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!
What a wonderful story about your beginnings, Helen! Thanks for taking the time to share your writing life with us.ReplyDelete
What an amazing career Helen and one for all romance writers to aspire to. I love how there's one book that stands out, that kind of writes itself.ReplyDelete
I'm a HUGE fan, even though my tastes are mostly paranormal these days. I don't have a lot of keeper books, but I have one of yours that I've read and reread - No Gentle Seduction. And wow, it's already 21 years old!!! The only other older keepers I have is Madeleine Ker's The Wilder Shores of Love (fantastic read!!) Margarett McKean's This WIld Heart and Lucy Gordon's Eagle's Prey.
Now I'm going to have to get Reluctant Captive too, sounds great =))
Good luck with your writing, book 100 will be quite a milestone! =)
Wow, Helen, you've seen so many changes in the writing and publishing world throughout your career. And there are more to come. What an amazing story, with plenty of great books still to be written, I'm sure.ReplyDelete
Hi Helen - so great to have you here. You career has inspired me, as you know. My favourite book of yours will always be The Stephanos Marriage. Great to see you here on LoveCats.ReplyDelete
Hi Helen - you are one of my all time fav HMB authors.ReplyDelete
I really enjoyed the interview and learning more about you :)
Helen,lovely to see you here, and I am completely inspired by the fact that you've got 60 published books!!! You've always been a fabulous role model of productivity and graciousness. Long may you write!ReplyDelete
Lovely to see you here, Helen. One of romance writing's most gracious and generous souls, and your books reflect this. I love the way you reinvent yourself with every book, now we know how you do that - by becoming your heroine. Look forward to seeing you at RWA on the Gold Coast.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Imelda. I'm glad you enjoyed my blog.ReplyDelete
Helen, you had a telegram from Alan Boon? What a fabulous memory to have! I'm with the others here - you're an inspiration with your longevity in an ever-changing industry. Thanks for visiting us at the LoveCats. =)ReplyDelete
Helen, it's so fabulous to have you visit us as our first LoveCats Legend! As Rachel (and others) said, you are an inspiration! Congratulations on your 60 books - and your 61st in progress!ReplyDelete
Jane B, lovely to see you hear. Thanks so much for your post. HelenReplyDelete
Helen, it's so fabulous to see you here. You've been an inspiration to me for so long, with so many terrific books and you've been so gracious and encouraging to a new writer! I remember sitting at the same dinner table with you after a Gold Coast conference. Yvonne Lindsay and I had to pinch ourselves at the thought we were there with such a legend!ReplyDelete
I'm so impressed with your 61st book underway. Do you find it harder now to come up with new twists on themes that take your interest, or is it just a matter of focusing on one story at a time? I love the sound of 'Reluctant Captive'. Wonder if I can find a copy.
Thanks, Mel. I'm honoured to know you kept "No Gentle Seduction" as one of your "keepers'. Glad you enjoyed the interview. All the bestReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing today. I loved hearing about how you got started. 61 books & counting. Very impressive. You are obviously doing EVERYTHING right.ReplyDelete
Hi Sue, Yes, I have seen a lot of changes in publishing since I had my first book accepted.ReplyDelete
Not sure I'll reach the coveted 100 titles, although I certainly hope to write several more. Regards
Hi Helen, thank you so much for the request to blog on LoveCats. You're an inspiration, and your dedication to writing is awesome. All the best. (The other Helen)ReplyDelete
Joanne, I'm delighted to hear I'm one of your all-time fav HMB authors. Thank you. It's very kind of you to say so. RegardsReplyDelete
Hi Louise, thank you so much. I value your friendship, and admire your dedication to the writing craft. All the best.ReplyDelete
Hi Valerie, I've always admired you for your knowledge of the romance genre, and the advice you willingly give to the writing community. I'm looking forward to the RWA conference on the Gold Coast - this year it's on home ground! All the best.ReplyDelete
Rachel, it's such a pleasure to be here on LoveCats. Congratulations on your success. All the best.ReplyDelete
Sharon, thank you so much for your congratulations on my 60 books. The 61st is progressing slowly! Take careReplyDelete
Annie, thank you! You're very kind. As my first book was published in 1975, 60 titles between then and 2011 only equates to slightly less than 2 books written each year! I'm completely in awe of writers whose production is much higher than my own.ReplyDelete
And yes, it does become more difficult to find a new slant, a different twist. I find the characters drive the story, although sometimes I battle with them when they want to go in a different direction from the one I planned for them. Then it's a case of "you want me to do what? uh-huh" ...
All the best.
Hi Marybelle, I'm smiling a little. It's to my editor's credit I remain on the right path! I always value her input. RegardsReplyDelete
A personal thanks to all who've taken the time to post on LoveCats today. I've really enjoyed being here.ReplyDelete
And to Helen Lacey - thank you once again. You're a valued friend.
I hope I'm not too late to post! Lovely seeing you here Helen, you're an inspiration and I always learn something new about you. I had no idea about Reluctant Captive being an easy write for you (as I'm well aware you're a turtle) :-) Have you ever examined what was happening in your life at the time that perhaps made those words flow so easily? Wouldn't it be great to recapture that? Keep on writing, we love you! xxReplyDelete
wow.. wonderful, you'd 60 books published ;)ReplyDelete
Holy catfish! Three books every year on average! Incredible!ReplyDelete
What's even more incredible is that I don't think I've read any of your books yet, and I've been reading romances since 1974. Guess I'd better rectify that, eh?
Thanks to Love Cats Down Under for bringing your books and you to my (and others') attention.
I'm glad you have trouble with your characters too sometimes - telling you they don't want to go the way you want them. That makes me feel a better. I have these little disputes with my own characters from time to time... Good luck with finding plenty more new twists for your romances. I'm looking forward to more of them.
Helen, what a beautiful post. Love Cats, thank you so much for having a real LEGEND on today. Helen is such an amazing writer and so supportive to writers coming up in Australia. I personally have experienced her kindness more times than I can count. Helen, I'm not sure if you remember this, but I remember sitting next to you at a workshop at RWA in Melbourne in 2005 just before I had to go in to do a pitch to a BIG New York agent. I was completely beside myself with fear and you pushed a note across the table telling me what a lovely writer I was (I hadn't realised it, but you'd read some of my stuff in comps and liked it, bless you). Remember thinking, WOW!!! That's HELEN BIANCHIN saying that!!!! Couldn't believe it but sure helped me when I did my pitch. So on behalf of the romance writers in Oz, thank you!ReplyDelete
Helen, you're a great inspiration to those of us who have yet to publish our stories!ReplyDelete
Annie, I think every writer has trouble with their characters on occasion. To identify and resonate with a fictional character takes time, and quite often the writer's initial image doesn't gel with the character's development and journey throughout the story. When this happens, it's often because the direction you want the character to take is not in character with who you've depicted her/him to be. All the best.ReplyDelete
Anna, thank you for your kind words. I do remember sitting next to you on that occasion. It was during a workshop Lucy Monroe (a USA guest speaker) hosted. One of the highlights of that conference was Awards night when your contest submission was awarded first place. Proof, indeed, of your talent. Your friendship is a valued one. All the best.ReplyDelete
CC, you know me so well. I think we've ascertained a snail is slower than a turtle ...ReplyDelete
so my normal progress is at snail's pace!
Mostly I struggle, rewrite endlessly ... the reason why "Reluctant Captive" stands out in my mind. If only every book would flow so easily! Take care and all the best.
Eli, thanks for your post. RegardsReplyDelete
Laney 4, thank you for your kind comments. I did write 3 books in one year at my editor's request, but that was an exception. RegardsReplyDelete
Hi Katherine, thank you. The path to publication can be a long one. Believe in yourself, and never give up on your dream. All the bestReplyDelete
Hey Helen, waving madly. How about writing that biography then?ReplyDelete
Thank you so much for the insight into your life. Thank you also for many wonderful stories over the years. I now have to go looking in the boxes of Presents novels that I inherited from my mom. I'm hoping to find your favorite story.ReplyDelete
Helen, thank you so much for joining us at Lovecats! You know I'm a huge fan of yours - your books and your wonderful supportive ways. How amazing, introducing Nora Roberts! Although, as we all know, you're a legend too =)ReplyDelete
Helen, lovely to see you on Lovecats. You are an inspiration to me. Your generosity and patience in my walk have been gratefully appreciated. May there be many more books to come!ReplyDelete
I'm coming in awfully late, but, Helen, I just wanted to say how thrilled I am that you're visiting the LoveCats. You do know that we're all primping and preening and nudging people and saying "You know we're hosting the fabulous Helen Bianchin at the moment."ReplyDelete
Now I'm off to see if I can find me a copy of "Reluctant Captive" as it sounds fabulous!
Anne, waving madly back at you! The biography thing ... OK, I'm on it. I've even opened a file .... Just don't hold your breath! xxReplyDelete
Hi Kaylee, thank you for your kind words. I'm pleased to hear your mom was a Presents fan.ReplyDelete
I hope you manage to locate "Reluctant Captive". All the best
Robbie, lovely to see you here. Thanks for your kind words. It's a while since we last met. I'll look forward to catching up at the Gold Coast conference. xReplyDelete
Laura, I'm so looking forward to catching up with you in person. It's a delight to see your work in print. xReplyDelete
Michelle, thank you. You're very kind. I hope you enjoy "Reluctant Captive" as much as I enjoyed writing Kate and Nicolas Carvalho's story. All the bestReplyDelete