Peaceful writing time is heaven for Helen

Helen Phifer

Barrow in Furness-based author Helen Phifer works full time and has five children and a grandchild, so it is a miracle she finds time to write at all! Her books are a combination of thriller/ghost stories all about police officer Annie Graham which have found a huge following. She will be in conversation with Sandra Mangan for the final author event of Wordpool 2015.

Please tell us a little about your books?

They are a combination of thriller/ghost stories all about police officer Annie Graham. My lovely readers tell me that they are real page turners that keep them on the edge of their seats and they are unable to put them down.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve always written since I was a child, but it was ten years ago that I got the idea for The Ghost House. It took me around eight years to finish it and then get a publishing deal.

What inspires the ideas for your novels?

Newspaper articles, documentaries, snippets of conversation. My brother bought a farmhouse in the woods behind Furness Abbey where there used to be a beautiful mansion that was knocked down in the 1960’s. I would walk my dog up there and used to wonder about the people that lived there, one day an idea popped into my head and it wouldn’t go away so that was how The Ghost House came about. I also love anything paranormal and watch and read as much as I can about people’s experiences.

How do you go about researching your books?

My local library and records office were an amazing source for local research when I was trying to find out about the mansion for The Ghost House and the people who lived there. Of course the internet is brilliant as well.

How do you go about plotting a story?

I like to write it out by hand once I get an idea in a lovely, brand new notebook. I have a thing about stationery. Once I have an outline for my story I then get some coloured index cards and write a short summary of what I want to happen in each chapter and then I pin them all onto the huge cork board in my office. I also like to collect pictures of things which relate to my story for inspiration and pin them up as well.

Are you a fiction reader? Who are the writers you admire?

I’m a massive fan of fiction and always have been since I was a small child. There are so many writers I admire but my favourites are Stephen King, John Conolly, James Herbert, Mark Billingham, Val McDermid, Lisa Gardner to name just a few.

Are you a disciplined, nine-to-five writer, or do you prefer to go with the creative flow?

I work full time shifts and have five children so I have to write whenever I get a spare minute. I often find myself getting up at 5am when everyone’s in bed so I can write. I’m quite lucky though because I can switch off even when there’s chaos going on around me. The best thing I ever bought myself was an iPod shuffle, I can plug my earphones in and block out all the background noise whilst I type away.

Do you have any advice for would-be writers?

Whatever you do write the kind of story that you enjoy; it makes it much easier to finish. Once you do get to the end of your novel and think it’s ready to submit make sure you send it to agents and publishers who are interested in that genre. It’s no good sending a crime novel to an agent who is only interested in Romance because they won’t even read past the covering letter. Also never, ever give up. If you believe in your story it’s just a matter of finding someone else who loves it as much as you do and this might take some time but keep on submitting.

Have you visited Blackpool before? 

Yes, a couple of times every year since I was born. I live in Barrow-in-Furness and love Blackpool. In fact I love it so much I even spent my honeymoon there.

What’s next for you?

I would love to be able to become a full time writer, I’ve had four novels published in the space of eighteen months which is amazing. I would like to publish a couple of standalone novels and I’m thinking of having a go at self-publishing one of those to see how it compares with my experiences up to now. The main thing is I want to keep writing stories that myself and my readers enjoy, I love writing.

HELEN PHIFER, Brunswick Room, Blackpool Central Library, July 3, 3pm.

For more information about Wordpool or to book visit https://blackpoolwordpool.wordpress.com. You can also like Wordpool on Facebook or follow on Twitter @WordpoolFest.

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