The Highs and Lows of Being an Author – a guest post by Helen Hollick

It’s a pleasure to welcome Helen Hollick to my blog today. We first met in Denver, Colorado, at the 2015 Historical Novel Society conference. Helen has been a huge supporter of indie authors, regularly inviting writers like me to contribute posts on her own blog, and for years, hosting a website devoted to reviewing indie-published historical fiction. (Thank you, Helen! Many readers found my novels through your review site!)

Helen recently published the sixth book in her pirates’ series, The Sea Witch Voyages, so I am delighted to have her here to talk about the writers’ life. Take it away, Helen…

Thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog, it’s a real honour to be here!

I’ve been an author for a long time now, published, one way or another, for nearly thirty years, wanting to write since I began scribbling stories from when I was about thirteen. The most exciting event was when I was originally accepted by William Heinemann (part of Random House UK) way back in 1993 – a week after my 40th birthday. Oh, the fame, the fortune! I’d made it!

Well, not quite, but the excitement, that first week when the news became public really was exciting. My very own fifteen minutes of fame!

The Press wanted to know more. We (as in myself, my husband and my daughter) were besieged by eager journalists, but the London Evening Standard had arranged an initial exclusive, so we were whisked off for the day, a delightful lunch, lots of photos and an interview which was accurately reported the next evening in the paper. The only thing that wasn’t accurate was the amount of the advance I’d been given for the acceptance of my Arthurian Trilogy (The Kingmaking, Pendragon’s Banner and Shadow of the King.) The amount wasn’t accurate as I refused to say how much it was. I was then interviewed for prime-time evening TV, was invited onto several prestigious radio shows, did a wonderful all expenses paid tour of the Netherlands (including doing a talk at the British Embassy in le Hague) and wined, dined and made welcome by several generous hosts such as the Rotary Club and the Women’s Institute. Then, by the time Book Three (Shadow) came out, the publishers, and therefore the media, had lost interest. (Not helped, I realise in hindsight, by a totally useless and unsupportive now ex agent.)

I am very proud of my books. They  have been translated into a couple of foreign languages, and taken up by a couple of US publishers. Each new publication is as much fun to release now as it as then … and are still as much hard work to write and market.

To be truthful, the writing is the easy bit!

There are the inevitable ‘bad’ reviews, many of which are unjustified or even plain silly. (I mean it is hardly the author’s fault that the packaging for a posted book gets torn, so why leave a 1-star comment?) And then there are the glowing reviews, or the equally as thrilling lovely emails. The good stuff outweighs the bad, although for some reason most of us dwell on the negatives, not the positives.

I’m what is called a ‘hybrid’ author (I used to hate the term because I always thought of electric/petrol cars – then someone pointed out that roses are hybrid!) I’m mainstream traditional published and I’m an indie self-published author. Of the two I prefer being indie.

For both there is a constant round of marketing on social media. Facebook, Twitter – Blogs. Banging the drum, tootling the trumpet. And all for, I will be honest, very little reward. Don’t be fooled that a traditional contract with a mainstream publisher means you can sit back on your laurels and watch the royalties roll in. Take your eye off the ball and sales could drop as quickly as you could be. At least being indie/self-published YOU are in control. No worries about a publisher messing up the formatting or printing from the wrong file and refusing to put the error right. No worries about covers that have absolutely nothing to do with the story. No worries about waiting and waiting for an answer from your editor about an important query – or for that meagre royalty statement to appear. Being indie means just that, totally independent. Any errors are your errors and can be (and should be) put right at the earliest opportunity. Here it is! That final burst of utter pride: your latest publication in paperback format arrives, the first printed paperback copy  from Amazon or Ingram Spark (or wherever.) You have it, those quite-a- few-thousand words and that gorgeous cover actually in your hands!

And then you notice the enormous blooper on the back cover that you’re certain wasn’t there on the proof copies…



The Sixth Voyage of Captain Jesamiah Acorne
By Helen Hollick

Where the Past haunts the future…

Damage to her mast means Sea Witch has to be repaired, but the nearest shipyard is at Gibraltar. Unfortunately for Captain Jesamiah Acorne, several men he does not want to meet are also there, among them, Captain Edward Vernon of the Royal Navy, who would rather see Jesamiah hang.

Then there is the spy, Richie Tearle, and manipulative Ascham Doone who has dubious plans of his own. Plans that involve Jesamiah, who, beyond unravelling the puzzle of a dead person who may not be dead, has a priority concern regarding the wellbeing of his pregnant wife, the white witch, Tiola.

Forced to sail to England without Jesamiah, Tiola must keep herself and others close to her safe, but memories of the past, and the shadow of the gallows haunt her. Dreams disturb her, like a discordant lament at a wake.

But is this the past calling, or the future?

From the first review of Gallows Wake:

“Hollick’s writing is crisp and clear, and her ear for dialogue and ability to reveal character in a few brief sentences is enviable. While several of the characters in Gallows Wake have returned from previous books, I felt no need to have read those books to understand them. The paranormal side of the story—Tiola is a white witch, with powers of precognition and more, and one of the characters is not quite human—blends with the story beautifully, handled so matter-of-factly. This is simply Jesamiah’s reality, and he accepts it, as does the reader.”–Author Marian L. Thorpe.


SEA WITCH   Voyage one
PIRATE CODE  Voyage two
BRING IT CLOSE  Voyage three
ON THE ACCOUNT  Voyage five
WHEN THE MERMAID SINGS  A prequel to the series (short-read novella)


Amazon Author Page (Universal link)
Where you will find the entire series waiting at anchor in your nearest Amazon harbour – do come aboard and share Jesamiah’s derring-do nautical adventures! (Available Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and in paperback)
Or order a paperback copy from your local bookstore!


First accepted for traditional publication in 1993, Helen became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am The Chosen King) being novels that explore the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she writes a nautical adventure/fantasy series, The Sea Witch Voyages. She is now also branching out into the quick read novella, ‘Cosy Mystery’ genre with her Jan Christopher Murder Mysteries, set in the 1970s, with the first in the series, A Mirror Murder incorporating her, often hilarious, memories of working as a library assistant.

Her non-fiction books are Pirates: Truth and Tales and Life of A Smuggler. She lives with her family in an eighteenth-century farmhouse in North Devon and occasionally gets time to write…

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Twitter: @HelenHollick

  1. Helen Hollick Avatar

    Thank you so much for hosting today’s Port of Call on my Voyage Round the Blogs, Charlene.

    1. Char Avatar

      My pleasure, Helen!

  2. […] Newcomb Welcome to my Worlds  I'm a guest of author Charlene Newcomb today – I'm talking about the highs and lows of […]

  3. cav12 Avatar

    So great to read about Helen’s experience as a traditional author and the trials and tribulations that go with publishing, including that of being an indie. I’m not into pirate fiction, but I do enjoy reading Helen’s books.

    1. Char Avatar

      Yes, indeed! Thanks for stopping by Luciana 🙂

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