure there will be new challenges at every stage in this business. All I can say is getting a book published is most certainly the beginning of the work and not the end.

Me: You run your own business, write, and have kids. What do you like to do in your spare time?

Helen: I don’t have a lot of spare time. I try to have a walk most days, but I’m a fair-weather walker and don’t go out in the cold and rain. Unfortunately, we’ve had our coldest winter for twenty years in the UK. I would like to read more but rarely get time these days. When I have to choose between reading and writing, writing usually wins.

One thing I do enjoy is visiting historic houses. The British National Trust historic houses are open from Easter to October. I like to make time to visit some every year, especially while I’m researching a book. I like to use historic houses as settings in my novels, even though my fantasy worlds are contemporary set. In The Magic Knot, I used a Palladian mansion called Powerscourt, near Enniskerry in Ireland, as the inspiration for the Irish fairy queen’s home. In The Phoenix Charm, much of the action takes place in a medieval castle situated on an island in the middle of a lake in Wales.

Me: Whose journey was harder to write, Niall’s or Rosenwvn? And can I just add I love the line Niall’s soft Irish brogue.

Helen: Niall’s was more difficult. I found him a challenging character to write, as he is so proud and private. He didn’t want anyone poking their nose in his business, not the heroine, or me! Rose was much easier as she is very down to earth and practical.

Me: Did you do your research for Ireland online or have you visited the beautiful land of green?

Helen: I took a special trip to Ireland to research The Magic Knot. My husband and I spent four days visiting the area of the Wicklow Mountains where the Irish fairy troop lives. The weather was bad most of the time. When we drove over the Wicklow Mountains, which is more rightly just an area of high moorland, all we could see was mist. We enjoyed visiting the Palladian mansion, Powerscourt. The gardens and the waterfall in the middle of the lake were beautiful.

Me: Was The Magic Knot your first book, or do you like most of us and have the manuscript graveyard with the dust bunnies?

Helen: The Magic Knot was the third book I wrote. The first was a short contemporary, which helped me learn how to write, but also taught me short contemporary was not my genre. The second ms was a paranormal romance, Passion Beyond Reason, about a parallel world inhabited by demons. This story did very well in contests, winning as many as The Magic Knot. In fact in once contest where both my paranormals finaled, Passion won and beat The Magic Knot into second place. I intend to revise that story and submit it sometime.

Me: For those of us in the pre-published stage, what advice and motivation would give us?

Helen: I don’t think there is any magic formula to getting published. Success is down to hard work and persistence. I took lots of online classes and read many craft books. My husband jokes that I must have put myself through the equivalent of a degree in creative writing. My advice is to learn the craft, write stories, enter contests, and submit your work. It might take one book, or twenty before one is accepted, but eventually it will happen if you persevere. There is an element of luck involved—your story being the right genre on the right editor’s desk at the right time. But if you write enough and send out enough that will eventually be your story.

Me: Did I say I'm so excited you're here??? Cause I am :)Thank you for sharing your a little of your world and your characters world with us. And isn't the cover amazing.

Okay, everyone, now it’s your turn. Leave your questions in the comment section and Helen will be back through out the day to answer them.


Helen Scott Taylor said...


Thank you so much for giving me another day! It's a pleasure to be here with you.


LKap said...

Helen -
It's been a wonderful week having you here and each day I find more and more about your work that intrigues me.
My question is: Will your book be released in the US and the UK? What hurdles have you had to get through being an international writer?

Edie said...

Great interview! I can't wait to read The Magic Knot.

My one question is did you learn a lot from the editing process that you'll use to revise Passion Beyond Reason?

Helen Scott Taylor said...

Hi Laurie,

The Magic Knot seems to be available everywhere. It looks to be doing quite well on the Japanese Amazon site!! I'm not sure it will be available in many book stores in the UK as paranormal romance is still not big over here, but the UK book retailers all have it available in their online stores. It's doing quite well on the UK Amazon I'm pleased to say.

My main problem is communication. I couldn't function without email, but anything I have to snail mail takes at least a week to reach the States.

Helen Scott Taylor said...

Hi Edie,

Great to see you here!

I didn't learn a lot from editing Magic Knot as my editor accepted it with virtually no changes. I had to add a couple of sentences of explanation and backstory--that's all. I notice she did 'Americanise' a my writing in a few places. The Magic Knot had been through lots of contests and was well polished, though. I expect to learn more from writing my second book. I have already had feedback from my editor on the first three chapters. I need to learn how to write a stand alone book, that is a sequel. Always something new to learn. But that's what makes writing fun.


Anne-Marie said...

Helen, it's so great to have you hear and enjoying your trip from pre-pubbed to pubbed. You're an inspiration to all of us.

Winning the American Title and publishing your first book, have you changed as a writer? It there any writing process you do differently now that the first and second books have been sold? (congrats again) Do you plot or are you a panster?

Anne-Marie said...

Ooops, I meant here. lol

Janice Lynn said...

Hi Helen! I love your cover! I was just saying earlier today that Dorchester does such fabulous covers & it's true! Yours is just another example of that. Congrats again on your release!

Terri said...

Wonderful interview, Helen and Vicki! Great advice, too, Helen. I'm glad you haven't give up on Passion Beyond Reason (I read that one in a contest, too.) :-)

I completely understand about the difficulty involved when you're writing a sequel that needs to be a stand alone. It's a whole different dynamic from just writing the first one, but I have no doubt you'll figure it out, and do it well!

(p.s. Vicki, LOVE the hair, and that is a great photo!)

Sheila Raye said...

Hi Helen. I believe I had the pleasure of reading your second book when it was on the contest circuit -- I truly hope it is snapped up soon.

My question is, when you built your fairy world, how much of the setting is contemporary and how much refers to a time passed? Have your characters lived a long time in the same place?

Mona Risk said...


I have the feeling that Passion Beyond Reason won't need revising. It's wonderful as it is. I knew The Magic Knot would be an immediate success. And The Pheonix Charm will even beat expectation. The suspense and sensual tension are incredible.

Stacey Kayne said...

Hey Helen! So excited to see more books coming in this series!!! Cheers and Congrats!!!

Vicki--love your hair! *g*

Vicki said...

Thanks everyone who said something about my hair, I love it and I have the best hair person. The girl can write too. Heehee, she gets to cut and color my hair and I get to cut and color her words. :D

Helen, it's great to have you here and here I was dying until The Magic Knot released and with the talk of the other books, yeah well, it's going to be hard to wait.

Helen Scott Taylor said...

Hi Anne-Marie,

I'm a total pantser. I only know in general terms what is going to happen in the story before I write it. This made writing my editor a synopsis of the second story before I had written it rather difficult. I don't think my writing method has changed at all since selling, but it is hard to tell. I find my writing evolves a little with each book I write. So gradually I do change how I do things.

Helen Scott Taylor said...

Hi Janice,

Lovely of you to stop by and say hi. Thank you for the congratulations!


Helen Scott Taylor said...

Hi Terri,

I'd forgotten you'd judged Passion as well. So much seems to have happened since then.

I hope I'm getting the hang of writing the sequel. I have Mona checking it for me and she doesn't miss a thing LOL.


Helen Scott Taylor said...

Hi Sheila,

My fantasy world is totally contemporay set, but as the fairy world is coexisting with ours, the world is a blend of magical, contemporary and some historical elements. I just made it up as I went along and it seems to work!

The Irish fairies and the Cornish piskies have both lived in the same places for a long time. Their history is very much bound up with their present.


Helen Scott Taylor said...

Hi Mona,

Lovely to see you here. Mona is currently critiquing The Phoenix Charm for me. The great thing is that because Mona writes contemporary stories, she is my reality check.


Helen Scott Taylor said...

Hi Stacey,

Thanks for stopping by and the congratulations!


Houston A.W. Knight said...

OMG,Helen, The Magic Knot sounds wonderfully creative, I can't wait to read it!


Brandy W said...


So in your fairy world does it feel dark or light to you?

Let me sort of explain. When I think light I guess I'm thinking in color and feel like Tinkerbell seems light to me and Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings is dark.

I'm cool either way since I plan on getting this regardless.

Helen Scott Taylor said...

Hi Hawk,

thanks for stopping by to read my interview. Glad you like the sound of The Magic Knot.


Helen Scott Taylor said...

Hi Brandy,

I do understand what you mean by dark and light. I would say more dark than light, although there are moments of light and color, usually when Michael is around. The main story thread is dark, though. Strangely, my story is not considered 'dark paranormal' though. Nor is it light paranormal. It probably falls between the two.

Good question!


Jill James said...

Helen, congratulations on your American Title win. I remember when this was just chapters on the FTH critique loop. It is so amazing to think of you going from there to published. I picked it up yesterday at B&N.

Amanda aka mrsgodiva