You wrote the 8th story in The Life and Times of Chester Lewis, ‘The World According To Chester’ set during Chester’s 60s. Without giving plot spoilers, what can readers look forward to in your story?
I told my story through the eyes of Chester’s son, Ben. The readers will see another side to Chester, a grimy side – warts and all. They’ll understand more of what drives Chester through his amazing life. They may even reflect on their own relationships with their families. When I re-read the chapter to answer these questions I realised how much of my own father I’d borrowed for Chester!
Your story in The Life and Times of Chester Lewis is set at Prevelly Beach, near Margaret River in Western Australia. Is that a location you are familiar with or did it just happen to fit as a location for the story you wanted to tell?
We had a holiday at Prevelly Beach a couple of years ago. We stayed five nights and then explored south down to Albany before returning to Prevelly for another ten days. I had no idea how magnificent the surf was in the Margaret River region and being an old surfie chick from Currumbin Beach is was wonderful to sit on the point and cheer on the wave warriors.
Prevelly was the perfect setting for Chester and Ben to confront each other at time in Ben’s life when he was starting to flex his muscles and search for a sense of self.
The Life and Times of Chester Lewis has a fan fiction competition, for stories 2000 – 4000 words, with a $2000 1st prize. What advice do you have for entrants?
I’ve never written any fan fiction, but I’d say let your imagination run wild. Characterisation is the key to any good story so take the bones of your favourite characters and show us something different, something hidden, something exciting!
You have won the Romantic Book of the Year award the past two years in a row for your romantic suspense novels, Wings of Fear and Shattered Sky. In your opinion, what makes a good romantic suspense novel?
I always think Romantic Suspense gives the reader two stories for the price of one – a frantic thriller with a satisfying love story.
I think the key to good Romantic Suspense is giving equal weight to the two threads of the story. The suspense needs to drive the romance in a meaningful way rather than being an add-on.
As with all good romances seeing the characters grow and change through the story is important and the suspense often forces our protagonists to face their greatest fears. By doing that they then open themselves up to the possibility of love.
For those unfamiliar with your latest novel, Burning Lies, how would you describe it?
It’s an explosive story of peril and passion set in Australia’s far north.
At its heart is a story about two people struggling to regain their sense of identity while they fight to prevent an arsonist from destroying their lives.
You have mentioned previously that you find screenwriting book Save The Cat! by Blake Snyder useful for your novel writing, as have other novelists, such as Sarah Alderson (3 YA thrillers with Simon & Schuster) recently on Writing Teen Novels. Do you draw a lot of inspiration from filmic sources for your novel writing?
I’m not sure I draw inspiration from films, but I certainly use the three act structures of plays and movies.
We’ve been telling stories for thousands of years. Right across different cultures there’s a similar narrative arc in everything from the Norseman’s myths, through the Greek tragedies and on to Shakespeare’s wonderful plays.
There are very practical reasons for that three act structure as well as compelling ones to do with pacing and it suits romantic suspense perfectly!
What is one of your favourite novels you have read in the past year, and why?
One of my favourite novels (and this is a very difficult choice as I’ve enjoyed many books this year…) was Silent Valley by Malla Nunn.
Set in the 1950s in South Africa, it’s the third book in her Emmanuel Cooper series. With each new book the characterisation is stronger, the sense of place even deeper and the plots more twisted.
What is next for your fiction writing?
My next story, working title Dangerous Truth, is set on the northern New South Wales coast, an area I loved visiting as a teenager. It’s a departure from my Border Watch series, with flying taking a back seat, but still full of international intrigue and wonderful love story. It will be released in July 2013 by Penguin Australia.
Helene Young author site: www.heleneyoung.com
The Australian Literature Review