Q&A with Helen Callaghan

Could you tell me a bit about yourself?

In my real life I’m a technical author – people pay me to come in and write software manuals for them. It’s every bit as exciting as it sounds. I live in Cambridge with a hamster called Aleister and lots of books. I’m petty lucky because Cambridge Issa great lace to set a novel.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Ever since I can remember. My first book was about talking animals led by unicorns who lived on an island together. I would have been about five then. So far I haven’t been tempted to revisit unicorns as protagonists, but I suppose there is always time. I’m not sure Unicorn thrillers have taken off as a genre yet anyway.

Was the crime genre an obvious choice and why?

Well…yes and no. Dear amy Was actually the first novel I ever wrote “The End” for. I’d written other things previously, which I wouldn’t call crime, but it’s fair to say tat they had a crime component – one was a heist set fifty years from now, the other was about alternate universes, but the heroin was being pursued by someone who wanted to kill her for something she hadn’t done yet, and she had to piece together what that was. So all the books had to be constructed as mysteries; or rather, they didn’t have to be but they were, because that’s the kind of thing I love to read.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Finding time, particularly when you are working, is very hard, but that is a universal problem with all writing. In the case ofDear Amy, which is about abduction, I found parts hard to write and some of the research hard to hack because it scared me – you know, I’m here, in Cambridge, late at night at my iMac, with only little Aleister to protect me…

Do you have a particular place where you write?

No, I don’t. I have an office in the flat I can write in, but sometimes I just love to get out to cafes and tea shops – I’m not sure why, I think that the bustle around me soothes me when the silence in the office is too intimidating. Actually, large parts of Dear Amy were written in the upper floors of the University Library here in Cambridge. In summer the upper stacks are practically deserted and you can get a desk amongst the books with a pretty window view. I often pitched up I the Materials Science section, and that’s why Ara, Eddy’s lover in < em>Dear Amy is a professor of metallurgy.

When you were a child what was your favourite book?

Oh, Lord of the Rings hands down. I was that sort of girl. I also loved Watership Down, but the movie gave me nightmares for years.

Which Authors have influenced you?

The Gothics. I maintain that Dear Amy Is a Gothic novel. My favourite novel is Jane Eyre. I’m also a massive fan of Iain Banks – I always loved how ambitiously he wrote, the tricks and techniques he applied to narrative. As a teenager I loved Anne Rice and Angla Carter and Tanith Lee – I love a good stylist, Colette is my heroine, and I devoured all I could lay my hands on. I read all the Jonathan Kellerman, Sarah Paretsky, Sue Grafton, Patricia Cornwell…

What type of books do you enjoy reading?

I’ll read most things, I’m quite eclectic. I do love a good thriller though – I recently read Black Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin and I loved that. I worked in bookshops for about ten years and it’s fantastic for forming your tastes: you get exposed to so much more than you normally would. And you get staff discount. You need one, however, as the money is terrible and the temptation t spend it enormous.

Have you started writing your next book yet, and can you give us an idea of what it is about?

I have indeed! The working title is Morning Star And it’s about a woman whose mother has apparently committed suicide. The daughter starts digging and finds out that her mother has written a book about her youth, which was spent in a cult, and beyond that.. Well, it’s a secret. For now 😉 but it will be another thriller, and hopefully as scary as Dear Amy!

Do you have any advice for other authors starting out?

There are many glib things people say like “Just Write”. But I’m going to to presume folk already know that, so I’d say, Join a good writing group or course. Try a few out. Then you’ll have the commitment to write something for a meeting on a regular basis, and you’ll gain a sense of what it’s like when others read and criticise your work. You can also learn enormous amounts from other people’s mistakes, you’ll meet other writers, and you’ll feel supported. If you can’t get out to one, there are online ones around, but once in it, commit. It’s very rewarding.

I would like to thank Helen for her time and encourage you to go out and but her book Dear Amy When it is released on Thursday. Please see my review.

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Hi, I am an avid reader and have been all my life. I put it down to being an only child and having a teacher for a mum. The idea of this blog is to share my passion for reading and review new and upcoming books as well as those that may have been out for several years.
I also review on Twitter @Bookliterat

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