Meet My Main Character: Helen from The Summer of Secrets

Yay, another blog tour! I think I’m subverting its course, actually, because it started off as a chain created by historical fiction authors. Most of the story in The Summer of Secrets takes place in the early Eighties, though, and as Eighties clothes are now officially vintage, I think I’ll get away with it…


What is the name of your main character?

She’s called Helen. We meet her as a teenager in the summer of 1983, and also as an adult looking back at the events of that summer.

(As an aside: I was on a writing week during the early stages of the novel, and we were given an exercise which involved writing a letter to ourselves from our main character. One of the other characters, Victoria, kept pushing her way into my letter, complaining that she was more interesting. The dynamic between Helen and Victoria is one of the driving forces of the story, but it was Helen’s quieter voice that I wanted to explore.)


When and where is the story set?

The ‘when’ I’ve answered above. The ‘where’ is mostly around the Leeds to Liverpool canal. I live on a boat on this canal, near to a village called Burscough in Lancashire and, if you’re familiar with the area, you might recognise bits of the scenery. I initially kept the location pretty vague and, although it has become more specific during the editing process, it’s still not exactly placed. The canal is very present in the narrative, but I’ve played fast and loose in making it my own imaginary setting! In the scenes where Helen is an adult, we move between Manchester, Southport and then back to the canal.


What should we know about her?

The young Helen is lonely and bored, and more than ready to be swept up by Victoria’s unconventional and charming family. The adult Helen is scarred by the cascade of events that ended her summer with them. A chance encounter with Victoria forces her to go back and examine what happened.


What is the main conflict?

The sub-heading to this question was, ‘What messes up her life?’

One of my initial triggers for The Summer of Secrets was that sense of looking back and feeling regret for decisions made in the past. I think we’ve all had those moments. By revisiting the events of one lost summer, Helen has to face up to what went wrong, and the role she played in its unravelling.


What is Helen’s personal goal?

She wants to be part of the Dover family. It’s what she’s wanted from the moment she met them. The trouble is, what is left of the Dover family for her to join?


The Summer of Secrets is my debut novel, and will be published by Transworld in 2015.


I’ve asked two writers to take the blog tour onwards next week. Daniel Carpenter is a Manchester writer currently making a name for himself on the spoken word scene in London. Fleur Smithwick is a fellow Transworld soon-to-be-debut-author whom I met on Twitter. Her novel, How to Make a Friend, is due to be published in October this year. I’m very much looking forward to the answers they’ll be giving!



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