Posted On October 28, 2016 by Print This Post

Helen Henderson presents: Are They You?

Helen HendersonThanks to social media, readers have more accessibility to authors, and authors, who choose to, are able to engage their readers on a more on personal level. But how much do you want your readers to know about you? Your family? More on this topic with RU contributor, author Helen Henderson.

I was reviewing possible topics for this post, but life kept getting into the way of a decision. Several recent articles, both here and elsewhere, turned my thoughts to the personal side of promotion. A review of my several page long to-do list revealed several interviews. I had my focus.

Interviews, whether by a fellow author on their blog or by a newspaper reporter, are something every writer will encounter sometime in their career. A question could have an easy response. The name of your book, the genre, or maybe even a sentence or two teaser. All pieces of data that should be in your marketing file.

Then there are the personal questions and the decision – How much information to reveal. The dichotomy of the public life versus the private is one every author needs to grapple with at some point. The amount of separation we keep between our private lives and public persona is an individual choice, but that doesn’t mean maintaining a distance between the two can’t be challenging. While not every interview question can be anticipated, we need to be aware of the possibility. Preparation can make the difference between a stuttered “uh uh” and a professional, “There is a little…” Responses can vary from a wide-open, nothing hidden answer to a few carefully-crafted words. Adding a layer of difficulty is the ubiquitous nature of social media and the perpetual memory of the Internet. It’s been said that once something is on the net, it will be there forever.

Do you want the world to know your hometown? Or just the state or region? If the interview is for a local paper, the hometown is a given. For a larger audience, Tennessee or mid-Atlantic might suffice. Even though your location could be considered public information if someone searched hard enough, you might not want your town to be known.

Questions such as “How did you get started in writing” or “What do you like about writing XXX (insert genre or book title) are more personal. You share something of yourself. This insight helps present you as a real person to the readers. But what if a question requires you reveal more of yourself than you are willing?

For example, the interviewer says, I’m always curious of how much of an author’s real life makes it into their fiction books. Are any of your characters based on real people?” If you answer, “There is some of your personal experience in the book,” you are again opening yourself up.

The phrasing of the question has a double edge. Using a certain trait of an actual person, living or dead, such as the way they smile or wave, is one thing. Totally basing one of your characters on a real person is another. Family might consider that you’re airing dirty laundry. In addition, if you admit a character is based on someone you know, will the person be upset to be outed, not care, or take pride in the relationship.

A variant of the “Are your characters a real person?” relates directly to you as the author. A good many writers subconsciously give the main character their own beliefs and personality. It’s tough not to put a lot of yourself into a main character, regardless of how different that character is from you on a looks, or even a gender, basis. So, how would you answer, “Is the main character in your stories anything at all like you?” Do you admit that a given character is based on you? Or the person you would like to be.

If you want to have a line in the sand to keep your private life and public persona separate, planning ahead will let you decide how you want to handle a question that is outside your comfort zone. The book is finished, edits completed, and you are waiting for the final version to be delivered. Now is the perfect time to organize your marketing thoughts. Fill out the marketing sheet, beat sheet, promo data form, whatever you call it. And be sure to include the personal side. If you don’t want your public and private persona to overlap, an anecdote or the story behind the story can handle the personal image. Other considerations of the personal versus private are discussed by Jami Gold in her post on the “Writer Dilemma.”

As to “Are They You?”

For myself, I admit I would love to fly with dragons, would not enjoy a sail on the Sea Falcon as I don’t like the deep blue, and that I share a common sense of duty and honor as my characters. Beyond that, depending on the question I might plead, “No comment.”

How much of yourself is in your characters. Leave the character name and book title in the comments, if you dare.



Despite his insolent attitude, Ellspeth, captain of Sea Falcon, is attracted to the dark-haired dockworker she hires to help unload the vessel’s cargo. When the supposed dockhand reveals he is Lord Dal, the last member of the Council of Wizards, and her passenger, Ellspeth breaks a cardinal rule–fraternizing with the paying customers. Bringing him back from near-death releases Ellspeth’s latent powers and threatens her captaincy. For to have magic she must give up the sea.

Dal has his own reasons for Ellspeth to embrace her powers. In accordance with an ancient prophecy, Dal allows Ellspeth to be handfasted to him without her knowledge or consent. However, the prophecy doesn’t state whether she will return his love. A likelihood threatened as the deception is unveiled and Dal is captured and stripped of his powers by fanatical clerics bent on ridding the world of magic and those who wield it.

Trapped within the Oracle’s Temple and marked for sacrifice, Ellspeth must choose between her own survival, saving the future of magic… or love.


Bio: A former feature-story writer and correspondent, Henderson has also written fiction as long as she could remember. Her background in history and managing a museum provides her with a unique insight into world building. Her heritage reflects the contrasts of her Gemini sign. She is a descendent of a coal-miner’s daughter and an aviation flight engineer. This dichotomy shows in her writing which crosses genres from historical adventures and westerns to science fiction and fantasy. In the world of fantasy, she is the author of the Dragshi Chronicles and the Windmaster novels.

Find her on online at her author website, at Goodreads or follow her on Twitter at Excerpts of her work, writing tips, and information on new releases can be found on her blog at


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5 Responses to “Helen Henderson presents: Are They You?”

  1. The other thing to remember is, you don’t have to answer the ACTUAL question. You can always pivot to something you do want to discuss instead. (Watch any seasoned celebrity being interviewed.) And then if the interviewer insists on returning to the original question, you can say something graceful like, “Oh I have to keep some things a mystery. Next question?”

    Posted by Veronica Scott | October 28, 2016, 8:12 am
  2. Thanks for a very thought-provoking post! When I first got into writing (after a lifetime with my face stuck in a book), I was amazed how easy it was to meet my favorite authors, and I was surprised how generous they were sharing information about themselves. It scares me a little, too – because I love authors as a breed, and some very good friends are authors. And, as we all know, there are some scary people out there. I think it’s tricky for celebrity authors, in particular – people like J.K. Rowling, for instance, and – to some extent – Nora Roberts. Not many authors reach cult-level status, but it must be very difficult for those authors to decide, and to control, how much of their lives they allow to become public.

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | October 28, 2016, 6:29 pm
  3. Hi Helen,

    My characters are a mash-up of myself and mostly people I’ve known over the years. For me, it’s impossible not to bleed onto the page.

    Your post made me think of Beverly Cleary, whose books I read and re-read as a kid. I loved her characters and her books inspired me to write. I wanted to know more about her, but the only info available was a short bio at the back of the book. Years later, I read two auto-biographical books she’d written and realized that many of her characters were drawn from her life experiences.

    Thanks again for a great post.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | November 1, 2016, 2:48 pm


  1. […] enough that I don’t share everything on social media. My personal life is my own. In fact, Romance University published a post on drawing the line. Which causes a problem–what to write for the […]

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