Writer Of The Week: Helen Johnson

writer of the week

This week, Fiction Ed Lucy has a chat with Writer Of The Week and debut “Friend” author Helen Johnson.

“Where The Wild Things Grow” is the first story you’ve had published in the “Friend”. What made you decide to submit it to us?

The “Friend” is renowned for stories with the warmth of romance, about normal people — not princesses or unicorns. In her day, Jane Austen excelled at this. I admire her work, and decided to have a go.

You’ve previously worked in feature writing. What made you decide to move into fiction?

I spent many years writing about the people and places of Yorkshire. They brought the past alive to me, and I began writing historical fiction.

As well as short stories, do you write in other formats? Like novels or poetry?

I’ve written a historical novel about the Norman Conquest, for which I’m seeking a publisher. I’m working on another novel set in the Great War.

In your story, Jill’s daughter has gone to live in Australia. Do you have an Australian connection? Do you write stories based around where you live?

My grandmother went to Australia. She was a gutsy lady. After her husband died, she went adventuring.

In those days, you went to Australia by ocean liner. The journey took weeks, and children on board had to have school lessons. My grandmother worked her passage, as the teacher.

I live in Yorkshire, and my novels are set here.

Do you have any favourite authors, and why?

Far too many to list! I love stories that take me to different worlds, bring me a different point of view, or show me how to be a better person.

Your story has been beautifully illustrated by Tracy Fennell. When you were writing it, did you have an idea of how it would look in your mind? Which types of illustration are your favourite?

What a treat to have an illustration from Tracy. I love her style — free and zestful. It’s just perfect for a positive sort of character like Jill, who finds joy in a scrap of waste ground.

Notebook and pencil, or laptop? Kitchen table or study? Blank wall or inspiring view?

All of them. I get ideas while I’m cooking dinner or out walking, and scribble them onto scraps of paper. I take them to my desk to type.

And a P.S. — what’s your one top tip for an aspiring “Friend” Writer Of The Week?

Consider your readers. Don’t make them struggle.

For more from our Writer Of The Week series, click the tag below.

Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!