Friday, 21 April 2017

Debut Spotlight: Helen Irene Young

Today it's my pleasure to be shining the spotlight on author Helen Irene Young and her debut novel The May Queen which is being published next week.

Helen Irene Young is the author of The May Queen (published by Crooked Cat) and a digital editor.

She attended the Faber Novel Writing course and splits her time between London, Wiltshire and Colombia, when she can get there.

The May Queen is her first novel.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing journey? 
When I hit thirty, five years ago now, I promised myself I’d write a novel. I worked steadily for a year and thought I had a genuine manuscript, but that first attempt fell way short of the mark (it was awful). Once I’d picked myself up off the floor, I enrolled on the six-month Writing a Novel course at Faber and it changed everything. I honed my skills and finished The May Queen soon after the course finished. 

If you had to give an elevator pitch for The May Queen, what would it be? 
Wild girl tames own heart through series of life changing events

If you had to describe May in three words, what would they be?
Courageous, stubborn and steadfast

What attracted/inspired you to write a historical war-time saga?  
A series of what-ifs. My grandmother spent her childhood at the mill at Fairford, which is where May lives. She died before I was born but there are hundreds of pictures of her as a girl at home – she was a bit of a tomboy and enjoyed romping around the countryside. One of them shows her dressed as ‘spring’. On the back someone has scrawled: 1935 carnival. First prize awarded by David Niven. That changed everything. 

Are you going to treat yourself to something to celebrate publication day for The May Queen? 
Hmmm… I wasn’t going to as too much to do working on book two, but I might now you’ve mentioned it.

Have you anything exciting planned for publication day?
There are a series of campaigns launching and I’ve a book launch. I did buy myself a new dress for that which sort of answers the previous question.

Finally what can we expect from you next? 
I’ve written a book set in 1940s Colombia about a broken architect trying to build something new. It’s set around the 1948 uprising in Bogotá which was afterwards known as El Bogotazo. I’ve really enjoyed writing it and think it represents an untapped area of historic fiction which a European/North American audience will love.
'She lapped in spirals beneath the sheen, feeling the tug of water rush against all of her. When she next surfaced, she couldn’t remember what it was to be on land. Seeing her clothing on the bank as things belonging to another…'
It all began beside the mill pond. Honest, fair and eager to please, fifteen-year-old May has a secret, and not of her own making. She wears it like an invisible badge, sewn to her skin, as though Ma stitched it there herself. It rubs only when she thinks of Sophie, Pa or the other name that’s hidden there; that no one knows about.

Caught in an inevitable net of change, May joins the Wrens, leaving her Cotswolds home for war-torn London and the Blitz. As a dispatch rider, she navigates the city by day and night, surviving love and loss throughout a blackout of remembered streets and wrong turns.

Night after night, the bombs drop and, like those around her, she takes cover in the shadows when they do. But May is waiting for a greater shadow to lift, one which will see the past explode into the present.

A tale of one girl’s search for love and belonging, The May Queen is a debut novel that goes to the heart of what family means and finding your place in it.

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