Helen Fields Q&A

Today I’m pleased to welcome Helen Fields to the blog. Helen is the author of Perfect Remains and her latest novel Perfect Prey was published by Avon on 27 July 2017.

Helen kindly answered a few of my questions.

1. Tell us a little about Perfect Prey.

Perfect Prey features two killers competing with one another. At the same time, a hacking group is using Edinburgh as a base, investigated by a London police officer and former boyfriend of DI Ava Turner. The darknet features heavily (albeit without too much tech language). The police find victim after victim, killed in ever more horrific ways. The question is, can they save the one last victim once they identify her.

2. What inspired the book? 

The internet is invading our personal space in ways it was impossible to conceive when it first entered out lives. The darknet is endlessly fascinating, not that you’d want your personal details floating around down there. There really are websites where you can order a hit on an enemy, or compare and arrange to fulfil your darkest (usually illegal) desires. It struck me that it was the perfect way to organise a killing competition.

3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?

I plan the start carefully and I know how the book has to end. There will also be key plot points in my head as I start to write, but I’m not one of those writers who has a list of every chapter before they sit down to type. The process has to be organic to keep me interested. I like the freedom to see where my characters take me. Sometimes they do unexpected things.

4. Having been through the publishing process a couple of times is there anything about the process of creating a novel that still surprises you?

I think it’s the way each book takes on its own momentum. From sitting down alone, quietly writing, to the publicity just before launch, you get swept along with the publication tide. Also, that fact that your nerves don’t seem to die down. I’d assumed that was a debut novel thing, but with each book comes a new rush of angst until you’re so involved with the next book that there’s no time for it anymore.

5. Perfect Prey is the second in the DI Callanach series. What are the benefits and downsides to writing recurring characters?

I’ve just started writing the fourth Callanach novel and it’s as much fun as when I wrote the first. There are some very specific challenges with series, though. One is that you don’t want to repeat too much detail about characters by way of introduction, but you need new readers to be able to come in mid-series. It requires ever more inventive ways to reintroduce the characters in each book. Likewise, they all have backstories that I enjoy progressing, and these have to make sense to new readers. It’s not good form to go through endless repetition of stories from previous books but if you don’t it won’t make sense. The fun part is getting to know the characters well enough that you feel inside their heads as a writer. It’s interesting watching them grow and change.

6. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?

I like spending time with my husband, talking about our plans and dreams. We enjoy taking risks and trying new experiences, and he’s the perfect antidote for my writing introspection, constantly making me laugh. I also enjoy karate and indoor skydiving, both activities taken up so that I could do more with my children. As a family we like to travel so there’s always skiing, a beach holiday or a city break to look forward to. My absolute favourite thing though, is mid-week daytime dates with my husband. We’re both self-employed and sometimes we sneak off to watch a movie mid-morning on a Wednesday. It feels like bunking off school!

7. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?

That would be JRR Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. It’s so vast, you can’t get bored with it, and because it’s a world-building book, you can continuously extend the scenes in your imagination. The characters change with you as you mature, too, so rereading it as an adult is a very different experience from my first reading of it aged thirteen.

8. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?

The question would have to be…What keeps me awake at night? The answer to that is new stories. If I’m writing a short story for a magazine, or coming up with an idea for a new book, I can lie still for hours working it all out in minute detail. Even when it’s done, I get no sleep for the rest of the night, often starting to write chapters in my head. For writer’s block moments I get in the bath. Can’t figure out what happens next? On go the taps, whatever time of day it is.

About the book

The second in the terrifying DI Callanach crime series. Fans of M.J. Arlidge will be hooked from the very first page.

In the midst of a rock festival, a charity worker is sliced across the stomach. He dies minutes later. In a crowd of thousands, no one saw his attacker. The following week, the body of a primary school teacher is found in a dumpster in an Edinburgh alley, strangled with her own woollen scarf.

DI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach have no motive and no leads until around the city, graffitied on buildings, words appear describing each victim.

It’s only when they realise the words are appearing before rather than after the murders, that they understand the killer is announcing his next victimand the more innocent the better.

About the author

Helen Fields’ first love was drama and music. From a very young age she spent all her free time acting and singing until law captured her attention as a career path. She studied law at the University of East Anglia, then went on to the Inns of Court School of Law in London.

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