A few weeks ago, i had the distinct pleasure of meeting a fine person and author named Heather Stephens, who goes by the pen name H.L. Stephens. From the moment I interacted with her, I knew she was not only a serious writer, but was a kind person and someone who cares deeply about her writing. Her interview is very heartfelt and real and I for one appreciate the sincerity. Do yourself a favor and pick up her work!
- My name is Helen. It is a family name, and every day I thank the good Lord above that I was not born a boy; otherwise, my name might have been Cleon (another good old family name). In a Star Trek generation, you do the math on how many fights I would have had defending my honor. ‘Stephens’ is a tribute to my father. He has always been one of my biggest fans and biggest supporters. I am proudly owned by a 10 pound Pomeranian name Peanut Pumpkin Pie. She is the light of my life, and I would challenge any parent to have more pictures of their two legged kids than I do of my four legged one. I grew up in Charleston, SC but have lived in the Appalachian mountains for the last 16 years or so. My greatest hope is that long after I am gone if ebay or something like it still exists, some person will find one of my books for a really great deal. They will sit down in their favorite chair, open the well worn pages of their moderately priced treasure to begin to read the words that first poured forth from my heart, and they will rediscover why they love to read.
Tell us about your books
- The Chronicles of Mister Marmee novels are the firsthand accounts of the many investigations and exploits of the feline adventurer and consulting detective, Mister Marmee and his best friend and colleague, the famous dachshund detective Sir Happy Heart. The world is introduced to them in the first novel The Case of Jack the Nipper which was released in eBook form June of 2012. In this first full-length novel, a series of brutal attacks and a connected murder set the city of London on edge. Sir Happy Heart and Mister Marmee find themselves unavoidably embroiled in the case as the details of each victim are brought to their very doorstep by Inspector Hyrum Farley himself, in his efforts to stop the perpetrator of the crimes before he strikes again. With clues that lead from the bleakest slums, to the darkened doorway of illegal dog fighting, to the country estate of one of the most powerful and influential families of Victorian times, these extraordinary detectives must prevail before the Nipper takes his next victim. It's a race against the clock for these two fearless detectives, and time is running out!
The second novel in the Chronicles of Mister Marmee is nearing completion of the first draft. I hope to have The Case of the Wayward Fae ready for release by the end of this year.
When did you start writing?
- I started writing when I was a little girl. We still have the diary I started when I was like 4 and 5 years old. It is amazing the deep and pertinent things you write in your diary at that age. Heavy stuff. For some reason, I drew a lot of bugs. I have no idea why.
Why do you write?
- I write because the voices in my head won’t be quiet unless I do. They are inconsiderate little buggers that wake me at all hours of the day and night if I try and ignore them.
What would be your choice for a superpower?
- I would love the ability to walk through walls because sometimes I really don’t feels like messing with the doors.
Who is your favorite author?
- This is a hard one to nail down because my tastes vary and my appreciations for various authors exist because of the gifts they bring to the table for the types of things they wrote about. Every time I try to pick one author as a ‘favorite’, I remember another author who gave me equal pleasure at a different time for a different reason. I begin to feel cheap and tawdry, like I have had some illicit affair, but for argument’s sake, I will name a few of the classics that have been among my favorites for many years: Sir Walter Scott, Jane Austin, Trollope, James Fennimore Cooper, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
What are you reading now?
- I am currently reading a few books at the same time, as much for pleasure as for research. The Land Beyond the Forest by Emily Gerard is the book that inspired Bram Stoker to write his most famous work. Written in the late 1800’s, it is Emily’s experiences while living in Transylvania. I am also reading Catnip by Valerie Tate. It has been a fun read so far. It came up as a “you might also like…” on my book’s page (The Case of Jack the Nipper) so I was curious. My third and (so far) final source of reading pleasure at the moment is Victorian Murderess: A True History of Thirteen Respectable French and English Women Accused of Unspeakable Crimes by Mary S Hartman. Because of the Era of my current series (The Chronicles of Mister Marmee)
Who is your favorite character to write?
- I would have to say it is a tossup between Mister Marmee and Sir Happy Heart. They are both such charming and fallible souls. I cannot help but love them both. Their relationship with each other is beautiful, and I find myself intrigued to find out how it will unfold through each new adventure. They are such complex characters; I cannot in truth choose one over the other because they both have at their heart the same source inspiration – my own real life Sir Happy Heart. He was incidentally a black and tan miniature dachshund who passed away on February 19, 2013.
Do you have a writing process?
- I suppose in some way I do, but in the classic sense, I don’t have a set structure. With each story, I generally start at the beginning and I write until I reach the end. I don’t always know what the ending will be. It often feels as though the story writes itself, and I am often excited to find out what is gong to happen next. I will at times have a general direction in mind, but more often than not when I sit down at the computer and construct the story, it takes its own flow. Sometimes, entire segments will come to me completely out of order from the rest of the story, and I will write those as they come. Then I just work on the rest of the story until it ‘catches up’. I have never written an outline for a story or anything like that. I carry journals around with me and write ideas, thoughts, snippets, names, whatever I don’t want to forget. If I don’t use it in my current project, I save it for another one. I guess you could call it my disorganized organizational method.
What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
- Don’t give up and keep writing. It is a hard road sometimes, and there are days where it will feel impossible. The key is to keep doing what you love, no matter what anybody tells you. If you can’t beat them, out write them. The more you write, the better you get at your craft. At some point, they are going to get tired of seeing you name come across their desk. Don’t be a turd; just be tenacious. Give them a reason to respect your commit, not hate your guts. Remember, the only way that a dream can die is for you to lay it down and walk away.
What inspired you to pursue writing?
- I really sucked at MMA, so I thought I would get into something where I wouldn’t get beat up all the time. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I actually became a writer for a number of reasons. First, I couldn’t help myself. It is in my blood, and I could no sooner stop writing than I could voluntarily stop breathing. I think about writing when I am doing other things, so you might say I have it pretty bad. Second, my mom is a writer. She has been a contributing author in over a dozen Chicken Soup For the Soul books and has been a great encouragement to me to take my love of the craft to the next level.
What are your favorite TV shows/Movies to watch in between writing?
- My tastes vary widely so I can’t give a comprehensive list of all my favorites but I can give a few. Firefly – one of the best series ever to be cancelled in the first season. Tera Nova – second best series ever to be cancelled in the first season (okay so I have a thing for hard luck cases where TV shows are concerned). Law and Order – I think it is the clink/clink between scenes that gets me ever time. Transformers (all of the movies) – okay I loved the cartoon as a kid, geeked out over the movies as an adult. Sue me. Any movie with Sam Elliott because he just has that ‘you’re gunna get your butt kicked slow and easy like’ kind of way about him. Most Disney and Dreamworks animation. I am a huge kid at heart. I still cry at the same Disney movies that made me cry when I was a little girl. Call it the soft nuggety side of me.
Please join me and the other amazingly talented authors over @ Skulldust Circle where we have formed a Writer's Circle that must be seen--a collection of brilliant, up & coming independently published speculative fiction authors with much to give both now and in the future!
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