Helen Cullen’s debut novel,’The Lost Letters of William Woolf’ was published in 2018. Before writing, Helen started her career with Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTE (Ireland’s national broadcaster) where she worked in radio broadcasting before moving to London in 2010. She subsequently worked for companies such as the BBC and The Times before her most recent role in Google where she worked before signing her publishing contract. Helen was also shortlisted as Best Newcomer at this year’s Irish Books Awards.
Today Helen shares her writing tips for aspiring authors.
I think the most helpful thing a writer can do to progress is to persevere on finishing a complete draft to the end – afterwards then you can work on polishing, designing and editing – but persevering to the end is often the biggest challenge so developing that stamina is so valuable.
Read more about Helen and her writing journey
Jul 1 Haylen Beck is the pseudonym of Northern Ireland writer Stuart Neville, an acclaimed, Edgar-nominated author whose crime fiction has won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and made best-of-year lists with numerous publications including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe. You can buy ‘Lost You’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshop.
My real name is Stuart Neville, I’m forty seven years old, and I live in Northern Ireland with my wife, two kids, and a very scruffy dog. I’ve been writing almost all my life, but it was around 2006 when I started to take it seriously. My debut novel, ‘The Twelve’, was published almost exactly ten years ago.
‘Lost You’ begins with the disappearance of a little boy in a holiday resort in Florida. His mother Libby is frantic trying to find him, but her greatest fear is not that he’s lost – but that he’s been found. When CCTV footage shows him being led away by another woman, she knows years of secrets are about to unravel.
It was mainly because of the change of setting from Ireland to America. Crime authors often become associated with a specific location – Ian Rankin is Edinburgh, Jo Nesbo is Oslo – and under my own name, I’ve become very much identified with Belfast. The first Haylen Beck novel, ‘Here And Gone’, really needed to be set in the States, and it was a somewhat different style than my previous books, so the pen name seemed like the right way forward.
I like a good anti-hero, so if I can roll a villain and hero into one, it would be Jack Carter from Ted Lewis’s ‘Jack’s Return Home’, which was adapted for film as ‘Get Carter’, starring Michael Caine. That book was a huge influence on me, and Ted Lewis is terribly underrated.
When my first novel was published ten years ago, there was some resistance to fiction from Northern Ireland, and nowhere more so than in Northern Ireland! That resistance has really broken down over the last few years, with a lot if crime writers coming through, plus Anna Burns’s deserved Booker win. I think we’re now able to tell stories that aren’t necessarily rooted in the Troubles, which has opened things up a lot.
‘Jaws’ is the big one. It’s one of the greatest movies ever made, but it’s not a good book! I’d also add ‘The Godfather’, parts I and II, which are better than Mario Puzo’s novel.
Probably my bandmates – Mark Billingham, Chris Brookmyre, Doug Johnstone, Val McDermid, and Luca Veste – from the ‘Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers’. We have so much fun making music together, I’m sure we’d have a laugh talking books too.
“The rain rained.” from the above mentioned ‘Jack’s Return Home’.
James Ellroy’s ‘American Tabloid’, Tom Wolfe’s ‘Bonfire Of The Vanities’ and Frank Miller’s ‘The Dark Knight Returns’.
Simply writing more. A common mistake writers make is finishing one novel, then flogging it to death instead of getting on with writing the next one. Really, the only way to learn to write is simply to write.
A notebook. For every novel I start a brand new Moleskine A5 notebook and I scribble in them constantly when I write the first draft, then through revisions, edits, even up to the copyedit and page proof stage. I then use the same notebook for when I give talks about the book after it’s published.
I’m currently working on a new novel under my own name, which returns to my series character, DCI Serena Flanagan. Once that’s done, I’ve got a couple of screenplays I want to work on just for the hell of it, and I’ve plans for two more novels.
Haylen Beck is the pseudonym of Northern Ireland writer Stuart Neville, an acclaimed, Edgar-nominated author whose crime fiction has won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and made best-of-year lists with numerous publications including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe.
You can buy ‘Lost You’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshop.