Following an 18-year break from writing and a battle with depression, Helen Sutton is feverishly devising a series of nine novels.
It has so far taken only six to eight weeks to write each instalment of “The Faery Chronicles” – and less than four to complete the second.
She might have the writing bug but Sutton sees her work as “the ultimate therapy”. Through her fantasy series for young adults, the 39-year-old Burnley author has dealt with her own issues, creating a whole world, “Elsewhere”, representing depression.
For her, stories are the “best way to understand the world”.
“Kindles are wonderful,” she said, “but my books are like old friends – they’re who I’ve turned to.”
Spilling with wisdom while offering connection with a stranger, novels are emotional recourse: powerful tools for promoting empathy; guidelines for understanding relationships. Perhaps a fiction writer’s ultimate job is to help readers feel less alone.
“Reading,” she said, “is a moment of human contact. It should never be lost. It’s a joyful, solitary pleasure, your own bit of peace.”
Fiction offers a chance, she explained, to walk in someone else’s shoes and reminds the reader that their worries and experiences are normal.
“Sometimes,” she added, “that’s all you need.”
THE FRUITS OF CURIOSITY
Fantasy has a huge market – but this author refuses to write in line with the trends.
Rather, she said: “You’ve got to be honest and you have to care.”
After all, the more emotionally sincere and intimate the content is, the more we can connect to a book – and the more we can learn.
Her books, framed on themes like self-realisation, betrayal and responsibility, were born out of a curiosity about the lengths people go to in fulfilment of their goals. Would you save the one you love, she asks in one book, over the realm you serve?
“Don’t let people tell you the rules,” she added, to aspiring authors, “write what you’d like to read.”
“I’m a fantasy nut,” she added. “Terry Pratchett is absolutely my hero. I’ve read his books over and over and even today I still find something different.
“Pratchett was a very angry man who held a mirror up to the world and said, ‘look how silly it is’.”
Another influence is Anne Rice, whose “well-defined characters” aren’t forced to go from A to B to C.
“She gives them time to breathe”, Sutton said, to respond and adapt, merely nudging them along.
“I’ve been told my style is a mix of mild sarcasm and random outbursts of violence. I emote all over the page.”
Adaptations of Arthurian quests, her books fall under a hybrid of genres: romance; fantasy; paranormal; and young adult fiction.
Her motifs and characters, like the romance of Merlin and Morgan, have been borrowed from folklore and Celtic mythology, plus Arthurian and Old British literature.
BURNLEY LITERARY FESTIVAL
Sutton will give a 90 minute talk on her writing journey thus far as part of the Burnley Literary Festival.
The event will include a reading from her books and a question and answer session.
She’s nervous, she confessed, but has an army of fans supporting her. Some are even planning to attend dressed up as her protagonists.
Playwright Stephen Briggs, who has adapted Pratchett’s novels for the stage, has also offered her words of comfort.
The talk will take place at Burnley Central Library on Monday at 3pm.
Sutton is currently researching for a graphic novel expanding on the “wild hunt” trope used in “The Faery Chronicles”, where creatures of all kinds hunt down and kill one human being every Hallowe’en. It will be aimed at readers over the age of 18.
She has also been Skyping with the TIC of New Orleans police station to inform her protagonist, a child psychologist, in an upcoming thriller.
Her sixth book is now available on Amazon.
To purchase a copy please visit https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01CWHJTJG
Stories may have helped her work through her illness but it was in fact her daughter, having asked her to write her books, who set her on her journey. Calico, too, has helped with marketing.
“Calico is amazing and I wouldn’t have done it without the staff there,” she said. “I can’t praise them highly enough.”