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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Author Interview: Helen Scott Taylor

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Helen Scott Taylor. Helen’s debut novel The Magic Knot has just been released to rave reviews. It also was the winner in the American Title IV contest and was voted “Best Book of the Week” by our very own readers.

I asked her to tell us a bit about The Magic Knot.

The Magic Knot is a paranormal romance about Cornish piskies and Irish Tuatha dè Danaan. The heroine visits Cornwall looking for her father. She discovers she is the Cornish piskie queen and her father is a dark druid who has imprisoned her people in portraits. The race is then on to discover the fairy lore needed to release her people before her father destroys them forever.

I initially conceived the idea for The Magic Knot to be a contemporary story of identical twin Irish brothers running a pub in Cornwall. Somewhere during the thought process, the brothers became fairies, and I threw in a dark druid, a vampiric winged fairy, and a fire-wielding Irish fairy queen. I had a lot of fun visiting Ireland for research.

Helen told me she’s always loved reading and would make up stories when she was young. Life interfered, however, and she concentrated on her career, then building her business and her family. “It was only when I turned forty,” she said, “and started looking for something I felt was missing from my life that I rediscovered my love of storytelling.”

She started writing in 2003, taking many writing classes and reading a lot of writing craft books. She discovered the Internet was a wonderful way to have access to online writing classes run by RWA chapters. She sent her first book, a short contemporary, to Mills & Boon. “My characters were too unconventional for contemporary romance,” she shared, “so I tried my hand at paranormal and discovered a wonderful outlet for my imagination.”

I asked Helen if she’d ever suffered from writer’s block.

“I’m lucky that I never have,” she told me. “My problem is holding my ideas in check. I have so many story ideas turning over in my mind it’s amazing I manage to get anything done in the ‘normal’ world. When I write, I make up the stories as I go along. I make sure I know my characters before I start writing, then I just write their story as they live it. If I am ever confused about what happens next, I go for a walk and the next scene plays out in my head.

She tried outlining, but felt it boxed her in. “My creativity works best when I get to know my characters, then let them create the story as I write,” she said. “This way the characters always behave ‘in character’ rather than doing things to fit a preplanned plot.”

That leads to her pet peeve when reading a book—“characters that do things that are out of character because they need to for the plot to work.”

Currently, she’s working on a sequel to The Magic Knot called The Phoenix Charm, featuring Niall O’Connor’s brother, Michael. She told me, “This story is set in my fairy world, taking place in Cornwall and Wales. Michael has to go to visit the Welsh fairy king who is king of the Underworld.”

Helen likes to read different genres from what she writes, so her ideas aren’t influenced by other authors’ ideas. Right now, she’s reading Primal Branding by Patrick Hanlon. Her friend, Mary Buckham, recommended it to her. “I’ve learned from experience that her advice is gold plated,” she said. “Mr. Hanlon’s ideas on branding are fascinating, but I’m not sure how I’ll apply them to myself.”

The last novel she read of Desperately Seeking a Duke by Celeste Bradley. “My favorite comfort food is Regency romance,” she shared. “One day, I would like to write a Regency myself. Living in England, I’m in the perfect place to do the research.”

Helen has written five books, six when she finishes revising The Phoenix Charm. Her favorite is the first paranormal she wrote called Passion Beyond Reason and its hero, Francois, is still her favorite character. “It’s about a woman who inherits a cosmetics company and discovers the secret ingredient in the anti-aging face cream is demon’s blood,” she told me. “Francois is the demon trapped in our world. He’s a dark, mysterious, tortured hero and I adore him. The story won a number of contests, but I haven’t submitted it yet. I must dust if off, revise it, and send it out.”

Helen didn’t always want to be a writer. She told me that, when she was growing up, “I longed to be a veterinarian, as I loved animals. I used to spend summer school vacations helping in the local veterinary center. I nearly made it into veterinary school, but didn’t quite make the exam grades required. At the time, I could have gone to medical school to become a doctor as the academic qualifications for entry were lower, but I decided not to. I studied biology and worked in the pharmaceutical industry instead.” She added, “I’m glad I didn’t get into veterinary college, as I’d never have met my husband.”

Her husband is a morning person, but because she needs to for her writing promotion, she tends to keep American time. With the UK being five hours ahead of the East Coast, she often rises late and stays up late. This suits her, though, because she prefers to write late at night when the family is asleep. “The house is so peaceful then I can concentrate,” she said. “Unfortunately, with my husband being a morning person, when I go to be late and he gets up early, we are only together in bed for a couple of hours!”

She told me she would describe herself as the stereotypical eccentric. “I’m the strange absent-minded woman who lives in an English country cottage full of cats and dogs, who forgets to brush her hair (because my mind is usually on a story plot) and wears clothes coated in cat hair,” she said.

The dogs would be her two Shih Tzus. “The little rascals get everywhere and eat anything and everything they can lay paws on,” she said. The cat—a chocolate-shaded-silver-burmilla she used to show. “She’s my baby,” she admitted, “and follows me around the house like a dog.”

Cats are her favorite animals. “If I could be reincarnated as an animal,” she told me, “it would be as a cat. If I could meet a shape shifter, I’d choose a man who shifted into a black panther. I adore the mystery of cats.”

You can keep up with Helen on her website, .

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