21
Sep
08

Helen Bianchin – Then and Now

Helen Bianchin’s romance novels have been taken to heart by romance readers all over the world. She is the Australian doyen of 56 Harlequin Mills and Boon books, and is a much-loved and respected writer by many romance writers everywhere. In this interview, Helen tells us how it was back then, and what has changed since.

Maxine: Helen, tell us about your introduction to romance novels

Helen: I started reading Mills and Boon as a teenager at the local library attached to the newsagency. When I was finally able to afford them, I knew when they were due in the shops and I’d be there waiting at the newsagency to pour over them and select which ones to buy. I think there were 8 or 10 M&B’s released each month in the ’70’s. Those were the days when there was only one line!

Maxine: What made you decide to write a romance?

Helen: I was an only child, a dreamer and a romantic with a very vivid imagination. I loved to read, and it was only after marriage and living in Australia that I wrote many letters home and to friends. One of those friends loved my anecdotes of my life married to an Italian tobacco sharefarmer, and suggested I should write a book.

Maxine: Tell us about the journey to selling your first book?

Helen: I had my first book accepted in September 1974, and it was published in June 1975. The title was “The Willing Heart” whose authenticity owed much to my own experience as an Italian tobacco grower’s wife. In real life, my husband was a sharefarmer and we were poor. Of course an M&B hero couldn’t be poor, so in the book he owned the farm, was rich etc!

Maxine: Who was your first editor? And how did you communicate with her? Was there a Harlequin Sydney office to support their authors like there is now?

Helen: Alan Boon guided me through my first three books, followed by Frances Whitehead.  There was a Sydney office, and a representative in Auckland, New Zealand.  But minimum staff, and nothing at all like there is today.

Maxine: How did you get it so right when there were minimal guidelines? 

Helen: I had no idea what the publisher wanted, for the guidelines in the ‘70’s were limited to one page. I loved to read, especially romance, and I simply wrote the book I’d most like to read … as a reader.  The first attempt was deemed too short, the second too long with too much extraneous detail.  I made it with the third attempt!

Maxine: Did you know any other writers back then?

Helen: I was very fortunate to be introduced to Essie Summers via letter, and we corresponded until she retired.  As Essie lived in Napier at the time, and I resided in Auckland, it was many years before we met in person, but Essie kindly introduced me via letter to Gloria Bevan, who also resided in Auckland, and we met every few months for lunch.  In the late ‘70’s Robyn Donald was in Auckland, looked me up in the telephone book and we met the same day.  We kept in touch and continue to do so, meeting up whenever we can at conferences, or during holidays.

Maxine: Did you get to keep any of your titles back then? What about now?

Helen: Authors were encouraged to provide their own titles until the late ‘80’s, when marketing decided the titles should reflect the theme of the book. Hence, there was “Mistress by Contract”, “The Greek Bridegroom” etc.  In recent times, the titles have become even more specific … a recent release is titled “The Martinez Marriage Revenge” … indicating the hero is Spanish, the plot involves marriage and the focus is revenge!

Maxine: What’s the biggest difference in writing romances back then and now?

Helen: When I began writing, there was only one line. Today there are many beneath the Harlequin Mills & Boon umbrella. Consequently it’s very important to write within each specific line.  Presents focuses on glamour, sophistication and wealth … intense sensuality and passion.  Therefore, it’s important for the author to deliver and meet readership expectation. A Presents is different to a Blaze. A Sweet Romance is not a Desire.

Maxine: And now for the fun question, Helen. What did you spend your first advance on? 🙂

Helen: Would you believe an aged secondhand Landrover for my husband!

Thank you, Helen. It’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you and I wish you many more years of writing such fabulous romances. Note: A list of all Helen’s books are available at http://www.romancewiki.com

 

Helen has generously offered some of her books as prizes. Tell us how you first came to read romance and winners will be chosen at the end of the week. There’s a major prize of a signed hardback copy of Helen’s latest “Purchased: His Perfect Wife”  due for paperback release in Australia in November; a further prize of 3 autographed books from Helen’s Ultimate Collection (The Wedding Ultimatum/The Pregnancy Proposal); (The Marriage Arrangement/The Seduction Season); (Mistress by Contract/The Husband Test); and another prize of The Greek Tycoon’s Virgin Wife and The Martinez Marriage Revenge. Thank you, Helen! 

 

 

 
 

 

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75 Responses to “Helen Bianchin – Then and Now”


  1. September 21, 2008 at 10:08 am

    Hi Helen, and welcome to the Desirabelles blog! Loved reading your interview.

    (the minder! 😀 )

  2. 2 Avi J
    September 21, 2008 at 10:35 am

    How great another of my favourite authors. Helen really is a fantastic author. I came to read romance by viewing a harlequin movie, “Another Woman”. It really made me want to read the books the movie was made from.

  3. 3 LJ
    September 21, 2008 at 10:44 am

    I started reading romance after I got my heart broken. I just needed to read something with a happy ending, unlike me at the time. I have been hooked ever since. lt also helped me recover faster too, just thinking that the real prince charming will come soon. 😀

  4. September 21, 2008 at 10:47 am

    Hi Helen, and Desirabelles! Sorry I haven’t been around much lately, revisions suck! But I was so excited to read that Helen was here. I remember my gob-smacked awe when she sent an email congratulating me on finalling in the Clendon a few years back. The great Helen Bianchin, taking the time to congratulate lil’ole me. That was big potatoes! I didn’t realise you lived in NZ for awhile. Those must have been great days. Everyone loves a call story but back in those days, sans email, plunking around on an old typewriter, looong waiting times…Rachel McAlpine wrote The Passionate Pen a few years back, interviews with some of our great past (and present) romance writers, including the great Essie Summers. They were such down-to-earth, practical women and they were writing these amazing stories! With our microwaves and digital washing machines, our word processors and fast-food joints, we don’t even know we’re born and still we whinge about not having enough time.
    Great interview, Maxine!

  5. 5 Dina
    September 21, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Helen you are a great author. I started reading romance when my aunt dropped a box of her old mills and boon by me. I loved it after the first few pages. I still remember the title Coral Cay by Kerry Allyne. I don’t know if you all know her work but she was an Australian author too.

  6. September 21, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Hi Yvonne,
    You were the best minder ever! I really enjoyed being at the New Zealand conference, it was wonderful to catch up with friends and make new ones.

    My thanks to Maxine for inviting me onto the Desirabelles.

  7. September 21, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Hi Jan,
    I’m always thrilled when a writer gets “the call”, for the road to publication is usually a long involved one, and success is well-deserved.
    Re the days prior to computers and the internet … picture a portable typewriter at the end of the diningroom table, heaps of white-out, and carbon paper copies! The purchase of a manual typewriter was a step up, and in the late ’70’s the innovation of the electric typewriter almost bliss! The advent of the computer was heaven … spellcheck, dictionary, thesaurus … the delete button (no more whiteout!).

  8. September 21, 2008 at 11:38 am

    Hi Avi J, LJ and Dina,
    Thank you for your kind words. The romance genre provides a feel-good read, with a happy-ever-after ending. Like each of you, I was hooked as a teenager, and enjoy reading the diversity of the various lines available today.
    Dina, Kerry Allyne is a personal friend, who sadly no longer writes for Harlequin Mills & Boon. Kerry was able to provide magic with words … I inevitably wanted to visit her lush settings.

  9. 9 Dina
    September 21, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    Hi Helen, how cool 😀

  10. 10 Gina
    September 21, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    I was introduced to romance novels, by my sister. She always was trying to get me to read them and l just gave in one day, much to my enjoyment. Now its a competition to read the books we buy first.

  11. 11 Mia
    September 21, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    I started reading romances when my best friend, brought a harlequin to school and l took a peak. l later asked to borrow it cause l liked the little l read. Next thing l know, every month l am looking forward to more books to read. Desire and Presents are my main purchases.

  12. September 21, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    Oh wow, look at all these great comments.

    Helen, thank you so much for allowing me to interview you and for dropping by. It’s such a treat for us all. And I’m seriously jealous about you being friends with Kerry Allyne. Kerry was one of my favourite authors back then. I still remember one of her heroes being name Rafe and the heroine being engaged to or dating his weaker brother. Can’t remember the name of the book but perhaps I’ll do a bit of a search around. I’m curious now.

    Dina, Coral Cay was published in July 1982, according to Romance Wiki. There’s a complete list of Kerry’s books there, as well as Helen’s books and many Mills and Boon writers from the earlier years and now.

  13. September 21, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Avi, it’s a nice coincidence that I had just written a review for the Pink Heart Society about the Harlequin movie “Another Woman”. 🙂

    LJ, I’m so sorry that you had your heart broken but it’s wonderful that you found romances eased the pain. I love the happy endings too, and I firmly believe that love really does make the world go around.

    I started reading romance because my mother read them and they were always around the house. From the moment I picked one up and read it, I knew I had found something special. Of course, I never, ever thought as a teenager that I’d be writing them one day, but when I was in my mid-twenties I decided why not. Unfortunately it took me many tries and many years to get published, but for me it was worth the wait. I’m so in awe of Helen and those earlier writers whose talent shone through.

    And Helen, I remember typing my first manuscript over and over on a manual typewriter on my kitchen table, with my two small sons running around me. Aah, those were the days. 🙂

  14. September 21, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    BTW, Helen scanned a copy of her first book, The Willing Heart, for this blog as I had searched the internet for a picture of it but couldn’t find anything. There’s probably a picture somewhere but perhaps Helen and this blog have the only picture in existence? Except for M&B archives, of course.

  15. September 21, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    Helen, it is a wonderful thrill to have you here as our guest. My introduction to romance was through M&B novels and I had a special attachment to those by Australian authors. Some of my favourites, as it happens, were by a certain Helen Bianchin. 🙂

    I grew up with the image of The Writer tapping away at his/her typewriter, a mound of scrunched-up rejected pages at their feet. To me that was the romantic idyll, but I am SOOOO glad the word processor came along before I started writing. I doubt I’d have had the patience or resilience to write a whole book (with all the changes I make, line by line, word by word!) without the instant delete/replace.

    A question: did you write/compose straight to typewriter or write longhand first? Dare I ask how many drafts there might have been of those manuscripts (despite the whiteout!)?

    Bron

  16. September 21, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Bron, how lovely for you to drop by. For those of you who may not know, Bron was nominated for 3 Ritas for her category trilogy a few years back … an incredible achievement!

    In answer to your question … I scribbled basic rough notes in longhand, which I then typed up for easy reference (if you’ve ever seen my handwriting, you’d know why!), but I composed straight onto a typewriter.

    Number of drafts? Should we go there?! My current record for drafts of the first chapter currently sits in the early 30s. Even to this day, I can’t seem to go forward unless the first chapter is right, and I’m known to fiddle (sorry, revise and rewrite!) until I’m satisfied with it. I don’t write the rest of the manuscript in draft. Instead, I write up the day’s work, and edit and revise the next day. Kind of a “two steps forward, one step backward” method of writing. However, I do begin with a detailed synopsis, which I expand, then break into scenes. I definitely plot, rather than fly by the seat of my pants.

    Helen

  17. September 21, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    Maxine, those were the days, weren’t they? Young children to care for, and snatching time to write. My three were 9, 6, and 3 years old when I began to view writing seriously.
    Writing happened during school and kindergarten hours, and an hour or two in the evening after they went to bed.

  18. September 21, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    Helen, I remember you were one of the first authors I read from Mills & Boon! I fell in love with them at 14 when a friend of mine gave me her mother’s book (I promise I returned it).

    I became such a fan that I subscribed to M&B for a number of years, borrowed and swapped with friends, and built up a huge collection. But, to my annoyance today, I gave them all to charity around the time I got engaged (to declutter and prepare for married life!).

    It is one of my big regrets giving away those books. I can’t pore over old novels I loved, but I remember the feeling they evoked, and it always made me determined to write one. Thanks for being such a wonderful author and inspiration! I look forward to reading your latest work.

    Monique Wood

  19. September 21, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    Helen,

    How lovely of you to share with us. I can’t believe you worked with Alan Boon. That makes you a real M&B authot (G)! Like Bron, I’m so glad the home computer came by the time I started writing. Manual typewriters, carbon copies – argh. I remember I job years ago where our poor PA had to type important correspondence with something like 11 copies, which meant typing it twice wtih carbon copies.

    I came to reading M&B in my teens. My best friend’s mum was an avid romance reader. She had stacks (literally) of them in the house. I’d visit for the day and while my friend was off for an hour or so in a makeshift dark room or finishing schoolwork I’d sit on the lounge and disappear to the Caribbean or Spain or a stately home in Britain, reading romances. Borgeous! I discovered lots of fantastic authors over the years, Helen Bianchin being one of them. What a thrill to meet you in person at the Aussie conferences! Your a real inspiration.

    Annie

  20. 20 Maureen
    September 21, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    I started reading my mother’s Harlequin’s when I was in high school but once I was out of college I didn’t read them again until many years later when I was in the library with my kids and picked up a Lavryle Spencer book to read.

  21. September 21, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    Lovely interview Helen. I admire your ability to have written books on a typewriter (I thought it was hard enough writing and typing essays in uni just before the PCs became commonplace!). I use the delete button quite alot so my pages would have been mainly white-out. LOL!

    As to when I fell in love with romance? About the same time I fell in love with fantasy – when I was child reading fairy stories – having elements of both. I read across genres and I love when romance is mixed in. It gives the story an extra sparkle!

    I am in awe of your talent and achievements. Happy writing!!

    E 🙂

  22. 22 christa
    September 21, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    Helen
    Thank you so much for letting us get a little glimpse into your life.

    I have an older siter who had a some Jackie Collins books that I would sneak and read, so I dove into the world of sex, Hollywood and the mob at the young age of about 11

  23. 23 Ellen
    September 22, 2008 at 12:49 am

    This is going to sound a little strange to some people but……my brother and his wife had decided to get a divorce and his wife was to take my niece (who was 6) with her and needed a place to stay (they were selling their house). Because of my niece I took them both in and let them stay until things were settled. They moved in and she brought a set of gold Harlequins with her (these were sets of three books bound together in a gold hard cover). One day I picked one up and began to read. This was my first contact with a Harlequin book and now I have 100s of my own.

  24. September 22, 2008 at 12:55 am

    Hi and nice to meet you!! 🙂 My first book was Breakfast in Bed by Sandra Brown, and I picked it up at the college bookstore for the plain and simple reason that I was curious. Just really wanted to know what happened inside those covers. LOL 🙂 I had gotten the two others of hers that they had. . . then really stopped for a few years. No particular reason, probably mostly that it was a small variety, since it was a tiny college, not a big one, so small bookstore. But then I was looking around the newly built college bookstore, still tiny college, still tiny bookstore, but not so tiny, and that’s when I got my first historical, Lisa Kleypas’s Lady Sophia’s Lover, and then I finally went outside the college bookstore and to a regular bookstore (or zillions) and been at it since. 🙂

    Lois

  25. 25 Eva S
    September 22, 2008 at 1:05 am

    Hi Helen,
    thanks for the interview and for all your great books! I’ve read many of them and hope to someday find them all! I’ve always been reading and loved fairytales with a happy ending. My older sister was talking about romances and I couldn’t wait to be 11, that was the age at our library in the 60’s when you were allowed to read adult books!! My first romances were books by Barbara Cartland and some Harlequins by Janet Daily and Anne Mather.

  26. 26 LK
    September 22, 2008 at 1:48 am

    Hi Helen,

    I love that you said you wrote the book you would want to read. It seems authors are too pressed to write for a specific market these days instead of writing what they truly want to write, and I find that sad.

    I found romance fiction when my grandpa was diagnosed with cancer. I was a teen and truly needed a reality escape. I remember vividly lying on the living room floor, romance book in hand, and being anywhere but where I was. Before then, it was mainly Hardy Boys and historicals.

  27. 27 azteclady
    September 22, 2008 at 2:20 am

    Welcome, Helen!

    The first romance I read was E.M.Hull’s The Sheik when I was something like eleven or so (over three decades and four international moves later, I still have my copy)

    For many, the novel represents the very worst stereotypes in romance. The “hero” hurts the heroine repeatedly, and yet her emotions change from virulent hatred to absolute and selfless love. He doesn’t grow at all that the reader can see, but there is a ‘happy ending’.

    Since then my tastes have changed, and while I can still enjoy the dominant arrogant hero, he must grow as a person and be willing to compromise to accommodate the needs and wants of the heroine.

  28. 28 Lisa lee
    September 22, 2008 at 3:24 am

    I first got started reading romance, when browsing through a bookstore. They had this colourful display, and the book covers were nice, so l decided to try a harlequin book, and the rest as they say is history.

  29. 29 Aideen
    September 22, 2008 at 3:34 am

    Hi all, l first got started when my mother bought me my first book for my 18 birthday. Little did she know that this would become my favourite past time activity.

  30. 30 Mau J
    September 22, 2008 at 3:52 am

    Reading romance started when l got married at 19. My sister in law, had this huge book shelf filled with all different kinds of romances and always encouraged me to read them. I came home early one day and looking to pass the time till everyone came home, so l picked up one and started to read. I never stopped since, they really are great books.

  31. 31 Jane
    September 22, 2008 at 5:01 am

    Hi Helen,
    I read my first romance while I was in high school. My first romance was Julie Garwood’s “The Bride.” I was introduced to the genre by my older cousin’s best friend. She had boxes and boxes of books in her home and she encouraged borrow some books. I was hooked after reading “The Bride.” I was also introduced to Jude Deveraux during this time. For some reason I stopped reading romance while I was in college. I picked it again after graduating and haven’t stopped reading since.

  32. 32 RobynL
    September 22, 2008 at 5:18 am

    hi and welcome Helen,
    that is a very interesting path with your career. I started reading romances in my late teens or early 20’s.

  33. 33 Lizzy
    September 22, 2008 at 5:47 am

    I started to read them, when in a used book store, Silhouette/ harlequin were the most cheap books available. So since, l wanted to start reading books l went with those. Lucky me, l totally loved them. The first one l read was ‘Long White Cloud’ by Marilyn Cunningham it was a book based in New Zealand.

  34. September 22, 2008 at 6:11 am

    I was thirteen when I was given my first romance to read. An elderly neighbour, who had always been a grandmother figure to me while I was growing up, had stacks and stacks of them in her basement garage. Each week I’d get a bag full of books from her and when I’d read them all I’d take them back and we’d go through and choose a new bunch to read. I loved that time.

    Over the years I built up a huge collection of my own, especially in the years before I had my children when I was sales repping. Each town I went into I’d scour the bookshops for M&B and take them back to my hotel or motel room that night and read and read and read.

    Similarly to Monique, I took all my books off to a second hand book store when I was expecting my second child because I need space in a wardrobe in what was going to be the baby’s room. I was ruthless and didn’t even keep any of the ‘treasures.’ Ah well, it’s a good thing that there are always new treasures to look forward to in the line, from both the authors we’ve loved for years and the newer authors today. 🙂

  35. 35 limecello
    September 22, 2008 at 7:31 am

    Hi Helen,
    Thanks for visiting with us! Hm – how I first came to read romance? I think I’ve mentioned this before… but I’m pretty sure my first book was “The Honey is Bitter” by Violet Winspear. Somehow my mom had it lying around – and I picked it up, being curious. (It’s surprising because my mom doesn’t normally read books in English.) Then, I read classics- and those are a good lead in, during high school. I also picked up a Harlequin Presents (awful but I can’t remember the author/title) in 8th grade… some random Barbara Cartland in high school (3 books) and… *really* began reading romances in college.

  36. 36 Aviella
    September 22, 2008 at 8:06 am

    Hi Helen, nice seeing you here. I started reading romance novels when my all my friends kept going on and on about the latest releases and what they were looking forward to. l had to see for my self what the fuss was all about. I was suprised to learn that it was like taking a trip without leaving the room, in addition to the romance. My favourite ones are those set in Texas, Australia, Italy and Greece 😀

  37. 37 sandrahyatt
    September 22, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Thanks for the interview Helen – a lovely insight.

    If we’re not counting fairy tales, and then Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters my intro to category type romance came when I was a young mother and holidaying at the beach. The place we were staying at had a bookshelf full of all sorts of books – I picked up an M&B romance – and was hooked!

  38. September 22, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    Annie, wonderful to see you here, it was great to meet up with you in person at the conference.

    Sandra, I agree … M&B romances are addictive!

    limecello … Violet Winspear! I devoured her books, also those of Anne Mather, both autobuys and wonderful reads, with never a disappointment.

    Aviella, foreign heroes are very alpha men, aren’t they? I love the differing cultures and lifestyles … a fascinating patchwork.

    Yvonne, I hoarded my M&B collection on top of my wardrobe! There were titles I read again and again.

    azteclady, E.M. Hull’s “The Sheik”, relatively tame by today’s standards, but responsible for readers’ fascination with high-ranking men of the desert … such power, such arrogance – but captivating, nonetheless!

    Lois, isn’t Lisa Kleypas wonderful? Have you read her since she moved to modern mainstream?

  39. September 22, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Hey all! I had to change the blog slightly – that tiny font in the comments boxes was doing everyone’s head in! And of course, you can’t change the font size alone so I had to go in search of a different design…

    Hi Helen – see, we just mention an M&B legend and everyone starts waxing lyrical about their first romance books 😀 (Yvonne, I still have a few treasures, even though I still need the shelf space!)

    Jan – Helen has to be one of my favorite people. After you get over the “oh my God, it’s Helen Bianchin!” (I did a lot of that…. still do, actually) she’s such a lovely, gracious person (are you blushing, Helen? ) I got a fabbo tour of the Gold Coast’s exclusive properties last time I was up there, all thanks to Helen. And then there was that scrumptious buffet at the Sheraton 😉

  40. September 22, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Hele and Maxine, I loved this interview — thanks.

    Helen, I’d love to read the real life story of those days on the tobacco fields. One day, I hope, you’ll find time to write it.

    Waving to the Desirabelles and friends

    anne
    xx

  41. September 22, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    It’s lovely to hear so many love reading romance … of all genres, but M&B particularly.

    Has anyone read Lucy Walker? Published by Fontana, not M&B, I adored her books, each set against the Australian outback, most often on stations.

    Helen

  42. 42 Eric
    September 22, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    Helen (and Maxine),

    What a wonderful treat. It’s not often we come close to touching our heroines. I can’t imagine creating a novel without a computer; just that alone makes you my hero (and I hadn’t thought of that until just now).

    After so many novels do you find it easier to let go of your characters when you’ve finished? And for that matter is it different for you now getting to know them when you start a new venture?

    You should be very proud of yourself for placing so much pleasure in others hands.

    Thank you.

    I don’t remember how I commenced reading romance novels. I was an Apprentice in the Armed Services. I found romance novel enabled me to be alone with other around me. They fitted in my pocket and sat flat enough to be undetectable on parades.

    Thank you (again),

    Eric

  43. September 22, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    Helen, how absolutely wonderful to have you here. Maxine, sterling job with the interview! And I’ve so enjoyed reading about how everybody started out with romance. I started when I was eight when my mother shoved a Joyce Dingwell at me to shut me up. Romance has been shutting me up ever since! 😉 My grandmother used to get the English Women’s Weekly and once I discovered that they serialised romance novels, I was set for years. I used to spend my summer holidays reading the serials in her back copies which went back for years and years. What fun!

  44. September 22, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Thanks so much for the fabulous interview, Helen! I was telling my 18yo daughter the other day about manual typewriters and carbon copies. I don’t think she believed me, lol.

    I began reading romance on the train on the way to work in the city (Brisbane). None of my family read, and couldn’t understand why I was worried I might get so involved with a story that I could miss by train stop!

    Love your first cover!

    Robbie

  45. 45 CC Coburn
    September 22, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    Well, Romance may have changed over the years, but Helen Bianchin never does! (and thank heaven for that). Helen is a genuine “lady” and I’ve been proud to call my friend for something like 15 years. She’s patiently (and ever so politely) guided the Bianchins Babes support group, some of us to publication, and some are nearly there thanks to Helen. She was the first person in Australia I contacted when I got The Call at the San Francisco conference. I only needed to text one word, “Yes!!!” and Helen was texting congrats right back at me – I’m sure it was the middle of the night at home, but she was there to support and encourage.
    Great interview and I learned two things I didn’t know about you Helen – that Alan Boon was your first editor and what you spent your first advance on!
    Keep on writing (and being a lady) ‘cos god knows we sometimes unruly and uncouth “Babes” need your good influence in our lives. (big grin!)
    Catherine aka CC
    ps Helen didn’t tell you how she was the first author to get away with using a certain wod that had never been used in romances before! Can you guess what is was?

  46. September 22, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    It’s great to have friends drop by … thank you!

    Paula, you’re too kind … we had a lovely day together, and it was a pleasure to show you some of the Gold Coast highlights.

    Anne G, I will get to telling my story … promise! You’ll be the first to get an advance copy. I first caught sight of Danny in Cairns, we were both walking on the same side of a main street … in opposite directions. We looked at each other, smiled, and kept on walking. Little did I know I was to see him again a few days later in the tobacco farming town of Mareeba. He spoke very little English, and my Italian was non-existent …

    Anna C, Joyce Dingwell kindly took me beneath her wing when we as a family settled on the Gold Coast 27 years ago. Did you know her book “House in the Timbertops” was made into a movie by a Western Australian film company and shown in Australian cinemas during the mid-80’s? Anne Mather’s book “Leopard in the Snow” was made into a movie during the mid-’70’s and featured actor Keir Dulea as the hero.

    Robbie, I know what you mean … manual typewriters, carbon copies and white-out are so last century!

    Catherine, aka CC, you’re gorgeous! That certain word, hmm? Now you’ve really started something!

    Helen

  47. September 22, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Paula, the new colours look great! Thanks.

    Welcome to everyone who has taken the time to drop by and comment. I know so many of you that this is becoming a party. 🙂

    Helen, mentioning Lucy Walker is bound to bring Bron out soon. She is a huge Lucy Walker fan, as most of us are.

    And you knew Joyce Dingwell too, Helen? Oh my. Like Anna C, I loved her books. I remember watching the movie, The House in the Timbertops. Didn’t Terry Donovan play the hero? Can’t remember who played the heroine, so I’ll look it up later. I also saw Leopard in the Snow, and well remember reading the book too.

    Anna C, I also remember those English Women’s Weekly serialised novels. My mum got me started on them as well as the Australian ones. At least, I think there were some Australian ones.

    And Limecello mentioned Violet Winspear. I loved Violet’s books and recently read The Honey is Bitter again and did a short review on eHarlequin.

    Aah, memories.

  48. September 22, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    Okay, CC. My mind is boggling at what word our lovely Helen would use in her books. There’s so many choices. 🙂

  49. 49 Beth
    September 23, 2008 at 12:21 am

    Hi Helen, loved the interview. l got started when my best friend gave me a desire novel by Bronwyn Jameson as a birthday gift, In bed with the boss’s daughter. I totally loved it and just continued, reading. And as l saw Browyn here let me say thank you for getting me started, l love your books. 😀

  50. September 23, 2008 at 6:26 am

    Oooh, I love the new look. Very readable and the posts are numbered too so it makes it easier for us for prize draws! 8)

    I actually still had a copy of Leopard in the Snow until recently. I have a feeling it was included in a box of books that went to the Women’s Refuge. Hmmm, must see if that’s what I did.

    Doesn’t Bron have the full Lucy Walker collection?

  51. 51 Genny
    September 23, 2008 at 6:56 am

    Romance reading started when my Grandmther gave some of her old mills and boon books. After the first one l was thinking, wow what a hero. 😀

  52. September 23, 2008 at 7:00 am

    The romance genre has come such a long way over the years, with publishing houses expanding lines so that every reading taste is catered for. And the talent of writers today is incredible … each with an individual voice and style.

    Maxine, I remember the serialized novels in the English Women’s Weekly. I couldn’t wait for the next edition, the pictures depicting the hero were wonderful, albeit they were in black and white!
    The characters led such interesting lives. I had a scrapbook for the pictures, adding a mansion, exotic car … even then, using my imagination to build an unwritten story.

    Helen

  53. September 23, 2008 at 7:35 am

    Eric, you ask if after so many novels do I find it easier to let go of my characters when I’ve finished? And is it different for me now getting to know them when I start a new venture?

    The start of a new venture is like beginning with a blank slate, and becomes a learning curve as I think of a theme, a premise, decide on the right names for the hero and heroine, google them to ensure I haven’t inadvertently used the name of a prominent person, choose a location, their occupations … creating a fairly detailed character bibliography. I try to find pictures that will provide the visual and make up a folder. I do any research required, and create a rough synopsis. I tend to call it “fitting myself into the characters’ skin”, so they become real in my mind. This process takes a while, which doubtless explains why the development of my first chapter is so slow.

    Once I’m a few chapters in, the characters take on a life of their own … to the point where if I come to a halt, I recognize I’m attempting to have them do or say something out of context with their character personality … if that makes sense?

    When their story is told and the happy-ever-after is complete, I can’t let them go until I have editorial approval and the book is formally accepted.

    Then it becomes time to begin the next venture … a new adventure, a new challenge.

    Helen

  54. 54 CC Coburn
    September 23, 2008 at 10:52 am

    Hehehe! Maxine, you’re gonna have to tie Helen down to find out “that word”! 🙂
    I forgot we were supposed to say how we came to reading romance. I picked up “That Stubborn Yankee” by Carla Neggers at the local 2nd hand bookstore – I have no idea why – maybe I liked the back cover blurb. I loved the story of opposites attract, Beth the stubborn Yankee tomboy and Harlan, the Southern gentleman. There was a fantastic oral sex scene… and I thought… Oh, my… I had NO idea Romances had THAT in them.
    catherine

  55. September 23, 2008 at 11:59 am

    Lucy Walker?!?! Yes, Maxine, I heard and here I am! 🙂

    I LOVED her books, her descriptions of the outback, her enigmatic heroes, her gutsy heroines who took on everything the outback and those heroes threw at her. I built up quite a collection over the years and would never have willingly parted. But during one of my maternity hosiptal visits, my dh decided to clear out the spare room and my boxes of books disappeared. Luckily he has many redeeming qualities and I kept him. 😦

    There is a happy ending: last year I was pining for my comfort reads and I discovered an extensive Lucy Walker collection on eBay. I now have more of her books than ever before and it is SO fun rediscovering my favourites.

    Bron

  56. September 23, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Helen, I also keenly await your true-life story…even more so after reading that snippet about the first time you saw your Danny. Happy, romantic sigh.

    They fitted in my pocket and sat flat enough to be undetectable on parades..

    Eric, that definitely takes the cake as far as reasons for reading M&B goes!

    Karen, Maxine, Helen, I was also a fan of the serialised romances in WW. My mum bought them for the recipes and knitting patterns, and I secretly devoured the romances. It was most distressing whenever she missed an issue!

    Beth, I shall treasure that comment. Thank you.

    Helen, one of my biggest thrills before I sold was winning the Helen Bianchin Love Scene contest.

    Bron

  57. September 23, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Paula, nice new scheme. The comments are definitely easier on the eye.

    Bron

  58. 58 limecello
    September 23, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    Oh wow – new blog look! 🙂
    As for Violet Winspear, I feel like I need to find some of her back list… dunno if that’s possible. 😛 And maybe I’ve maxed out on impossible backlists for a while. I’ve read a few Anne Mather books and enjoyed them a lot as well.
    Maxine – how fun! That sounds like a great plan – but I’m so behind on reviews :X.
    So many great authors and book suggestions! I’m going to have to start covering my eyes 😀

  59. 59 Avi J
    September 23, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    Good going Paula. The new blog design is much, much better 😀

  60. 60 Margaret Midwood
    September 23, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    Hi Helen,

    I’ve been a fan for years and I can remember your story set on the tobacco farm. If I remember correctly she was left to kill the chicken for dinner. My mum loved her Mills and Boon books and that’s where my passion started. Now I have to confess to being a bit of a collector and I wouldn’t be surprised if I still had that book somewhere. I keep all the stories I love.

    I still love your books and presents are my favourite.

    Cheers,
    Margaret

  61. September 23, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    Paula, love the new look blog … it’s great!

    Bron, Lucy Walker’s books are wonderful. I still have them in my bookcase, all of them. I adore “The Distant Hills”, “Master of Ransome”, to name a few.

    My true-life story? Friends, including you and Anne G have suggested I write it … every now and again between finishing one book and starting another, I think I’ll begin, but then life tends to happen and there’s always the next book to be written.

    Margaret, how kind of you. “The Willing Heart” was set on a tobacco farm, and featured conditions the opposite of my own. In true M&B style, the hero was wealthy, the farm flourished, and his home had all mod-cons. Whereas Danny was a sharefarmer, our living quarters were little more than a corrugated iron shanty comprising one bedroom, a kitchen with a wood-burning stove, one electric power-point,one cold-water tap over an inadequate sink, there was no bathroom as such, just a separate tin shed with a 44-gallon drum that held water pumped from the dam, and needed a fire lit beneath the drum in order to heat the water. A dinkum dunny was situated a short distance away. During the tobacco season I cooked for several workers who lived in adjacent barracks, did their washing, strung tobacco by hand … and looked after a huge run of chickens, including killing and preparing them for the table. The workers were of varying nationalities, some Italian, Croatian, Albanian, Greek. They were interesting times …

    Helen

  62. September 24, 2008 at 6:48 am

    Helen, I’m sure you accomplished everything you did with great elegance on that tobacco farm, no matter what the conditions.

    Y(signing in sans photo because for some reason I’m being spammed again 😦 )

  63. 63 Crystal B.
    September 25, 2008 at 4:48 am

    Hi Helen. Great interview. Your books were some of the first romances I read.

  64. September 25, 2008 at 7:24 am

    Helen, thanks for sharing your story about life on a tobacco farm. It does sound very interesting. My brother-in-law and his family had a similar lifestyle on a sheep station in the late 80s. The owner lived in the mansion on the property and they lived in a tiny house with an outside dunny. 🙂 The water was tank water and it was in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Not my idea of great living conditions but they loved it. I like my city lifestyle, even if I don’t live in a big mansion. My little mansion with my family is okay with me. 🙂

    Bron, I too, gave a little romantic sigh when Helen mentioned seeing her Danny for the first time.

    You know, it always makes me wonder when some people make fun of romance in books and say it’s unrealistic. Sure, the stories can be larger than life, but didn’t those critics ever feel a little thrill when they first met their partners? Didn’t they melt at that first kiss with that person? Didn’t that person make them feel special, yet sometimes there were arguments and break-ups and getting back together, but love pulled them through it all? I’d say the basis of our books are very much true to life and I find it hard to understand why they can’t see that.

    Anyway, that’s enough of feeling philosophical for me today. 🙂

  65. September 26, 2008 at 8:17 am

    Helen, what a great interview! You know I’m a fan of yours – and that was even before I met you and learned what a wonderful, lovely person you are 🙂

  66. September 26, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    I immediately thought about our prize draws when I saw those numbers down the side, Yvonne 🙂 And I thought we’d unspammed you? Will get to the bottom of it…

    Wow, it seems pretty clear that many of us had mums or grannies who introduced us to the genre. I was a little different – with my grandparents in the UK and my mum not that keen on it (I converted her years later!) me and my girlfriends used to trade Barbara Cartlands and then, much later, steamy historicals, in high school. I was known as the Book Queen because I used to loan them out with little borrow cards inside. Always knew I’d either have to be a bookstore owner, a librarian or a writer LOL. And it wasn’t until fairly recently that I discovered my Grandma used to send my dad to the library for her “Mills & Boon fix”. “Our Ken knows how to pick a good book!” was the oft-heard comment. But when I asked him, he said, typically deadpan, “oh, I just chose them from what was on the cover.” Deju vu, as I used to do exactly the same thing when I was 13. Bare-chested man-tree with half-nekkid female, anyone?

  67. September 26, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    Nalini, how lovely to see you here! Thank you for dropping by.

    Paula aka as the Book Queen! So pleased you chose “writer”!

    Cyrstal, thanks for your kind words.

    Helen

  68. September 26, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    Maxine has requested I do the prize draw! This proved difficult, as ideally I’d like to gift each of you a book!

    To be fair, I put everyone’s name on a piece of paper, then drew out six names.

    In order, they are :

    Eleni Konstantine
    Mia
    limecello
    Aviella
    Eva S
    Eric

    If you would each email Maxine at maxine@maxinesullivan.com with your snail mail address, Maxine will arrange to mail the prize books to you.

    My personal thanks to Maxine for taking the time to organize the interview. It’s been great to “meet” you all.

    Take care and best wishes
    Helen

  69. September 26, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Helen, it was a delight to have you as our guest. Thank you for sparking the lively discussion and for your generosity with giveaways. Congratulations to all the lucky winners. I know you will enjoy!

    Cheers
    Bron

  70. September 26, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    Helen, thanks so much for being so easy to interview, and for taking the time to come along here and chat. It was only fitting that you got to pick the winners too!

    And congratulations to the lucky six winners of Helen’s books. I’m sitting here wishing I had time to read them before I mail them to you. 🙂 Just kidding.

  71. 71 azteclady
    September 27, 2008 at 2:25 am

    Thank you, Helen and all the Desirabelles!

    Congrats to the winners–have a great weekend, everyone!

  72. 72 christa
    September 27, 2008 at 10:17 am

    Congrats to all the winners
    Was great having you here Helen

  73. September 27, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    It’s been interesting to read how and when each of you began reading romance, and to learn we
    all have much in common.

    A special thanks to Maxine for extending the invitation to appear with the Desirabelles.

    From my own perspective, it’s been a lovely week. I’ve so enjoyed being here.

    Congratulations to the winners … I hope you enjoy the prizes.

    Kind regards and all the best
    Helen

  74. 74 ShellBell
    October 6, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    Darn .. I can’t believe I missed Helen Bianchin. That will teach me for going to the UK for a holiday! I have been a huge fan of Helen’s ever since I first read “The Savage Touch” and I’m still buying her books.

  75. October 6, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    ShellBell, I’m sorry you missed Helen’s visit to our blog too. I hope you enjoyed the interview. Am envious of that holiday in the UK!


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