Monday, November 21, 2011

Interview with Author of The Guardian, Robin Helm

I would like to welcome Robin Helm, author of Guardian. Because I am a writer of Jane Austen re-imaginings, I do not comment on the books of other authors who write in the same genre as I do, and so I asked a friend to read Robin Helm’s debut novel. Her interview is below, but first a brief summary of Guardian:

The powerful and imposing Xander/Darcy, chief of all guardian angels, has protected exceptional humans from demonic forces over the course of ten millennia without losing a single battle. In 1989, he receives an unusual assignment which will forever change his ordered existence and alter the course of human history. Will he lose the battle for his own heart while guarding supernaturally gifted Elizabeth Bennet from the evil which surrounds her? Will he be strong enough to resist her as she grows from a precocious child into a beautiful, intelligent woman? The veil dividing the physical and spiritual planes is drawn aside to reveal warfare on an unprecedented scale as Elizabeth develops her gifts and her guardian discovers his emotions. 

The way you describe Xander as a Guardian fits well with how we picture Darcy:

He stood six feet nine inches tall with eyes the color of a cloudless summer sky… He was well-known for his ability to make difficult decisions quickly, and his good judgment ensured that his final choices were the correct ones. If he chose to speak, he was never ignored… Though Xander’s appearance and mind were those of a warrior, he was surprisingly gentle when he was not engaged in battle.

In the beginning, when I read that everyone had a guardian angel with them, I felt as if I was in “It’s a Wonderful Life” and kept waiting for Clarence to appear! What gave you the idea to use Darcy as a guardian?

In my mind, Darcy has always been a protector; this was a natural role for him. He was protective of Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice, as he illustrated when he forced Wickham to marry Lydia. He did that to guard Elizabeth's reputation, selflessly, because he loved her. He had hopes but no real expectations of receiving her affection in return. In fact, Darcy did not wish for Elizabeth to know what he had done. He did not desire for Elizabeth to marry him out of gratitude.

The Bennets have a healthy marriage and Mrs. Bennet does not suffer from “nerves,” but is rather a strong and opinionated character, much like Lizzy. What made you portray the Bennets, in particular, Mrs. Bennet in this light?

I felt that God would have provided godly, sensible parents for a person as important in His plan as Elizabeth is in Guardian. Her upbringing was integral to the plot. Her parents had to be wise and involved in her life in order to ensure that Elizabeth had the proper training for the role that she will play in the rest of the trilogy. Mrs. Bennet was faced with important decisions from the moment of Elizabeth's conception that required for her judgment to be sound. Mr. Bennet is also quite different from his canon counterpart - a very "hands-on father.

There is one part where Elizabeth’s mom is going to crash her van due to the evil ones working against them, but Xander and the other guardians manage to save them. This scene is pretty descriptive. How did you conduct your research for this scene, and more specifically, the novel? Are you a Bible scholar? How do you have such a vast knowledge of these things?

This particular scene actually happened in my life, as did several of the events in Guardian. Nothing in the novel is exactly as it occurred, but many things are similar to actual life events from the lives of family members and friends, all used with permission. All of my family has read the book and given their approval. I graduated from a Bible college; my degree is in music, but everyone who graduates from that college is required to take enough Bible hours to have a theology degree. I was reared in a family that went to church every time there was a service. I also taught Bible every day in Christian schools for twenty-five years, and I have worked in churches alongside my husband (a minister) for more than thirty-five years. For scenes requiring further research, Google became my new best friend.

There is a strong Christian theme, how do you think your book will be received? Who is your target audience?

My book has been well-received so far, and I expect the audience to grow when the second and third books (Soul Fire and Legacy) are published. I will not pretend that the story is for everyone, but many people who are not Christians have told me that they thoroughly enjoyed Guardian. The elements of the supernatural, the paranormal, and spiritual warfare are quite popular today. I have many Harry Potter, Airbender, and Twilight fans on FFN. People from over eighty countries read Guardian as I was posting it as a WIP, and many of them were teenagers.

Guardian is the first novel in a trilogy. By the time I had finished the book, I immediately wanted to start Book 2. When will the sequel be released?

The sequel, SoulFire, is now finished and will be published in January. I will start writing the third book, Legacy, immediately, and I hope to have it finished and published by May, 2012.

Robin Helm taught school for twenty-five years in Florida and South Carolina - mainly high school English, music, and Bible. She now teaches elementary school music part-time, serves as Associate in Music and the Music Academy Director for her church, and teaches piano. Guardian is her first book, as well as the first book in The Darcy/Guardian Trilogy. The second in the series, SoulFire, is completed and should be self-published in January, 2012. She and her husband have two grown daughters and live in a small South Carolina town with their Yorkie-Poo, Tobey.

Thanks, Robin, for joining us today. We wish you tons of book sales.


23 comments:

  1. Robin, I enjoyed your book! I like it when authors put real events in their books, even if the readers do not necessarily know they are real. I am looking forward to reading Soul Fire and finding out what happens to Darcy and Elizabeth! You did a good job of leaving your readers hanging at the end and making us wait for and want the next book! ;)
    I wish you many sales and many new readers!

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  2. This is an intriguing way to rewrite P&P. I'm always fascinated how a person's experiences influence their story.

    Sounds like the angels and demons and Lizzy's special gifts already make this an exciting read.

    Thanks for the interview post.

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  3. Thanks, Jakki. I just wrote the final chapter of SoulFire last week and did rewrites on Saturday. I'm ready to format it and send it to Gayle for a final edit. I hope to have it published in time for a book signing on December 30.

    Thank you, Sophia. Darcy battles for Elizabeth more in the spiritual realm in Guardian, and in both the spiritual and physical realms in SoulFire. SoulFire outlines their romance as well as their ministry together.

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  4. I'm so excited to see you on Mary's blog. I enjoyed reading the interview. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. Thanks, Gayle. I'm so glad that you liked the interview. I was thrilled when Mary issued the invitation to be on her blog, and I accepted her offer quickly before she could change her mind.
    ;)

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  6. December 30th is my mom's birthday, so that's a good day for a book signing. :)

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  7. I am a huge fan of Robin's story and am glad she is getting more recognition. I think anyone with an appreciation for theology and spirituality (not necessarily Christian), and a love of Darcy and Elizabeth, would enjoy it.

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  8. Well said, Monica! Your posts say my thoughts exactly, just more eloquent! :)

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  9. I've seen this book and wasn't too sure about it. I'm glad to read this interview, it has intrigued me. Now I'm going to have to put it on my TBR list!

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  10. I hope so, Mary. Happy birthday to your mom, and we'll keep a good thought about the book signing.

    Thank you, Monica! You have been so supportive on FFN. I really appreciate your comments more than you can know.

    Thanks for reading Guardian and doing the interview, Jakki!

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  11. Thank you so much, Candy. I hope you like Guardian. I just finished SoulFire, and I'm ready to start writing Legacy.

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  12. You are most welcome, Robin!! I am dying to read SoulFire now! Can't wait!

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  13. I've finished writing it, Jakki, and I've done the rewrites from the betas. I'm aiming for December 30 as a release date. I have a book signing then for Guardian, and I'd like to have SoulFire there for people who have already bought Guardian. I plan to do the formatting this week and send it to Gayle for a final edit. The cover is already done.

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  14. Great interview! I loved Guardian, and the story only gets better in SoulFire!

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  15. Thank you, Wendi! SoulFire is now finished. I hope to format it this weekend.

    Now, on to Legacy!

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  16. Good interview Mary.

    It sounds as though Robin Helm is venturing into Phillip Pullman territory. Angels and aprallel worlds Christian iconography etc. Or, are there parallel worlds in her series? I wasn't quite sure reading your interview. She has obviously used real life incidents.

    The other thing I was not sure about, apart from using Pride and Prejudice characters names, what the actual link is.Is it a straight reworking?

    All the best,
    Tony

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  17. Hi, Southerner. Heaven is in the book; I suppose you could consider that to be an alternate universe. I view it more as seeing another dimension - the spiritual one, which is active all around us constantly.

    I not only used characters names, I used their personality types as well as parallel events from Pride and Prejudice. Darcy's position is higher than Elizabeth's, and she is from an humble background. He has power and access to whatever wealth he needs. He is a protector, just as he was in P&P, as illustrated by his rescue of Lydia. There is a "Hunsford," though it happens in the second book. Wickham constantly attempts to disrupt the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth. Charlotte is Elizabeth's best friend, and has the gift of discernment (in keeping with her P&P character). Caroline covets Elizabeth's man, though it isn't Darcy at the time.

    It is not a straight reworking of P&P, but there is a similarity. I use many lines from Austen.

    Thank you for your comments and questions. I'm sure that others were wondering as well.

    Robin

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  18. Hi Robin I was just reading your introductory paragraph. This comment particularly struck me.

    "The powerful and imposing Xander/Darcy, chief of all guardian angels, has protected exceptional humans from demonic forces over the course of ten millennia without losing a single battle."

    I have my concept of what christians think a guardian angel is and it doesn't quite fit with your use. I have not heard of the term "guardian,"used like this before as though there are a group of people on earth who are guardians of others.

    If I think it is what you use it for, a sort of powerful highly moral character who guards and looks out for others, I don't think Jane Austen's Darcy actually fits that idea. Jane Austen created a character in which she showed the aloofness and non communication with others of the British upper classes. Austen's Darcy is the epitomy of that system in which one group of people demean others. He and his family would have made their wealth from slavery as all the gentry of the time did.The treatment of other human beings like that is certainly not being a guardian angel. I'm not sure he can be used as this ideal figure. Austen, in all her completed novels and uncompleted, I'm thinking of Sanditon, tried to argue against this social structure and found every opportunity to show it's pomposity and falseness. Darcy is one of her examples. She must have felt it acutely herself.

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  19. Hi, Southerner. Darcy is an angel; not a person who guards other people. Like most other JAFF authors, I have taken some creative license with Austen's characters. In making Darcy a guardian angel, I have established certain parameters. He is aloof, in that he does not feel strong emotions. Even the other angels comment on that aspect of Darcy's character. He is the epitome of power, morality, duty, and honor.

    I was not aware that there were certain rules that I had to follow in writing a creative JAFF. Darcy has been portrayed in many ways, including, but not limited to, a space alien, a vampire, a werewolf, a rake, a famous musician, a wealthy CEO, a gentleman who has lost all of his assets, a teacher, a widower, and a rock star. I have not disagreed with any of these portrayals. I found them to be imaginative and creative. I do not wish to read rewrites of Austen. Instead, I look for interesting adaptations and plot twists that stretch my mind. Knowing that Austen was the daughter of a clergyman, I feel comfortable with my characterization of Darcy. She might actually prefer an angel Darcy to one who has pre-marital sex with multiple partners and curses like a sailor.

    Who knows what Austen herself might be writing if she were alive today? My story is modern and set in the United States. Slavery ended here over 150 years ago. It is not germane to my story. I might also add that nowhere in P&P does Austen write about Darcy making his wealth from slavery. His servants are paid, well-treated, and respected.

    To say that all gentry of the era made their wealth from slavery is a generalization that cannot be proven - much like saying all white Southerners in the U.S. descend from slave holders and all African-Americans descend from slaves. In fact, fewer than 2% of white Southerners owned slaves before the Civil War, so most of us do not descend from slave owners. In addition, many African-Americans immigrated to the U.S. after slavery had been abolished.

    Generalizations are usually false.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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  20. Yes, Robin I agree it is a generalisation to say that Darcy was probably a slave owner. Austen doesn't say how he attained his wealth in P&P. However, generalisations are useful. We can learn much about trends and societies. Having said that slavery and the West Indian plantations are a strong possibility for his wealth. Even in the 18th century being a landowner might not create enough wealth on it's own to keep a large estate going. At that time we had whole cities over here, Bristol and Liverpool for two, that were built almost entirely on the slave trade.London got much of it's wealth from the slave trade but also prostitution, unfortunately.The trade in tea from China was a great source of wealth to Britain too. And that was driven through the opium trade. It's a murky world we live in and used to live in, Robin. If ever you go to Bath Abbey, Robin, look out for the number of memorial plaques on it's walls that say things like "The Governor of Jamaica," etc.

    Jane Austen is more explicit about the slave trade in Mansfield Park. Sir Thomas Bertam's wealth derives directly from his plantations.

    By the way, Robin, I am a southerner from the South of England. I live in Wimbledon, not the southern states.

    All the best, Tony

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  21. I suppose that I do not care for generalizations because they often result in stereotyping. I also try to avoid making assumptions; I have found that I am wrong many times when I do so. People have assumed things about me, and they have been wrong.

    I did not assume that you were from the States, Tony. In fact, I rather thought that you were from the UK. My reference to slavery in the U.S. was only an illustration of how generalizations can be very wrong. I did not use that illustration because I thought you were from the U.S.A. I used it rather because of assumptions that are made here in the States about Southerners.

    In Mansfield Park, I believe that Bertram's plantations were in India, and he had to travel there to oversee some problems. There is no indications that Darcy made such trips.

    At any rate, I am glad to meet another Austen fan. I am also a fan of academic discussions. There was no offense intended. I enjoy a civil exchange of ideas.

    Sincerely,
    Robin

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  22. Robin, it's nice to meet you too. No offense taken. I do like a good discussion.
    I hope your book is successful. I must admit I am an old fashioned Jane Austen fan. I was born and brought up in Southampton where Jane herself lived for two years and have been aware of her from an early age.I don't actually approve of all this spin off stuff. I think it seems more important to Americans to engage with Austen this way than it is for us over here. We live where she lived, so we have that.Maybe we just don't like to tamper with her works.

    All the best,
    Tony

    Have a great weekend and if Mary reads this, have a great weekend too.

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  23. Guardian was my first book, so I started with what was familiar to me. I wasn't sure that I could write Regency. I am now ready to publish my second book, and I am much more confident of my writing skills. I have also published two Regency one-shots which were well-received.

    After I finish the third book of the trilogy, my next JAFF will probably be a more traditional Regency, though I can't promise that it won't have elements of the supernatural or mystery.

    I think being a guest here on Mary's blog has actually helped sales of Guardian. November has been my best month for sales, though the book is by no means a best seller.

    Best Wishes,
    Robin

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