Helen J. Christmas

Helen Christmas at Lake Buttermere with her faithful border collie, Barney. 2013.
Helen Christmas at Lake Buttermere with her faithful border collie, Barney. 2013.

I have lived with my husband Peter on the south coast of England since 1996. Writing is something I am not only passionate about but it has always been in my blood. I dreamed of being an author. Yet never felt I could take that next step, until I was confident I had created something worthy of being published.

In the summer of 2010 however, a real ‘Eureka’ moment happened whilst walking our dog, Barney along the beach.

The threads of a story began to fuse inside my head. This was a story which drew on my life experiences, would involve real people and address the social issues and political changes I have witnessed throughout my entire life. Hence, the concept of ‘Same Place Different Place’ was born, which I began writing in 2011.

Once started, I never looked back

I was passionate about my story and lucky to find all the inspiration I needed to get started. My research took me to East London. An exhibition of photographs by Ian Berry from 1972, helped me to portray the setting of my book (and in exactly the right era). Later that same year, Peter and I were invited to stay in Nijmegen, Holland. How uncanny that Nijmegen was the homeland I had chosen for one of the main characters, Jake. This gave me a wonderful opportunity to immerse myself in Jake’s world, refine his character and imagine his friends. But in 2014/15 I reintroduced Nijmegen back into the saga, pleased to depict this beautiful city and everything it had to offer.

I never intended ‘Beginnings’ to be a novel in its own right (it was only meant to be the prologue). But I soon realised that ‘Same Face Different Place’ could not be contained within one book it evolved into a series scanning four decades.

Discovering New Places

Before I reached the end of the first book, I embarked on a 2nd journey to London. By this time, I was already thinking about my 2nd book and needed to choose a location; somewhere near London, ideally a small town, close to some rural countryside and villages. As I continued my journey from London, through Kent, I discovered the towns of Swanley and Orpington. This trip also helped me to write the final chapter of my first book and when I read it back several weeks later, it occurred to me that I had followed the exact route taken by the book’s main character Eleanor, in readiness for Book 2.

I finished ‘Beginnings’ in October 2011 and almost straight away, started book 2 ‘Visions’. At the same time, the 1st book was read by one or two volunteers – mainly to discover whether it was any good, before I had the courage to publish it!

After some very positive feedback though, I published ‘Beginnings’ on Amazon Kindle in February 2012 and over the next year received some wonderful reviews. My debut novel now has over 60 ratings on Amazon.

How the Series Developed

British Author Helen J Christmas

From 2012 to 2013 I was ploughing ahead with ‘Visions’. This novel is based around the restoration of a historic country house, a dark psychological thriller. When I finished the first draft of Book 2, I ventured on a 3rd trip; returning to Orpington, from where I took the train to Bromley (another of the book’s locations) then followed a route on the London Underground, where I had based one of the book’s more gripping chase scenes. I also returned to Waterloo station, (an important location in both books.) From September 2012, I completely rewrote ‘Visions’ and took a further trip to Bromley. This time, I followed the route into Kent by car and explored some of the pretty villages around this area. I have kept a diary of all these research trips on my Blog.

Book 2 ‘Visions’ was published in 2013 after much editing, rewriting and tweaking and after a short break from writing, I started Book 3 ‘Pleasures‘ in October. I began this 3rd book with a strong synopsis but after hitting a brick wall in the summer of 2014 I took time to edit the 1st 25 chapters, before finishing it. Just before I wrote the closing scenes, I visited the Old Bailey in London and had the pleasure of exploring the area around St. Paul’s including Paternoster Square, the London Stock Exchange and Holborn, all important locations in this story.

I have been lucky enough to have friends, fellow authors and Beta readers to read and review my work and after some very constructive criticism I finished ‘Pleasures’ in March 2015, described as my most thrilling work yet.

From August 2015, I began work on the 4th and final book in the series, Retribution, a novel which ended up so BIG I decided to split it into 2 books: Retribution Phase 1 and Retribution End Game. Once again, I did much research for this final instalment, a journey that took me back to Shoreham, Orpington and all around London on two separate trips, from Chelsea to Shoreditch. Two years later, I was delighted to publish both books in 2017 and have finally completed the whole series.

With 5 books on Amazon, of which I am very proud, Writing became a big part of my life, along with all the research and travelling involved in each story. But when we visited the Bronte Parsonage museum in Yorkshire, I experienced an eerie feeling. Stood in the home of three famous writers, I was wondering if my next venture should be to write some shorter stories and develop my writing skills. There were some untold stories in Same Face Different Place, with hidden characters yet to be drawn out; Peter’s sister for example. It was on this day that Rosebrook Chronicles The Hidden Stories was conceived.

Rosebrook Chronicles was written in 2018, exploring new styles such as 1st person and present tense. This was not an easy book to write since it concentrates on hard-hitting topics such as child abuse but gave a solid backstory to my series. It was more a contemporary work and the inspiration behind my first audiobook, which I produced with the help of Paul Metcalfe who narrated the whole story.

In 2019 I finally began writing a new novel, a story which has been on my mind for years. This is a completely different style of book, a psychological thriller based in my home town of Bognor Regis and with a whole new cast of characters. Unfortunately I had a major set back this year when our beloved dog, Barney, died of old age. Writing is not easy when your heart is broken and without my writing companion and muse by my side in the mornings, I found it difficult to continue. But as I said from the beginning, writing has always been in my blood and if I can manage a few sentences each day, I am fulfilled and dedicated to delivering a new novel. Watch this space!

My other hobbies include country walks with my husband, friends from our walking group based in Sussex and our dog Barney (sadly deceased). I also enjoy gardening, cooking, entertaining and reading. I have a love of simple pleasures, especially exploring Britain and its lovely towns, coasts and countryside.