Ask the Author: Helena Fairfax

Do you ever find yourself reading a book and having semi-random musings wander through your head in the process? Do you have a few thoughts and questions that you wish you could share with the author? This happens to me all the time. I recently read Helena Fairfax’s The Silk Romance, the first romance I’ve read in—literally—decades. And you know what? I loved it. So I shared my semi-random musings with her, and she kindly replied. Here are my thoughts with Helena’s responses:

Heather Brainerd: When Dave and I write together, we “cast” the main characters with current actors. This lets us both picture them in the same way. While reading The Silk Romance, I couldn’t help but cast Jenna Coleman as Sophie and Benedict Cumberbatch as Jean-Luc. Okay, so Benedict Cumberbatch is a bit pale for the part, but he has the right intensity. Plus, he’s awesome. Did you picture any particular actors as you were writing these characters? And what do you think of my choices?

Helena Fairfax: I wrote The Silk Romance a long while ago, before Jenna Coleman appeared in Dr. Who, and before Sherlock was released.  I didn’t have those two actors in mind, but it’s interesting you mention them, and they would have been great choices!

I think it’s a great idea to base a character’s appearance on someone real, and I often do the same thing.  It’s much easier that way to build up a picture for the reader, and you also have no difficulty keeping the physical characteristics consistent throughout the book.

I actually based my hero on a real person.  When I was a teenager, I worked as an au pair in Lyon.  I developed a crush on the guy in the apartment above mine.  He was tall, tanned, dark-haired with brilliant blue eyes.  What wasn’t to fall in love with?  Unfortunately, someone else already had, and he was engaged… C’est la vie!

As for the heroine, I’d just read a Mills and Boon (Harlequin) novel called A Bride at Birralee!  I was much taken with the description of the heroine, who had long dark hair.  (Apologies to the author for my shameless cribbing of the long dark hair idea.)  The violet eyes were my own invention!

HB: I was thrilled to see the name Ted Nelson in your book. It’s a bit obscure, but have you ever seen “The Incredible Melting Man” episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000? If not, here’s a video to explain why the name Ted Nelson has been stuck in my brain ever since 1999:

HF: Haha!  No, I don’t even know that programme – it looks awesome! 

I’m a British writer (as you know) and my Ted Nelson character is American.  Using your method above, I tried to think of a real life American I could base the part on – and came up with the actor Ted Danson!  He looks exactly the part I had in mind, so I just changed the second name to Nelson…in case I got sued!

HB: Marthe is wonderful. I want her to come to my house and take care of me the next time I’m sick. Is she based on anyone in particular?

HF: Sadly, no.  When I worked in Lyon, I did stay in a similar country house, but the housekeeper was an old harridan, and made my life a misery.  Perhaps subconsciously I made Marthe her polar opposite!

HB: The epilogue – oh, how I loved the epilogue! Did you know all along that this was how you wanted to end the book, or did it occur to you later in the process?

HF: Oh, I’m so glad I left the epilogue in!  I was thinking of taking it out – perhaps an editor might think it was redundant? – but then I thought, if they want me to take it out, they’ll tell me.  Better too much than too little!  So I’m so glad it stayed!

Thanks for your brilliant questions, Heather – I loved them!  Just going to check out some more Mystery Science Theater 3000…

HB: Well, thank you, Helena! I look forward to reading more of your books. Hope the Ted Nelson song isn’t stuck in your head now!

The Silk Romance

Sophie Challoner is sensible and hard-working, and a devoted carer of her father.  One night her grandmother throws a ball for her in Paris…and Sophie does something reckless that she can never forget. 

Jean-Luc Olivier is not a man to treat lightly.  And so when fate takes a hand years after the ball and reunites him with Sophie in Lyon, he is determined not to let her go a second time.

But it seems the fates are conspiring against their happiness.  Jean-Luc has secrets of his own.  And  when disaster strikes at home in London, Sophie is faced with a choice—stay in this glamorous world with the man she loves, or return to her family to keep a sacred promise she made her mother.

The Silk Romance is available from:

MuseItUp Publishing 

Amazon US 

Amazon UK 

Barnes & Noble 



You can find Helena on her blog, on Goodreads, on Facebook,  or on Twitter.


About HFBrainerd

Published novelist and Disney World fanatic. Thanks for coming along on this wild ride!
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16 Responses to Ask the Author: Helena Fairfax

  1. Loren says:

    Interesting how you both base your characters appearance on someone real. I like to base my characters’ personalities on people I know well, so that I can ensure my character’s dialogue and actions are realistic to their makeup.
    But sometimes i have to go back and check what physical characteristics I drew up for someone. Maybe I should think of “casting” — thanks for the tip!

    • Keeping track of our characters’ personalities and physical traits can be daunting. I make up detailed character lists – even throwing in minor characters, since I never know when someone might suddenly assert themselves and become a bigger part of the story!

    • Hi Loren, I find this technique particularly useful because I have terrible face recognition skills. I can blank people in the street that I’ve only just met. If I have a well-known face in mind when I’m writing, or think of someone I know well, I find it a lot easier to picture their facial reactions. I wish I could improve on this, but at least this trick helps me get by when I;m writing!

  2. Heather and Helena, what a fun post! I enjoyed it. Helena, The Silk Romance sounds really interesting, especially with it being based on real life.

    Best wishes for all of your books and writing, Heather and Helena!

    Curl up with a killer – Cozy Mysteries
    The Ginseng Conspiracy by Susan Bernhardt

  3. Mary Waibel says:

    What great questions Heather, and awesome answer Helena.

    I loved this book too, and enjoyed THE ANTIQUE LOVE just as much. Helena writes a fantastic tale that transports you away from this world and into her own. And her characters are very swoon worthy.

    Can’t wait to see what you have up next, Helena!


  4. Mystery Science Theater 3000! Oh my gosh, I love those 🙂 Great interview ladies!

  5. J.Q Rose says:

    When I read books, I often think I wish I could ask the author what he/she was thinking or how they were inspired to write the story,etc. And you actually did it, Heather! Cool. Especially cool the author answered the questions. Loved your discussion. I read this and Antique Love–books to curl up in a chair with a cup of tea and escape into the story. Delightful reading.

  6. Thanks to everyone for your lovely comments, and thanks Heather for the really fun interview! I can’t believe I haven’t seen Mystery Science Theater 3000 before. It’s not been shown on UK TV (or not that I’ve seen). I’m looking forward to discovering more!

  7. Pingback: Ask the Author: Eric Price | Heather Fraser Brainerd & David Fraser

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