Today I decided to kick off the blog tour with a literary interview of Author Heleen Kist
Digital Reads Blog Tours presents Author Heleen Kist in an absolute straightforward interview
Heleen, welcome to my blog. Now at last I have you all to myself. You have been quite busy in the past few days in the promotion and the marketing of your book. I am sure your book is flying off the shelves even as we speak.
1. Tell me something about yourself. It has been so long since we chatted. What is happening in your life?
I live in Glasgow with my Scottish husband and two children, who are now in secondary school. I’ve been self-employed as a strategy consultant for nearly 17 years and for at least three days a week I’m either in my office in the garden or at my client’s office—which could be anywhere across the British isles. It’s a juggle but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
2. First of all I have to congratulate you on your other big news after publishing your book You have been selected to read a snippet of your book at Bloody Scotland, an International crime writing festival. How does it feel?
Surreal. Within a year and a half, I’ve gone from the idea that I should write a book to being given a spot on the main stage at a famous book festival, rubbing shoulders with authors whose books I’ve read. The on-site book shop has even ordered some copies to sell so I can sign them while there. I really have to pinch myself.
3. As Julie Andrews says – let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. So how did this journey start for you? How did you get the idea to write a book? Did you always want to be an author?
I’ve always had a way with words. I credit my parents for that, both of whom have been columnists. But if you ignore some poetry that was published in my student days, I have only ever used this aptitude for work. This changed last year when – probably as a midlife crisis, and possibly in response to being their only child (of 3) that hadn’t authored a book – I decided I would write a novel by Christmas.
4. What came next after writing the book and getting it read … ahem ahem by me….? What happened once you had the final draft in your hands?
Well, you certainly shouldn’t downplay your role in all of this! When I sent you my first draft last Christmas, I still saw my novel as something only my family and friends would read. But you sent an email to me within FIVE hours, saying that you’d loved it and hadn’t been able to put it down. For a moment, I thought you might have a screw loose, but when my developmental editor also complimented me on a ‘cracking novel,’ I realised there was possibly a real market for it. So I’ve spent the last few months making it the best it can be for publication.
5. I am in awe of your intelligent and analytical brain. Did you have to do a lot of research for the book?
I feel like I cheated on this front, if I’m honest, compared to writers of procedural, fantasy or historical fiction. The locations are all just fictional depictions of what’s around me: my house, my neighbourhood, the recycling centre; and even where the action takes place in another city, it’s one I visit frequently to see my in-laws. My characters are all made up but will have elements of people I know—and I’ve even named a few after friends. All the financial ‘shenanigans’ are things I’ve learnt about through work, running my own consultancy business and being trained to spot and prevent financial crime for my banking clients. The big difference of course is that I had to imagine being on the criminal side! The action takes place in modern-day Scotland against a backdrop of socio-economic, religious and political divisions. There is no research needed for this: it’s all around you.
6. What about research to get it published?
My goodness, what a time sink that is! I probably spent more time learning about how to get my book out there, than actually writing it. Luckily, one of my favourite things is understanding how different industries work, what roles different businesses play and what incentives there are. I like technology and data, so am enjoying learning about Amazon’s algorithms. I found a lot of parallels between the start-up financing world I know very well and publishing: publishers are, like venture capitalists, inundated with choice and place big bets on the small number of investments they are most comfortable will succeed, recognising that many will fail. I did try to get an agent or direct publishing deals for a six months, but the more I researched (and got rejected) the more I saw how self-publishing could suit me better. I’m not a very patient person and I like to be in control. From that perspective, my MC Grace is just like me.
7. After this epic journey, what is the advice you would like to give to budding authors?
Listen, but do it your way. While writing I felt constrained by the ‘rules’ that seem universal: no adverbs, remove crutch words, no duplication. They would stop the flow of words and initial edits felt contrived. Of course, these rules are there for a reason—I’m particularly proud of a 700-word scene all about my MC kicking her car in anger that uses a multitude of different words to indicate the vehicle (see what I did there?)—but you need to take them with a pinch of salt. It still needs to be your voice.
There are also ‘magic formulas’ for different genres and whilst I’m sure that the industry likes to have books fit into a box they can market more easily, I believe your readers like to be surprised and to have something new. I did not research the genres and In Servitude falls somewhere between thriller, crime and women’s fiction. It’s the story I wanted to tell and I’m proud of it. But if a publishing deal is what you’re after, stick to the formula. I recommend ‘Story Grid’ by Shawn Coyne and ‘Mastering Suspense, Structure and Plot’ by Jane Cleland.
8. Where do you see yourself in the literary world? What is next in the works for you? Have you started writing your next manuscript? What is the genre?
Like many (most?) writers I suffer from impostor syndrome. I still feel like a pretend writer. I’m in an odd place where I am both surprised and not surprised when a reader tells me they liked the book. It will become more real once I’ve been on stage at Bloody Scotland and strangers (hopefully) start buying my book. I have two ideas for next books and I can’t decide between them. One is another ‘ordinary person sucked into crime by mistake’ story in Glasgow and the other would need to take place in a bigger city and is kind of a dark cross between ‘9 to 5’ and the ‘First wives club’.
This was Heleen at her literary best. I wanted to dig in deeper and get to know her personally too. Hence I did the next best thing… I sent her more questions
I not only wanted to know her, I wanted to know her main character, Grace too!!
So stay tuned for part 2, 3, 4…
Yeah, I love Heleen so much!!! ♥️
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