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Sunday, 13 September 2015

Meet our Authors ~ Michelle Helliwell

Today in our Meet Our Authors series, we have Michelle Helliwell. Her debut novel, Not Your Average Beauty, released this summer, and I'm sure we can expect a lot more from this writer.

BLURB

Stephen Pembroke, the Marquess of Barronsfield, believes that where his love of beauty goes, death follows. Cursed to a loveless existence, and with his legacy at stake, Stephen makes a desperate proposal of marriage to Rosalind Schofield, his steward’s new ward - and the plainest girl he has ever met. Rosalind has spent a lifetime being overlooked for prettier faces. When she is singled out for her lack of beauty by the Marquess, she begins to doubt if she is deserving of the love she inwardly craves.

When unusual things start happening around her, Rosalind can’t help but wonder if Lord Barronsfield or his curse are who and what they appear to be. When she openly challenges Stephen about the curse, he begins to doubt everything – and comes to realize that this apparently plain, ordinary woman is not as unremarkable as he believed. Strange things are happening in Barronsfield. As they move closer to the truth, Rosalind unwittingly finds herself in the sights of the real beast in Barronsfield, and Stephen must decide if his growing love for Rosalind will be his salvation or her doom.

We asked her some questions, and here's what Michelle had to so.

1. Are you a reader? How many books a year do you read?

I am, and I tend to be a binge reader - I will read lots for a while, then go cold turkey for a bit, and so on. Hard to know how many - maybe 30 books a year.

2. What is your favorite genre to read? To write?

I read a lot of romance (mostly historical, but also some contemporary and some paranormal), fantasy, and non-fiction. I love a good non-fiction book actually.

3. If you could meet anyone in the world dead or alive who would it be and what would say to them?

Oh my gosh - I really don't know. I think I'd want to meet another human being living in a different time - someone forgotten by history - and ask them about their life, learn from them.

4. If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you take with you?

A solar panel that charges a cellphone. A cellphone. A book on "what do to if you're stranded on a desert island."

5. Paper or Plastic? (book or eReader)

Depends. I gobble romances in digital form. Cookbooks, non-fiction, for some reason I prefer paper.

6. Plotter or Pantster?

Pantser.

7. What advice would you give someone who wanted to be a writer?

Just write and see what happens.

8. What are you reading now?

I'm re-reading the Sword of Shannara.

9. What inspires you?

Specifically with writing - other good stories. Wind and moody weather are also good for my writer's soul. Being outdoors.

10. What is your writing schedule like?

I want to say daily but that is more of an aspiration. It moves around depending on my needs. Right now I'm writing in the evenings, after my youngest is in bed.

11. What is your writing space like?

It moves, since I don't have a dedicated space. It might be the corner of my couch, or my bed, or the deck if it's nice, but generally I'm most effective if I'm sitting at my dining room table (and I love my dining room).

12. What motivates you to write?

Not sure. I just want to.

13. When did you start writing?

I started taking writing seriously in 2008, and I wrote my first full manuscript. I didn't know what I was doing, but I had a year's mat leave and I was turning forty in 2009, and I just thought that if I didn't do this and finish, I would regret it forever.

14. Who are your favorite authors?

Julia Quinn, Sabrina Jefferies and Sarah MacLean are some of my favourites, but I love plenty. Scott Westerfeld wrote my favourite series, Leviathan, and Mary Balogh wrote my favourite hero, Wulfric Bedwyn.

15. Who inspires you?

Other people doing interesting things. Really - the world is full of people doing their darnedest to make a good life and this world a better place, and they inspire me.

16. Why did you write Not Your Average Beauty?

I've always loved fairy tales, but I remember quite clearly being given an old copy of Grimm's fairy tales and reading it through and while I loved the stories, I was also sort of disenchanted. The heroines in those stories were always the youngest, always blonde, always so sweet natured and beautiful. And maybe I've got a sweet nature (or not), but I really couldn't identify with that. And Rosalind (my heroine) just kind of popped in there. What if you aren't that stereotypical fairy tale princess?

17. Do you re-read books? If so, what book have you read the most?

I re-read On Writing by Stephen King every few years, and The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn I read when I feel like I'm in a rut. I love that book so much.

18. What is the closest book to you right now?

I'm sitting by my downstairs bookshelf and "Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels" by Janet Todd is staring me in the face. It was a launch day gift from Nicola R. White, who is quite a lovely person herself.

19. What book are you working on / promoting right now?

No Prince Charming - which I am determined to get out by Christmas! It's the follow up to Not Your Average Beauty, and centres around what happens to Edmund Pembroke after we leave him in that story.

20. Tell us about that book, what inspired it? What does the title mean? What it’s about?

No Prince Charming is rooted in the story of Snow White. I was inspired by a visit to Uniacke House actually, which is one of my favourite places to visit. There is quite a lovely manor and to the side, a smaller home that might belong to the groundskeeper. There is a story that the builder of the estate, Richard John Uniacke was arrested on suspicion of Treason for his involvement in the Cumberland Revolution (during the American Revolutionary War) in Amherst. He was taken to Halifax by coach for trial, and he passed by the property and declared he was going to build a house on that estate.

I loved the idea of the rogue who becomes the prince, and it really spawned from there - a man who is really a prince (or at least, a gentleman) hiding his true identity for whatever reason. It began from there.

For more about Michelle, you can check out her website at www.michellehelliwell.com.