Author Spotlight & Giveaway: Helene Young

Today I’d like to welcome award-winning author Helene Young to the RWA Author Spotlight! Helene is kindly giving away a copy of her new release, Burning Lies. Read on to find out how to win (open worldwide, to members of RWA)…

1. Welcome Helene, what can readers expect from your third book, BURNING LIES?

They can expect an explosive story full of peril and passion set in Australia’s tropical far north. Burning Lies is the final book in the Border Watch series. It’s a story that digs deep into the mind of an arsonist to try and understand how someone could justify committing such a terrible crime. It’s also about identity and how victims of a crime like arson must struggle to rebuild their lives.  Here’s the back cover blurb:

Lies, all lies. It didn’t matter how attractive he might be. She didn’t really know this man . . . He was living a lie and she didn’t know why.

Kaitlyn Scott is searching for the truth about her husband’s death, even if that means revisiting the most painful day of her life. But what she uncovers is a criminal willing to stop at nothing to keep his secret.

Ryan O’Donnell, an enigmatic undercover cop, is investigating arson attacks when he is drawn into Kaitlyn’s world. He tries to fight his attraction for her, hoping the case might put his own demons to rest, but it only threatens to push him over the edge.

With Kaitlyn and Ryan on a collision course, the arsonist seizes the chance to settle some old scores. As the Atherton Tableland burns, the three of them are caught in a fiery dance of danger and desire, and not everyone will come out alive.

2. Can you tell us how you went from aspiring writer to published and award-winning author?

With a lot of help from RWA!! I took advantage of the contests RWA runs and entered anything and everything. The feedback and encouragement was invaluable. After my manuscript was a finalist in the American RWA Golden Heart contest I pitched to Bernadette Foley, from Hachette, at the Australian RWA conference. She was kind enough to offer suggestions that I took on board for another round of edits. When I resubmitted several months later she signed me for a two-book deal. I’m very grateful to both RWA and Bernadette for giving me such a great grounding in writing. As to becoming an award-winning author? I can only say a heartfelt thanks to the readers who connected with my characters and voted for my stories. There’s nothing more I could ask for as a writer!

3. What do you love most about writing romantic suspense?

Romantic Suspense allows me to explore the darker side of human nature. I’ve always been a lover of crime stories and thrillers while being a romantic at heart. With Romantic Suspense I can put my characters in high stakes situation where their true natures will shine. It’s also very satisfying to help them find love in the most unlikely of places, and under intense pressure! Ali Watts, my publisher at Penguin, pushed me into more emotional territory with Burning Lies and I’ve really enjoyed exploring more of that journey with my characters. On a basic level Romantic Suspense lets me write two stories in one!

4. How long does it take you to write the first draft of a novel, and how much time do you spend researching?

I’m a believer in NaNoWriMo and RWA’s 50k in 30 days. All three of my published books started life as NaNo projects. The rest of the draft takes about three months to finish off. Then the hard work of editing begins!! As to research? I don’t think I ever stop researching. So many people generously share their wisdom and I do love a good chat 🙂 The internet is invaluable too, but you can’t overestimate personal experience from someone who’s been a fireman or a policeman or military. Getting access to those people can be as simple as an email to the particular branch of law enforcement or emergency services. A request for information on social networking sites can also be very productive!

5. Describe yourself in three words: Loyal, tenacious, have-a-chat (is that one word?)

6. Complete this sentence: When I’m not writing, I fly passengers all over the east coast of Australia and enjoy working in a tiny office with a spectacular view!

7. What advice would you give to aspiring authors out there?

Bottom on seat, fingers on keys and write. That story isn’t going to write itself! One of my mantras is – ‘Rules are for fools and the guidance of wise men. Be wise, be guided.’ Apart from the rules of grammar and spelling everything else is an opinion so listen, learn and experiment. Read widely because that will help to crystallize where your own writing voice fits. Lastly, enter contests and be open to the feedback from judges. It will all help to polish your writing until it shines!

8. What’s next for you, are you working on another book right now?

I am working on my fourth novel – it should be finished early July! It’s a stand-alone story centred on international triads, a grieving photojournalist and a retired army engineer. The research has been fascinating and of course there’s still a thread of aviation through it!

Thanks for participating in the Author Spotlight, Helene!

Find out more about Helene and Burning Lies at Penguin, Facebook, Twitter, and her website and blog.

To WIN* a copy of BURNING LIES, simply comment below and answer the following question (open to RWA members only, worldwide):

“What’s the most interesting thing you’ve done for research, or the most interesting topic you’ve had to research for a story?”

(*Competition will be drawn on Mon 9th July, and the winner has one week to respond to the notification email or another winner will be chosen. Good luck!)

Leave a comment


  1. Hi, Helene! Congratulations on Burning Lies. 🙂

    Most interesting research, hmm? My, there are so many. I’m going to have to go with astronomy.

    There’s also that dreadful research of trawling the net, hour after hour looking for that gorgeous guy who perfectly represents your next hero. 🙂

  2. Oh Helene, I’m interested to see how it reads with the extra emotional punch, no doubt it will be un-put-downable as usual!! My hardest and most rewarding research was with a lady who had recently lost her 26yr old son after his body rejected his heart, nearly ten years after his heart transplant. Such an amazing story, and I felt so honoured to have shared in his and his families life journey. We laughed, we cried and we celebrated his life. It is one lot of research that will stay with me forever.

  3. imogene nix

     /  July 2, 2012

    Hey Helene! Congrats on the book…it’s on the TBR pile already!!

    Research? Hmm Hypersonic Split S Maneuvers, Highest Parachute jumps where the jumper has lived oh and the layers of the atmosphere of earth. I could go on… 😀


  4. Congrats on the release of yet another wonderful book, Helene. So looking forward to your launch in Cairns. Lucky me.
    The research I most enjoyed was helping out in cattle yards. I was only working the gates, but I got to watch all the ear tagging, branding and vaccinating etc close up and I loved every second.

  5. Astronomy is fascinating, Sandy! And Burning Lies would not be here without you and your lovely husband!!

  6. Fiona, that sounds like such emotional research. What a brave woman to be able to share her story with you. Does that mean we can expect to see a thread of this in your next book??

  7. Imogene, that sounds fascinating!! Have never succumbed to jumping out of a perfectly serviceable aircraft 🙂

  8. Thanks, Barb, looking forward to seeing you on Friday too! I can just see you in a cattle yard in the middle of the action – it’s why we love your stories so much!

  9. Cath Evans

     /  July 2, 2012

    Hi Helene,
    Happy release day 🙂 How sad it’s the last of the Border Watch series. I was hoping to hear that pesky pilot’s story, Rob.

    I’ve done some weird things for research but digging for earthworms at Cape Grim in Tassie’s northwest corner was one of the most interesting and had the best ocean views ever – it was a bit cold though!!


  10. Cath, it does sound very chilly!! When do we read about it in your story??

    I did wonder about Rob’s story but for now Border Watch has been put to bed!

  11. My most interesting research has to be into the rare sleep disorder, narcolepsy. When I decided to give it to my hero of Dream a Little Dream, Dominic Christy, I hadn’t realised how complex and debilitating a condition it was. I’ve become a research junkie on the subject. I was lucky enough to make a contact with a guy of the same age who has the same condition (he even shares the same first name) which, I hope, gave me the insight I needed. (The fact that he’s hot has nothing to do with anything.:-))

  12. Lol, Sue, sounds like serendipitous research to me! I have a friend who has narcolepsy and it’s made her life quite difficult… Hope you’re enjoying summer in the UK and the cricket results 🙂

  13. Congratulations on the release of another terrific book. When I was writing the Brazilian Wax murders, I suffered for my craft. Never again!

  14. Fantastic, Helene.
    I’m looking forward to reading this one. See you at the conference.

  15. My most interesting bit of field researching was chatting up the security guy at the Southport Courthouse to find out how things work. All the time trying to memorise the place because no camera’s allowed. On line research…there was the topic so creepy I had to keep my net-history deleted every time I walked away from the computer.

  16. Yikes, Cathleen, I’m wincing with you! That’s beyond suffering for your craft 🙂

  17. Thanks, Anne, looking forward to catching up again. The exercises you ran with us in NQ were invaluable in editing Burning Lies so I owe you copious quantities of champagne to say thank you!

  18. Lol, Fiona, my husband is head of security at the Cairns Courthouse! I’ll warn him to be careful of curious women asking questions – they may be a writer!!

    I know the feeling of deleting history on computers. My hubby jokes that we’ll be arrested should we ever have to leave a computer with a repair shop!

  19. Hi Helene 🙂
    Absolutely loved Wings of Fear and looking forward to reading Burning Lies. Congratulations on the release.
    I love visiting the RAF museum and reading all the interesting diary entries, letters and stories you find there. They have war veteran volunteers who are always willing to share their stories and love it if you stop and chat.
    One of the most interesting discussions I had though was in San Francisco on Alcatraz with a former inmate who was there for a book signing.

  20. When I was researching for Cooking Up Trouble I asked on one of my e-lists about the effects of cannabis in food forgetting that one of the members was ex-FBI and another wasn’t ex at all. The discussion that followed was very interesting and very much a ‘don’t try this at home kids’ type of discussion. Researching guns and what can go wrong with them for the novel I’m editing at the moment was and eye-opener too. Some people are really into guns.
    Hope the book goes well for you Helene. All the best.

  21. Natasha D

     /  July 2, 2012

    Hi Helene, can’t wait to read Burning Lies but I’m saving it for my on-flight read when I move back to WA in August.
    I would have to say the the freakiest research I have done was for a book yet to be written, but when in New Orleans and the opportunity arose, I simply had to delve into voodoo. Met the most interesting old woman who knew stuff about me that should have freaked me out but didn’t (because I freaked her out LOL). She told me heaps of general stuff that anyone can find out about but let me in on some REALLY intense stuff that I will have to modify little when I write my ‘Louisiana’ story. I’ve also been through a few morgues and had some interesting discussions with an embalmer. Oh, and I had some really informative email convos with an Israeli arms manufacturer when I wanted info on a Desert Eagle SE handgun (stuff you can’t get of websites – like if the gun gets dunked in fresh water or salt water, being an auto, will it still fire, and how long before it has to be field stripped and cleaned if it does). I HAVE to fire one of them next time I go to the States.

  22. Juanita, those RAF museums are fascinating but I can’t visit the War Memorial in Canberra without ending up in tears. The walls full of names rams home how many people die in wars…

    Meeting an inmate from Alcatraz would have been amazing!

    Hope you enjoy Burning Lies as much as you did Wings of Fear.

  23. Wow, Louisa, FBI contacts would have amazing experiences to share! Did you end up putting cannabis in the food for your story?? Great research 🙂

  24. Natasha, researching voodoo must have been a little bit scary as well as fascinating. Some of those dark arts are so powerful in ways that make no sense – it will add a fantastic dimension to your story.

    I hadn’t thought of contacting gun manufacturers for info, but that makes perfect sense! Look forward to reading you story when it’s written!

  25. I am so lucky that I have been able to visit the battlefields of northern France and pretty much explored most of the interesting corners of England but I think the most exciting bit of research is yet to come…I’m off to Martinique in the Caribbean to research the setting for a true life story of love and death during the Napoleonic wars.

  26. Hi Helene,
    Congratulations on the release of your third novel.

    I’m boring. No amazing research stories to write about. For the book I’m writing now I interviewed my daughter’s best friend who is Australian Indian (or should that be Indian Australian?). She went to a relative’s six day Indian wedding in Los Angeles. It was an amazing story.
    The family is wealthy so it was six days of eating mouth-watering Indian food, dancing Bollywood style to an imported Indian band and the ultimate 900-guest wedding on the final day.

    I’m not up to the wedding day in my wip but my heroine is walking around with henna patterns all over her hands after a friends of the bride get-together.

    PS:Thought I’d capitalise on your location – my family is thinking of coming to Cairns and we only have a few days. Best place to visit? Don’t answer if you don’t have the time.


  27. Alison that sounds like one hell of an adventure!! I must admit I cried my way through France with all those acres of white crosses….

    Can’t wait to read your finished story 🙂

  28. What a lovely wedding, Shayne. I could cope with eating Indian food for six days!!

    Stay at either Trinity Beach or Palm Cove and don’t miss doing the Skyrail trip and also a trip to the outer reef. DM if you’d like more info although I’m about to head to work so I won’t get back to you until tomorrow…

  29. Hi Helene,
    I had to research the emotional trauma a parent goes through when their child is kidnapped. From denial, depression, mood swings, blame on others and self and much more. In Australia alone, over 30.000 people go missing each year. To have a child go missing is a parent’s greatest fear. It must be so devastating. I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.

    I can’t wait to read Burning Lies. Is it out on the shelves as I had a look a few days ago and couldn’t find it? Or is it released later in July.

    All the best,

    Suzanne 🙂

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  31. Hi Suzanne, that must have been heart wrenching research… I followed both the Daniel Morcombe case and also Madelain McCann and the strain on the families was there in their faces even years later. If you’re writing a story with that as the basis it will be a powerful read.

    Burning Lies should be in all stores now – I hope!!

  32. I’ve enjoyed reading about everyone’s research adventures! Thanks to everyone who stopped by, and congratulations to Sue Moorcroft who won a copy of Helene’s book!

    • Whoop! Lucky me! My thanks to Juliet and to Helene. I’m really looking forward to reading Burning Lies. x


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