Interview with Kay Hemlock Brown

What is the greatest joy of writing for you?

One thing I enjoy is writing dialogue. I decided very early that each paragraph would only contain words from one character, and that I would not write out an entire conversation every single time, but would report big blocks of the conversation without quotes, if that was more convenient (and easier to read). I do tend to editorialize a bit, and I hope I will be forgiven for that. I've also spent a lot of time with foreign people, and I enjoy trying to represent their tricks of speech.

I also enjoy dreaming up crazy things that happen to people, such as suddenly finding themselves with a runaway hit on a series of paintings sold on Ebay, or a viral video on YouTube!

And I also like to write about decent people. There are few or no villains in my writing, which is probably a weakness.
Who are your favorite authors?
Oh, this is easy. Believe it or not, my favorite authors are all Science Fiction writers: Piers Anthony, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne McCaffrey, David Brin. I also love Karin Kallmacher (Laura Adams) and Radclyffe. As a kid I enjoyed Tamora Pierce, and I still read some of her stories if I find them lying around!
What is your writing process?
I guess I spend about a week thinking out the opening parts of the story, and then I sit at the computer and start writing. Most of the writing gets done in the Summer or over Christmas break.

The characters are very real to me, so all I have to imagine is what happens to them, and follow behind, observing!
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Oh gosh ... actually, you know, it might have been The Cat of Bubastes, by G. A. Henty. I strongly recommend G. A. Henty, who wrote a lot of historical fiction.

Then I read Little Men, and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, and I'm embarrassed to confess that to this day some of her writing style has stuck to me. I also read the Hardy Boys, and Enid Blyton books as a kid. There's a lot of Jo March in Helen, come to think of it.

I should also mention Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Coming back to the impact, I think the Cat of Bubastes might have been the origin of my demythologizing my religious beliefs, which I'm sure the readers are not interested in! The story is set in the time of Moses in Egypt, and it was a revelation for a little kid to think that there were real people involved in these events, which I considered historical. There is good reason to believe that, even if the story of Moses did not take place exactly as depicted in Exodus, that the story elements have a lot of basis in fact, and that the authors of Exodus juxtaposed a number of true stories into an interesting narrative.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I read all my e-books either on a PC, or on a Samsung tablet. I have a little 7 inch tablet which is an awesome device, not only for reading on, but to keep in touch with my e-mail when I travel, and amusing myself in a doctor's office, for instance, playing Sudoku, or some word game! For sending a really long e-mail, of course, I have to use a real keyboard; tablets just don't work.

By the way, I use Swype (R), which is a clever way of using a touch-pad keyboard. Check it out!
What are you working on next?
At the moment, I’m editing “Helen On The Run: The Lost Years”. Briefly: I started writing Helen around 1997 —gosh, that’s 17 years ago— and it was the first piece of fiction I ever wrote. It started out as an erotic novel for my own entertainment, but I so fell in love with Helen and her fantastic adventures, that I started making it more plausible, more realistic, and (dangerously,) Helen was transformed into an actual friend. She has all the weaknesses that I have, but even more exaggeratedly, and has all the talents I wish I had, but much more beautifully rounded out and polished. (It has also become a lot less erotic than it was to begin with.)

The stories that I really want to publish are those of her later years, and I’m editing them carefully, so that they have some literary value. But they don’t make sense without the background. So I’ve set aside the later Helen stories to quickly describe enough of the (fantastic) early history of Helen, especially how she acquired her small family.

“Helen and Lalitha: The Lost Years” describes how Helen met and adopted Gena and Alison, a pair of orphan sisters, about 10 years apart in age. In “Helen On the Run” she meets and adopts Erin, a couple of years younger than Gena, and gives birth to James, her only biological child.

I would like to mention that, buried inside On the Run is a little short story that really moves me, about a homophobic woman who suddenly realizes that Helen is a lesbian. I remember that, when I had finished writing that little episode, I began to realize that I had created a character, Helen, who could stand beside some of the most wonderful protagonists in fiction; I just had to re-imagine her as more out-going, and less self-involved. On the other hand, what people find hardest to stomach was the fact that Helen seemed such a perfect person, with so few faults. So, trying to “improve” Helen was a dangerous game, and I’m not sure I succeeded.

I read that little vignette over recently, and I’m amazed that I could have written it. My writing skills are waning, and so all this material is from what was written a decade and a half ago.

Remember that cellphones were new at that time, which is roughly when the stories were set. The Internet was also in its infancy, and a lot of the stuff we do on it now had not yet been discovered, though I like to think I was on the technological edge of consumer use of it.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I don't go looking on e-book servers when I'm bored; if I have a book that I want to read, I look to see if it's available as an e-book! Sorry if this response isn't much use to anyone!
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I certainly do: it's Helen. I practically taught myself fiction writing (warts and all) by writing Helen. It was originally written on paper, in tiny, tiny handwriting, way back in the 1990's when I was very young; over the years I kept changing it around, and then branched off into other stories, and other sorts of stories. The style of "Helen at Ballet Camp" is most like the original style of Helen; childlike, emotional, but struggling to become something a little more readable.
It really wasn't a story; it was more the biography of an imaginary person for whom I had many plans!
How do you approach cover design?
Above all, I want my covers to be gorgeous. I select a tableau from the story (meaning a static, posed scene that's more emblematic than an actual scene from the story. The one instance in which I failed miserably was "Music of the Stars", where I just slapped together an image of a woman floating out of a spiral nebula! Obviously, that never happens in the story. Another instance in which I failed is "Alexandra", which heaven knows has dozens of scenes that would have done. But I saw it as a love story, rather than a military story, and it was impossible to create a cover that wouldn't be ho-hum, or look like an action movie. So I just put two abstractified girls on the cover, which gives no idea of what's inside.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I really haven't set out to market my books in the conventional sense. Pricing them for free certainly gets more customers downloading them, but if they don't actually read the books, it's really an exercise in futility. If I tried harder, I could give them away practically for free by setting up a chain of coupons!
Published 2017-10-04.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Jane on Holiday
Price: $1.95 USD. Words: 40,480. Language: English. Published: May 12, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » Lesbian, Fiction » Erotica » Romance
Artist and photographer Jane sneaks off with incognito porn queen Lisa Love to a cottage in Canada. Love blooms, even though Jane is settled in a fairly stable threesome with a pair of twins, Gillian and Angela. The twins are sweet and beautiful, and love Jane to pieces, but Lisa attracts Jane in a different way. In addition, there are several other women who lust after Jane in Canada.
Jane—The Early Years
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 76,820. Language: English. Published: September 26, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Women's fiction » General
This is a prequel to "Jane", the heavily-downloaded earlier novel by this author. Jane, a reserved, introvert young woman gradually learns how to keep her balance in the rough-and-tumble world of glamour photography, and manages to maintain a number of friendships, and a few romantic relationships, with several women.
Helen's Eventful Summer
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 88,930. Language: English. Published: September 12, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Gay & Lesbian, Fiction » Romance » Adult
Helen Nordstrom, away in Seattle for the monthly filming of the Television series Galactic Voyager, impulsively decides to hire the services of a beautiful call girl, Melanie. This leads to no end of trouble, especially because Melanie becomes infatuated with Helen, not recognizing her as the famous actress in the Galaxy show. Meanwhile, Helen's half-sister Tommy decides to become a porn queen.
Music on The Galactic Voyager
Price: Free! Words: 254,990. Language: English. Published: August 15, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » General, Fiction » Cultural & ethnic themes » Cultural interest, general
The Voyager is on a search for a habitable planet. On board, in hibernation, is a famous musician, Helen N, almost forgotten 75 years into the voyage. Social conditions become turbulent, and Helen is resuscitated. Helen gradually becomes comfortable with the on-board population, and finds a wealth of love and affection, not necessarily romantic.
Helen and Lalitha: The Lost Years
Series: Helen, Book 2. Price: Free! Words: 73,980. Language: English. Published: June 17, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » Lesbian, Fiction » Romance » Contemporary
This episode starts after Helen at Ballet Camp, brings her back to finish up her senior year at College, and then follows her to India, pursuing her lovely Indian girl friend Lalitha. But tragic events intervene, and Helen and her beloved Lalitha return to the US independently, neither knowing where the other is. With great determination, Lalitha hunts for Helen in rural California.
Price: Free! Words: 46,330. Language: English. Published: June 2, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » Lesbian, Fiction » Fantasy » Historical
The Green Princess and the Blue Princess, twins, watch as the army and its captives return to their city. Among the captives is a young girl of their own age, dressed in rags. The girl comes to be the Green Princess's personal slave, and falls in love with her mistress. But it is her twin sister who returns the slave's love, and they begin a passionate affair.
Helen and The Flowershop Girl
Series: Helen, Book 5. Price: Free! Words: 9,630. Language: English. Published: April 24, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » Lesbian
During the summer break, Helen meets Sheila, who manages a Florist shop, and they have a brief affair. Warning: there's a little explicit sex, and it might be a little more than you really expect.
Helen at Ballet Camp
Series: Helen, Book 1. Price: Free! Words: 124,970. Language: English. Published: June 30, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » Lesbian
This (so far, the earliest) episode of Helen's adventures is when she is about twenty, has dropped out of college, and is persuaded to be an assistant at a ballet camp in France. Helen is a lesbian, and has such a fearsome sexual appetite that only her great compassion helps her to keep herself in check. Somehow everything works out, and the camp is a brilliant success.
Christine's Amazing Musical Christmas
Price: Free! Words: 39,010. Language: English. Published: December 27, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Family, Fiction » Cultural & ethnic themes » Cultural interest, general
This story is about how, while Christine and her friend Kelly discover Bach's beautiful Christmas Oratorio, they find a lot of beauty in their experiences in meeting kids from the twelve schools that are participating in the combined music festival, the several foreign soloists who are also coming to sing, some of whom greatly admire Christine. The last protagonist is the Oratorio itself!
Helen Versus Handel's Messiah
Series: Helen, Book 14. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 7,700. Language: English. Published: December 25, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Contemporary, Nonfiction » Music » Classical
Helen, a multi-talented musician and Bach expert, comes under fire from the conservative Christian Right, and very quickly finds herself barred from performing in any sacred works. She retires from the concert stage, a bitter woman. A year later, it is Christmas once again, and Helen and her beloved Marissa try to face the season with joy, but Handel's Messiah gets in the way.
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 329,010. Language: English. Published: January 28, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Gay & Lesbian, Fiction » Science fiction » Military
In the distant future, a human colony on an Earth-like planet has established a civilization, which has degenerated to a level of technology comparable to the early 20th century on Earth. Notably, same-sex relationships and marriages are common, and the story focuses on a young Queen, Alexandra, who is faced with an invasion just weeks after her marriage to a lovely Southern princess, Genevieve.
Price: Free! Words: 124,990. Language: English. Published: October 31, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Adult
Jane, is forced to earn a living as a glamour photographer. Her true talent is painting portraits, and soon after she begins to sell her artwork for fabulous amounts of money, disaster strikes, and she loses her girl lover tragically. Gillian comes along just in time, and Jane learns a new skill. But then porn princess Lisa Love enters Jane's life, and threatens to ruin everything.
Little John Finds a Friend!
Series: Helen, Book 21. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 11,190. Language: English. Published: September 19, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Family, Fiction » Holiday » Christmas
Awkward Little John is surrounded by beautiful girls, all of whom are off limits. But down the hill is Spooky, the Goth chick from his college, who has a sort of crush on him. It's Christmas, and Little John doesn't know exactly why he is feeling so glum. And that gorgeous Sophie, a glamor model from the Czech Republic whom his half-sister Tommy has brought along is driving him crazy with lust.
Helen at the Beach
Series: Helen, Book 11. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 65,410. Language: English. Published: August 18, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » Lesbian
Helen and Amy, their three adopted daughters Gena, Erin and Alison, and Helen's own little boy James, are vacationing incognito by the sea. Helen is a music professor at a small college, a brilliant violinist, a TV actress, and head of a corporation. But Helen has always been incorrigibly promiscuous, and she falls in love with a brother and sister, but most tragically with sweet Hattie.