Helen Scott Taylor joined the ranks of published authors via her win in the American Title IV. Her winning entry and debut novel, The Magic Knot, is being released by Dorchester on January 27 and is currently available for pre-order at the major online booksellers.
As a child, when Helen didn’t pay attention in class her teachers accused her of being away with the fairies. Things haven’t changed much! Only now, the fairies are tall and sexy and they live in her stories rather than just in her head.
Helen resides in South Western England near Plymouth with the rocky cliffs of the Atlantic to the south and the windswept expanse of Dartmoor to the west. She loves wild places as long as she can go home to her creature comforts. And she shares her home with her wonderful long-suffering husband, two children, two Shih Tzus and an aristocratic chocolate-shaded-silver-burmilla cat who rules the household with a velvet paw.
In addition to winning the American Title IV, Helen finaled in the Romance Writers of America® 2008 Golden Heart®. I met Helen through the GH loop where we Pixie Chicks hang out, cheer for one another’s successes, and have great fun. I met Helen briefly at RWA® Nationals at The Golden Network Reception just after she’d been “booted out” of this Golden Heart finalists’ chapter for having sold her first manuscript.
Helen and I will each give away a copy of The Magic Knot. She’ll chose one European visitor, and I’ll select one from the US or Canada. See drawing details at the end of the interview.
•What a year 2008 was for you, Helen. In February, you learned you were the American Title IV winner who received her first publishing contract as a prize. And then in March, RWA called to let you know The Magic Knot had finaled in the Golden Heart. How did you deal with receiving so much good news all at once, especially when you had to keep the American Title IV win under raps until the Romantic Times BookLovers Convention in April?
One of the most difficult parts of winning the American Title contest was keeping the result a secret for six weeks until the winner was officially announced at the award ceremony during the Romantic Times Convention in Pittsburgh. Especially when all my wonderful supporters were desperate to know if I’d won.
The whole of 2008 was like a roller coaster ride for me. During the first few months of the year, I was competing in the American Title contest. Then I had the honor of being a Golden Heart finalist and the fun of traveling to San Francisco for the RWA conference and award ceremony. Since then, I’ve been hard at work organizing my promotion for The Magic Knot and writing the sequel.
•The Magic Knot had already received four firsts in other contests before its Golden Heart final and American Title IV win, and now it’s garnering sterling reviews. Merrimon Book Reviews said, “The incredible ending left me gasping quietly at the sheer beauty, imagination and imagery.” Where do you come up with your clever story ideas? And is the ending your favorite part, or is there another scene or passage that claims the honor?
I often find inspiration in music and song lyrics. If I visit historic houses or ancient villages or towns I always leave dying to use them as settings for my books. I’m lucky that living in the UK I have access to many ancient buildings and acres of mystical countryside in England, Scotland, and Wales to inspire me. Once I have a story idea, I love reading about myths, legends, and folk law to give me ideas on how to add paranormal elements to the world.
I’m delighted with the reviews The Magic Knot has received so far. I eagerly waited for the February edition of Romantic Times to see what their reviewer thought of my book. I’m pleased to say RT gave The Magic Knot a 4 star review.
One of my favorite scenes in the book is the final scene when Niall and Rose have overcome all their problems and we glimpse their happily ever after. Although I have to admit, I do enjoy making life difficult for my characters. Many of my favorite scenes are the ones where they are in trouble. I love the scene where my heroine, Rose, pits her wits against the psychotic Irish fairy queen and barely escapes with her life.
•Niall O’Connor is the hunky hero of The Magic Knot, a motorcycle-riding fairy who owns a pub and is as tough as his customers. Rosenwyn Tremain is a bright, insecure accountant who has to come to grips with the fact that she’s the Cornish pisky queen–as well as her feelings for Niall. Which of these two characters, stubborn, secretive Niall or doubtful, let’s-get-down-to-business Rose are you most like? Which is your favorite, and why? Is there a secondary character you’re especially fond of?
There are elements of myself in both the hero and heroine. They both feel they don’t fit into the world in which they were raised. That seems to be a recurrent theme in my writing. But I think I identify more with Niall. Strangely, I’ve found I usually understand my heroes better than my heroines.
I also prefer to write male secondary characters. I have two male secondary characters that play sizeable roles in The Magic Knot. Michael is the hero’s brother, and Nightshade is a vampiric nightstalker fairy who can’t decide if he is their ally or enemy. I’m hard pressed to choose which of those two is my favorite. They will both have their own books. The sequel features Michael as the hero, and the next book I have planned is Nightshade’s story.
The character that fascinates me most has only a small part in The Magic Knot. (Although, of course, I know a lot more about him.) He is Troy, Niall and Michael’s father. He has lived an amazing tragic life. The fourth book will be about him, and I have a feeling it will be my favorite.
•I smiled when I read that you almost didn’t enter the American Title IV contest because of the “American” in the title. But you did, and you went on to become the contest’s first British winner. What challenges do you face living in South Western England while working with a publisher in the United States? Do you have support from other romance writers in your area, or is the Internet your lifeline to staying connected?
All I can say is thank goodness for the Internet! I would not be able to work in the way I do without electronic communication. I’ve found it easy to work with my editor at Dorchester by communicating via email. Every stage of the process—revisions, copy edits, galleys—has been completed electronically. I’ll also be eternally grateful to my friends who persuaded me it was worth submitting my American Title entry, even though I do live in the UK.
My wonderful critique partners are both in North America, Mona Risk in Florida and Joan Leacott in Toronto, but I do have contact with British writers through the Romantic Novelists’ Association in the UK. The RNA has a valuable critiquing service where published authors read a complete manuscript for unpublished members. The RNA also has a conference every summer, which gives me a chance to meet up with other British writers.
I did travel across the pond in 2007 and 2008 to the RWA national conference. I love the chance to meet up with all my American friends, but the cost of flights eats into the budget.
•I know you’ve been busy with promotion, since I found over 6,000 hits when I typed “Helen Scott Taylor” in the Google search bar. What did you do to make yourself known during the months of voting on American Title IV? What are you doing now to promote your debut novel and connect with your readers?
During the American Title contest, apart from canvassing my online chapter mates, I actually concentrated on publicizing myself in my local area through word of mouth rather than on the Internet. I’ve changed my approach to publicize my book. There are many fascinating sites for readers where I have put up an author page and been interviewed. The Magic Knot has also been reviewed on lots of sites, so that all helps get out the message that my book is available. I decided that for a first book, it was essential to publicize myself as much as possible so potential readers know I exist.
•Your Web site includes a lengthy list of books on craft as well as reference books relating to your genre. With all those resources, I can see why you write so well and have such a handle on the piskies and other creatures that people your stories. How much research do you perform before beginning writing? Do you plot a book before you begin, or do you go with the flow? And what does your writing schedule look like?
One of the things I love about writing paranormal romance is that I can make up most of the details, so there is limited research I need to do. I have to research my settings. I had fun visiting Ireland during my research before writing The Magic Knot.
As for pre-plotting, I have tried outlining, but it boxes me in. My creativity works best when I get to know my characters, then let them create the story as I write. This way the characters always behave “in character” rather than doing things to fit a pre-planned plot. When I read a book, my pet peeve is characters who do things that are out of character because they need to in order for the plot to work.
I’m an evening person rather than a morning person. I tend to get up late, deal with my business in the morning, and then I write in the afternoon and evening.
•I did a search on Google saw that The Magic Knot can be preordered for pounds in England, dollars in the United States and Canada, and Euros in France and Germany. Since you recently returned from a trip to Morocco, I wonder if you have plans to visit any of the places your book will be for sale. Ireland, perhaps, where portions of The Magic Knot are set? Or will you be off to Scotland and Wales, where your planned sequels are to take place? And can your American readers look forward to a book tour in the United States?
I’m thinking of visiting Scotland this summer to research the setting for the third book in the series, Nightshade’s story. I have set the second book partly in Wales, but I know Wales so well, I didn’t need to visit. I will be attending the Romantic Times convention in Orlando in April, but that will be my only visit to America this year.
•And now a question just for fun. I saw that you love to read Historicals. If you could go back in time, meet a prominent figure, and attempt to alter history, who would you choose and why?
I can’t think of a specific character from history that I’d like to meet, but I would love to go back in time to visit Regency London and see what the place and people were really like. Much as I love Regency romances, I suspect the reality of life then, even for the wealthy and titled, was rather different to how we imagine it.
It’s been great having you as my guest, Helen. And now, in closing, is there a final comment you’d like to make or a question you’d like to ask?
I would like to know what inspires people, be they readers or writers. What transports the person to another world: music, art, a walk in the countryside, or maybe the sound of water, staring into the dancing flames of a fire, or even silence?
Find Out More About Helen
Visit her Web site: www.helenscotttaylor.com
Check out her MySpace page.
Friend Her on Facebook.
Read her blog posts at www.titlemagic.blogspot.com
Send an Email: helen (at) helenscotttaylor (dot) com
Leave a Comment for Your Chance to Win!
On January 13, Helen and blog hostess, Keli Gwyn, will each choose one drawing winner from all those who have left Helen a comment. The two winners will each receive a copy of her debut novel, The Magic Knot, to be shipped after the book is released.
Helen will draw a name from those commenters living in Europe.
Keli will draw a name from those commenters who live in the US or Canada.
Congrats to the winners, Angie (Europe) and Tamara Hughes (US.)
So, leave your comment, making sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.)
You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!
If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by your blog hostess, Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and January 31, making sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) You may enter once per post.
On February 1, Keli will choose one person who will have her choice of four covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your “firstborn” in your hands.
(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling. Watch for pictures added on future posts.)