Born in Walthamstow, North East London, in 1953 I began writing at the age of 13. Desperately wanting a pony of my own, but not being able to afford one, I invented an imaginary pony instead, writing stories about our adventures together at every spare opportunity. In the seventies I turned to science fiction - this was the age of Dr. Who, Star Trek and Star Wars. I still have an unfinished adventure about a bit of a rogue who travelled space with his family, making an honest(ish) living and getting into all sorts of scrapes. Perhaps one day I might finish it.
I had wanted to become a journalist when leaving secondary school, but my careers advice was not helpful. "Don't be silly," I was told, "you can't type." (I still can't, I use four fingers.) Instead, I worked in a Chingford library where I stayed for 13 years although I was not very happy there - I did not realise it, but I wanted to write. The one advantage of the library, however, was the access to books, and it was there that I came across the Roman historical novels of Rosemary Sutcliff, the Arthurian trilogy by Mary Stewart, and the historian Geoffrey Ashe. I was hooked on Roman Britain - and King Arthur!
Reading everything I could, I eventually became frustrated that novels were not how I personally felt about the matter of Arthur and Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere).
By this time, I was married with a young daughter. I had time on my hands and so I started writing my idea of Arthurian Britain . I deliberately decided not to include Merlin and Lancelot, there was to be no magic or Medieval myth. My book was to be a "what might have really happened" historical novel, not a fantasy, and most certainly not a romance! What I didn't know, when I started, was that my one book was to grow into enough words to make a complete trilogy.
I found an agent who placed me with William Heinemann - I was accepted for publication just after my 40th birthday. The best birthday present I have ever had.
I had previously had a smaller success with a children's personal safety book (stranger danger) called "Come and Tell Me," a little story that I had written for my daughter when she was 3. I wanted to tell her how to keep safe in a clear and simple manner - with a message that could be easily remembered. "Always come and tell me before you go anywhere with anyone" fitted nicely. I was immensely proud when my little story was taken up as an official safety book by the British Home Office to be used nationally by the police and schools. Unfortunately "Come and Tell Me" is temporarily out of print.
Now parted from my ex-agent, I am Indie published in the UK by a small Bristol-based independent publisher SilverWood Books UK and mainstream in the US by Sourcebooks Inc.
I have no qualifications, nor have I been to college or university, although I have studied part-time for my Medieval History Diploma, which, I'm pleased to report, I passed with honours. One day I might get around to finishing the complete degree. If ever I find the spare time!
Helen's website is here
Her Ascribe titles are:
5 stars on Amazon
4 stars on Goodreads
"A wonderful swashbuckler of a novel. Fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean will love this to pieces of eight’"
Elizabeth Chadwick, winner of the Betty Trask Award
The Time : The Golden Age of Piracy - 1716.
The Place : The Pirate Round - from the South African Coast to the sun drenched Islands of the Caribbean.
Escaping the bullying of his elder half brother, from the age of fifteen Jesamiah Acorne has been a pirate with only two loves - his ship and his freedom. But his life is to change when he and his crewmates unsuccessfully attack a merchant ship off the coast of South Africa.
He is to meet Tiola Oldstagh an insignificant girl, or so he assumes - until she rescues him from a vicious attack, and almost certain death, by pirate hunters. And then he discovers what she really is; a healer, a midwife - and a white witch. Her name, an anagram of "all that is good." Tiola and Jesamiah become lovers, but the wealthy Stefan van Overstratten, a Cape Town Dutchman, also wants Tiola as his wife and Jesamiah's jealous brother, Phillipe Mereno, is determined to seek revenge for resentments of the past, a stolen ship and the insult of being cuckolded in his own home.
When the call of the sea and an opportunity to commandeer a beautiful ship - the Sea Witch - is put in Jesamiah's path he must make a choice between his life as a pirate or his love for Tiola. He wants both, but Mereno and van Overstratten want him dead.
In trouble, imprisoned in the darkness and stench that is the lowest part of his brother's ship, can Tiola with her gift of Craft, and the aid of his loyal crew, save him?
Using all her skills Tiola must conjure up a wind to rescue her lover, but first she must brave the darkness of the ocean depths and confront the supernatural being, Tethys, the Spirit of the Sea, an elemental who will stop at nothing to claim Jesamiah Acorne's soul and bones as a trophy.
Bring It Close
5 stars on Amazon
4.3 stars Goodreads
‘"In the Sexiest Pirate contest, Capt Jesamiah Acorne gives Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow a run for his money"
Sharon Kay Penman, New York Times bestselling author of Lionheart
Jesamiah Acorne, Captain of the Sea Witch, has accepted a government-granted amnesty against his misdeeds of piracy, but old enemies do not forget the past. In particular Edward Teach - better known as Blackbeard - has a bone to pick with Acorne. Following an indiscretion with an old flame, Jesamiah finds his fiancée, the midwife and white witch Tiola Oldstagh, has gone to North Carolina to help with an imminent and difficult birth. The problem; that is where Blackbeard now resides.
He must not discover that Tiola is Jesamiah's woman, she will have to hide her identity and her gift of Craft from the black-hearted pirate who has sold his soul to the devil. With Sea Witch damaged and himself wounded by Blackbeard, Jesamiah has to take stock of his situation at his old home in Virginia - but trouble follows him like a ship's wake and he is arrested for acts of piracy on the High Seas.
Too much trouble has come too close! How is Jesamiah Acorne to clear his name, overturn a sentence of hanging, keep Tiola safe, put an end to Blackbeard and deal with being haunted by the ghost of his father? Bring It Closemoves from the Bahamas to North Carolina and Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia at a swashbuckling pace. There is intrigue, misunderstanding, romance and adventure all wrapped up in a delightful blend of mystical fantasy.
Harold the King
4.7 stars on Amazon
"A novel of enormous emotional power. Helen Hollick is a fabulous writer of historical fiction"
Morale was running high among the English; twice, now, had they beaten off the Norman whoresons; their casualties - even counting those fool men of the fyrd who had not heeded the King's orders - amounting to less than half the Norman dead strewn over the battlefield. Aye, the line had dwindled to only two or three men deep in places, but shortened, gathered in towards the centre, they ought to be able to withstand a third assault.
Food and drink were passed from man to man, those women who had come - wives, mostly, who had no childer to care for - issuing flat-baked barley cakes, wheaten bread and recent-picked sweet and juicy apples. It was from the women, too, and the priests, that the wounded sought aid, hobbling, being carried or supported to the safety of the baggage line. Not that there was much that could be done for many of them, beyond the comfort of a clasped hand or a pretty smile and the offering of prayers.
Harold threaded his way to the front of the wall, clasping men by the hand, gripping their shoulder as he passed, praising, encouraging or sympathising with those who sported minor wounds.
Pointing to a bloodied rent in one man's byrnie, he exclaimed, 'Godfin! Is that a wound to your side?'
'Nay, my Lord, 'tis nothing serious. An arrow poke to me belly. Could 'ave been worse 'ad it been lower. Might have nipped me in the family tool department, eh!'
Godfin offered a skin of ale to his king, with a laugh and nod of appreciation. Harold accepted, lifted the pig's bladder to his mouth and drank a mouthful. It was strong-brewed ale, stuff for men.
'By the Christ,' Harold jested, wiping his lips and handing it on to another man, 'we ought give some of this to those bastards down there - it's strong enough to blow their balls off!'
It was easier to laugh and joke, for the terrible carnage at the front of the line would be too sickening if there were not something to balance its horror. The stench was appalling. A horse wandered, broken reins trailing, lamed in the foreleg by an axe stroke that had gouged part of his lower shoulder away; another stood, head lowered, bewildered that he could no longer see, for a sword had slashed across his face; a third struggled to rise, not understanding that he no longer had a hind leg . . . Not four yards from the shield line, a man lay, moaning, calling piteously for water, his stomach and entrails exposed, black blood oozing. Already the ravens were circling the field. One, more brazen than its companions, landed a few feet from the dying man, hopped closer, its beak preparing to pick at the exposed flesh. They went for the eyes, these nauseating scavengers. The soft flesh of the eyes, not caring whether a man or beast still lived . . . Thrusting aside two of the men who stood in the front rank, Harold pushed his way through to the open hillside, his dagger in his hand. A ruffle of unease spread through the men as he stepped out of their protected shielding, but he ignored it. He waved his hand menacingly, chasing the obnoxious bird away, bent and touched the man's shoulder. A Norman, a young lad, no older than his second son, Edmond.
'Give me water, my Lord!' he croaked in French, and Harold answered him in his own tongue.
'There'll be water in plenty awaiting you, son.' With his dagger, he slashed neat and quick across the boy's throat. Aye, he was a Norman, but no one deserved to die that way. Except perhaps William himself . . . No - Harold, shouldering his men aside, returned behind the lines, dismissing the thought from his mind - no, not even Duke William, for if he thought that, then he was no better than him. Uncaring, unfeeling. Ordering this day of death, causing this mighty pain and suffering for no reason except his own wanting of something that could not, by any lawful right, be his. No, Harold was not like that.
'See to those beasts,' he ordered. 'End their torment.' He made his way back, all the while exchanging cheerful banter. All the while driving and driving away the thought that hammered and screamed in his mind: My brothers are dead. Both my beloved brothers, both are dead!