Harlequin Presents author Helen Bianchin.
Please tell us a little about your journey to first getting published?
I discovered romantic fiction as a teenager, and became hooked on the genre, particularly Mills & Boon. Delightful escapism, wonderful heroes and heroines. A friend assured I’d led an interesting life as a tobacco sharefarmer’s wife, about which I’d sent her descriptive letters - why didn’t I write a book? So I did, and set it on a tobacco farm in Far North Queensland. Authentic background, incorporated some of my own experiences, and elevated the hero to owning the farm. The MS was returned by a New Zealand representative for Mills & Boon with suggestions - the length was too short, but if I was prepared to do the work he’d like to look at it again. My first reaction was “so you think you can be a writer - huh!” and threw the MS in the bottom of the wardrobe. Six months later I retrieved the MS, rewrote and sent it back to the New Zealand rep, who unbeknownst to me, sent it on to a long established writer for her opinion. A delightful and exceptionally generous woman who wrote me long encouraging letters, offered advice - which I took, then rewrote the MS again, and with encouragement sent it directly to Mills & Boon in the UK. Several months later a telegram arrived from Alan Boon to say the book had been accepted and a 3-book contract was in the mail.
How many books have you had published so far in your career?
60 books published, with the 61st a work in progress.
The world of publishing is ever evolving. How have you stayed on top of trends and continued to give your readers what they want?
My love of reading hasn’t waned, nor has my interest in the romance genre. My particular interest is romantic suspense, thrillers with a romantic edge, regency. It’s important to study current day trends, fashion relevant to the heroine’s character and employment, particularly if she has quirky clothing tastes. As a writer, you almost become the character for whom you’ve chosen to tell their story - that part of their life where attraction blossoms into love, their emotional actions and reactions as the story develops towards the resolution. Always remember you’re writing for the reader’s pleasure, the anticipation of a good story with believable emotional content - and a wonderful ending.
What has been the highlight of your publishing career so far?
There have been several highlights over the years. If I were to choose one, it would have to be the time when Nora Roberts visited Australia as the main guest speaker at an RWA conference, and I was asked to introduce Nora to an audience at a function held at the Brisbane Hilton Hotel.
Which of your books is your favourite, and why?
Reluctant Captive. Published in 1992. The story began in Mossman, far north Queensland, in sugar cane country, an area I knew well, and shifted to the luxury suburb of Vaucluse in Sydney. A suburb I fell in love with during a holiday there. Beautiful homes, fantastic harbour views and old money. The characters came alive for me - a marriage that wasn’t a love-match, a breakup, followed by a reunion. But not one the heroine wanted. Except she had little choice other than to accept the hero’s terms. No book is an easy write. Yet this one flowed from the beginning. The setting, the characters so vivid in my mind I couldn’t wait to get the words down - all day, half the night, every single day from start to finish. As this so rarely happens for me, Reluctant Captive has always remained the one I loved writing the most.
Are you a plotter or a panster?
Mostly I plot. I begin with what I call my prep work. Characters, setting, theme, research. Then I write a draft synopsis, which I develop into an extended draft synopsis, ensure it gels, then plot the time sequence, and develop draft scenes which I run by my editor to gain her thoughts and insight. Then I write the first chapter (which I rewrite numerous times until it feels right). From then onwards I write each scene, not necessarily in sequence - commonly known as the Snowflake method. However, there are occasions when the characters take over and say uh-uh, we’re not doing that. So I brood, sleep on it, and endeavour to discover a new twist or turn that will work.
What’s the one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?
Never, never give up.
What do you love most about being a romance author?
The friendship with fellow authors, and the kinship with aspiring authors. Together, we’re a sisterhood who share the love of writing romance - the trials, tribulations, and the joy.
Thank you Helen for sharing your journey and passion for romance with us today! Helen's latest release is available from Harlequin . And one lucky commenter will win a signed, hardback copy of Alessandro's Prize!