I’m delighted to be hosting Helena Fairfax today. I can’t remember how our paths crossed on social media but I have followed Helena’s posts for quite a while. I enjoy the content she shares … always entertaining and often prompting me to think!
Today Helena Fairfax is chatting about her newly released romance box set, A Year of Light and Shadows. I love it when a protagonist surprises a writer! I hope you enjoy finding out more about the box set and of course some of Helena’s processes.
Helena Fairfax writes engaging contemporary romances with sympathetic heroines and heroes she’s secretly in love with. Her novels have been shortlisted for several awards, including the Exeter Novel Prize, the Global Ebook Awards, the I Heart Indie Awards, and the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme Award.
Helena is a British author who was born in Uganda and came to England as a child. She’s grown used to the cold now, and these days she lives in an old Victorian mill town in the north of England, right next door to the windswept Yorkshire moors. She walks this romantic landscape every day with her rescue dog, finding it the perfect place to dream up her heroes and her happy endings.
Connect with Helena Fairfax
Welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.
Please summarise A Year of Light and Shadows in 20 words or less.
From the heat of the Mediterranean to the heart of Scotland…a story of mystery and romance.
Please tell us about the characters in your anthology.
Lizzie Smith, is an actress who runs a travelling theatre in Edinburgh. One summer she takes on the role of her life, playing the part of a real Mediterranean princess. It’s here, in the fictional country of Montverrier, that she meets my hero, Léon, who is her bodyguard. It’s the start of a series of twists, turns, mystery and romance
Was there anything about your protagonist that surprised you Helena?
Yes! And this was an amazing experience because it’s never happened to me before as a writer. Discovering something about the hero, Léon, made this book one of my favourites to write, and Léon is one of my favourite heroes. A Year of Light and Shadows is actually two novellas and a short story in one. In the first novella, Palace of Deception, Léon is reserved, quiet around the heroine, without revealing too much of himself. That’s understandable. He’s a bodyguard, and he has a professional job to do.
In the second novella, The Scottish Diamond, I was working on the plot and all of a sudden I knew that there was another reason for Léon’s reserve. There is something about him that the heroine doesn’t know. Without revealing too much of the plot, discovering this aspect of his character changes absolutely everything for Lizzie. I was so happy when I had this revelation. It was one of those genuine light-bulb moments that rarely happen, but when they do, you savour.
What scene did you most enjoy writing? Why?
My other novels are contemporary romances. This is the first romantic suspense I’ve written, and writing the scenes involving the twists was really great fun. It was great to watch realisation dawn on the heroine that all was not what it seemed, and to know that the reader will (hopefully!) be feeling the same sense of disorientation. One reviewer wrote,
“Helena Fairfax… also managed to surprise me. I expected a completely different ending and was quite shocked when the truth was revealed… I wonder if you’ll catch it. I don’t want to say too much.”
That’s the type of reaction I was really hoping for!
Did you do any research? Travel to any places?
A Year of Light and Shadows is set in two locations. Book one is set in a fictional country called Montverrier. I based this tiny country on the principality of Monaco. I once stayed for a few weeks on the south coast of France and I absolutely loved the coastline, and the blue, glittering sea, and I was struck by the Palace of Monaco and the white-uniformed guards outside it. The fictional Palace of Montverrier is equally beautiful, and so the contrast with the lies and deception inside the building is all the stronger.
My story carries on to Edinburgh, and the hero and heroine move from the heat of the Mediterranean to the gloom of a misty Scottish autumn. Reality sets in on their relationship. How will they cope with looking for work, paying bills, etc? And when danger follows them, it only adds to the tension…
Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities in the world. It’s a dramatic and romantic city, and the perfect setting for a mystery.
Do you have a favourite place you go to for inspiration Helena?
Or a favourite activity?
I have a rescue dog and every morning – rain, shine or snow! – we go for a walk on the Yorkshire moors, near where I live. I love the landscape. No matter what the season, the sky is always dramatic, whether a perfect blue or grey and stormy. I love to watch the changing seasons – see the heather come into bloom and fade, and the pheasants grow from chicks, and the rains come and go. I often mull over my stories here, and it’s the perfect place for inspiration for a romance writer.
Who designs your covers? Do you have a theme?
For my self-published novels I have a wonderful Canadian designer called Charlotte Volnek. Charlotte designed the cover for A Year of Light and Shadows and I absolutely love it. She has a gift for just picking up on one or two elements in my story and turning them into the perfect cover. I love the silhouettes of the hero and heroine, the heart-shaped pool of light between them, and the way the shadows run through the font. It’s a very thoughtful design and I really appreciate the care Charlotte put into it.
Which authors have influenced your writing?
I’ve always loved Mary Stewart’s novels. It wasn’t until recently that I realised just how much an influence she was while I was writing A Year of Light and Shadows. My story has classic Mary Stewart elements – an ordinary heroine who is forced by circumstances to show extraordinary bravery and resilience, a strong element of mystery, and a romantic setting. I’d love to be able to write as well as she does.
What are your experiences with movie adaptations Helena. Do they do justice to the novel?
Sometimes they do, and when they work well, it’s brilliant. I have quite a few films I love that I thought did the books justice. Gone with the Wind is one, and The English Patient. I liked reading sci-fi and Philip K. Dick is one of my favourite authors. I thought Blade Runner was different to his short story but it’s still one of my favourite ever films.
What are you reading now? Opinion?
I’ve just finished reading Australian author Liane Moriarty’s Truly, Madly, Guilty. I’ve never read any of her books before but I write articles for the American blog BookBub and she’s really popular in the States. I can see why! I thought it was excellent. A really good page-turning family drama. I’m not always keen on page-turners just for the sake of page-turning (if you see what I mean) but her characters were well-rounded, with a lot of depth, and believable – even the children – and the events will stay in my mind. She’s definitely now on my list of authors to read.
Finally Helena, what do you think short stories give to the reader that a full-length novel doesn’t? Have the changes in the publishing world affected the short story market?
Have e-readers made a difference?
I originally published this book as two separate stand-alone novellas and a separate short story (although the stories do run in sequence, they can be read separately). I think e-readers have definitely made a difference in the short story market, especially in the romance genre. There is a popular trend in the US to produce boxed sets of short stories/novellas by different authors. The quality varies but when it works well it’s a great idea. It means readers are introduced to authors they may not otherwise have tried, and from the authors’ point of view they can collaborate on the marketing and gain a wider reach.
Reading a short story is a different experience to reading a full-length novel. I like to think of it as a short, intense look at an afternoon in someone’s life, say. You can still be as moved or touched or shocked but in a different way. (I wish I could explain it better and I hope you know what I mean!)
Thanks very much for having me today, Shaz, and for your thought-provoking questions!
Wishing you success with all your writing projects Helena.
Three spell-binding romantic mysteries in one romance boxed set.
Palace of Deception
From the heat of the Mediterranean….
When the Princess of Montverrier goes missing, Lizzie Smith takes on the acting job of her life. Alone and surrounded by intrigue in the Royal Palace, she relies on her quiet bodyguard, Léon. But who is he really protecting? Lizzie…or the Princess?
The Scottish Diamond
To the heart of Scotland…
Home in Scotland, Lizzie begins rehearsals for Macbeth, and finds danger stalking her through the streets of Edinburgh. She turns to her former bodyguard, Léon, for help – and discovers a secret he’d do anything not to reveal…
A Question by Torchlight
A story of mystery and romance…
The approach of Hogmanay in Edinburgh means a new year and new resolutions. Lizzie and Léon have put their year of danger behind them. But something is still troubling Léon, and Lizzie fears the worst…
BUY LINKS: A Year of Light and Shadows is available on
on Amazon: http://mybook.to/lightandshadows
And other retailers: https://books2read.com/u/brgwvY
*Watch out for the paperback coming soon*