I often wonder if I would have become a writer if I hadn’t become a pilot. Flying gave me the opportunity to visit remote and regional Australia and it was partly that ‘bird’s eye’ view that led to me writing my first manuscript in 1998, not long after we moved to Cairns when I started work with QantasLink.
Six books later and my stories have all been set in regional areas. I love being able to bring places like Cooktown or the Torres Strait to a new audience. Until we moved to North Queensland I didn’t appreciate the tyranny of distance or the difficulties presented by living that far from the rest of the country. People have to be more resilient, more self-sufficient because nothing happens in a hurry. Come the wet season everything grinds to a halt as rivers rise and roads are cut. The impact on policing and law enforcement is profound. No CSI Miami or SERT teams lurking in the bushes.
Community policing in rural areas is about building relationships that manage people into doing the right thing. My latest book, Northern Heat, owes a great deal to the local policeman running the Police Citizen Youth Club in Cooktown. I’d driven the six hours up the road to conduct a writing course and the venue was the new PCYC complex, which also serves as the cyclone shelter for the district. I was struck by the extent to which the policeman was involved in the local community. He spoke about the difficulties of managing domestic violence in close-knit communities, the impact on the kids as well as the parents and how his centre could provide a ‘circuit-breaker’ on the cycle of violence.
When I sat down to write Northern Heat, it was insights from the policeman and the writers who I met on that course that helped to colour the characters and enrich the setting. I’m a big believer in ‘writing what I know’ and what I know is flying, living in rural Australia and sailing.
Do you write from experience, about places your know well or careers that you’ve had? Is it important to you as a reader that the story is written from first hand experience or is research enough?
Helene’s recently taken time out from her busy career as the Queensland Regional Flying Manager with QantasLink. You’ll now find her sailing the Coral Sea with her husband aboard their catamaran, Roobinesque. She recently appeared in Judith Lucy is All Woman in an episode showcasing women in aviation.
She has twice won the highly coveted RWA’s Romantic Book of the Year in 2011 and 2012 and was shortlisted for the Daphne du Maurier Award for Mainstream Crime and Suspense. She has also been nominated in the Ned Kelly and Sisters in Crime Awards. Helene’s last novel, Safe Harbour, was voted Australia’s 2014 Favourite Romantic Suspense Novel. This is the fourth time Helene’s stories have won the award.
A motivational speaker and writing mentor, Helene is working on her seventh novel.
In steamy northern Queensland, Conor is rebuilding his shattered life. Working at Cooktown's youth centre has given him the chance to make a difference again, and the opportunity to flirt with Dr Kristy Dark. The local GP is hiding her own secrets and struggling to raise her feisty teenage daughter alone.
When a severe cyclone menaces the coast, threatening to destroy everything in its path, tensions come to a head – and the weather is not the only danger. Cut off from the world and with her life on the line, Kristy will have to summon her courage and place her trust in Conor, or they'll both lose someone they love.