A last-ditch attempt at getting her words into print has resulted in a major book deal with one of Britain’s biggest publishers for a Cornish writer.
Helen Douglas, from St Hilary, near Penzance, had almost given up hope of becoming a published author, when she received a surprise birthday present.
“It was a telescope,” said Helen, whose debut novel, After Eden, has recently been published by Bloomsbury. “It was that gift that really inspired me to carry on and ignore the drawer full of rejection slips.
“So for the next three months I got up at 5am and worked on the novel before going to work.”
As a teacher at Humphry Davy School in Penzance, Helen’s pupils are probably as delighted as she is that her sci-fi love story is intriguing teenage readers across the UK, as well as in the USA, Germany, Brazil, Spain, Turkey and the Czech Republic.
Born in Hayle, Helen attended Penpol School and spent her youth enjoying life in a coastal resort much like the fictional town of Perran where After Eden is set. As a child she enjoyed reading, building dens and writing stories.
“My teenage years were centred around the beach,” she said.
“Summer days were spent swimming and body-boarding, while summer nights meant beach parties with bonfires and barbecues.
“When it rained – which it did a lot – I read lots of books and dreamed of being a writer.”
However, her ambition had to be put on hold while she studied at university in London. She then travelled in Australia, America and India. Every experience – from being stung by a scorpion and swimming with crocodiles – informed her future career as a novelist.
She lived in the United States – California and New Jersey – with her American husband for almost a decade, founding a small theatre company and teaching drama at an independent school. But in her spare time Helen continued to write novels and short stories.
Soon after the birth of her son, she moved back to Cornwall and took a job teaching English at her old secondary school. It was there, at Humphry Davy, that the ideas for After Eden began to take shape.
“It’s a young adult novel set in Cornwall in a fictional town that’s loosely based on St Ives,” she said.
“There are scenes set on a beach that’s very like Gwithian and in a school, which is based on Humphry Davy where I teach.
“I’ve aimed the story at girls aged between 12 and 17 – it’s a contemporary romance with a science fiction twist.”
Already attracting interest from literary reviewers, After Eden was described by the Glasgow Herald as “an intriguing play on the familiar formula of teen romance and a piece of sci-fi that acknowledges astronomy and the night sky do not solely belong to geeks”.
After Eden by Helen Douglas, a review of which can be read here is published by Bloomsbury at £6.99.A sequel, Chasing Stars, is due to be published later this year.