Interview with Helena Halme, author of The Christmas Heart
19 Nov 2018
What can you tell us about your new release, The Christmas Heart?
The Christmas Heart is a seasonal tale of a holiday romance set in the snow-capped Swedish Alps. I absolutely adored writing this story where Kaisa finds love again in her middle years. The idea began developing in my head after a late-night discussion in Helsinki with my best friend about our university days. The subject of old flames cropped up and we might have Googled a number of people …
That night in bed I sketched an outline for The Christmas Heart. It took a New Year’s break to Åre in Sweden to find the right snowy setting for the story, and after this discovery, I was deep into the tale of a woman in her fifties finding love with an old flame from university. When my friend read the finished manuscript she exclaimed, ‘That could so easily have been me!’ It was at that point that I knew I’d written the kind of book I set out to write.
What or who inspired you to become an author?
Around the time when I met my English Navy Officer husband at the British Embassy in Helsinki, I began reading fiction in English and discovered Doris Lessing’s books. I became besotted with her writing and went on from there to dream of a writing career for myself. It took some 20 years and an MA in Creative Writing before I finally began taking my ambition seriously.
What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?
What a difficult question! I could think of a hundred, but to whittle them down to five … OK, here goes:
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively
Restless by William Boyd
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?
I’d like to invite William Boyd to talk about his latest book, Love Is Blind. I’d ask him how he manages to make his characters, with all their faults and weaknesses, so real and adorable.
What’s your favorite thing about writing?
I enjoy being able to take myself into another person’s head and live their lives through them. It’s a completely immersive experience and takes you away from your own problems and the dreadful things that are taking place in the world. Writing is a kind of escapism for me.
What is a typical day like for you?
I wake up early, around six am and write for two or three hours, after which I go to the gym, or do some stretching and Pilates at home. In the afternoon, if I don’t have a meeting with one of the authors I mentor, I reply to my emails, write newsletters to my mailing list, or blog, and generally spend some time on social media. Evenings are either devoted to my writing or to my Englishman.
What scene in The Christmas Heart was your favorite to write?
I absolutely loved writing the scene where Kaisa and Tom sneak away for a romantic lunch at a mountaintop restaurant. They eat well and drink champagne and admire the winter wonderland around them. I’ve been to the place, Hummelstugan, myself, and know how unbelievably beautiful the views towards the frozen Lake Are are!
Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?
“Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.” ― Doris Lessing
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