HELEN TREHARNE: MY STORY DECIDED TO WRITE ITSELF
Helen Treharne’s hot release Relative Strangers: A Modern Vampire Story premiered on Saturday. Now we’ve got a great chance to learn something more about the book and the author herself.
– What is your book Relative Strangers: A Modern Vampire Story (The Sophie Morgan Vampire Series Book 1) about?
– On a literal level, it’s about a young woman called Sophie Morgan who is doing pretty well in life until she is almost killed by a vampire.
She’s 23 and living in Coventry in the West Midlands. She studied there and rather than return back to her native Wales to help run the family business she’s decided to try and make it on her own. So far, things have gone well for her – she has a good job, is renting her own flat and has a cat that adores hers; she’s practical with money and doesn’t take many risks but she’s happy. Her common sense and get-on-with-it approach has also left her seemingly unaffected by the fact she doesn’t even know who her father is. All she knows is that her mother came back pregnant from a student exchange to Denmark and that’s all she needs to know thank you very much. Her late grandparents were a great influence on her and she’s incredibly close to her mother, despite the geographic distance between them. Her sense of overall satisfaction and deep seated determination to not make her mother’s mistake has led her to remaining practically single – practically as she’s only had one real short lived relationship that has just ended badly and abruptly. To cheer her up, her friend Tracy suggests that they head off to Antwerp for a “girls weekend” This is when Sophie’s world starts to unravel. Sophie is attacked by what she only at first suspects is a vampire, but fortunately is rescued by Mickey, an Irishman who is working at a nearby bar. Things go from bad to worse as the pair discover vampires really exist and not just in Belgium.
– How you decide to write the story?
– I think the story decided to write itself really! I had been working up several ideas for a novel in addition to blogging and writing short stories and articles. In fact, I had already started to write a short children’s book in the fantasy genre. I had never planned to write a book about vampires.
I’m an avid reader and I’ve always enjoyed horror, fantasy and the supernatural but couldn’t imagine writing something along these lines, particularly when the market is already very saturated with books like the Twilight series. I knew that didn’t want to write anything overtly gory or that was primarily aimed at young adults and as much as I’m a huge fan of Charlaine Harris I was also loathe to write a story that had the heroine’s love life as a key element. Many of these books also have a distinct American feel which I thoroughly enjoy but would feel alien to write.
If I was ever going to write in the genre, I knew it would need to be different – a real world portrayal of what you would think and how would you behave if you discovered vampires actually exist. I also wanted a protagonist who was well rounded and believable – a distinct person and not just someone waiting for love – yes, she falls for Mickey but she’s not waiting to be “discovered” by him. Sophie can be strong but she can also be cowardly and paranoid – as can Mickey. While some of the action does take place in Antwerp, there’s also a lot on “home ground” . I wanted a distinct British feel and that comes out in both the characters and the location. So, to cut a long story short, I was stuck and thought writing something like this was a long way off but then one day the first chapter just came to me, like a movie in my mind. I picked up a pen and an old note book and started to write.
– What was the biggest challenge during the write up process?
– I would have definitely said the editing process. I spent around a year on my first draft, which looked quite different from the final product. I enjoyed the re-writes and developed some characters more than I’d originally intended; this was particularly exciting as it was becoming clear that the book would be the first in series. I loved creating these very different people, such as Ferrers, a three hundred year old vampire who takes a peculiar shine to Sophie on her return to the UK. It was a challenge to write in these different characters voices – they are all very unique and although the story is primarily told from Sophie’s perspective, the narrative is supported by the viewpoints of other characters in a sort of rashomon effect. I wouldn’t change it though. It’s refreshing to be able to use different language and tone and there’s one character in particular I’d like to write more of.
– Tell us something more about your main character? Is it close to someone from your real life?
– I suspect there’s some of me in all the characters, including Sophie. When I was her age I was also working in recruitment, which is what she’s doing at the beginning of the story. I also lived in Coventry for a while but that’s probably it – apart from a key plot point which did happen to me, although it’s a highly fictionalised version. It’s in the first few chapters but I won’t give away too many spoilers – I’ll leave that to the imagination of readers.
– How much time you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– It took almost two years from putting pen to paper and publication.
– Tell us more about your other book Off the Bench: fiction to feed your soul?
– Sure. Off the Bench is a collection of short stories (flash fiction really) that you can probably read during a coffee break – which is ironic as it costs less than a cup of coffee at some places! They are broadly about faith, hope and freedom – letting go after a bereavement, deciding to be yourself, finding love and finding peace. My personal favourite is Park Life which nicely sums up how I’d like heaven to be. There are also some deeply personal ones which I wrote after the death of a close family member. Writing the collection was a great comfort . I’d encourage anyone going through a hard time to try writing. I had never intended to publish it but if my peace can help others, then more power to it.
– Who are you?
– I’m glad you’re asking me that now – I don’t think I’d have been able to answer that at Sophie Morgan’s age. In fact that’s one of the underlying questions in the book – who is she, where does she come from, where does she belong? I’m a writer. If I wasn’t writing books, I’d be blogging more or finding other ways to be creative. I’m also a feminist – in my book every single human is equal and deserves to have every opportunity to succeed in life. As a sociology major, how society influences are behaviour and forms our sense of identity has always interested me. I’m also a daughter, a wife and the proud momma to three slightly unhinged cats. I live in South Wales and the Twitterverse.
– What are your writing habits?
– I’d love to be one of those writers who sits down every day to a timetable and commits to putting words down, but I really can’t. There are periods when I’ll do a few hours each day, but my preference is to spend the majority of my time thinking, scrawling notes, emailing myself ideas before I forget them and dictating on a very clever app on my phone. What follows is usually an intense period of typing activity every few days which sees me ignoring everyone as I lock myself in my study and get it all down on my computer.
– Are you satisfied by the sales of the book and do you plan another one?
– Relative Strangers is out on the 23rd August so we’ll have to wait and see. So far pre-orders and sample downloads and looking promising. When it comes to publishing, it’s a marathon not a sprint.
– What are you doing to promote by the best possible way your book?
– As I’ve mentioned, pre-orders are available (Amazon http://bit.ly/Yguhhy, IBooks http://bit.ly/1mTRyv7) and I think this is an excellent way to generate early interest – plus readers don’t have to worry about having to search multiple times to find the book they want, they can pre-order the first time they see it and it will automatically be delivered on the release date. Thanks to my blog (www.helentreharne.wordpress.com) and Twitter (@Tea_Talks http://bit.ly/TeaTalks ) I’ve already got a good social media presence and my followers have all been amazingly supportive. I’ve recently joined GoodReads (http://bit.ly/Vg7voh) which is a great resource for networking with readers as well as finding great things to read yourself. There are also some other marketing initiatives I’m doing including a giveaway for my blog readers so if you’ve not signed up yet, you should do.
– You worked as a career coach. What exactly you did in your work?
– The majority of my “working” life was in specialist recruitment and head hunting, much like Sophie in Relative Strangers. A huge part of that was helping people work out what they wanted to achieve in their careers and how to realize their full potential. In time this led on to me working with those who were struggling to get into the job market at all – sometimes this was due to chronic health problems or other barriers such as substance misuse or criminal history. It’s so rewarding to facilitate someone’s journey of self-discovery, to unlock their potential, to build their confidence, to give them practical skills which they can take forward to re-enter the workplace. I learnt a lot in those years – realizing your potential is a theme you’ll frequently see in my writing.
– Every home animal has his own story. Tell us each one of your three cats?
– I have two elderly cats which are almost sixteen and one who has just had his first birthday. They are all rescue cats – in fact the youngest one was one we originally fostered. He’s all black which is important to note as they are often left at rescues, inexplicably out of favour. Adopt black cats please ! Or at least adopt a rescue cat! I volunteer for a cat welfare charity (Cats Protection in the UK) so animal welfare is a key issue for me and one which we can all do our bit to improve. I wouldn’t want to imagine a home without cats. It would be like not having a kettle or a TV.
– Do you believe in vampires?
– Now that would be telling!
Find out more about Helen in her blog
To take a look over Helen’s books:
Posted on August 24, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged HELEN TREHARNE, Off the Bench: fiction to feed your soul, Relative Strangers: A Modern Vampire Story, The Sophie Morgan Vampire Series. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.