So, over to Helena
My debut novel, The Secrets of the Forest, was released into the world on July 31st 2019. It is a dream come true! I never thought I would be able to publish so young, but here I am, not even 18 years old and I already have a book out for other people to read.
I have always been an avid reader, and that love of reading turned into a love of writing when I was 8 years old. Back then, I would write snippets of stories in the back of my school copy books, some of which I still have today. As I got a bit older, I wanted to start writing actual books, but I would only get a chapter or two written before I got a shiny new idea that I jumped on, and the old one was forgotten about. I never finished writing any of my “books.”
The Secrets of the Forest started off as something completely different to what it is now. Originally, it was a murder mystery story, with no fantasy elements at all. The initial idea came from a video game, and it took off from there. After I outlined it and took a step back, I knew that this was not the story I wanted to write. There was something not quite right about it, but I couldn’t figure out exactly what this was. I played around with the planning for a few months, adding things in and taking things out, switching things around to see what worked and what didn’t. The book went through multiple outlines, until one day, I had it. The perfect story. Or what I thought was the perfect story. I couldn’t wait to start writing, and as soon as I got my laptop for Christmas I dove into the book.
I’m quite a shy and reserved person, so I didn’t tell anyone I was writing a novel, not even my parents. Whenever I was writing and someone came into the room, I would slam the laptop shut to make sure nobody saw what I was doing. But regardless of this I forged on, spending every spare second in that story, typing furiously and getting as much words out as I possibly could. Nobody knew what I was doing until my uncle caught me writing the very last chapter, before I had time to close the document. From then on, my little secret was out there, and there was nothing I could do to keep it quiet anymore. Everybody knew I was writing a book, and to my surprise the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. This gave me an incredible boost of confidence, and made me feel like what I was doing was important and something I should be proud of, not something that I needed to hide and be embarrassed about. From then on, I was proud to be called a writer.
Once I had edited the book a few times, I decided it was time to step away and work on another book- Illusion. After Illusion came Somnus, and all the while I couldn’t stop thinking about The Secrets of the Forest. Being away from it for so long made me realise that it wasn’t the ‘perfect’ story I had imagined it would be, and that there was a lot I needed to fix to make it somewhat decent. Many things just didn't fit into the story, and it wasn't completely fleshed out either. It was only the skeleton of the book it is now. I didn’t want to give up on that book. I didn't want to shelve it and mark it as a failure. That book was my baby, my first-born, and I wanted to do everything I could to make it the best it could possibly be. This is when I decided I needed to rewrite the whole story.
I spent several months reworking the outline, straightening out the plot and giving the characters more depth and purpose. There was a lot that had to be taken out of the book, and a lot that had to be added. But I did it. I rewrote the story, and when I stepped back from it once again I was incredibly happy with it. This was the perfect story I had always hoped it would be. This was my book-baby, and I was proud of it. My baby had reached its full potential, and I couldn’t be happier. I had started writing this book over a year beforehand, and finally I was content with it.
After some more editing, I decided to take a leap of faith and jump into the world of publishing, just to see what would happen. I wasn’t expecting much (I was only 15 at the time), but I thought it would be a good experience and give me a taste of what lay ahead of me in years to come. Who would be crazy enough to take on a 15 year old, anyway? But miraculously I found someone who was willing to take that risk, and I signed a publishing contract on my 16th birthday.
Wheels started turning and things were set into motion- multiple rounds of editing, cover designing, conversing with the marketing team to figure out what was the best approach to take for my book. In the background, I was still chipping away at my other books. I even managed to get a short story published through Wild Words during all of this, which was amazing! Eventually, everything was ready, and I was given a release date. The excitement was immense, but so were the nerves. Suddenly everything became a reality and not a fantasy that I had built up in my head over the months it took to get me to this point. Overcoming self-doubt is not an easy process, and it is still something I struggle with, but I had to push it aside, as hard as it was, and just focus on giving this book the best shot it could possibly have, and hope that I was doing enough to make it somewhat successful. I knew it was not going to be an easy task, but I was prepared to give it my all and do whatever it would take to gain a foothold in the world of literature.
It’s still hard to believe, sometimes.
Since then, I have been on the radio twice and featured in some newspapers, and I am still working on even more exciting things that are hopefully going to be happening very soon! Everything has turned out better than I thought it would. Even though I’m in 6th Year and the Leaving Cert is only a few months away, I still spend every spare second doing something with my books, whether it be drafting or plotting, or marketing and promoting The Secrets of the Forest. I am always working away quietly in my bedroom, trying to forge a path for myself and lay down foundations for my future. As of now, I have written 5 books, and I am working on my sixth. My second book, Illusion, also needs to be rewritten and I am hoping to have that done before the end of the year, so hopefully this time next year I can look at publishing it.
I know that this is what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. This is what I will be doing until I take my last breath. I love it more than anything else- being able to fabricate worlds and create people from thin air, and share my stories with the world. I am so grateful for everything that has happened to me in regards to my writing. I have met so many amazing people on my journey as a writer (people like Stewart), and have had so many amazing opportunities.
Everything has turned out better than I could have ever imagined it would be. I am living my dream, and I am loving every second of it!
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To find out more about Helena and her writing, check out her website here : Helena Brady
Helena Brady on Twitter: Helena Brady
Sarah-Rose is dying. The Forest is killing her. Soon it will own her soul and decide whether she dies and is buried beside her father, or becomes a spirit wandering through its trees for eternity. She should have listened to everyone when they told her to stay out of the Forest. But after a family crisis, it's the only place she wants to be.
But there is something dark at work in the Forest. Something is hiding in the shadows. It seems the Forest holds more secrets than anyone ever realised.
Drawn to the mystery and magic of the trees, Sarah-Rose is unable to resist the urge to see what lies beyond the borders of the Forest. She's determined to discover its secrets before it takes her soul. But maybe some secrets should stay secrets. They might be the things that kill her first.