I am a Writer: Meet Helen Bennett

June 1, 2011

Name and/or Pen Name: Helen Bennett

Blog/web site/twitter: None. [But you may run into Helen at the Harlequin Forums, where she

Helen Bennett

Helen Bennett

goes by the username HB.]

Where I write: I write in my garret, the technical term I like to use for the tiny room at the top of our stairs. I write with my back to the window to avoid distraction and when I can’t write because I need a distraction, I plod downstairs to write at my dining-room table. There I have a wonderful view of all the jobs I haven’t got around to doing in the garden.

I write on Raphael Alejandro (oh the picture that paints) but actually he’s my trusty laptop. Is it weird in a wrong way that I’ve named my laptop? I deliberately don’t have him networked to the internet otherwise I’d spend more time “researching” than writing.

What I write: Contemporary category romance and I’m also trying my hand at Intrigue. Being from the UK I like to think I have a touch of Agatha Christie about me.

Best rejection: I’ve been lucky to receive some very positive rejection letters but will always have a soft spot for my very first. That heady sense of possibility and pride I felt in actually submitting something sustained me through the wait and helped cushion me when the rejection inevitably came. I’m quite a practical soul and so armed with my dog-eared copy of Stephen King’s On Writing I diligently put myself through a sort of Rejection Boot Camp – I couldn’t wait to nail that first rejection to the wall. And when I think back to the quality of that first manuscript… well, let’s just say the editor was extremely kind and encouraging.

Worst rejection: So, after two manuscripts and falling deeper and deeper in love with writing category romance I thought I’d better get myself some feedback so that I could learn and improve. I joined the UK’s RNA New Writers Scheme – a fabulous scheme offering a full critique of your work. If the first reader thinks your work is of publishable quality they send it to a second. If that person agrees they send it straight to the publisher with a recommendation. I was only looking for feedback but to my joy received a glowing report and news that it had gone to the publisher. I worked on strengthening and improving the story but many, many, many months later I received a rejection. I was numb for days. Of course I hadn’t been silly enough to think it would be snapped up, but I think I had thought I would be offered the chance to work on it for them. I sensibly waited to get over the shock before reading the letter again to take from it what I could learn. But, seriously, there wasn’t one positive thing in that letter – they genuinely hadn’t liked anything about it. For a while I felt like the only person to have ever not been picked up by a publisher after being recommended by the scheme. And then, well, then I picked myself up, dusted myself off and got back on the horse, determined to work harder than ever.

What keeps me writing: Er, people who know me might mention my pure stubbornness! My creativity and ability to write have been tested over the years but I have learnt to trust that the urge and compulsion to write will never leave me for long. Now I nurture that tiny kernel of knowledge so that even when it all feels too, too, hard; even when my characters turn tricky on me or I take a wrong-turn with my plot, or the rejection letters pile up, I have faith that it’s all part of the journey and, I think, what I am supposed to be doing in life.

I am a writer because: It makes me happy. It brings about a balance in my life and as I think about it, I realise I’ve always written. Journals, poems, long letters to my best friend who I was going to see the very next day at school, short stories and serials, and (Lord, please tell me someone else has done this too) “new and improved” episodes of popular television series where the protagonists actually get together! As I got older I wrote training manuals for work along with advertising and promotional material, and I shouldn’t forget all those love notes to my boyfriend now husband. Writing has been with me all the time, giving me a voice to express myself.

I like people and observing their interactions with the world. I like trying to understand and make sense of their motivations. And I like communication and storytelling, and in a world where it’s far too easy to settle back, opt out and be cynical, I like to feel that reading romance can redress the balance a little. And because people sometimes struggle when the world does turn serious I like feeling I might be able to offer some entertainment and escape.

 ***

[We’d like to thank Helen for sharing with us. If you’re an unpublished romance writer who is interested in being profiled, email Elley.]

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2 Responses to “I am a Writer: Meet Helen Bennett”


  1. Hi, Helen!

    You wrote: Is it weird in a wrong way that I’ve named my laptop?

    Absolutely not! I didn’t name my laptop, hadn’t even thought about naming my laptop, but now that I’ve read your post, it only seems appropriate. I spend so much time with my laptop that I think it deserves a name. Thinking… 🙂

    Thanks again for sharing. I’ve enjoyed reading about your writing.

    Elley


  2. […] of course. We’ve met other aspiring romance writers—a wave to Nicole Helm, Joanne Robinson, Helen Bennett, Doris O’Connor, Cherie Nicholls, and Karin Blaine. And when we managed to write something that […]

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