Welcome once again to Duck Chat!
Today Helen Scott Taylor joins us, and if you’ve not picked up Helen’s books as of yet, you need to hurry down to your local bookstore and pick up the first two in her Magic Knot series. You’re not that far behind with only two books out to date, so hurry! This series is fun, mystical, magical, and romantic. I mean, how can you miss starting out with Fae twin brothers?
Helen lives in Devon, England with her husband and their two children. After obtaining degrees in botany and zoology and a varied occupational background in both sales and marketing in the pharmaceutical industry and later operating a pest control business with her husband, she returned to her roots of creative writing that she enjoyed as a child. What a lucky thing for all the romance readers out there!
Some of her favorites are: TV – Greys’ Anatomy and Lost; music: Vittorio Grigolo and Il Divo; film: Bride and Prejudice and The Bodyguard. Her faves are just as varied as her characters and her storylines. Helen will be dropping in throughout the day, so if you have a question or comment for her, now’s your chance. Make it good, because she’s giving away to one lucky commenter a copy of both The Magic Knot and The Phoenix Charm, which is her latest in the series.
Now let’s chat!
DUCK CHAT: Helen, welcome to TGTBTU! Let’s start off by talking about how the idea for your Magic Knot series came about. Was it one of those it-came-to-you-in-a-moment ideas, perhaps something specific spurred the thought, or was it germinating a while before coming to fruition?
HELEN SCOTT TAYLOR: The first book I wrote was a short contemporary and in the days when I still thought I might be able to write ‘normal’ people, I had other ideas for short contemporary stories. One of those ideas was about Irish identical twin brothers who owned a pub in Cornwall. Once I realized I liked writing fantasy more than contemporary, the story morphed into a fantasy in my head. My identical twin brothers became Irish fairies and the rest of the story evolved from there.
DC: I’ve heard writers often say their stories take them in surprising directions, or dialogue flows from some unknown place. Is it the same with you? Do your characters surprise you sometimes?
HST: I start a book knowing my main characters (hopefully) and with a vague idea of where the plot is going. The rest is a surprise. I make the stories up as I go along and sometimes they go off in unexpected directions. I have just finished the first draft of The Ruby Kiss, the third book in my Magic Knot Fairies series. I had to write a synopsis of the book before I started it for my editor, but the actual story ended up being quite different from what I’d initially imagined.
HST: The Magic Knot is set in Cornwall, England and in Ireland. My hero, Niall O’Connor, is half Tuatha dé Danaan and half leprechaun. (He gets rather touchy if anyone teases him about leprechauns!) The Tuatha dé Danaan are a romance writer’s gift: a race of tall, beautiful fairy people descended from the Greek gods who traveled to Ireland millennia ago. Niall wears crystal knives strapped to his wrists, rides a motorcycle, and plays the stock market using his leprechaun touch of luck. My heroine, Rose, is half-human and half Cornish pisky. Rose sets out for what she believes to be a normal accountancy job. She slowly discovers that in the mystical depths of rural Cornwall, there is a world full of magical creatures, and she is their queen!
DC: Do you ever argue with your characters while you’re writing? Who usually wins?
HST: I never argue with my characters. I feel as though I’m just writing down what happens to them. It is almost as though I’m a spectator watching the period of their lives covered by the book. I often have no idea how the characters are going to get out of the trouble. There is a scene near the end of The Phoenix Charm where the hero, Michael, has to face a huge winged vampiric nightstalker much stronger than he is. I had no idea how Michael would deal with the problem until I wrote the scene. He came up with his own unique way of handling things. (Or that’s how it felt to me.) I just wrote it down.
DC: What is sure to distract you from sitting down and working/writing?
HST: I procrastinate if I haven’t got the characters clearly defined in my head. If I don’t know them properly then I can’t write about them. If this happens, I usually go for a long walk to think. I am distracted from writing a first draft by noise. I like undisturbed silence when I’m composing the story. But I can revise and edit with noise around me, as the process is so different.
DC: What is it that draws you to magic and mysticism, the Irish, and all things paranormal?
HST: I’m sure there is more in this world than we comprehend and I love speculating on what other beings share our space with us. I enjoy every shade of speculative fiction from pure mysticism right through to books based on our expanding knowledge of physics. I love the way science eventually catches up with and proves many of the things authors dream up. And the Irish—they have magic in the blood.
DC: Is there a genre you haven’t tackled but would like to try?
HST: I haven’t tried writing high fantasy yet, and I would love to do so. I have an idea for a story—probably a YA romantic fantasy—set in a fantasy world that I’m working on in my head now.
DC: The Phoenix Charm hit the shelves yesterday – congratulations! Again, you have a charming couple who grow so much throughout their book. Would you give us some insight into Michael and Cordelia and their story?
HST: In The Phoenix Charm, the heroine, Cordelia, is half Cornish pisky and half water nymph. It is the water nymph qualities inherited from her mother that have manifested, making her a water elemental. The sensual water nymph allure that attracts males has so far caused her nothing but trouble. When she reached puberty, her grandmother bound the power by covering the energy centers on Cordelia’s body with Celtic symbols. But the water nymph energies are also the source of her healing power so she has never reached her full potential.
The hero of the story, Michael, is an Earth elemental. He is a storyteller and has the gift of glamour, which makes him attractive, and silver tongue, which makes his words persuasive. As the story progresses he discovers a greater power he has inherited from his father. Michael gives Cordelia the courage to explore her sensual side, while she encourages him to accept his amazing legacy of power.
DC: What advice would you give to your younger self?
HST: Start writing sooner! I loved making up stories when I was a child, but then I moved into the field of science for most of my working life. I wish I had studied English at University instead of Botany and Zoology.
DC: If you were a book, what would your blurb be?
HST: Helen Scott Taylor loved writing when she was a child; then she lost her way for many years until she hit forty and started looking for the something that was missing in her life. In 2003, she rediscovered her creative side and started making up stories again.
DC: What would be your “voice’s” tagline?
HST: Jennifer Ashley read The Magic Knot and called my work “Decadently delicious adventure-fantasy romance.” I think that about sums it up!
DC: Do you have more books planned in the series? If so, would you give us a sneak peek into the next one?
HST: The third book in the series is Nightshade’s story, The Ruby Kiss. This will be released on December 28, 2010. I send Nightshade to Scotland to the Gathering of Kith and Kin where he gets embroiled in the disagreements between the Seelie and Unseelie courts. There are some interesting new characters in this book, as well as familiar ones who have appeared in the first two stories. I also have a novella called The Frost Fairy in a Fantasy anthology due out in October 2010. This story is related to The Magic Knot Fairies, as the heroine is Troy’s daughter. I also have plans for two more full-length installments, one featuring Devin (the Arabian djinn), the other Troy.
DC: You have a fun quiz on your site to determine your element: earth, air, fire, and water, of which you also use for your characters. I’m air, which turned out to be pretty accurate. How do you determine which element to give to your characters? What’s yours? How accurately does it describe you?
HST: I’m air as well, and it’s amazingly accurate for a quiz just designed to be a bit of fun. I definitely have my head in the clouds much of the time. I don’t really choose my characters’ elements–when the characters spring into my mind they come fully formed. I know immediately which element they are as it relates to their personality. I always feel as though my characters already exist somewhere; I just have to find them.
DC: If you had never become an author, what do you think you would be doing right now?
HST: A lot of reading! Running around after my kids—which I do anyway, even though they are grown up now. I like art as well, so I might be studying some kind of art or craft. I need some creative outlet or I implode. My husband and I run a business together, so I’d also be spending more time on that than I do now.
DC: The Feast of Beauty is your novella in The Mammoth Book of Irish Romance, which is slated to be released January 26. Would you tell us a little about it?
HST: This novella is loosely connected to my Magic Knot series. It is about King Esras who is mentioned in both The Magic Knot and The Phoenix Charm. It is set in the world of the People of the Irish Sea god Lir. This is the short blurb:
Kate’s grandmother’s dying wish is that she should return her pearl pendant to the tiny fishing village in Ireland where she was born. At the village’s Midsummer Feast of Beauty, the unearthly silver hair and emerald eyes of Esras, the wealthy local landowner, mesmerize Kate. But how can she trust her heart to a man who claims to be a sea-fairy king?
DC: Are you like most authors, you have a book or two under the bed or at the back of a drawer that you never finished for some reason? Any chance of dusting it off and taking another look at it?
HST: My first book was a short contemporary aimed at Harlequin Romance. They told me that my characters were too unorthodox for the line. My second book was a paranormal about a parallel world where demons live. That actually won a number of writing contests. I did consider resurrecting it, but I’d rather spend my time writing new stories than repairing old flawed ones.
DC: You describe on your website where you live in England as “near Plymouth in Devon between the windswept expanse of Dartmoor and the rocky Atlantic coast.” It sounds like one of those places where magic does actually happen. Do such surroundings help you at all in your writing?
HST: I often get inspiration from walking in the countryside. I’m very much a country person. When I go shopping in Plymouth, I always breathe a sigh of relief when I get home to the countryside again. I love woodland and the sea. Both inspire me.
DC: Also on your site your talk about starting a pest control business with your husband and the inevitable things you’ve seen over the years. What’s the worst you’ve faced that will always stick in your memory?
HST: The worst was actually a huge rat I found in my horse’s stable when I was young–long before we started the pest control business. I’ve never seen such a large rat since. The creature jumped at me and scared me out of my wits. I’m told that they jump toward the light, but I thought it was leaping toward my head.
DC: Is there another book or series you’ve got in mind for the future? That one book you’ve always wanted to write?
HST: I have lots of ideas in my head that I want to write. All are fantasy, paranormal or speculative in some way. Many are YA stories. I’m currently writing a novella for inclusion in The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance 2. This is about a race of men called The Sons of Ra who are descended from the Sun god Ra in Ancient Egypt. They renew themselves and the women they love with magical fire. That could develop into a longer series.
DC: What’s on the horizon for Helen Scott Taylor?
HST: Next up after I’ve finished revising The Ruby Kiss is my YA fantasy. I’m really excited about the world developing in my head. I love books containing animals and they play a large part in this world. Once that is finished, I’ll return to my Magic Knot world to write my Arabian djinn’s story. I had fun visiting Morocco at the end of 2008 to find out about his world.
– dark or milk chocolate? – Both. If it’s chocolate I’ll eat it.
– smooth or chunky peanut butter? – Chunky.
– heels or flats? – Flats.
– coffee or tea? – Decaf coffee or Earl Grey tea.
– summer or winter? – Summer.
– mountains or beach? – Mountains.
– mustard or mayonnaise? – Oh, hard choice. Mayo.
– flowers or candy? – Flowers. I always have cut flower in the house. Tulips are my favorites.
– pockets or purse? – Purse. (We call it a handbag in the UK.)
– Pepsi or Coke? – Diet Coke.
– ebook or print? – Print—at the moment. I’m thinking about buying an ebook reader, as there are so many great books come out in ebook first now.
And because we still enjoy the answers we get:
1. What is your favorite word? – Bliss.
2. What is your least favorite word? – Snot.
3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – Beautiful music.
4. What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – Inner city areas. I need space and freedom.
5. What sound or noise do you love? – Water running.
6. What sound or noise do you hate? – Dogs scratching at the door.
7. What is your favorite curse word? – Damn.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – Veterinarian.
9. What profession would you not like to do? – Doctor.
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? “Pets welcome.”
DC: Helen, thank you so very much for spending the day with us!