Helen Barbara Pattskyn lives with her husband and children (both human and four footed) in a quiet suburb of Detroit, MI. She is working on becoming a full-time writer as well as doing volunteer work and still trying to find time to putter in her garden, watch the stars, and paint.
Helen describes herself as a storyteller, a science fiction geek, and a bookworm; as introverted, but not shy. Her favorite jobs (besides being a writer) have been hawking left-handed mugs at the Georgia and Michigan Renaissance Festivals and painting polyurethane corpses for Gag Studio. She’s also waited tables, cut fabric, and worked as a library assistant. If anyone ever asks, she describes her life as “quiet”—but even she’ll admit that when you condense it into two paragraphs, it suddenly looks a little more interesting.
Do you plan everything or just let the story flow?
I plan a few things. Usually I’ve got a couple of scenes in my head, some idea of where things are going to go and how they’re most likely to get there, but for the most part, I like to let my characters surprise me. (The downside is that I think it takes me longer to write a story this way, but I get bored if I try to outline too much).
Do your characters ever want to take over the story?
A better question is do they ever *not* want to! :) I learned a long time ago to stop fighting them, even when one comes up and whispers in my ear that he’s HIV positive. That was a shocker. It was *not* the story I’d planned on writing. But it is an amazing book (if I do say so myself *blush*). Originally, I’d planned to pen a nice light read because I’d just finished something kind of intense and wanted a break. I’m not sure I know how to write light and fluffy.
What drew you to the M/M genre in particular?
I was waiting for my beta reader to finish up the last several chapters I’d sent her on a Once Upon a Time in Mexicofic (not slash) and got bored. My husband and I had been watching Torchwood (with its in-cannon M/M couple) and I kept wondering what happened off camera, how did Jack and Ianto go from point A at the end of this episode to what felt like point G at the beginning of the very next episode. So I did what any good fanfiction writer would do—I sat down and wrote it myself! *G* I ended up having so much fun writing Torchwood that it became my exclusive fandom (aside from some insane crossovers). I had readers urging me to try my hand at original fiction, something that yes, I had done before, but no, I wasn’t interested in, it’s too much work. Not the writing. Fanfic is just as much work to write as original fiction. No with original fiction, you write it, you shop it around, you pray someone buys it, it comes out and then you do this, you promote the snot out of it in the hopes that people notice you. *G* Of course then I got this idea for this story and the characters wouldn’t stop pestering me until I wrote it and then of course I had to *do* something with what I’d written and well, here I am!
Do you write in other genres besides M/M?
I have. I may again, but it won’t be romance. I’ve got an urban fantasy novel I’m debating whether or not I want to dust off, edit to within an inch of its life and self-pub. There are LGBT characters in it (there always were in my writing, because I like to see diversity) but the main character is a heterosexual woman. (And yes, there’s a bit of a love interest, but not enough to be considered fiction w/ strong romantic elements…at least not in its current incarnation. Darn it, now I’ve got a plot bunny nipping at my toes!)
What is your favourite food?
Italian and Mexican are my favorite kinds of food. Basically meat, cheese, and either pasta or rice covered in more cheese. ;-) I make a mean fusion Mex/Italian ravioli. (Although there’s this sushi place in East Lansing that serves the most amazing TexMex sushi roll. I am *not* kidding. I am, however, spoiled. We live about 2 hours from there and every time my husband asks if I want sushi, I have to tell him only if he wants to take a very long drive.)
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Neither. Well. I used to be a night owl, but then I grew up and had a kid and everything that comes with that, so staying up late isn’t usually an option. I do get my best work done in the morning—but everyone in the house knows not to even look at me until I’ve had my coffee!
Where do you dream of travelling to and why?
I love to travel. I’ve gotten to do some, although not nearly as much as I’d like. I love seeing new things and experiencing new cultures. A zillion years ago when I was in college I wanted to be an anthropologist. I never pursued it seriously (I realized what a difficult profession it was even then), but I love the idea of immersing myself in other cultures, especially cultures so different from my own.
Do distant places feature in your books?
Not if I can help it! My first book is set in Victorian London and the research was a pain. I love reading and I love learning new things and thank the gods for the Internet, but no, these days I prefer to write stories closer to home. Of course there is a sequel or two to my first book floating around in my brain and an that’s set during the Crusades…
Do you listen to music while writing?
I used to and each story does still have a soundtrack, music I listen to mostly when I’m editing or trying to get into the right frame of mind to sit down and work. And honestly, I just hear a song and connect it to a character (I do that with books I’m reading, too). But lately, I’ve started to prefer quiet—or the white noise of the air conditioner to drown out the television in the other room.
Could you tell us a bit about your latest release?
I love this story. I know every writer says that about their new release, but Hanging by the Moment is really special to me. Like me, the main character is Russian, although he was actually born over there where as I was born here (my grandmother’s parents came from Russia). Pasha is a bit pudgy and has a love/hate relationship with ice cream. He waits tables and cooks in the family diner. (I waited tables for a lot of years and my husband is a chef). Because of his ethnic heritage, he’s deeply in the closet and pretty much convinced he’s never going to have anything more than a string of one-night stands.
Then he meets Daniel. Daniel is sweet, he’s funny, he’s sexy, and he is gorgeous. And on their second date, he tells Pasha that he’s HIV positive.
Like I said, wasn’t the story I’d set out to write. It was just going to be waiter meets delivery guy, some family drama, obstacles overcome, HEA. Daniel had his own ideas and I’m glad, even though the research I did into dating and HIV absolutely broke my heart. I could not believe the ideas that people still have about the virus—or that people are even still getting it. It all boils down to lack of education.
I’m donating percent of my earnings from Hanging by the Moment toward HIV/AIDS awareness—and I started volunteering with AIDS Partnership Michigan. Mostly I answer the hotline and answer questions about HIV and other STDs—but it gives me a chance to actually do something. And I’ve met some truly awesome people working there.
Anything you would say to those just starting out in the craft?
Keep at it. Don’t give up. Keep honing your craft and getting better. Find beta readers you trust (people who will give you an honest critique—people who want to see you succeed). Keep submitting your work—but do your homework! The Internet, digital publishing, print on demand, ebooks—these things have changed the publishing industry drastically in the last few years. New publishers pop up every month. Some last. Some fold. Be careful, talk to other writers, check out sites like Editors and Preditors [sic], the Absolute Write Water Cooler, and anywhere else where authors can go to vent about horrible experiences with publishers.
Don’t let anyone talk you out of your dream and don’t waste your time on people who tear you down. But do learn the difference between tearing you down and an honest critique—feedback will not always be pleasant to swallow, but it should be meant to make you a better writer, not tear you a new one for no reason—or at least no good reason. (Lots of people tear other people down just to make themselves feel better. These people are not worth your time or energy).
What are three words that describe you?
Ecclectic. Artistic. Sensitive.
What's your favourite book or who is your favourite writer?
Way too many to name! But I really adore J.P. Barnaby because she’s an awesome human being (and a fantastic writer) and my latest book would not be here if it weren’t for Shira Anthony, whose new mermen books are totally hot! (Okay, I have a little inside information on what’s coming next, but seriously, mermen and women have been a longstanding fetish/fantasy of mine.)
Blurb of your latest release or coming soon book
Hanging by the Moment
Released Sept. 6, 2013 from Dreamspinner Press
Pasha Batalov has lived his whole life doing what a good son is expected to do. He dropped out of school to help run the failing family restaurant, and ever since he’s put up with his difficult business partner, who also happens to be his father. And, of course, he keeps his sexual orientation a secret from his conservative, Russian family. After being closeted costs him his first serious relationship, Pasha resigns himself to one-night stands and loneliness.
But a chance encounter with lost delivery-truck driver, Daniel Englewood, has Pasha questioning all of his assumptions about life. Daniel is sweet, funny, smart, drop-dead gorgeous—and for the last six years, he’s been living with HIV. Pasha worries that he won’t be strong enough to help Daniel if HIV turns to AIDS, but he can’t walk away from their deepening attraction. He also doesn’t know if he can be strong enough to face the hardest task that a relationship with Daniel demands: coming out to his family and friends, and risking losing everything else he holds dear.
List of previous books if any
Heart’s Home, a Victorian era urban fantasy with werewolves and demons and cute constable
Bound: Forget Me Knot, a contemporary steamy BDSM novel that starts out in a science fiction convention
Ghost Hunting Michigan, a nonfiction book from Clerisy Press; the title pretty much describes it
Any websites/places readers can find you on the web
The best place to find me is my website: helenpattskyn.com
Although if anyone really wants to find me on Fanfiction.net, I’m HBPattskyn there, too. ;-) (I make absolutely no promises about how good—i.e. awful—my spelling, grammar, and punctuation are in any of my fanfic stories. There is a reason publishers employ editors).