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
Feb 23 Phoebe Morgan is an author and editor. She studied English at Leeds University after growing up in the Suffolk countryside. She has previously worked as a journalist and now edits crime and women’s fiction for a publishing house during the day, and writes her own books in the evenings. I have always loved writing, but only began to take it more seriously when I was about 24. I studied English at university and did a great creative writing class in America that inspired me to do more of my own work. So much of writing it about persistence, and now I’m very glad I kept going with it even though there were times when I felt like giving up.
I am 29 and live in North London with my boyfriend. I work full time in publishing, and write my own books during the evenings and weekends. I wrote my first book, ‘The Doll House’, whilst I was an assistant and it was published last year, after I spent a few months working on it editorially with my lovely agent. ‘The Girl Next Door’ is my second book, and I can’t wait to see what everybody thinks of it!
‘The Girl Next Door’ is a psychological thriller about a small Essex town and the secrets that lie behind closed doors. The whole community is shocked when sixteen-year-old Clare Edwards is found dead in a field known as Sorrow’s Meadow, and DS Madeline Shaw is brought in to investigate the murder. Most of the narrative is told in the perspective of Jane Goodwin, a member of the school PTA and the wife of the town doctor, but is she as perfect as she tries to appear? You’ll have to read it to find out!
Oh, that’s a good question! My absolute favourite writers are Maggie O’Farrell, Liane Moriarty, Melissa Banks and Liz Nugent so I’d love to sit round a table with them! I read so many fantastic books for work that it’s quite hard to find time to do my own reading now, so joining a book club might actually be a good way of being able to read more for pleasure.
Hmm, I don’t know. I don’t think it’s been a particularly easy journey, so I might make it a bit easier for myself, but then I don’t know if I’d feel as grateful as I do now or appreciate it as much. All writers have a different path to publication and I try not to get hung up on other people’s – it’s best to just focus on your own and I feel very lucky to have a supportive agent and editor who have been great to work with on ‘The Girl Next Door’.
I like Tom Ripley out of the Patricia Highsmith novels!
Liz Nugent always does brilliant opening lines, she is the master of pulling the reader in straight away. They’re always so sinister!
It changes, I think – I’ve always loved ‘The Bell Jar’ by Sylvia Plath, and ‘After You’d Gone’ is my favourite Maggie O’Farrell novel, although they’re all great. When I was younger I read tons of Enid Blyton and Harry Potter so those all have a special place in my heart too.
I write crime mainly because it’s what I enjoy reading – I decided to try to write books that I’d want to read myself. I publish a lot of crime and suspense at work as well, so it was the genre I felt the most confident in, although I don’t know whether I will stick to crime forever.
Hmm. I would bring the fourth Harry Potter book, ‘The Goblet of Fire’ because I love that storyline, there’s so much going on! I’d also bring ‘The Wonder Spot’ by Melissa Bank, which I’ve read hundreds of times but never gets old, and I’d bring a ‘Bridget Jones’ book to make me laugh!
I think it’s very important to read a lot, get to know your genre, find out what works and what doesn’t work. I’d also suggest getting your work read by beta readers or joining a writing group that might help critique your manuscript – it’s always good to get other opinions and find out if what’s in your head makes sense on the page! Don’t be afraid of editing your book, either – get your first draft down and then go back through it, again and again, moving chapters around or making cuts where necessary. No one ever writes a perfect first draft so the editing process is something you need to get used to.
I don’t really need anything other than my laptop, but I like lighting a candle if I’m at home, it’s nice and calming! And tea. Or wine.
‘The Girl Next Door’ is out now and then my third book will be out next year. It’s about a couple who go on holiday to France, only for the police to ring the doorbell of their villa and accuse the husband of a murder back in England… I hope you all like it! You can stay up to date with my book news by joining my newsletter – you can subscribe here:
Phoebe Morgan is an author and editor. She studied English at Leeds University after growing up in the Suffolk countryside. She has previously worked as a journalist and now edits crime and women’s fiction for a publishing house during the day, and writes her own books in the evenings.
I have always loved writing, but only began to take it more seriously when I was about 24. I studied English at university and did a great creative writing class in America that inspired me to do more of my own work. So much of writing it about persistence, and now I’m very glad I kept going with it even though there were times when I felt like giving up.