I’m pleased to welcome Helena Fairfax to the blog today. She is answering my Author in the Spotlight questions and I am also sharing my review of her book In The Mouth of the Wolf. This was originally published as A Year of Light and Shadows in 2016 but has recently been re-released under the new title.
Never judge a book by its cover and never judge a book, as I initially did with this one, by its title! I had thought that because there was a wolf mentioned it would be some kind of fantasy novel, which I’m not really into, but it isn’t. The author describes the book as romantic suspense and I think that sums it up nicely.
With enough treachery, secrets, danger and skulduggery (isn’t that a great word?) to rival the Shakespeare play which Lizzie is rehearsing, this is a most enjoyable read. There’s romance too, to balance the darker elements of the book and in the best traditions, a dark and handsome hero. I enjoyed following Lizzie in her adventures in the tiny Mediterranean country of Montverrier, back to her (and my) home town of Edinburgh, to the beautiful Neapolitan coast and rounded off nicely with the Torchlight Parade in Edinburgh as part of the Hogmanay celebrations.
And the wolf from the title? Well, you’ll find out about that in when you read Helena’s spotlight below!
In the Mouth of the Wolf is available now as an e-book and in paperback. You can order a copy online here. My thanks to the author for my review copy. Now read on to find out more about Helena Fairfax.
Thanks for joining me Helena. First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?
Usually I’d start this answer by saying I live in Saltaire, on the edge of the Yorkshire moors, but at the moment I’m living with my brother, who is kindly putting up my husband and me (and our dog) in Leeds. We’re moving house and we have builders in, and there is a lot of work that needs doing before our new house is habitable. It does feel strange to be back in a city again! It’s great I can work from home – I work as a freelance editor. For someone who loves reading, editing it’s the ideal job, and I really enjoy the great variety of novels I work on, as well as the feeling of satisfaction there is in helping authors make their books the best they can be.
Nothing beats the feeling of having written and published your own novel, though, and I try to find as much time as I can to write for myself. When not writing, I’m either reading or else dreaming of getting back out on the moors again with my rescue dog – who is missing the countryside even more than I am!
What inspired you to start writing?
When I was growing up I used to think how wonderful it must be to be a writer. It seemed like the dream occupation, but I always thought writing novels wasn’t for me – it was for people much cleverer than I am. Then one day I was having a bit of a moan to my husband about a stressful day at work (as you do!) and he asked, ‘What do you really want to do with your life?’ And that question set me on the road to publication…
Tell me about your journey to publication
After I’d decided I was really going to give it a go as a writer – and not just play around at it, as I had been doing – I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association. The RNA have a New Writers’ Scheme. Unpublished members are invited to submit a manuscript which will be read anonymously, after which they will receive a full critique. I joined this scheme and it completely changed the way I wrote. I had a deadline, for a start, which meant I now had to crack on and get the book written. Then when I received my critique, I felt, for the first time, as though I were being treated as a serious writer. The New Writers’ scheme changed the way I wrote and helped me focus on telling a story that readers would want to engage with. My first manuscript was published in 2013, and since then I’ve written several more novels and a non-fiction book, as well as become an article writer for BookBub, and a freelance editor. (All from my husband asking me that question!)
In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?
In the Mouth of the Wolf is about a Scottish actress called Lizzie Smith who, out of the blue, is asked to play the role of a real Mediterranean princess. She finds the beautiful setting of a palace by the sea hides danger and mystery. It’s a story full of skulduggery and intrigue – and of course romance, too, in the love story that develops when Lizzie meets her bodyguard, Léon.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
Like a lot of actors, Lizzie is very superstitious. When someone mentions the name of the play Macbeth in rehearsal, she’s convinced it will bring bad luck. Léon, who is half-Italian, tells her of the saying ‘in bocca al lupo’– ‘in the mouth of the wolf’ – which Italians use to wish a performer good luck, in the same way we say ‘break a leg’. The reply to this saying is ‘crepi il lupo’, or ‘to hell with the wolf’. I just loved this saying so much when I first heard it, and the response fits Léon’s character so well, I just had to use it for the title.
Do you have a work in progress just now?
I have another book coming out this month. This one is a non-fiction history of the lives of women in Halifax, West Yorkshire, called Struggle and Suffrage in Halifax: Women’s Lives and the Fight for Equality. My novels are contemporary romances in which women are independent and take centre stage. Researching and writing this history was an eye-opener. It’s made me reflect on just how very different women’s lives were only a relatively short time ago, on how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go. My research was fascinating, and I hope the book provides a different look at the history of a town that was dominated by the men who ran the textile industries.
What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past few months?
I loved Marian Keyes’ The Break. Her books are full of characters who are totally relatable, and I love how she shows ordinary lives that are full of the sweeping highs and lows and emotions we all experience. Her books are funny and insightful and do what books do best, which is reflect our own lives back at us and make us think about them in a different way.
What are you reading just now?
New Writing North supports writers in the north of England. I subscribe to their newsletter and it’s great to hear about brilliant books I might otherwise not have discovered. This month (Feb 2019) I’ve just started reading His Dark Sun, by Jude Brown, which is a psychological thriller set in a dystopian future. It’s a gripping read so far.
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
I have a newsletter which I send out – very irregularly! – with news, photos of my beloved moors, and quite often a free book to download (not one of my own, but generally a classic I’ve read recently). Here’s the link if you’d like to subscribe: https://t.co/8WkjaK3b3B
Otherwise, please do friend or follow me at the following links:
Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I love to hear from people, and I always reply (unless you’re a general in the US military. Nothing against generals, but there seem to be an awful lot of them!)
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
I would love to be a character from one of Georgette Heyer’s novels. Her heroines are strong, witty women who have lots of adventures and who get to dress up in fabulous outfits and go to balls. Of course life wasn’t like that for the majority of women at the time – but it would be brilliant to live in her fictional world for a time!
Thank you so much for having me, Joanne, and for your great questions! x
From the back of the book
When actress Lizzie Smith is asked to stand in for a real Mediterranean princess, she’s thrust into a world of intrigue and danger. Alone in a palace by the sea, isolated from her friends, Lizzie is forced to rely on her quiet bodyguard, Léon, to guide her. But who is Léon really protecting? Lizzie … or the princess?
On her return to Scotland, Lizzie begins rehearsals for Macbeth … and finds danger is stalking her through the streets of Edinburgh. Lizzie is once again forced to turn to Léon, for help – and discovers a secret he’d do anything not to reveal.
From the heat of the Mediterranean to the atmospheric, winding streets of Edinburgh, In the Mouth of the Wolf will take you on a journey of mystery and romance. Perfect for fans of Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt and Daphne du Maurier.
This book contains the two romantic suspense novellas Palace of Deception and The Scottish Diamond, plus a bonus short story.