Interview with Helen Quinn

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The first story that had a massive impact on me was 'Alice in Wonderland' by Lewis Carroll. I was eight and had bought it in a jumble sale (a place where you buy second hand goods). I struggled to understand parts of it but I loved the rich imaginative world where everything was turned upside down. I was Alice going down the rabbit hole, I was Alice getting smaller and taller. I wanted my own blue caterpillar and I was terrified of the Queen of Hearts. I read it several times as a child and when I read it again as an adult I got something new from it in terms of its literary merit but I still loved the sense of stepping out of the everyday and into a fantastical world.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
I love this question. I was a reader first before I became a writer.

So top five books. I have a lot of favourite books but the five I have selected have thrilled me as a reader, inspired me as a writer, have lingered with me long after I have closed the book and I reread them on a regular basis. A couple of them have changed my life on a personal level.

'The Heartbreaker' by Susan Howatch
This is a tough and beautiful book. It is part of a trilogy but can be read as a stand alone book. It brings together a former high-flying career woman called Carter who is fundraising for St. Benet's church and a male prostitute called Gavin who was a client of one of Carta's friends. Gavin refers to himself as a leisure industry worker who relieves stressed out executives (who are quietly homosexual). Gavin is straight though and cruises for women at the weekends. He lives with his pimp, a woman who is into the occult so the novel brings together religious good vs evil, powerful characters, deals with sex addiction, love and it turns our expectations of human sexuality and gender theory on its head. This for a book that I read once a year and get something new from it every time.

'Cloud Atlas' by David Mitchell
This is perhaps the most beautifully written novels I have read to date and one of the most clever. It is a multi-layered novel that reveals the interconnectedness of humans, it spans from the 18th century to a post-apocalypse era way into the future. It deals with the themes of reincarnation, what is good, what is evil and it is quietly funny in many parts as well as being dramatic. The characters are very powerful and unforgettable and I am in love with Robert Frobisher, one of the moment amazing characters of all time. Finally it is beautifully written, David Mitchell is a stunning writer, I half jealous and half in awe of his ability.

'The Road less travelled' by M. Scott Peck
This book changed my life in essence. I have read it regularly since 1999 and set me on my personal development journey which I continue on with today. M. Scott Peck is a fine writer as he weaves the personal into the objective into the book.

'The Dilbert Future' by Scott Adams
Apart from being very funny, this book inspired me to create 'Tales from Aulora' when Adams introduced me to the concept of affirmations as Bill and Bob were born in my mind's eye when I read about them for the first time. So thanks to Scott Adams I created the fictionalised world of where wishes go.

'Walk the Blue Fields' by Claire Keegan
An Irish short story writer, Keegan is an awesome writer. Her collection of short stories took my breath away, I was often left crying or deeply moved.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in London of Irish parents. Those who are born in another country of Irish born parents or Irish ancestry are commonly referred to as the diaspora.

I lived in the UK until I was ten, then we move to Ireland. I stayed in Ireland until I was eighteen then moved back to England until I was twenty seven. My marriage broke down and I decided to raise my son in Ireland when he was six months old. I have remained in Ireland since. During my childhood I was bullied in England for being Irish (or a Paddy) and bullied in Ireland for being British. As a result of flitting between both countries I feel like I am from nowhere so I have this outsider feeling within me which I feel informs my writing. I often feel there is a hybrid quality to my writing so for instance in 'Tales from Aulora' I feature wishes that come from Britain and Ireland and writing from both places feels natural to me.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I derive great pleasure from the entire writing process although my favourite part is still the creation aspect of writing. I get a thrill when the characters reveal more and more of themselves to me, when they urge and clamour to tell me what needs to be written. I get a massive buzz when little connections come together between the parts of the story and yet during the creation period the writing is rubbish. I used to hate editing but now I enjoy it too because as I edit, redraft and refine the words, they lose their flabbiness as I shave off excess words, the clunkiness and clumsiness of the first draft begins to fall away and eventually the work develops a flow that is pleasing to the ear. I like it when I read out my work aloud and it flows naturally with not stumbling.
How do you approach cover design?
I spent weeks looking at book covers both online and in book shops when I was preparing the publication of 'Tales from Aulora'.

It was a fascinating process because I quickly learned that covers define the genre. This posed a problem for me because although 'Tales from Aulora' is fantasy, it is also part fairytale, part historical, part contemporary, it is a mash-up of genres as well as being a novel with a collection of tales. I eventually drew my inspiration from a fantasy book my son has which is called 'Eragon' by Christopher Paolini. I liked how the image is dominant within the cover with the name of the book below it and then the author's name at the bottom. I liked its simplicity. Interestingly Paolini self-published 'Eragon' before it hit the big time.

So I had my desired layout. The next step was the image. I wanted something that was mysterious yet gave the reader a sense of something going into a vortex. So image stock websites became my best friend until I found the one that felt right for 'Tales from Aulora'. The image informed the colour scheme. I kept it very simple: black, blue and white text. I have some basic desk top publishing experience so I was able to create it myself which saved money.

This was one of my favourite parts of the self-publishing process and since I launched 'Tales from Aulora' I came across a brilliant website (http://coverscroll.com/) that displays book covers. If you ask them nicely they will add your book cover up there as well.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Marketing is the most challenging aspect for me. I am still learning this process so it is difficult to judge what is the most effective. I would say word of mouth and recommendations. I also feel blogging is a good way of getting your presence known and I have joined a community of bloggers as the reach is much greater.
What do your fans mean to you?
I prefer the term readers rather than fans and I see myself in co-creation with readers. I write the story, they read it and continue the story on within themselves. I am profoundly grateful when someone chooses my work and takes time out to read it. It is a real honour and to receive feedback is what every writer thrives. I get a thrill when a reader tells me what part they liked about the book or when they ask me a question about a character or throw a new light on the book. That for me is so cool.
Published 2014-02-13.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Tales from Aulora
Price: $2.50 USD. Words: 70,380. Language: British English. Published: July 17, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Visionary & metaphysical, Fiction » Fantasy » Short stories
Do you believe in wishes? If so find out more in Tales from Aulora, the fantasy novel that unveils the secret world of wish-making. Discover how Bill and Bob attempt to grant eight human wishes from Britain and Ireland that include desires for love, fame, safety and much more.