Good morning my lovelies! Today you’re in for a treat as we find out lots of wonderful facts about Suspense/Thriller/Crime writer, Helen Kist. She talks to us about fairy liquid, why she wouldn’t want a boat, cuddles, the word ‘flabbergasted’ and her most recent book Stay Mad, Sweetheart……
Suspense / Thriller / Crime
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I’m Dutch and after growing up abroad because of my dad’s job and working in different countries, I now live in Glasgow with my husband and our two teens. My ‘day job’ is as strategy consultant. I came to writing fairly late in life but have now published 2 books just over a year apart and am working on my third in my garden office.
What inspired you to start writing (1) and where do you get your ideas (2)?
(1) I’m not what I call a yearning writer: someone who’ve known since childhood they wanted to write; always carry notebooks; probably has a drawer full of stories. I came to it quite late – call it a midlife crisis.
Though I’ve always had a way with words, which has served me well in my work, it wasn’t until I was 46 that I decided to have a go at writing fiction. It followed a period in which I saw on Facebook a number of school and university friends publishing books and I wondered: how hard can it be?
Turns out it’s hard.
(2) My first novel was crime because I live in Glasgow and that felt natural. It’s also something I enjoy reading. I write about ‘regular women’ experiencing bad things. ‘In Servitude’ came from wondering how easy it would be to become embroiled with gangsters, knowing I didn’t live far from them. ‘Stay Mad, Sweetheart’ came from wanting to highlight bad things that happen to all women on an everyday level.
How many books have you written and published?
I self-published ‘In Servitude’ in August 2018 and was delighted to be selected as ‘Crime in the Spotlight’ author at international crime festival Bloody Scotland. It won a silver medal for Best European Fiction at the Independent Publishers Book Awards in the USA and was shortlisted for the inaugural ‘The Selfies’ awarded at London Book Fair.
‘Stay Mad, Sweetheart’ is published by the lovely folks at Red Dog Press and came out in November 2019. So far, the reviews have been incredible so let’s see what else happens.
How long does it take you to write a book?
This really depends how you count but I would say about 5 months.
Which book, out of all the books you have written, is your favourite and why?
That’s like asking which of your children you love more!
I’m going to give the Mom answer: I love them differently.
‘In Servitude’ will always be my first baby, through which I learned a lot and that gave me the confidence to write more. It makes you think about how you are beholden to others.
I love ‘ Stay Mad, Sweetheart’ becomes it is even more thought-provoking, exploring real grey areas, and comes with a cry for action that seems to have really hit a nerve with readers.
Which of your characters would you want to be stranded on an island with, and why?
This one is easy: Suki. She’s a funny, kick-ass corporate financier working in Edinburgh’s technology scene; a lesbian of Thai descent. What she lacks in height she makes up for in character. I think we’d have a hoot.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
When I was about 11 I wanted to be an electrician. I even started making lamps from old ‘jenever’ bottles, which is a typical Dutch drink – a bit like gin – that comes in stone bottles that I would have to carefully drill a hole in. Then later I wanted to be CEO of the Dutch national airline KLM but then realised it probably wasn’t as glamorous as it sounded and quite a lot of hard work. Once I became a strategy consultant I did once have a meeting in the office of the CEO of Schiphol airport, so I think that’s pretty close.
What other jobs have you done other than being an author?
Being an author is still a hobby so my main job is being a strategy consultant. I’ve been doing that for about 20 years in total. But my first job was making Fairy Liquid. Part of that job was visiting people in their homes to watch them do their dishes – the women I visited in Eastern Europe just after the iron curtain fell were very wary, thinking I was a spy.
If you could get in a time machine and had one chance to travel, where would you go and why? (Backwards or forwards!)
To March 1998, on a training course in Florida’s big night out. It was the first time my now husband and I kissed. He tells me it was after a particularly fabulous dance together — which I cannot remember.
Other than writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
I enjoy walking. Just every-day walking. I don’t need to go far (or up!) but I can walk for hours and let my mind wander. When I hit a bit of a blank when writing, the best thing to do is go out and the answer will come there (or in the shower).
If you were given a boat, what would you name it and why?
I don’t’ want a boat. I get motion sick just looking at boats. If I were given a boat, I’d call it “The Hurler”
What is the best thing you’ve done in your life so far?
Make children and manage to keep them alive for a collective 30 years so far.
Do you believe in love at first sight?
No, though I do believe in chemistry – both physical (people smell or taste nice) or emotional. I kinda have to : I studied chemistry at university.
Describe yourself using three words only…….
Confident Kind Analytical
If a movie was made about your life, what genre would it be, who would you want to play you and what would its title be?
It would be an empowering story with corporate intrigue. Julia Roberts could play me as we’re about the same age and we both laugh a lot (but she’d have to really straighten her hair!) . Perhaps it could be called “Dutch courage”
You win a million pounds – you give half to charity. Which charity do you pick and why? What would you do with the rest of the money?
‘In Servitude’ features an imaginary charity that works against modern day slavery called Invisible which is modelled on the real life Unseen. So I would like them to get a chunk.
I would give the bulk to Water Aid because access to clean water is one of the most important things for a life: preventing disease and death and giving families time back from fetching water which means children can get an education and parents/women can work to sustain themselves.
What is something you can’t live without?
Cuddles. I’m hugely tactile and my batteries are recharged with cuddles from my family.
Do you feel it’s more important to have a) strong characters b) a mind-blowing plot or c) amazing settings?
I don’t think anyone will care about your mind-blowing plot if they are not invested in the characters but a book with great characters and a so-so plot is also not enough.
Of the three I would see the setting is the least important. Having said that, readers have really enjoyed recognising parts of Glasgow, Perth and Edinburgh in my novels.
What is your favourite word and why?
Flabbergasted. Because it’s almost onomatopoeic: I imagine the flubbing of the lips as you sputter in disbelief. And ‘flabber’ just sounds funny, too.
And finally, tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it?
‘Stay Mad, Sweetheart’ is a contemporary feminist thriller set in a data science start-up in Edinburgh. It explores the grey areas of consent, harassment and workplace discrimination through a dark but empowering tale of three women who join forces to plot the downfall of those who’ve wronged them.
where to find heleen online
final words from chelle……
Thanks Heleen for this brilliant interview. It’s lovely to find out so much about you! There is so much in here that made me chuckle (name of your boat, travelling back to your first kiss with your husband, your 11 year old ambitions…..). Your movie sounds great – Julia Roberts would be fantastic, and I love the sounds of Stay Mad, Sweetheart!
If any of you lovelies have any comments/questions for Heleen then get in touch!
Have a wonderful day.