Tuesday, 21 August 2012

An Interview With Helena Halme

My last post about publishing Exciting Times proved to be so popular, I thought it may be interesting to continue the theme.  I intend talking to a few fellow writers about their experiences, asking them, how and why they write, if they had been published and whether they would consider self publishing.  

Helena Halme 

Today we are starting with one of my blogging pals, now turned published author, Helena Halme.  I have always been a fan of Helena’s blog and I am delighted that she has published “The Englishman”.

Tell me a little about yourself

I was born in Finland and came to the UK nearly 30 years ago. Because my husband served in the navy, we moved about a lot, finally settling down in Wiltshire where we lived for 15 years in a very rural setting. Two years ago we decided we’d had enough of country life, upped sticks and moved to the city. And haven’t looked back.
When did you realise you wanted to write?
I began writing when growing up in Finland, but it took me years to gain the confidence to write fiction in English. It wasn’t until my early forties that I enrolled on a MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Since then I’ve been writing non-stop (try stopping me!). 
What do you write?
I write fiction, mainly novels set in Finland and Sweden. Since my MA I’ve written three novels. The Englishman is a romantic tale of love across oceans. I also write blog, Helena’s London Life, about my escapades in the city.  
The Englishman is published digitally by Kindle and Smashwords. How did that come about?

The Englishman started out as a series of posts on my blog, Helena’s London Life, and became so popular with my readers that I decided to make it into a fully fledged novel. The Englishman, is set in Finland in the 1980’s and was inspired by my own story of how I met my husband and moved to the UK. It’s my third novel, but the one which is most closely based on my own life. 

Over the years I’ve had a few close calls with agents, but they always ended with, ‘You write well, but I’m not sure where I’d place this novel.’ I know exactly where to ‘place’ my novel - on Kindle and Smashwords!

Was it easy to publish a book?

Ah, well, on paper it’s easy. But, there are several issues which you only find out once you start the process. I was determined to publish a professional product and decided to employ an editor, even after The Englishman had been read and edited several times by friends, journalists and family members. It was amazing how even after all these corrections, Dorothy Stannard, my brilliant editor found spelling mistakes and inconsistencies in the story. 

I also decided to go to a professional cover designer, Simon Wilder. He took my ideas, and matched them with the words of the book. I think it’s really important that you get these two major things right before you start to do battle with formats and legal issues.

Formats and legal issues? You’re scaring me now… 

Yes, well…I worked very hard on making the Englishman sound and look professional. But when I looked more closely at the actual publishing process,  I realised I needed to read a whole lot of bumph to make sure the original word document was suitable for Kindle and Smashwords. It was all a bit daunting, but in the end, Dorothy, my long suffering editor just cleaned the document of all funny spaces, paragraphs and formats. It seemed the the golden rule in e-publishing is, the simpler the format, the better. 

The legal issues involved a US tax code. I am quite used to dealing with the tax authorities (I’m an accountant by profession here in the UK), but even for me it was a definite first to have to phone the IRS to apply for a tax ID! The Kindle site has very good instructions on all of this, so it really isn’t as bad as it sounds at first. All I’d say is, that if you have a publication date in mind, put it back by a few weeks. This way you can deal with the last minute, ‘bloody hell, I didn’t know I had to do that too!’ moments.

So what’s next after The Englishman?  

I’m doing final edits on my next novel to be published. Pappa’s Girl is a story about a Finnish immigrant family who move to Stockholm in the early 1970’s. Lisa, the youngest of two daughters, is a teacher in Stockholm. She’s been estranged from her father since the violent break-up of her parent’s marriage. One day she receives a phone call from him with news that her grandmother is dying, and decides to make the journey back to her home town in Finland. 

Pappa’s Girl will be available on Amazon later this autumn.

If you would like to read Helena’s book you can download it here direct from Smashwords or Amazon, you can also follow her on Twitter and she has a Facebook page.  All links are below 


  1. Nice to get a bit of insight into the issue's Helena faced when getting published. I need a kindle in my life!

  2. Kindle is great I have it on my mac.. but I also still love a hard copy xx

  3. Great to get the low down off a writer. My cousin has written a science fiction book but its only available in Australia where he lives.

    Like you I love my Kindle but some books are so special I have to have a hard copy

    1. That's a shame Sara.. maybe he could look into Kindle so that it was more widely available xx

  4. fascinating stuff....am currently looking into all this and have a friend who is trying to explain the ins and outs of ebooks and amazon publishing....well done with the book hoorah!!x

    1. I found it easier to go with a publishing company as they did all the hard stuff for me..but it still is not as easy as 123... xx

  5. Great post and a great inside scope on the process - for us still to finish our first novel and considering the self-publish route. Helena sounds fabulous ...off to check out her blog! Hugs, HHL

    1. You will love "The Englishman".. I read it on the blog first its such a romantic tale xx

  6. Thank you Ruth so much for letting me do a guest post on your blog!

    I'd love to publish The Englishman in hard copy, it's definitely something I'm planning for the future.

    Helena xx