It was a pleasure to attend the London Chapter Meeting of the Romantic Novelist’s Association on the 21st May, 2011, at which our guest speaker was Helen Hollick, whose novels I enjoy.
For thirteen years Helen worked as a library assistant at Chingford library. During those years her interest in and passion for King Arthur and the Dark Ages grew. As a result she wrote the first of her trilogy, Pendragon’s Banner, which Heinemann accepted three days before her 40th birthday in 1994.
As Helen explained at the Chapter Meeting, she intended to write Guinevere’s story but realised it should be Arthur’s story - the tale of what might have happened, an interpretation of what we think we know.
Helen moved onto the Saxons. She brightened up Harold Godwinson’s story and while doing so visited Waltham Abbey where he walked. She also visited Battle Abbey, the site of the Battle of Hastings. While there she sensed that if she turned round she would see the battle, but she could not force herself to look. I wish she had taken a peep, I would love to know what she would have seen.
While writing Harold the King her hatred of William grew. She wrote the novel from the Saxon viewpoint and presented Harold as a popular, dynamic leader who gave his life to save England from invasion.
After the publication of Harold the King, Helen’s agent suggested she should write about pirates. Doubtless, the agent had the popularity of The Pirates of the Caribbean mind.
One day, Helen went for a walk along the beach and the whole story of The Sea Witch came to her.
Helen settled on a rock and looked out to sea and saw her pirate. (*This incident reminds me of Baroness Orczy who, while waiting for the train that Emmuska saw her most famous hero, Sir Percival Blakeney, dressed in exquisite clothes. She noted the monocle held up in his slender hand, heard both his lazy drawl and his quaint laugh. Emmuska told her husband about the incident and within five weeks wrote The Scarlet Pimpernel.)
Unfortunately, Helen’s agent didn’t like Sea Witch but Helen was not deterred. She wrote three more pirate novels and recently completed the fourth, which will be published in the autumn. Her determination has paid off, all of Helen’s novels are being republished by Sourcebooks in the U.S.A and Silverwood in the U.K.
The rejection was a serious mistake. Helen’s many fans relish her imaginative, well-written tales.
I have been one of Helen’s fans for a long time. Her novels have never disappointed me; and her talk did not disappoint me; it inspired me to write to the best of my ability and not to become discouraged.
Series. Pendragons Banner
The Shadow of the King
Seawitch, Pirate Code, Bring It Close, Ripples in the Sand. Autumn 2011
Harold the King. aka. I am the Chosen King
A Hollow Crown aka. The Forever Queen
Come and Tell Me Be Safe Be Sensible.
*My article in the first edition of Vintage Script a subscription magazine devoted to Past Times