I was recently interviewed by the very lovely Loren Kleinman – here’s an excerpt of the interview and you can read the whole thing here.
Loren Kleinman (LK): Where would you live if you could live anywhere in the world?
Helen Beal (HB): When I was growing up, my father was a pilot and many a weekend jaunt was taken up with a visit to an air museum. I was particularly taken by the seaplanes and it became my ambition to own one and live aboard, with an unspecified number of cats, and travel the world in it. It’s a goal I am yet to realise (although there may be time yet! And I currently have one cat!) – I’m not entirely certain how visas and things like that might work and I don’t have a pilot’s license but these things are all fixable, surely.
I think though, this adventuresome free spirit is very much alive in me, and reflected in my books. Although life has a habit of tying us down to places, I explore many locations in my work, most of which I have been lucky enough to visit myself (for example, the Galapagos islands, Mongolia, the Seychelles) and hope to explore many more, in the name of research.
The book I am working on at the moment features a naturalist, a young, David Attenborough / Gerald Durrell type character, and will be the most ambitious yet from a global travel perspective.
If you wanted to pin me down to just one place, right now, pushed, put on the spot, I would probably choose New Zealand – such a beautiful, verdant and quaint country with vast, unpopulated beaches (by humans, that is!). But an awful long way from home…
LK: Did you know the title before you started writing?
HB: I’ve published three novels, my first was called ‘Ode’ for a very long time in draft (a kind of poetic skit on Orpheus and Eurydice – the myth the book retells in a contemporary setting), until I stumbled across ‘Thirty Seconds Before Midnight’ – you’ll have to read it to work out where the title fits! My second was ‘Rich in Small Things’ – a reflection on the journey the protagonist, Melissa, takes.
My most recent though, Riding a Tiger, is the only one that had a title before I even started writing it. I was at work in my other career, software sales, when a lead popped up for a company called Satyam. I hadn’t heard of them before but they are a very large Indian company – who had done a bit of an Enron. When the deceit was uncovered, the CEO disappeared for a while in the maelstrom of the scandal. When he reappeared, and resigned, he said his experience of the sequence of events that led to the financial irregularities that caused the downfall of the company was, ‘Like riding a tiger – I didn’t know how to get off without being eaten.’ He’s not the only person reputed to have used this phrase – it’s said to have fallen from the lips of the 33rd President of the US, Harry Truman too. It’s originally a Chinese idiom from historical warfare and the conclusion is that one must kill the tiger. Although there are no tigers in Africa, where my book is mainly set (aboard a super yacht in Somalia), I still felt the title worked very well.
LK: Did you do any research before start or during of the writing of the books? Read on