Congratulations on winning the first ever Sony Young Movellist of the Year Award! How did you feel when you first heard the news?
I was a couple of days into a trip backpacking round Europe when I heard the news, and I’ve been whining about how much I want to be a writer for years and years. So, the main thought was my life is genuinely never going to get better than it is right now.After the phone call where I received the news, I then somewhat hysterically ran up a bit of a phone bill telling my family and a couple of my friends. Me and the two girls I was travelling with were too excited to really see any more of Hamburg, so we hopped on a train to Berlin a few hours early and just sat there feeling stunned.
My best friend was just sat there like… Helen, you’re going to be published. I always knew you would, but I thought it would be like… in a few decades’ time.
I told her that I hadn’t known it was going to happen at all and certainly not with this book at this point. I was just stunned and elated and very confused. I also had to reconsider my whole theoretically realistic ‘dreams probably don’t come true very often’ standpoint. Very inconvenient.
What inspired you to write ‘The Name on Your Wrist’?
I’ve always taken objection to some of the things romance fiction try to tell us about real life and, at the time, I saw a lot of uber-romantic (supposedly) stories about soulmates. Honestly, I don’t think the idea is very romantic at all. Plus, it’s completely illogical. If there was only one person that you could ever be truly happy with and really ‘love’ then it seems very unlikely that most people would ever experience that at all. It’s all dependent on timings and coincidence and choices. Anyway, I think the idea that you could have been happy with a number of different people, in a number of different places and ways, and still chose a particular individual is more romantic, rather than less.
So, in the beginning, I just decided to climb onto my soapbox and construct a universe full of soulmates that didn’t quite work out properly. The rest of the plot followed shortly after that.
What book are you reading at the moment?
A Million Little Pieces, James Fey. I’m only a couple of chapters in, but I’m finding it pretty interesting so far.
If you could give one bit of advice to a young author what would it be?
Just keep writing! I honestly think that each time you finish a story you get a little bit better at storytelling. The first novel length (and some, because that story wasa mammoth) now embarrasses me and makes me cringe, but my next one was better. Hopefully, my next will be even better.
Experiment, too. I started off writing angsty romance things and I was utterly convinced I couldn’t write anything funny until I forced myself to try. Now humour is one of my second favourite things to write. I’m currently trying to work out how to write murder mysteries, just because the idea of one is scary and I’m not sure I can pull it off.
Why not try, right?
What is the one thing that’s most important to you when writing?
The main thing for me is emotions. The first time I wrote anything decent it was because I was drowning in teen angst and needed some kind of outlet for everything. The emotions of that first character just took over and made the story worth something to people. I think if you miss the emotions, then you miss your characters and it’s hard to care about a story if you don’t care about the characters.
Do you have a favourite author? If so why that person?
I think I’d have to say John Green. I love his books but, more than that, I love the connection he has to his readers.
I’ve been writing on writing websites for over six years, so I’m used to sort of knowing my readers. I could answer their reviews and get into dialogues with them about things they liked and things they didn’t like. I love getting excited with readers about characters, knowing which couples they’re behind and what they’re predicting happens next.
I really respect the fact that John Green knows and cares about his readers so much. I think if you want to write something relevant, you should head out to youtube and tumblr and talk to the people you want to connect with.
What’s the most exciting thing you have been asked to do since winning the Movellist award?
Signing books is pretty exciting! I’ve just got my own batch of paperbacks and I’m completely terrified about soiling them with my ugly signature. I’ve been trying to practice (much to the amusement of my housemates), but currently the favourite signature attempt looks a lot more like ‘Melon Hiorns’ than my actual name. I think they might be trying to pity me with that one.
I’ve talked to a couple of local newspapers and did an interview for my uni newspaper as well, but I think the most exciting thing would be getting an invite to go to the Random House Christmas party! That was a lot of fun.
Do you have any hobbies that do not involve reading or writing?
A ran out of time for most of my old hobbies when I started uni, but there are a few things I managed to pick up recently. On Saturdays, I usually join a bunch of people from my church to bring soup, tea and coffee to the Big Issue sellers around Sheffield. I’m also trying to learn sign language, but every time I get as far as telling the time my life suddenly gets really busy and I wind up having to start over.
In theory, I also make cards and paint and sing, but that hasn’t been happening all that much lately. Does having good, productive intentions and then winding up on tumblr count as a hobby? Because I’m getting really good at doing that.
What are your plans/hopes for the future?
This one is really hard!
I honestly thought that by the time I was halfway through my degree I’d suddenly have some divine inspiration about what I’d like to do with the rest of my life. Instead, I’m just as clueless as I was eighteen months ago. I know that I’d like to write many, many more books (forever, hopefully) and that I’d like to keep travelling and seeing places… but who wouldn’t want to do that?
More short term, because I have some vague notions about the next six months even if I don’t have a clue about anything else, I’d like to get a good way through the two writing projects I’ve been thinking about for a long time and go to Croatia with my best friend in the summer. And maybe do quite well on that degree of mine, too. That’d be nice.
Visit Random House Children’s Publishers for more information on ‘The Name On Your Wrist’.