Thursday, 6 August 2015

Author Inspiration: Helena Fairfax

I’m delighted to welcome lovely writing and blogging friend Helena Fairfax to the Reading and Writing blog again. I loved Helena’s previous romance stories, The Silk Romance and The Antique Love and at the moment I’m thoroughly enjoying her new novella Palace of Deception. I also have her full length novel, A Way from Heart to Heart, waiting on my bookshelf and I know to expect a very good read. Helena has kindly agreed to share a little about the inspiration for her new novella. But first the intriguing blurb.

Palace of Deception

A sinister housekeeper, a silent bodyguard, and a missing princess - mystery and intrigue in a gripping romantic suspense.

When Princess Charlotte of Montverrier disappears on the eve of her Investiture, Lizzie Smith takes on the acting job of her life.

But in the run up to the ceremony, all is not what it seems in the Palace of Montverrier. Why does the housekeeper insist Lizzie keep to her suite of rooms? What danger lies outside the palace walls? As Lizzie learns her role, her only confidant is Léon, her quiet bodyguard…but what secrets is he keeping from her? And above all, what has happened to the missing Princess?

Mystery and suspense against the backdrop of a beautiful Mediterranean city.

Palace of Deception is available on AmazonUSAmazon UK; Amazon CA and other international Amazon stores, and will be available in other formats from November.

Lovely to ‘see’ you, Helena and so pleased we met in person again at the recent Romantic Novelists’ weekend conference. Thank you for the great post – I too enjoy stories about Doppelgängers!

Why I Love Stories about Doppelgängers

There’s a long tradition of stories about doppelgängers – or look-alikes - in film and literature. Stories like A Tale of Two Cities, Vertigo, The Comedy of Errors, Dead Ringers, or The Parent Trap. My favourite doppelgänger story of all time has to be The Prisoner of Zenda. In case you don’t know this tale, it’s about a young Englishman who takes a holiday to a small European country. There he discovers that he’s the double of the heir, Rudolf V, who has been kidnapped. It’s a really exciting, swashbuckling story, with a massively attractive baddie in the form of Rupert of Hentzau (played by the fabulous James Mason in the film).

When I first started writing my romantic suspense, I thought it would be good fun to join in this long literary tradition. My heroine, Lizzie Smith, is so like Princess Charlotte of Montverrier, she’s asked to take her part when the princess disappears in mysterious circumstances. Lizzie spends five weeks shut up alone in a suite of rooms in the Palace of Montverrier practising for her role, with only Léon, her handsome bodyguard, for company. Of course, there has to be a baddie to add an edge of suspense to the story, and my baddie appears in the form of Daria, the Palace’s mysterious housekeeper.

Here’s a scene when all three are getting to know one another:

‘The King is far too unwell to leave his room in the hospital.’ The chill in Daria’s expression dropped another degree. ‘We must pray that the King does not die before the Princess has been crowned next-in-line. If he does, it will leave the throne empty and – ’
She broke off. Finally, she had shown some emotion. What was it she was afraid of? I remembered the angry words daubed outside the Cathedral. Just how dangerous were the protesters? My eyes flew to Léon, standing in the doorway. Beside the forbidding housekeeper, his presence was solid and reassuring.
   His eyes met mine. ‘You have nothing to fear, Lizzie.’
   The tension left my shoulders. There was something uncomplicated about Léon that drew my trust. And after all, what could happen to me in a Palace so well guarded?
   ‘Very well,’ I said. ‘And now I’d like to ask you both a favour. Please don’t think of me as Lizzie Smith. I’d like you to start addressing me as you would the Princess.’ I smiled, indicating my travel-stained jeans and flat pumps. ‘It might seem strange to you, when I’m dressed like this, but I need to immerse myself in my role.’
   Léon nodded and gave a small bow of his head. ‘Very well, Your Highness.’
   I was taken aback by the promptness of his response, and so I almost missed the remarkable change in Daria’s features. Her eyes flashed fury. I thought for a split second I must have imagined it. What could possibly have caused such anger? Even after her expression returned to its blank chill, her cheeks remained mottled with red.
   After a short pause, she said, ‘Very good.’ And then, after another telling hesitation, ‘Your Highness.’
   I tried to hide my dismay. I had no wish to provoke a quarrel. Over the housekeeper’s shoulder, Léon continued to look at me, straight faced. And then one corner of his mouth lifted in a brief smile and, unbelievably, he gave me a reassuring wink.

Why is the housekeeper so furious with Lizzie? Who are the protesters outside the Palace? And is Léon really to be trusted?

I hope you’ve enjoyed my excerpt, and a small taste of the secrets and deception in the Palace of Montverrier. If you’d like to hear more, you can find me on my website, or on Facebook, or on Twitter.

Thanks so much for having me, Rosemary!

It’s been a pleasure, Helena!

Helena Fairfax was born in Uganda and came to England as a child. She's grown used to the cold now, and these days she lives in an old Victorian mill town in Yorkshire, in the north of England. After many years working in factories and dark, satanic mills, Helena has turned to writing full-time. Her first novel, 

The Silk Romance, was a contender for the Romantic Novelists' Association New Writers' Scheme Award and a runner-up in the Global Ebook Awards. Since then, Helena has written lots more stories, and she was recently a finalist in the Exeter Novel Prize.

In her spare time, Helena walks the Yorkshire moors every day with her rescue dog, finding this romantic landscape the perfect place to dream up her heroes and her happy endings.


Julia Thorley said...

One of my favourite looky-likey films is 'Dave', starring Kevin Kilne. To avoid a potentially explosive scandal when the US President goes into a coma, an affable temp agency owner with an uncanny resemblance to him is put in his place.

Marie Laval said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marie Laval said...

Sorry...I made a spelling mistake in my previous comment and could not edit it!
Great interview Helena and Rosemary. I once read, years ago, that we all have a doppelganger somewhere but that should you ever come face to face with him or her, then it would be very bad news for one of you...I really can't remember where I read that but it really made an impression on me, especially when out in a pub one night, a friend told me they had just seen someone who looked just like me ordering drinks at the bar. My friend thought it was funny but I was terrified! Thankfully I did not see that person, whoever she was. I am very much looking forward to reading Palace of Deception, Helena, and I wish you lots of success with it!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks for commenting, Julia. Don't think I've seen that film but I really enjoyed watching The Man in the Iron Mask again at the weekend which has a great doppelgänger story!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Marie - many thanks for visiting. I've heard that about doppelgängers too and it freaked me out at first! A YA writer I know has a very successful scary book out using that idea - and it's now been made into a film (Cathy MacPhail: Another Me).

Anonymous said...

Hi Julia, I've never seen Dave. I just checked it out, and it looks a great film! Thanks for the recommendation. And I'd forgotten about the Man in the Iron Mask, Rosemary. I remember watching it on television when I was younger, and being really upset by the story! It's a great read!

Anonymous said...

Hi Marie, I remember hearing that when I was younger, too! I was going to say it's a great idea for a story, and then I read Rosemary's comment. I hadn't heard of that book, Rosemary. I'll add it to my TBR. It sounds really interesting!

Vikki said...

The idea of doppelgangers fascinates me too and a guy I once worked with did a double take when he walked in for his shift, saying he had just said hello to me out on the street, which kind of freaked me out! Sounds like a fascinating read, Helen. Good luck with it!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks for commenting, Vikki!

Anonymous said...

What a strange thing to happen, Vikki! No wonder you were freaked out. (And it sounds like a great start to a story!) Thanks for your comment!