Helen Buckley (Journalism and Contemporary History, 2007) was a successful journalism student in City, thriving in the industry by scoring several placements with publications and even a paid internship with an MP. After graduation, Helen took the vast experience she accumulated as a student and channelled that into helping vulnerable and in-need people both in the UK and abroad.
Helen used writing as a medium to manage and understand the difficult situations she was experiencing in her private life. She has managed to get her first novel Star in the Shadows published, already earning positive reviews from readers! Her book tells a story of Kiara, a teen runaway who has found stardom but is fighting the demons of her past in private. In a reveal-all TV interview her story will finally be uncovered, find out what effects Kiara’s confession will have on her fame, fortune and the ones she had left in her past by buying it on Amazon.
Find out more about Helen and how she came to publish her first novel below:
Can you tell me about your time at City?
I really enjoyed my degree at City University. Our degree was a fairly small intake and was run in conjunction with Queen Mary, University of London, so I was a member of both universities.
At City we concentrated on the journalism part of the degree. I did placements at various publications including Health and Fitness magazine, Zest magazine, Cosmopolitan magazine, and I also got a paid internship with Emily Thornberry MP – who is the MP for the area where City University is located. It was when she was a fairly new MP and the experience of working in her Commons office was fascinating.
What happened after you graduated?
In my final year, I started volunteering for the charity Young Minds and through that experience, I realised I wanted to focus on work in the charity sector. I started work before I graduated with Stonewall, and stayed there for a few years running their national information service. Once graduating from City I also did an MSc degree in Gender, Sexuality, Politics and Culture at Birkbeck, University of London. Then I spent almost four years in Honduras, working with children and families living in poverty. After that, I returned to work for the Salvation Army, the Council for Disabled Children, and then Age UK.
How did your novel come about?
I started writing seriously as an escape – my husband and I were dealing with infertility and writing helped me to manage the difficult emotions arising from our situation. I completed my first novel and then fell pregnant from IVF!
My novel, Star in the Shadows, was recently published and I’m chuffed to pieces with the positive reviews and feedback I’ve received.
The book is about a teen runaway who becomes a pop star but she carries the shadows of the past with her. The book follows her journey and that of the family she left behind. It’s dramatic and gritty with a dash of romance too.
I’ve just finished writing my second novel and I am writing my third, when my baby son allows me time to write!
What has been the most rewarding experience?
As an author, I think the scariest thing is letting people read your work. I was terrified! When the novel was published a number of book bloggers reviewed it and all the positive comments were so encouraging. Even if the book doesn’t get onto the bestseller lists, I’ll still find that experience so rewarding.
What has been the most challenging experience?
I’m lucky to have found a publisher but it’s a crowded market out there for books so it’s not easy to get your novel noticed.
It’s also been tough to find the time to write. I had to edit the novel when my son was a newborn so I was extremely sleep deprived! Now that’s he’s over six months and sleeps fairly well I get up early to write. Those 5am starts aren’t easy, but it’s the only time I have free to think creatively.
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?
Don’t give up! Keep pressing on and get those words down on the page. As Jodi Picoult said, “You can edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” My first drafts are often extremely rough, riddled with mistakes and verging on gibberish – but I can work with that.
Feel the fear and do it anyway. It could be the best decision you ever make!
Helen, this blog post was first published in 2019 when your debut novel was announced, it’s now 2021. What has happened in the meantime?
Since my first novel was published in 2019 I have been busy writing. I had so many ideas and decided to get them on paper whenever I had time. I pitched a new novel to agents and publishers in early 2020 and received nothing but rejections. However, the advice of one agent stuck in my mind. He told me to find a way to write a series, which would be more marketable. I did what he said and wrote a three-book series, which I pitched to ChocLit publishers. In September 2020 they offered me a three-book contract! Since signing with them I have written a fourth novel to add to the series, the first of which will be published in March 2021.
In between editing and promoting the series, I’m still writing new material, as well as blogging, and raising two small boys!
Over the past two years I’ve streamlined my writing process so I can write novels even when I have very little free time. I’m also trying my hand at writing women’s contemporary fiction – a new genre for me as I have only written romance up till now. It’s been a very exciting journey so far and I am still at the very start! I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Thank you to Helen for keeping us up to date!
Take a look at Helen’s website to explore the work she is doing – www.buckleybooks.org
Purchase Helen’s latest novel Strictly on Ice from Amazon.