Helen Hardt is a #1 New York Times and #1 USA Today Bestselling author, famous for her romance novels. Her passion for writing began very early in life, when her Mother would read her books as a child. Helen Hardt penned her first story at the early age of six, and never looked back. As well as being a prolific author, Helen Hardt is also a black belt in Taekwondo! She does her writing from her home in Colorado, where lives with her family. Her most recent book, Surrender is receiving extremely positive reviews and continues her Steel Brothers Saga. To talk books with such a renowned author was a real treat. Please enjoy my interview with Helen Hardt…
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
I tell them I’m a writer. When they ask what I write, I say romantic fiction.
I’m beta reading a zombie book for my friend Annie Anthony. I just finished The Scent of Rain by Anne Montgomery.
When you think about your childhood, what book comes to mind?
Can you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes! In first grade I wrote a story about a dog.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I always wanted to be a writer. Of course I took some detours along the way—law school and raising a family.
What do you think your school aged self would think of the present day you?
She’d be happy that I was doing what I always wanted to do. And I don’t think the erotic nature of my fiction would bother her because I used to write dirty stories in high school to amuse my friends!
If you could wrap up a single book and gift it to yourself as you left education – which book would it be?
As a Man Thinketh by James Allen. It’s short and sweet and oh, so wise.
Does your reading have routine? Is there a particular time or place that you like to read?
Not really. I read whenever I find a few spare minutes, which are few and far between.
Can you talk us through your writing process, from the first spark of an idea, to having your first completed draft?
I start with a premise and sometimes a rough outline if my publisher requires it, but things always change along the way. I write my first draft chronologically, usually by the seat of my pants. I don’t worry about writing well. I just get the words on the page. When I’ve completed the first draft, I start the first revision. For me, this is where the magic happens. I layer in sensory detail, description, style at this point. Then it goes to my editor who usually rips it to shreds as any good editor does. I do another revision, taking into consideration all of her suggestions. Then to my line editor, and then to my publisher, where it goes through another round of line edits and lots of proof reading.
I’m not sure if you mean one of my own books or a book that has helped me, so I’ll answer both ways. Out of all my books, Craving, the first book in the Steel Brothers Saga, has had the biggest impact on my career. It was the first book of mine to hit a list (USA Today) and it has spawned five more books so far, all of which have been best sellers. I’m proud to say that I’ve made number one on the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today lists with this series of books.
As for an outside book, I’d have to say On Writing by Stephen King. He begins a book only with a premise, like I do, and when I was learning the craft and reading books and attending lectures that insisted the only way to be successful in this industry is to plot, plot, and then plot some more, King was a breath of fresh air. If it’s good enough for Stephen King, it’s good enough for me!
What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring writer?
First, write the best book you can, and by this I mean study the craft of fiction writing. Learn, learn, learn! Join a critique group and enter writing contests. Do everything you can to get feedback on your work. This is difficult, especially on your first book, but it’s essential. Hire an editor you trust to help make your work shine. Then, and only then, are you ready to submit to a publisher or to self-publish.
Second, treat every contact in this industry respectfully. Never burn a bridge. You never know who might be a help to you along the way. Additionally, help other writers as much as you can. Pay it forward.
Do you have any books that you strongly associate with someone important in your life?
The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder remind me of my mother. She read them to my sister and me at bedtime. The Henry and Beezus, and Ramona by Beverly Cleary remind me of my sister. We used to check all of them out of the library when we were young and binge-read them.
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
To other writers I always recommend On Writing by Stephen King, as well as my own manual for writers, got style? To readers? Many, but some of the authors I always recommend are Lisa Kleypas, Meredith Wild, Skye Warren, Angel Payne, and Lauren Rowe.
Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
Depends on my mood.
Do you think reading is important?
Reading is more than important. It is essential. It stimulates you mentally and helps reduce stress. Plus, when you read, you learn!
Do you prefer real books or digital books?
I’m old school. I love holding a book in my hands. That said, I do own three Kindles!
Name a book that you feel everyone would benefit from reading and explain why.
I’ll go back to As a Man Thinketh by James Allen. It is truly a classic on the power of positive thinking.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life? What impact did it have?
I’m not sure I can narrow it down to one! I’ll say the Little House books series. It taught me to embrace the small pleasures in life and that people are stronger than they realize.
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
That would be a crazy long list! But here are a few:
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith,
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon,
The Secret by Rhonda Byrne,
Save the Cat by Blake Snyder,
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold,
Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling,
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and
Dutch by Madhuri Pavamani.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
I read everything. I love memoirs and biographies. In fiction, I like fantasy, literary, and of course, romance. I also like philosophy and self-help.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?