Meet Helene Dunbar.
Helene Dunbar is the author of BOOMERANG (out now), BLOOD MAKES NOISE (2019) and PRELUDE FOR LOST SOULS (2020) as well as THESE GENTLE WOUNDS, and WHAT REMAINS. Over the years, she’s worked as a drama critic, journalist, and marketing manager, and has written on topics as diverse as Irish music, court cases, theater, and Native American Indian tribes. She lives in Nashville with her husband and daughter, and exists on a steady diet of readers’ tears.
Likely something you are asked a lot but… do you have a favorite book of the ones you’ve written? If yes – why? If not – why?
Of the books of mine that have published, BOOMERANG is definitely my favorite. First of all, I’d learned a lot about the craft of writing by the time I came to it. But mostly it’s my favorite because I not only love the characters, but I love how messy and complicated their relationships are. I fully committed to making sure that nothing was clear-cut in this book and the characters felt “real” even if that meant that some people wouldn’t like them. I always describe my main character, Sean, as someone who makes all the wrong decisions (and assumptions) for all the right reasons and, as a reader, I find that very interesting.
Is there an old story you wrote, perhaps that hasn’t seen the light of day, that continues to inspire or motivate you to write? If not, do any of your older works, again none that have seen the light of day, hinder you in any way?
I definitely have a couple of trunked novels that helped me learn how to write. But there is one that I’m looking forward to either revisiting one day or, at the very least, finding the right project to mine parts out of, as well as another that includes a character I definitely want to use again and a father that I very much love. So while I’m not sure that they motivate me, I do look back at those two when I begin a new book to see if some of their elements would fit in.
Share a fun fact about your writing method -go!
There is nothing fun about my writing method! LOL! Really, I probably have one of the most unstructured processes of any writer I know. I’ve found that any sort of outlining (before I hit revisions) can kill my interest in a project, so I’ve learned to give myself the freedom to write or not write, and to write out of order, which I do ALL the time. My core conflict and characters come first and usually I end up figuring out the plot half-way through and have to go back and revise. But I actually love revision, so….
What was it like writing for the anthology Welcome Home vs. writing one of your novels? Did you writing style change at all?
As an adoptive parent, submitting a story to Welcome Home was really a labor of love. Coincidentally, I’d been playing around with a book idea centered on a main character who was an international adoptee, so I ended up moving him over to a short story. While my writing style didn’t change, I realized that the reason short story writing isn’t my favorite is because it sometimes can take me a while to really get inside the head of my characters, and I simply didn’t have the space to do that as intensively as I would have liked.
A steady diet of readers’ tears gets you by I see, that is according to your website page bio. Is there any future projects that you can share with us today that will likely evoke a lot of tears?
Neither of my next books are what I’d call tearjerkers, honestly. That being said, my 2019 book, BLOOD MAKES NOISE is really centered on the various types of fear that teens encounter as they try to determine themselves and their futures. In this case, it is set in New York in early1983, which was also the when the AIDS crisis was beginning to enter the conversation. My 2020 book, PRELUDE FOR LOST SOULS isn’t what I’d call a traditional tearjerker, but there is a friendship in it that is stretched to its limits by pretty much everything that two of the main characters, Dec and Russ, are going through. The arguments they have as they try to find a way to support each other while still working towards their own goals were difficult to write and definitely took the most revision, because I wanted readers to really feel those conflicting emotions.
Is there anything you’d like to share with the readers today?
Mostly just that I’m really, really, grateful to the readers who have reached out in in writing or at a conference or festival to tell me that my books have helped them in some way. Writing can be a very isolating pursuit and I’m grateful for their support.