Interview with Helen Dunn

Hello Everyone!

We are delighted to have author Helen Dunn amongst us today at Musikdiv India Online Magazine at our Special ‘Authors Festival’ interview series to tell us about his new book Nightwood!
Please read on …

NIGHTWOOD (lesbian historical fiction)
Gothic, supernatural, horror-mystery set in the 1800’s in England.Clarice Hart, hired as a governess, arrives at the ominous estate of NIGHTWOOD, where she confronts one eerie incident after another – from a strange meeting she witnesses between two of the servants on the night of her arrival, to a shocking death and madness.
She is intrigued by a brooding woman she sees walking the cliffs by the sea and becomes privy to a bizarre secret hidden in one of the towers of the immense house. It seems as if almost all the residents of NIGHTWOOD carry a terrible, darkness within them.
With each step she takes, Clarice draws nearer to not only the answers to NIGHTWOOD’S sinister mysteries but into an intricate plan controlled by an ancient, supernatural evil.

So Helen, we’ll start your Interview with the very first question

1.Please introduce and tell the readers something about yourself.

My name is Helen Dunn and I have written several books, stories, anthologies and novellas – as well as having written a newspaper column for two local newspapers in the past. My main writing genre is lesbian historical fiction (as well as including some gay and transgendered characters); I also write humor and horror – and often combine the two, along with frequently putting supernatural or paranormal elements in my stories.
I grew up in an environment that was almost 19th century, living on dirt roads in houses that had no running water, and remember having an ice box rather than a refrigerator and my mother cooking on a wood burning stove, while my father farmed with mules.
I currently live with my long time partner on a farm in the Midwest.
I am especially proud of the fact my anthology Untamed Women of Yesteryear received honorable mention by Golden Crown Literary Society, as well as being nominated for Favorite Lesbian Fiction Historical – by the Lesbian Fiction Readers Choice Awards group for 2011.

2.What brought you to writing?

It has always been a natural thing for me to do.

3.How long have you been writing?

I wrote my first story when I was nine or ten years old, and I’m now sixty-nine years old so it is getting real close to sixty years of writing.

4.Which was your first literary project?Tell us something about it.

Well, my very first literary project was written in pencil on the back of a calendar. Back then calendar pictures and numbers were only printed on one side of the page. I certainly wish I still had that story – but my parents moved frequently and somehow I think it got lost.

5.Is this your new/latest project?

No, I have over a dozen books and stories out there.

6. Traditional books or e-books? How do you prefer to see your works published? Have you tried ever publishing the traditional way?

E-books are definitely the easiest format to do, but there is a great deal of pleasure in seeing a paperback book on one’s shelf with their name on it. Yes, I have published some stories through traditional publishers, and I have a book, titled Untamed Women of Yesteryear, which is an anthology of lesbian historical fiction containing three stories that was published by L books in 2009. Dangerous Secrets is upcoming by L-Books, probably sometime in 2012. I also do a great deal of independent self-publishing – and most of my books are self published.

7.Can you give a chapter sample preview of your book here for our readers to know more about it

Title: Nightwood author: Helen Dunn.
Gay & lesbian historical novel/old fashioned, gothic horror with demons, the devil and even a trip to hell itself.
( Please look at the bottom of the interview for book excerpts )

8.What are your hobbies?Things that you enjoy doing besides books of course.

I do silk flower arranging and various art projects – paintings and drawings.

9.Who is your favourite author?

There are many I enjoy, but two of my top favorites would be: Sarah Waters author of Affinity and Michel Faber the author The Crimson Petal and the White.

10.What is your favourite genre to read and also to write?

Definitely lesbian historical fiction in both regards.

11.Do you have a role model that you get inspiration from?

I would love to be able to write like Sarah Waters or Jae the author of Backwards to Oregon.

12.Where do get your ideas from? Do you take your story ideas from real life situations?

Usually I get interested in the subject, such as Prohibition and bootlegging perhaps from a book I have read or a television program I have seen, and decide I want to write something based on that subject. I have sometimes based a character on some personality traits of people I know and once I even created a human character that I visionized as my cat doing all the things the character was doing!

13. Do you have a pseudonym?

I write under my own name.

14.What’s your experience been like in the publishing industry?Postive or negative?Please share your experience with our readers.

Well, it is a lot of hard work when it comes to trying to promote your book(s) without the assistance of a traditional publisher. I get a great sense of satisfaction out of completing a book and publishing it myself. My main reason for doing so is because traditional publishing can take up to fourteen months from the time you submit the manuscript until the time the book is ready for sale. At nearly 70 years of age that limits the number of books I can get out there through traditional publishing. However, my experience has been I can make a great deal more money through traditional publishing that I can through self-publishing simply because they have more PR tools and distribution points then me.

15.Where do you see yourself 10years from now?

lol! Hopefully not in a nursing home!

16. What motivates you to write?

I like creating my own world and characters and seeing what I can do with them.

17. How important is good cover art for your books?

I do think a good cover is important for a book. I do my own covers. However, I think the story contained within is of greater importance.

18. Do you have a price strategy for your books?

That is still a question mark for me. I try to price my books in the middle range of what everyone else is doing. I think 99 cents puts an author down in too low of a category. I think a writer should value their work, on the other hand the economy is not in a good place right now and there is a lot of competition out there in the self-publishing field so too high a price will leave your books sitting on the shelf.

19. How does it make you feel when you read a bestselling book that you don’t feel is as good as yours?

Well, there has always been a certain amount of trash that is published, and there always will be.

20.Why do you think readers should buy your book? What can you offer them through your book?

I pride myself on having well paced stories with good plots and three-dimensional characters.

21.Where is your book available?Any Buy Link for our readers?

Nightwood is available on Amazon’s Kindle:

It is also available on Barnes & Noble’s Nook:

And in a print edition at Createspace:

22.Do you have a website or a blog that you’d like to share here.

Please visit the author’s page at amazon for a list of all books and stories:

Some books available at Barnes & Noble:

23. What advice would you give to other writers?

I have found that being around other writers and taking creative writing courses brings out the best in me.

24.Anything else you’d like to share with our readers

Keep trying and you will keep learning.

  • Thank you Helen Dunn for gracing us with your presence.It was a sheer pleasure.Good luck with your book.We conclude the interview here

    Thanks again from Team MusikDIV

    Book Exerpts – Sample Chapter

    Nightwood By Helen Dunn

    Blurb: Clarice Hart, hired as a governess, arrives at the ominous estate of Nightwood, where she confronts one eerie incident after another – from a strange erotic meeting she witnesses between two male servants on the night of her arrival, to a shocking death and madness.
    She is intrigued by a brooding woman she sees walking the cliffs by the sea and becomes privy to a bizarre secret hidden in one of the towers of the immense house. It seems as if almost all the residents of Nightwood carry a terrible darkness within them.
    With each step she takes, Clarice draws nearer to not only the answers to Nightwood’s sinister mysteries, but into an intricate plan controlled by an ancient, supernatural evil.

    EXCERPT from the beginning of the book:

    Twilight had descended upon the carriage, its coachman Jack Blake, and its single occupant, as it journeyed over the winding road that led up into the mountains.

    Clarice Hart, the occupant of the carriage, sincerely hoped she would reach her destination before nightfall. There was something about the wild, darkly forested English countryside that made her long to be within the security of roof and walls.

    As the coach took a sharp turn in the road, and the horses slowed due to the steepness of the incline, Clarice ventured a peek from beyond its curtained windows.

    High on the cliffs above were the spiraling black towers of an immense building that seemed part mansion, part castle. The sun was sinking behind it and was almost hidden already due to the tallness of the forest that circled the house in the shape of a U. The sky was a brilliant crimson against which the towers gleamed with an almost evil blackness.

    Clarice shivered as she looked at it. So this was Nightwood, the estate where she hoped to be hired as a governess.

    From the coach box, the coachman, Jack Blake, also peered through the gathering gloom and saw the lights from the towering mansion. As always, he felt a chill and an unnamable dread run through him at the sight. He knew too many secrets about Nightwood, Jack thought to himself, and there were those at Nightwood who knew too much about him as well. Yes, he was tied to Nightwood and its inhabitants as surely as if he were in manacles and chains.

    * * *

    Jack grimly wrestled the trunk from the storage compartment at the back of the coach and the one small bag from atop the coach and lugged them to the thick, wooden door of the house, where he set them down with a thud.

    The lean-faced coachman presented a wretched countenance as if his life were one that consisted only of misery, and he said not a word to his passenger, who remained nervously silent herself.

    Having unloaded the luggage, the coachman went up to the heavy, wooden door and lifting the metal ring, protruding from the bronze lion’s mouth, banged it down with several severe raps on the metal plate beneath.

    It looked as if the summons would go unanswered, when the door was suddenly flung inward almost violently and an exceptionally white skinned man stood there. He was quite tall and thin and his head was completely bald, the dim light gleaming off its whiteness ominously, giving it a skull-like appearance, while he looked at her with a blunt stare.

    “You must be Clarice Hart, the new governess.” He said in a deep voiced monotone, ignoring Jack Blake and looking directly at her.

    His gaze seemed almost one of contempt, Clarice thought, although he was as much a servant as herself.

    “I am Killian, the butler here at Nightwood. Please to come in, Miss Hart. Jack,” he ordered, tone brusque, “bring Miss Hart’s luggage up to the third floor, north wing.”

    Without awaiting either Clarice or Jack’s response, Killian turned and walked back down the hallway. Clarice hurried after him, while behind her the sullen faced coachman wrestled with her trunk and other belongings. She glanced back apprehensively and saw that he had balanced the trunk on one shoulder and gripped her baggage in his other hand.

    Killian purposefully took longer strides than necessary, causing the two who followed him to struggle to keep up. What a fragile looking little thing she was, the butler thought, with her pale complexion, wide, innocent, azure eyes and fair hair; she was probably no more than eight and ten, he judged, and quite obviously completely lacking in worldliness, a condition preferred for any newcomer to Nightwood.

    Clarice saw little of the great house following her entrance. They went down a huge hallway, whose arched ceiling was far above her head and as they traversed the hallway, she was aware of darkly colored tapestries on the walls as she hurried past.

    Reaching a stairway, Killian quickly mounted it, Clarice following. Behind her, the burdened coachman’s heavy breathing sounded loudly in the huge house. It seemed they continually climbed, reaching landing after landing before reaching a door that the butler opened, which led into yet another hallway, smaller than the grand hallway downstairs, but still of comfortable width.

    The butler stopped at the first door they reached in this hallway, and extracting a key, unlocked it and flung it open. “These will be your rooms, Miss Hart.”

    The suite consisted of two connecting rooms, a bedroom containing a large, heavy framed bed, a table with pewter water jug and basin, an armoire, a cedar chest at the foot of the bed, a straight-backed chair and a wall mirror. The other room was a small parlor or sitting room with a dark, plum colored settee with a matching armchair and footstool, and a dark wood writing desk with a chair.

    The heavy draperies had been drawn at all the windows, which combined with the sinking sun, cast the rooms in deep shadow and created a somber air.

    A fire had already been laid and burned brightly, warding off the chill that had had begun with the beginning of nightfall.

    Having deposited both trunk and case, the coachman immediately left without saying a word.

    “The housekeeper, Mrs. Ladley will bring you up some supper.” That having been said, Killian, likewise departed, leaving Clarice Hart alone in her small suite with her luggage, before she could utter so much as a thank you to either man.

    She had gleaned, however, that anything she might say was of no importance to Killian or Jack Blake. She might as well have been nothing more than an additional piece of furniture added to the room.

    A few moments later a rap came at the door and upon Clarice calling out to enter, a rotund, ruddy faced woman, who appeared to be in her early forties, came into the room, bearing a tray.

    Clarice gave her a smile and the woman responded likewise. At last a friendly face Clarice thought with relief.

    “How do yer’ do, Miss. I’m Ida Ladley and you’re Miss Hart, of course?”


    “We dine early here at Nightwood.” Mrs. Ladley said in an apologetic tone. “I’m afraid a cold supper is all we have to offer you this evening.”

    “That will be fine.” Clarice said, eyeing the food hungrily.

    “I hope ye’ll enjoy it, Miss, I do. You see, I’m the cook here as well as the housekeeper.”

    “It looks delicious.” Clarice said with another smile, which the housekeeper quickly returned.

    “Is there anything else ye’ll be needin’, Miss?” The housekeeper inquired. Ida Ladley had always prided herself on being excellent in her job.

    “Thank you, I believe I have everything I need.” Clarice replied.

    “Fine Miss, and oh, if’n it’ll be all right with ye’, I’ll see that the tray is picked up in the mornin’. Just leave it outside your door.”

    Clarice nodded, not wanting to be more of a bother than necessary, especially upon her arrival at Nightwood.

    “Seen the master have ye, Miss?”

    “Not this evening, no.”

    “Oh, well, I suppose he thought ye’d be tired out from ye’ journey, and no doubt ye’ are. You’ll be speaking with him tomorry, I’m sure, and meetin’ your young charge then, Miss.”

    Reluctant to let Mrs. Ladley go, Clarice shyly inquired: “Have you worked long here… at… Nightwood?”

    “Oh Lord yes, Miss, since I was a child.” Mrs. Ladley exclaimed. “A maid I was then, in the kitchen; there was a much larger staff back in those days. Me family has always worked at Nightwood…” Her voice fell off as she added the last few words.

    Aye, the Ladley’s and her own family, the Reese’s, had all been involved with Nightwood in one way or another, Ida thought, her mind going to thoughts she wished she had not conjured. Ida still could not completely erase the scene from her mind, of the night she’d taken a lantern and let curiosity draw her to the old cemetery.

    Her young husband, Robert had been standing, holding a light, while her brother, Jamie had stood waist deep in the open grave, a shovel in his hands.

    Some of the details had later become jumbled in her mind, but she knew Robert’s hand had come down over her mouth to shut off her scream and as he had done so, he had lost his balance and the two of them had fallen into the gaping, black maw of the grave!

    “My God, Ida! My God! What are you doing here?!” Jamie had accused, struggling to right himself, for they had hit him as they had fallen. But worse, far worse, was the fact that Robert had struck his head on the coffin. She had made herself a widow that night and she and Robert only six months married!

    “Mrs. Ladley are you all right?” Clarice asked with concern at seeing the housekeeper wore a glazed look and had gone deathly pale.

    Ida Ladley pulled herself back to the present. “Oh yes. Quite.” She answered. “Quite all right. I have these little spells, now and then. Nothing serious the doctor has assured me. Of course, it does give a body a bit of a turn who ain’t familiar with me.” She gave a little laugh and took up her candle. “Well, I’d best be off. Sleep well, Miss Hart.”

    Buy The Nightwood by Helen Dunn On Amazon Kindle >>

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