A warm welcome to Helen Rolfe, one of the newer members of our Crooked Cat‘s cradle. I haven’t read her book The Friendship Tree yet, but the very title conjures up pleasing images.
The Friendship Tree is your first novel. How long did it take you to write, and what inspired you?
The Friendship Tree was actually my second attempt at writing a novel. My first is tucked away in the bottom drawer as they say, but was a great learning experience.
I wanted to set a book in Australia and I wanted to feature the importance of community and friendship. I think I’d seen an article online about something in the U.S called a phone tree and it got me thinking how a community could come together in a different way. And so… the idea for The Friendship Tree was born.
And on my travels in the US over a decade ago, I came across the Travellers’ Tree; they must like their trees over there!
How much of your book draws on your own experiences?
Not much really. I suppose my experience gave me the ability to set the book in Australia and talk about places I’d been to, things I’d seen.
My book was rejected over 70 times before I found Crooked Cat. Surely your journey was less traumatic? How did you find the Crooked Cats?
I wouldn’t say my journey was traumatic, but I certainly did have my fair share of rejections! A friend pointed me in the direction of Crooked Cat when they were open to submissions and so with everything crossed I submitted my book.
Are your works in progress a continuation of the same romantic genre, or will you branch out into other areas?
I have another two books coming out this year and both are the same genre of romantic fiction. At this stage it’s my favourite genre. I love writing about relationships, friendships, family and everyday struggles that people can relate to.
Tell us about your writing history – what else have you published?
I started my writing career as a freelance journalist and for a few years I wrote articles for women’s health and fitness magazines. During that time I learnt the importance of research, interview skills, drafting and re-drafting, writing for a particular audience and how to ensure I met deadlines!
Like to give us a glimpse of your favourite authors, and why?
JoJo Moyes, Jill Mansell, Sue Moorcroft, Liane Moriarty … but also many more. I like these authors because they deal with everyday lives of men and women and do it so well. I can relate to the characters and fall into their world so easily. And that’s what reading is about, to me … escapism
I feel we have something in common – for I, too have a Business degree, and I’ve been to Australia several times as all my grandchildren live there. What made you go to Australia, and why did you leave after fourteen years?
I’d always been fascinated by Australia but had never been there. So in 2000, at a time when my workplace had changed a lot and I wasn’t enjoying my job, I handed in my notice and bought a one-way ticket down under. After a year I met my husband and we had our children there. We came to the UK because I wanted to spend more time with family because there’s living away from them, and then there’s living on the other side of the world. Believe me, a 24 hour flight is no fun!
Where else have you travelled? Which is your favourite place?
I’ve been to a few places particularly in Australia. I lived in Melbourne for 9 years and completely loved it. Sometimes I’m very sad that we are no longer there.
One of my other favourite places in Australia is Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays. It’s beautiful and so relaxing. Cars aren’t permitted on the island and so everyone drives around in these golf buggies. Awesome!
What is the proudest moment of your life?
Having both my children
And, if there were no boundaries, what would you like to do / be / have?
I’d have / be / do exactly what I’m doing now
You can buy Helen’s book by clicking below: