Q&A with Helen Fields, author of Perfect Remains.


On a remote Highland mountain, the body of Elaine Buxton is burning. All that will be left to identify the respected lawyer are her teeth and a fragment of clothing.
In the concealed back room of a house in Edinburgh, the real Elaine Buxton screams into the darkness…

Detective Inspector Luc Callanach has barely set foot in his new office when Elaine’s missing persons case is escalated to a murder investigation. Having left behind a promising career at Interpol, he’s eager to prove himself to his new team. But Edinburgh, he discovers, is a long way from Lyon, and Elaine’s killer has covered his tracks with meticulous care.
It’s not long before another successful woman is abducted from her doorstep, and Callanach finds himself in a race against the clock. Or so he believes … The real fate of the women will prove more twisted than he could have ever imagined.

Fans of Angela Marson, Mark Billingham and M. J. Aldridge will be gripped by this chilling journey into the mind of a troubled killer.


Today on Hummingbird Reviews, I'm over the moon to be welcoming author Helen Fields to the blog to take part in my author Q&A. Perfect Remains by Helen Fields was published on January 26th by Avon, and is available to purchase in both e-Book and paperback. I'll provide links at the bottom of this Q&A for those of you who would like to perhaps dip into what is said to be a 'nail-biting' read. Without further ado, please welcome Helen Fields to Hummingbird Reviews!
Please introduce yourself. Where are you from? What do you do? And what's your shoe-size?
I am a married mother of three, living in Hampshire, and trying to write between walking the dogs and ferrying the children from sports matches to parties. I was a barrister for thirteen years, and prosecuting and defending in criminal courts, as well as undertaking family law cases. These days I run a media company with my husband, and spend every spare minute writing books. Shoes size is five, although I can never find shoes I really love.

When was your latest book published and what is it called?
My debut crime novel, Perfect Remains, was published on January 26th. It's the first in a detective series set in Scotland, featuring Detective Inspector Luc Callanach who is half-French half-Scots, and recently transferred from Interpol. Callanach is on the trail of a man - Dr King - who is abducting and believed to be killing professional women.

What is Perfect Remains about?
The story is told from two view-points, watching both Callanach and King. This means that the reader is brought closer to the antagonist and the women he abducts. The reader is spared nothing. But it also shows the resilience, desperation, bravery and fight of the women Dr King takes. It's supposed to be dark, edgy and scary.

If you were to describe this book in the same way you'd describe the weather, what would you say?
If it was like the weather? I'd be issuing a severe weather warning. There's a storm on its way. I recommend you take cover.

When did you begin writing? What was your first book about?
I self-published two fantasy books when I began writing, just for the fun of it. Once I realised I had the writing bug, I changed genre to crime because it's where I'm most factually comfortable. I also write historical crime novels as I love to immerse myself in different time periods.

Whether that was a while back or just recently, did you or do you have any goals for your writing?
The goal when I started writing was to be disciplined, achieve a certain amount of weekly output, and to make sure I finished each book within a set time period. I'm used to working to tight deadlines and I find it more stressful without set goals.

Which authors inspire you?
The crime writers who inspire me are Christopher Brookmyre, Patricia Cornwell and Mark Billingham amongst many others. Growing up, I read everything I could by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and James Herbert. I still regard myself as a horror fan. My all time favourite author is JRR Tolkien. You never forget your first love, do you?

If you have to describe your writing style in just three words, which words would they be?
My writing style? Fast, visual, unapologetic.

What themes do you usually focus on within your writing? Is it different with each book?
The themes within my books tend to be conflict, justice, tumult and resolution. I do not shy away from violence because it is endlessly fascinating, even when we are terrified. I like to look into the soul of both antagonist and protagonist, to see what drives and hurts them.

Once you've an idea firmly in place, what is usually the next step for you?
Once I have an idea, I simply start writing. I don't plot every single part of the story but I do know where it has to end up.

Do you have a favourite part of the writing process?
My favourite part of the writing process is starting a new book, seeing where it all ends up, shocking myself, finding the plot twists. I do have a large board that is covered with post-its, notes, additions, map and pictures. I follow each character to build the plot line. Each person in the book has to be pursuing their own dream, fulfilling their own needs.

Have you ever come face to face with writer's block? If so, how did you overcome it?
I don't suffer from writer's block, but I do know when I'm just too tired to be creative and I force myself to take time out.

Where do you normally find inspiration?
I find my inspiration everywhere - in photos, films, news articles (I'm an obsessive news and politics follower) and in some of the people I met when I was a barrister. I am also a cinemaholic. I love movies and great TV. My favourite series include Dexter, Justified, The Wire and Deadwood.

What does a typical day in your life look like?
My day starts and ends with my family, and there's never really enough time to do everything. Other than that, I write for five hours a day, trying to write 2,000 words a day, Monday to Friday. I am also a chronic Twitter addict and I have to force myself off social media to get the work done.

What part of the writing process do you find most difficult?
The hardest part of the writing, no surprise, is the middle section of each book. It's easy to start - new ideas, all shiny and exciting, and the ending is all fury and tension. The middle section has to be fact filled as well as fascinating, developing characters and uncovering plot.

How do you usually come up with your titles?
I find titles difficult but now, with the detective series, we have a theme. The first book is Perfect Remains, the second will be Perfect Prey and comes out this summer, and so on. Makes it easier!

When it comes to creating your characters, what is the first step you take?
Characters come from nowhere. They are the part of the creative process for me that arrive pretty fully formed. I think as a writer that you take the aspects of real people you like, dislike, who repulse or fascinate you, and blend them until you make a character. They have to be believable but unique and that's a hard balance to get right.

Have you ever taken a research trip?
I take regular research trips. As this series is set in Scotland, I've spent a lot of time there. There's no substitute for visiting in person. Google Maps is good, but you can't smell the air or feel the breeze coming in off the ocean. My fantasy books were partly set in California, so I had the very good fortune of taking a trip to Carmel for those.

What are your definitions of success and happiness?
My definition of success is having a reader telling me I scared them, or that they couldn't put the book down, or that they really cared about a character. Job done. Happiness, on the other hand, that's wondering what I want to change in my life, and deciding that the answer is nothing. When I was recently published, my thirteen year old son hugging me and telling me how proud he was of me was a moment I'll treasure.

Which do you find hardest? The beginning or the end?
For me, writing the end is harder than the beginning and that's for technical reasons. At the end, you have to be very controlled about tension, pacing, plot drivers and making sure you have resolved every issue satisfactorily. It's complex, demanding and must never rely on coincidences.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received? What advice would you share with other writers?
The best piece of advice I ever heard, was that if it sounds like writing, rewrite it. Thank you Elmore Leonard. I would advise other writers to make sure their voice is unique. Who wants to be "the next" someone? You should only ever strive to be you.

Tell us an author who is on your auto-buy list.
The author on my auto-buy list is Christopher Brookmyre. Very few writers can make me laugh out loud in the middle of a crime book. Brookmyre is a genius.

If you were to write in a genre entirely new to you, which would it be and why?
Hmmm, writing in a new genre. I'd love to have a go at a Bridget Jones style book. My life has been a series of recountable disasters. I think we all have a bit of Bridget in us.

What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I'm finishing book 3 in the Luc Callanach series, starting to write a screenplay for television, and in the process of editing a historical crime novel about a doctor in a World War II hospital. Love keeping busy. Also, I have a great idea for the fourth book in the Luc Callanach series, but I don't know if it'll freak readers out too much or not...

Now for some quick-fire questions:
Coffee or tea? Tea (decaff, or I go crazy)
Summer or winter? Summer (hate the cold)
Bath or shower? Bath (every night for an hour)
Sweet or savoury? Sweet (sticky toffee pudding)
Holiday in the city or in the countryside? Can't choose (love New York as much as the Mojave desert)
Text or call? Text (quicker)
Facebook or Twitter? Twitter
Sunrise or sunset? Sunset (hate getting up)
TV programmes or movies? Oooh, don't make me choose. Movies then.
Wine or beer? Beer (wine gives me headaches)
Cats or dogs? Dogs
Chinese or Indian food? Chinese
Pasta or cheese? Cheese (Baked brie. Anything for baked brie)

Bonus weird thing: I have a texture issue. Anything lumpy makes me freak out and sandpaper makes me scream.

About the author.

Helen Fields studied law at the University of East Anglia, then went on to the Inns of Court School of Law in London. After pupillage, she joined chambers in Middle Temple where she practised criminal and family law for thirteen years. After her second child was born, Helen left the Bar. Together with her husband David, she went on to run a film production company, acting as a script writer and producer. Perfect Remains is set in Scotland, where Helen feels most at one with the world. Beyond writing, she has a passion for theatre and cinema, often boring friends and family with lengthy reviews and critiques. Taking her cue from her children, she has recently taken up karate and indoor sky diving. Helen and her husband now live in Hampshire with their three children and two dogs.

You can find Helen Fields on Twitter.
You can find Perfect Remains on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US.

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