Author Q and A Sessions – 27th July 2016

I’ve been involved in a few more Q&A sessions recently thanks to two kind-hearted Book Bloggers who took the time and trouble to publish an author’s interview on their websites for me:

The latest article coincided very nicely with a Summer Reads promotion I was involved in with CHINDI Authors (a networking group of self-published authors who get together to share ideas, host events and generally help other writers who want to get their work published.) Summer Reads was something quite different.

Summer Reads

As well as promoting our books, we used Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest as forums for sharing writing tips and we also put up a few 6-word story writing challenges.

Helen Christmas writing tips1 twitter Helen Christmas writing tips2 twitter Helen Christmas writing tips3 twitter

And finally, we held some interesting author Q&A Sessions live on our Facebook page.

These a lot of fun and a good way of using social networks to share our ideas and keep others informed about our individual journeys into publishing. I won’t say much more about my own live session but I decided to include a transcript (from Facebook) to show how this transpired. I hope it will inspire others to run their own Facebook Q&A sessions and hope some of the answers I gave will be of interest to other authors.

Facebook Transcript from a live Facebook Q&A Session:

Live Facebook Q&A

Chindi Authors Hello Helen, Good luck and for those who have not yet read your books, how would you describe your series of romantic thrillers Same Face Different Place?

Helen Christmas Hi to all the Chindi Authors out there. There’s a lot to this series – such as conspiracy theory and police cover ups, the criminal underworld of the 70s and more… the principal characters in book 1 are two young people on the run, who fall in love. It is the start of mystery that unrolls over 4 decades.

Chindi Authors Do you base any of your characters on real people

Helen Christmas I love this type of question! Well Ted Heath featured in the first book as did Maggie Thatcher in the 2nd but not as characters. The characters in my story are all fictitious, though some of their traits are based on real people.

Christine Hammacott Hi Helen what made you set your stories in the past?

Helen Christmas Hi Christine. I’ve seen a lot of political and social changes throughout my life so I wanted to include a bit of that history. I also loved the music and the fashion of each decade. As soon as I’d finished book 1, I actually quite missed the 70s. But I enjoyed revisiting the 80s which is where the 2nd book kicks off.

Chindi Authors Who are your favourite authors, who do you feel has influenced you the most?

Helen Christmas I was a big fan of Jilly Cooper, Leslie Pearce and Martina Cole but I greatly admire the work of Ken Follett (official) who writes wonderful sagas based around real life historic events.

Carol Thomas Writers are often readers too, what is on your summer reading list?

Helen Christmas Hi Carol – well you’ll be pleased to know that yours is on that list but I have a few others lined up to take on holiday. 

M’TK Sewer Rat – End of Empire by Delinda McCann
A contemporary drama set in a fictional third world country which sounds intriguing.
A Taste of Ash by Christine Hammacott which is a psychological thriller and looks to be very gripping.
I have a couple of hard backs too, including Past Imperfect by Michael Parker, so plenty to choose from.

JJ Morval Hi Helen, how long does the first draft, or ‘creative’ draft, before you get to the editing stage of each book, take for you, and do you have a plan that you work to?

Helen Christmas Hi Nick! Book 1 Beginnings took me about 6 months to write from start to finish, I just stormed through. But I made some changes to the first edit which influenced the whole book, so it was a bit of a rewrite. For the later books, I reckon about a year for the first draft and then another year for all the editing stages so it’s about 50/50.

JJ Morval When I start writing, not all of my characters are there, and sometimes I like not knowing everything. Do you ‘know’ all your charcters before you start?

Helen Christmas No, not at all, many have developed along the timeline of the story and became bigger characters.

JJ Morval Thank goodness I’m not alone… 🙂

Alexander Wallis Hi Helen, what advice would you give to young people who say they don’t like reading?

Helen Christmas If the world seems empty and nobody is listening, pick up a book and read… It might help.

Alexander Wallis Beautifully put!

Chris Casburn Do you translate your books for an American audience?

Helen Christmas No. My series is a quintessentially English series, as depicted in my Facebook page Helen J. Christmas – author of Same Face Different Place

Chris Casburn I’m not a big fan Of Anazon. Are your books available anywhere else?

Helen Christmas Yes, they are available from the Chindi Authors Book shop as signed paperbacks PLUS I have made a feeble attempt to get my book on i-tunes too (via a company called Draft2Digital who do all the hard work for you) so Book 1 Beginnings is available through other channels. I need to do the others in the same format to reach a wider audience. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

Kirsti Lelliott What writing rituals do you have, special pens, places to write, etc?

Helen Christmas Sorry for the delay, Kirstie. Writing rituals… I start at 6am, pour myself a glass of water and our dog joins me in the office whilst I write for a couple of hours. Early mornings are good – no distractions x

Kirsti Lelliott No worries thank you for the replies 🙂 x

Carol Thomas – Author I know you gave a talk at the Worthing Wow festival about social media, what is your top social media tip for writers?

Helen Christmas Establish a brand that represents you and your books, be it a cover image, a colour scheme or background. My debut thriller had a striking image of London’s cityscape in the 1970s which I used in the background of my Facebook and Twitter headers as well as on my website and blog. It helps people to recognise you as an author.

Mason Thomas Hi Helen, are your books available as audiobooks if not is this something you plan to do?

Helen Christmas Hello Mason. No, I’m afraid not. I did approach a company through Amazon but there were no offers for auditions (possibly needed someone with a cockney accent). Maybe one day, I will create the audio books myself.

Angela Petch How do you go about editing? It is a tricky business for self-published authors BUT very important.

Helen Christmas Hi Angela and yes, it is. Writing that first draft is the fun part because it’s all about us and what turns us on. The next editing stage is for our audience. I usually do at least 2 edits before I pass the work onto beta readers to get their feedback. After that, I take on board their comments and do another edit. It’s an exhausting process but you want to get it just right before you publish.

Doreen Mason Your book covers are very striking, who creates them for you and how did you decide on the images?

Helen Christmas Thanks so much, Doreen. I actually designed them myself. I am a graphic designer by trade with access to lots of photo libraries and I also use photoshop. Book 3 Pleasures is actually a combination of 3 images, from 123RF and istock.

Doreen Mason Well you obviously do a great job!

Helen Christmas I’m really pleased you like them, thank you =D

Kirsti Lelliott Hi Helen 🙂 Do you interview people who have lived through the decades you write about or do you rely on other sources?

Helen Christmas Hi Kirsti 🙂 Yes, I have interviewed real people – one is a retired army officer who served in the 90s and has really helped me with book 4. Others include a police officer (and dare I say it) a former ecstasy dealer and DJ who was big in the 90s rave scene.

Carol Thomas – Author Which of your books have you most enjoyed writing and why?

Helen Christmas Thanks for asking: Books 1, 2 and 3 are 99p on Amazon at the moment, so I hope I can tempt some new readers… I absolutely loved writing the first one and got completely swept away by it, not only the setting (which was a result of extensive research) but the story line and the characters! It took me to another world.

Doreen Mason Hello, how often do you write and how long does it take you to complete one of your books?

Helen Christmas Hello Doreen. I make time to write every day, usually first thing in the morning (I always wake up about 5:30) and read it back later in the evening when I do a few edits. On average, it takes about a year to write the first draft and then comes the editing – Book 2 Visions and Book 3 Pleasures each took me about 2 years from start to finish.

Carol Thomas – Author How do you divide your time between promotion and writing?

Helen Christmas Writing is the fun part, Carol, the marketing is a relentless chore but we all have to do it if we’re self published. I give far greater priority to the writing which is maybe where I go wrong but at the end of the day, you have to blow your own trumpet because no-one is going to do it for you. I’d say about 75% writing and 25% marketing for me. That might change when I’ve finished the series.

Angela MacAskill How do you keep track of your plot, characters, sub plots and so forth as you write?

Helen Christmas Hmm… I have a synopsis as a blue print and I am currently working on a first draft but things do change. There are parts I have scrapped and new parts I have added but when you write a series, you really get to know your characters; their back story, their lives and everything that happens to them. It’s all in my head but I have my notes, synopsis and research to refer to as well as the earlier books.

Rob Lelliott Evening Helen – are you influenced by films and TV dramas, if so which?

Helen Christmas Hello, Rob. I used to love the Inspector Morse series and this was mainly the reason I went for a very convoluted plot with lots of characters. But I write from the heart – so good character stories work well for me too. I liked the TV series ‘Bad Girls’ and I also like ‘Game of Thrones’ for its amazing characters.

Angela MacAskill How many more books do you plan in the SFDP series?

Helen Christmas Hello Angela. Thanks for asking. I’m writing the final instalment and it’s huge! It progresses through the 90s and has covered 5 years but ideally, I want the big finale to happen in the year 2,000 followed by an epilogue which will be a catch up in 2012 where all the characters are reunited again.

The Creatures of Chichester Do you have any tips on editing your books?

Helen Christmas Hi Chris, lovely to hear from you and I hope you had a great time in Sicily! (lucky thing) To answer your question… from the 1st draft, the second edit is a visionary process – you have to turn your work into entertainment and write it for your audience and not for yourself; for me that means cutting out any waffle and tightening up the story to keep the pace moving. After that, it’s a case of polishing up the writing style, dialogue and descriptions. After that it’s a matter of fine tuning it and making sure it all flows.

The Creatures of Chichester If your books were made into a film. Who would you pick as your leading actors?

Helen Christmas That is a tricky question, Chris and I can picture my characters in my head but here goes… there is an actor Ben Drew (also known as singer, rapper Plan B) who would be brilliant as the evil gangster in the later part of the series (from Pleasures onwards) and Billy Boyd (played Pippin in Lord of the Rings) would be great as Peter Summerville, a gentle Irish Community worker.

Sylvia Endacott Hi, how are you going with your further book. Having written the first three, are you finding it more difficult to tie up the loose ends.

Helen J. Christmas – author of Same Face Different Place I tied up another of those loose ends today! Some of these characters deserve a truly happy ending 🙂 and there is now just one final section to finish.

Sylvia Endacott Great news.

Helen J. Christmas – author of Same Face Different Place I tied up another of those loose ends today! Some of these characters deserve a truly happy ending 🙂 and there is now just one final section to finish.

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About Helen J. Christmas

I am a budding author and have written the first 3 books of my British series of novels, 'Same Face Different Place. Beginnings is a suspense thriller set in the criminal underworld of 1970s London. The second Book 'Visions' is a psychological thriller, set in Kent - a mystery which ensnares the owners of an historic, English Country House. Book 3 Pleasures contains suspense, thrills and YA romance and the 4th book is being written.
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