Interview with Helen Pryke

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I don't remember a specific book, I started reading when I was very young! But I loved the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis and I still have all my well-read copies. They influenced my way of thinking, of treating other people, of how I saw others. I didn't really understand the religious concept of the books until I was much older, but I loved reading them and still do.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I still have a copy of the first story I ever wrote (or at the least the first one that was published!). It was a short story based on the Legend of Sleepy Hollow and was published in the school magazine. I was 10 years old!
What are your five favorite books, and why?
In no particular order:
1. Watership Down, Richard Adams - I still love reading this book, it takes me back to my childhood where everything was possible, even talking rabbits!
2. The Magician's Nephew, C.S. Lewis - the first book in the Narnia series that sets everything up for all the rest.
3. A Cross Stitch in Time, Diana Gabaldon - these books are incredible, so well-written, you can lose yourself in them and be transported back to 18th century Scotland!
4. Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien - what can I say? I love fantasy books and this is the best one.
5. The Stand, Stephen King - I love how Stephen King's characters come to life as you read and how he ties up every event, even the smallest thing, by the end of his books. The Stand has everything - good, evil, believable characters, and it's incredibly long...!
What do you read for pleasure?
Almost anything! I love all types of books, from horror to romance, from YA to classics.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a Kindle and a tablet, either will do, but I prefer my Kindle when I'm out and about and know that I'll be waiting around a lot (ie. the dreaded hospital appointments!) as it's lighter and has a longer battery length!
Describe your desk
Pretty well-ordered but dusty!
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I lived in the south of England until I was twenty, then I moved to Italy. My writing has obviously been influenced a lot by my experiences here in Italy, both good and bad. I feel privileged to have been able to see Italy from the outside looking in, it gives you a unique perspective that most people don't have. It's the same when I go back to England, I see things from a foreigner's point of view! But it leaves you with a sense of displacement, a feeling that you don't really belong anywhere, which can be quite upsetting at times.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I wrote Walls Of Silence when I was going through a particularly horrible period of my life. I was suffering, and I had to make poor Maria suffer too. I experienced how Italian women are treated here, even in this day and age, and I tried to fight against this but found it impossible. Even though my book is set in 1960s Italy, recent events have shown that these things are still going on now, and that is why I would like my book to become a symbol for women everywhere.
Who are your favorite authors?
Again, so many! Stephen King, James Herbert, Diana Gabaldon, Joanne Harris, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Enid Blyton... the list goes on!
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
With my family. My two sons, one grown up, the other a teenager - they make me laugh, cry, get stressed, then laugh again. And my husband, who I met 6 years ago. I fall in love with him more every day.
Published 2016-11-10.
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