Fridays 5 with Helen Erwin

I grew up in Helsingborg, a beautiful coastal city in southern Sweden. Helsingborg has a rich old history and was established 1085.  My husband and I travel there every summer to spend time with family and friends and to relax in our tiny cottage in the woods.

I have been living in New York City since the early 90´s. It is an incredible place to live, the diversity especially is wonderful and very inspiring.  The food culture alone is enough to live here.  I feel very fortunate to have two cities to call home.

Changing paradigms of what is socially acceptable fascinates me. What people believe so strongly today, can become a superstition tomorrow and an embarrassment for succeeding generations. It is often the little things about day to day life in another time that explains what people were thinking. The movements we see playing out today across the world in our time, is put in context with what was accomplished by those who came before us. The things we take for granted were once hard fought battles. My passion is to illustrate the norms of the past by taking my readers back in time and putting them in the minds of my characters.

1.) When did you first get serious about writing?

A.) I have been writing all my life, but I didn´t see myself as a writer at first. It was as if it was too farfetched of a dream for me to believe it myself.

I began to write more seriously about 10 years ago and wrote an historical novel that I never published. It is being edited now and will come out sometime in 2016 as my second novel.

2.) What is the hardest part for you about writing?

A.)  It is hard for me to write just for the sake of writing. I get writers block if I don´t have a particular subject to write about. I call it getting pregnant, once I´m “pregnant” with a subject, I find it easy. The story begins to grow slowly and then my characters take over and decide for themselves what needs to happen and when the story is ready to be born.

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A son of a slave owner turns abolitionist and becomes a conductor on the Underground Railroad.
As fierce slavery debates are dividing the country, James Waynewright breaks family tradition and travels to New York to study. Having grown up on a tobacco plantation in Virginia he never questioned how his family’s wealth is generated. In the beginning he is shocked by what he feels are radical ideas of abolition and feels that Northerners have been subject to propaganda. As time goes on, James begins to understand their point of view, and he realizes that he no longer condones slavery.
James falls in love with Katherine Greenfield, an upper class New Yorker and an abolitionist. Due to unforeseen circumstances they hastily marry and return to the plantation. Intending to free their slaves, James and Katherine begin leading double lives in order to help runaways that are escaping north.

3.) How did you feel upon publication of your first completed project?

A.)  It felt incredible, a lifelong dream come through. Scary, and completely overwhelming.

4.) What is more important to you, story, or character? Why?

A.)  I have to say both. A good character that is part of a fascinating story makes for great reading. I love history because the historical context drives my story and gives me ideas of how to develop my characters.

5.) What is a typical day like in your world?

A.) I get up very early in the morning, drink a lot of coffee. I read the news and Facebook for about an hour or so, sometimes more if I get distracted by a really interesting thread. Once I have my fill of social media, I either do research or write for a couple of hours.

I´ll have lunch, write some more and then I usually go for a bike ride or a run.

I come home, meditate, make dinner, have a glass of wine and watch television with my husband while our dogs snuggle next to us on the couch.

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