Carina; ePub ed edition (28 Jan. 2016)
I am delighted to welcome author Helen Phifer on my stop of The Girls in the Woods blog tour. I have heard so much about her books in the past and was over the moon to get the opportunity to interview her. This is the first book I have read by Helen and, although book five in the Annie Graham series, it works perfectly as a stand alone novel. Anyway, enough from me, you can read my review later, I want to talk to Helen . . .
Helen, thanks so much for coming over, this is your fifth book, how will publication day five compare with the first one? What will you be doing the same/different?
I’m glad to say that I didn’t lose any sleep the night before publication day this time. My first book I was so terrified I ended up going to Tesco at 3am to do some shopping and take my mind off it. This time I spent the day working and had a very large glass of wine that night to celebrate.
Thank goodness for 24 hour shopping! A glass of wine sounds great though, some sportsmen have certain rituals that they carry out before an event, do you have any rituals or superstitions that you have to carry out before, during or after you write?
None at all, I can write anywhere, anytime on anything, but that’s due to being so busy. A nice cup of coffee is probably the only thing I like to have every time I write.
It’s a running trend in publishing is the caffeine addictions! Talking about being busy, I know you have a full time job away from writing, how do you manage both and what made you decide to take the leap into becoming an author as well as keeping the job?
It is a bit of a struggle juggling them both, I have to spend nearly all my spare time writing to meet my deadlines. I rarely get the chance to watch the television, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. I couldn’t find enough of the kind of books I love to read and decided after finishing a not particularly very good book that I was going to have a go at writing my own.
That’s really good advice for anyone wanting to start writing, it’s such a massive amount dedication and commitment that’s required. In terms of advice, what would you say to any writers to help them make sure they keep their audience wanting more as a particular series continues?
For me the key has been creating characters that my readers love so much they can’t wait to find out what is going to happen next. My characters are normal, down to earth people who end up getting put in the scariest situations. My readers care about them so much I quite often get emails and messages asking me to be kind to them in the next book.
That must be such a great feeling! I get like that sometimes, you do tend to forget that these aren’t real people when you’re reading! Especially in a series where you have seen the characters grow and develop. As an author I imagine you’ll have been asked some weird and wonderful questions over the years, what’s the strangest one you’ve ever been asked and what was your response?
I think I’ve been quite lucky really, the question I get asked the most is ‘Can I be in your next book?’ I usually just laugh, however for this book one of the policemen I work with kept asking and asking so I caved and called my antagonist after him. I did warn him he wasn’t a very nice man, but he didn’t mind.
Brilliant! I bet he’s pleased though, I’d love to be in a book! I used to watch lots of historical dramas and always thought I should have been in either Tudor or Victorian times, I just loved the way they dressed and spoke. I also loved the Catherine Cookson era and I know that like me, you’re a fan of Laura Ingles Wilder (Little House on the Prairie) As a child watching this, I couldn’t understand why no one had a TV or telephone when there were TV cameras filming them (yes I know – I’m a little more intelligent now!) What’s the daftest thing you thought as a child?
Haha I love that. I adored The Famous Five books and I used to take myself off on bike rides hoping I’d get involved in some great adventure. I’d get so far and end up with a puncture and no big adventure, then end up having to push my bike home.
That’s great! I could never understand why they were allowed ginger beer at their age! You’ll have been asked hundreds of questions over the years, is there a question you’ve always wanted to be asked, but never have been? If so, what is it and what’s the answer?
I would love for Stephen King to ask me if I want to interview him and the answer would be a huge yes.
Well I hope he’s reading and that he gets in touch! On a more serious note, there’s been a lot of talk recently about the review policy on Amazon now that they have prevented authors from reviewing books in their own genre. What do you think about authors reviewing each other’s work, do you think it can be done completely objectively?
For me I only review the books that I’ve read and enjoyed, I’m not that good at writing reviews so I tend to make mine short. However I write Contemporary Horror/Crime novels and those are the genres that I read the most so I think it’s pretty ridiculous that because I write in that category I might not be allowed by Amazon to leave a review of a book I’ve loved. I think it can be done objectively, even if I’ve read a book and not enjoyed it. Personally I wouldn’t leave a negative review because I don’t think it’s fair to the author. I’d rather not review it at all because I would hate to put other potential readers off.
I completely agree, it’s pretty crazy that they might stop bloggers from posting their reviews on there too! It kind of takes the fun out it, reviews are essential and I imagine an exciting part of the post publication process. But what’s the most exciting part of the book writing process for you? The planning and starting it, writing it or publishing it?
It would have to be the planning and first draft, I love the excitement of plotting out a new story and the thrill of writing it without worrying about the mechanics of it all.
I can’t imagine how it all feels, I sometimes feel over-faced with having to write a review of around five hundred words never mind a whole novel! But that’s why I’m a blogger and not an author! Well, our time here is almost at an end but before you go I have one last question …
If you could be a character in ANY book, who would you be and why?
I think I’d have to be George out of The Famous Five, then I could have my big adventures and drink lots of sandwiches with lashings of ginger ale then still be home in time for tea.
Thank you so much Emma, I’ve had fun answering these questions. They were brilliant and thanks for hosting me.
Thank you so much for stopping by Helen, it really has been a pleasure having you here. Now for the book . . .
The Blurb . . .
Don’t go into the woods. Because you’re in for a big surprise …
In an old album there is a beautiful Victorian photo that captures three young sisters, staring silently at one another. Only the trained eye can see the truth hiding in plain view. One of the sisters is already dead.
This was my first Annie Graham novel and what a book it is!
The prologue sets a rather creepy picture of the old practice of people taking pictures of their dead family members and a young boys’ fascination with this practice.
We meet Annie and her husband Will when they are on holiday, recuperating from the goings on in the previous books, (The Girls in the Woods is book 5 in the Annie Graham series) but don’t worry, you can read it as a stand alone just fine! Phifer gives lots of background without over-facing the reader with details of previous books that are irrelevant to the current story.
Annie is on maternity leave now, being 6 months pregnant and her husband Will is recovering from an injury but fairly soon they are back in the thick of a new investigation when skeletal remains are found in the woods where they live, even if Annie can only watch from the side lines.
I wasn’t too sure about the paranormal element to be honest, it seemed a little strange to me that this police offer was solving crime with assistance from ghosts but it worked really well. It isn’t the main focus of the book, and there is plenty of actual police work going on to make it more plausible.
The characters are really well written and I loved the flow of the book, Phifer’s writing is really fluid and descriptive without being boring or repetitive and I found the paranormal elements really haunting and chilling.
The Girls in the Woods had me turning the pages and wanting to know the answers, it is skilfully written with an astonishing plot twist that I never saw coming, it’s a spine-chilling thriller which left me breathless and on the edge of my seat!
I would like to thank the publishers for proving me with ARC in exchange for my honest review.
About the author . . .
Helen lives in a small town called Barrow-in-Furness with her husband and five children and has done since she was born. It gets some bad press, but really is a lovely place to live. Surrounded by coastline and not far from the beautiful Lake District. She has always loved writing and reading, she loves reading books which make the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. Unable to find enough scary stories to read she decided to write her own.
Her debut novel ‘The Ghost House’ was published by Carina UK in October 2013 and went on to become a best seller along with the rest of the Annie Graham series. The Secrets of the Shadows, The Forgotten Cottage, The Lake House and book five which is soon to be released The Girls in the Woods.