Remember I attended The Darker Side of Fiction book signing? Well, I met a lot of lovely people there, and a bunch of great authors, of course! All fantasy writers, all trying to find fans. You’ve already met one of the writers, Martin Tracey, and in the next few weeks, I’ll be featuring more of these Darker authors, hoping that they may find some new fans amongst you. First up is Helen Claire Gould, writer of science fiction and fantasy. I’ve been chatting with her since we became friends on Facebook. She’s very active as a writer in her community but broke her hip and arm in an unfortunate fall recently. She is recovering well from her hip replacement and should be up and about soon!
Helen Claire Gould
Helen took English Language and Literature, A level (prior to going to university as a mature student of Geology in 1997) and came 5th in the country out of 16,000 candidates. She worked as a proof-reader for the first 5 years of her working life, firstly in publishing and then in insurance, where accuracy is even more important as an insurance proposal is a legal document. She edits and proofreads her own work, and she’s proud to mention Floodtide has an approximate 0.005% error rate.
Karma has not been easy on Helen. She has dyscalculia (the maths version of dyslexia), dyspraxia (the co-ordination version), and some features of dyslexia (luckily not spelling, grammar or punctuation, which seem to have gone in the opposite direction)–i.e. left/right confusion, so if she ever gives you any directions to get anywhere, take no notice of what comes out of her mouth, just follow the hand signals!
Who is/are your favorite author(s)? How much is your work influenced by his or her works?
Andre Norton. I write about similar subject matter, though not in her style. I’m not an imitator. I write what comes, but try to adhere to professional writing standards that are (supposedly) the same for traditionally published authors. She wrote science fiction, and science fantasy; I also bring in elements of horror.
What made you want to become a writer?
I read my first science fiction at the age of nine, and wrote some when I was fourteen. I’ve written ever since. I was top of the school for English from nine on, and bottom of the school for maths. I wanted to be a scientist, but didn’t think my maths would be good enough. I was interested in geology and palaeontology as a child, and when I researched the geology for Floodtide, I realised there was a science I could do. At 43 I went to uni, and discovered one tutor who was interested in planetary science, so I did all his modules–perfect for a science fiction writer!
Do you outline or just write?
Sometimes I’ll write a chapter or two to see where it’s going before I outline the story. When I wrote The Stallion I got up in the night to write down the dream I’d just had. My husband came into the study a couple of hours later, having realised I wasn’t in bed, and said, “Oh, so this is where you’ve got to!”
What are some day jobs that you have held? If any of them impacted your writing, could you please share an example?
I worked as a proof-reader and in retailing, where I became a professional trainer, learned to write courses, and taught evening classes in geology and creative writing. After publishing Floodtide, I spent 18 months writing workshops on writing and self-publishing, delivered through local libraries. They include eureka moments, research and examples; I use my scientific knowledge to design diagrams and animate them in PowerPoint. Everything’s on handouts, with practical assignments, even in the self-publishing workshops.
Can you give us an interesting, fun fact about your book?
When I submitted the print version of Floodtide, the printers sent me an e-mail saying there was a problem with the dialogue from page 42 on. I checked the page and the telepathic conversations, bracketed with < > instead of “ ”, began there. I emailed back and explained about the telepathic conversations–and that because the alien concepts I used didn’t exist in English I’d invented a language, so if they came across what appeared to be nonsense words, these were in Naxadan!
Do you want each book to stand on its own or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Most of my writing is set in an imaginary universe, based on ours. I’ve set up part of my website as a companion to it, with a timeline, views of the solar systems in each book, notes on the Naxadan language, relevant scientific material, links to book trailers and readings on my YouTube channel, and a star map of that universe. Some stories contain cross-references between the series.
Are you working on another book? What are your current projects? Can you give us a small teaser?
Having put out two short books this year, I’m currently working on The Zarduth Imperative: Discovery, about the crew of Zarduthi clanship, the Bekel. The Zarduthi are space mercenaries who trade their services for food, clothing, and weapons. The ship drifts into the solar system and 33 unaccompanied children are discovered inside, revived, debriefed, fostered in different countries, and forbidden to communicate with each other. Raised communally on the Bekel, they’re desperate to take back their ship and find their parents. Oh, and a dead Voth, a bacterium-like species terrorising our corner of the galaxy was onboard–and Earth is next in line…
From the opening scene:
“Kaylar, raise shields. Nam–switch orbit now! And keep us hidden from the Voth fleet.” Although the Bekel would be vulnerable to detection during this manoeuvre, for this planetary configuration it was the best defence Rilla Dekkutz knew.
“Defence shields raised, Rilla,” Kaylar said.
“New orbit laid in,” Nam reported from the nav column.
Rilla stared into the simtank cube mounted between and below the forward sightports. A white hologrammatic dot marked the Bekel’s position between the twin moons, Bacar and Ammax, as they swung about their common centre of gravity. They’d exchanged positions again. Bacar was now nearest the planet below. Rilla saw the white dot marking their geostationary orbit change from Bacar to Ammax.
What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?
Postal writing workshops contain five members, each allowed to keep the parcel for up to two weeks. The administrator puts their work in a parcel and sends it to the next person on the list, who writes feedback, puts in their work, then sends it on. When the parcel comes back, the administrator has four pieces to write feedback on and four pieces of feedback on their work. I learned to critique work and received helpful criticism and suggestions.
The least helpful thing was feedback from a publishing house talent scout. She didn’t read my manuscript properly, and with hindsight I realised she wasn’t even as good at giving feedback as my fellow orbiters.
What has been the best compliment?
My friend Fyzz, who runs the Fyzz Wallis Band, had read that books you love, near the end, feel like ‘that break-up feeling’, and said Floodtide was like that! Her bassist Zoe apparently reads lots of self-published books, and said they often contain many typos, but Floodtide read like a traditionally published book.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
When ill-health set in, Mike said I should stay at home and work on my novels, but he probably didn’t expect me to publish anything. In 2014 I published the ebook of Floodtide, and in 2015 brought out the print version. A day’s free self-publishing course at the printers’ gave me the confidence to go into print.
Social Media Details
Here’s where you can find Helen Gould online:
Website (where the first three chapters of Floodtide are available to read!)
As mentioned before, Helen is very active as a writer in her area, East Anglia, and has her books available in the following stores:
- Waterstones, Bridge St., Peterborough;
- Peterborough Visitor Information Centre, Bridge St., Peterborough;
- Bookmark Spalding, 20, the Crescent, Spalding;
- Beccles Books, 1, Exchange Ho., Exchange Sq., Beccles, NR34 9HH;
- Oundle Bookshop,13 Market Place, Oundle PE8 4BA.
Her books are also available from the following local libraries: Peterborough Central Library, Bretton Library, Orton Library, Stamford Library, The Deepings Library, Spalding Library, Oundle Library, Long Sutton Library, Boston Library, Huntingdon Library.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Helen. I wish you a speedy recovery and have my fingers crossed you get some reviews for your short story and horror bundle!