Helene Young lives aboard a catamaran moored near the Great Barrier Reef in the Coral Sea. She shares her sailing adventures with her husband and their dog, Zeus. Her work as a senior captain with a major regional airline takes her all over Australia. She won the Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) Romantic Book of the Year Award in 2011 and 2012. She was also voted most popular romantic suspense author by the Romance Readers of Australia (ARRA) in 2010 and 2011, and shortlisted for the same award in 2012. Half Moon Bay is her latest book.
Half Moon Bay is a departure from your Border Watch series. What was the inspiration behind this story?
Half Moon Bay has been swirling around in my imagination for a long time. I grew up at Currumbin Beach when it was still a sleepy village with beach shacks, great surf and not much else. When I was twelve the community banded together to protest against a major re-routing of the highway that would effectively cut Currumbin in two. At the time there were rumours of bribery and political corruption, which were never proven, but it was the first time I’d witnessed community action. While we didn’t win the battle it left a profound impression on me of both the dislocation of unwanted change and the strength of people power. Another theme I wanted to explore was how we cope when people we idolise and look up to cross the line, even if it’s in the pursuit of justice. Can we forgive them for making mistakes?
Your novel opens in Afghanistan. How did you research this part of your novel?
The opening scene came from a conversation with a man who’d worked for one of the aid agencies in Afghanistan. His description of the approach into Kabul airport made me think of a descent into hell! I was also able to interview two returned Australian servicemen, one who’d completed three tours of duty in Afghanistan. They very generously shared their experiences not only of serving in war zones but also of the difficulties of returning home to normal life. Their stories were very moving.
As well as writing you are a senior captain with a major regional airline. How did your experience as a captain contribute to this novel?
My day job probably has most impact on Nick’s character. He’s used to leading a team that’s reliant on a whole range of support infrastructure and operates on the move in a very fluid environment. In some ways that’s quite similar to the role of an airline captain. Obviously I don’t expect anyone to be shooting at me when I go to work! Also, since the industry is still largely male dominated, my job gives me the opportunity to gain insights into the way young men view their world.
What, in your opinion, are the three essential components necessary for a romantic suspense novel?
In my very humble opinion a romantic suspense should include believable but high stakes action, a deeply emotional love story that is being driven by the suspense plot, and a story that is grounded in actual events and real threats. Of course others will demand something entirely different.
How do you fit writing in around flying and living aboard a catamaran?
I think being passionate about writing and flying helps enormously. I can, and do, write anywhere - hotel rooms, airport departure lounges, coffee shops – but coming home to the serenity of the boat is always wonderful. The only downside to life afloat is the downsizing! I’m now devoted to e-books as there’s no room for physical books…
What is next for you?
My next book is set around the Wide Bay/Burnett area in Queensland with a hero who’s a community-based policeman. I’ve enjoyed finding out more about that role as they largely work alone and end up being part councillor, part traffic cop and part peacemaker. Fascinating!
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