Helen is reading:
A Terrible Kindness
by Jo Browning Wroe
Books devoured recently:
by Joanne Harris
Death Of A Bookseller
by Alice Slater
The Serial Killer’s Wife
by Allice Hunter
“After more than two decades of shaping other people’s words, I now spend most of my days shaping my own.”
HELEN WATTS has worked in publishing for 25 years, editing, commissioning and producing fiction, non-fiction and poetry titles on a wide range of subjects and topics, for readers of all ages, and in all kinds of forms – from magazines and books to online publications and interactive resources. She has worked for some of the biggest and best publishing houses in the UK, including Scholastic and Heinemann Educational, and has also written and produced materials for commercial, governmental and charitable organisations such as the World Wildlife Fund, The British Council and the Department for Education.
For ten years, Helen was Editor of Literacy Time magazine, a subscription-based periodical which supported, and thereby enhanced, the teaching of literacy to children at primary school level. She then went on to co-found a company known as The Literacy Club, through which she published magazines, web-based resources and books including the paperback collection Taffy’s Coat Tales by world-renowned storyteller, Taffy Thomas MBE.
However, after years spent shaping other people’s words, Helen began to focus more on her own writing. She was commissioned to write educational titles on topics ranging from the First World War and The Olympic Games to cyber-bullying and teenage fashion, and was co-author on a set of three books called Make Phonics Fun (LCP), and on a comprehensive resource file series called Building Blocks (also LCP), which offered themed activities for the Early Years Foundation Stage.
Eventually, Helen turned her hand to children’s fiction. In early 2012, she completed the first draft of a historical fiction novel based on the true story of the massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane during the Second World War – an idea which Helen had been tinkering with for almost ten-years following a visit she made to the site of the tragedy in the midst of rural France. Helen submitted the manuscript to a handful of publishers, expecting to wait some months for a reply and being fully prepared for a set of rejections. However, within just a matter of weeks, she received an offer from A&C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury, and One Day In Oradour was born.
This debut novel, aimed at readers age 12 and over, sparked author talks in local secondary schools as part of the Stratford-upon-Avon Literary Festival and the Literally Coventry Book Festival, and Helen was so inspired by the welcome she received, that she developed a programme of talks and historical fiction workshops which is now available to schools all over the country. The novel was nominated for the 2014 CILIP Carnegie Medal for an Outstanding Book for Children, and was given an Extraordinary Award at the 2014 Southern Schools Book Awards. It was shortlisted for the 2014 Education Resources Awards and longlisted for the Hampshire Schools Book Awards.
Helen’s second novel, No Stone Unturned, was published by A&C Black/Bloomsbury in September 2014. Described as a gripping historical mystery, the book was shortlisted for the Historical Association Young Quills Award, the Warwickshire Junior Book Award 2015 and for the Alcester Schools Book Award 2015.
Helen has also co-written two collections of World War I legends – one for adults and one for children – with friend and former Storytelling Laureate, Taffy Thomas. The Ghost of the Trenches was published by A&C Black/Bloomsbury in April 2014 while First World War Folk Tales was published in hardback by The History Press in August 2014, coinciding with the start of the World War I centenary celebrations.
Helen has had a few years away from writing, having founded an online retail company in 2017. However, having now sold that business, she is now returning to the keyboard and has several new projects in progress. She has completed a screenplay of One Day In Oradour and is hoping that one day her phone might ring with news of some interest from a top movie producer (well, you have to dream!). Helen has also completed two more historical mystery novels for teenagers and adults. One is set in York, said to be the most haunted city in England and is called Chasing the Shadow. The story sees the return of Kelly Hearn, the heroine from No Stone Unturned. The adult novel, Escape From The Rock, is set across the pond on the famous prison island of Alcatraz in San Francisco. She is also developing a series of short stories inspired by some of the world’s unsolved mysteries and murders.
Spare time? What’s that?
When Helen is not writing, she spends her time walking Rula, her adorable cavapoo, devouring other people’s novels on her Kobo, visiting her favourite beaches in West Wales, going to the theatre and the cinema, and cruising the canals on her narrowboat Never Better. She has two grown-up children – Jack and Georgia.