Sony Young Movellist champ Helen Hiorns on writing fanfiction, Sherlock and being published.
Being more of a public freaker than a public speaker, I was a tad nervous before the lovely awards ceremony in King’s Place. I honestly thought the whole thing was going to end knickers up, and had half prepared a Jennifer Lawrence joke for the occasion but… as it turned out, that (hilarious) line was unnecessary. Still, I think being slightly absolutely bloody terrified meant I didn’t mingle half as much as I would have liked to.
I’m fairly new around these parts, so there aren’t many profile photos I recognise just yet. So I’d like to be able to introduce myself properly.
I started writing online six years ago. Before then, my greatest works were… church raps (don’t even ask about that one; let’s just say I have a special talent for making a fool of myself) and a twenty seven page story I wrote age seven. I feel sorry for the primary school teacher who had to pretend to read through that monstrosity. My first stories – Harry Potter fanfiction – were equally as terrible. The first I vividly remember was this post-deathly hallows atrocity where Harry retold the entirety of the last three books to Ginny, over four criminally boring chapters. This is a literary technique I have since concluded does not work.
The first time I ever wrote anything good it was because I was angry. I would have been about fourteen and I can’t really remember what I wasn’t angry about at that point. I’m the type who lost sleep over the meaning of life from thirteen and up (still an insomniac, actually), and I happened to be riding the angst train pretty hard. So then writing became an escape.
The novel itself – still online actually – is no great work of art. It’s too long and the storyline is cluttered and mixed up and messed up and my main character was half unapproachably angry and half just really sad, but… I started to get good feedback. Actually, I got pretty amazing feedback (couple of thousand reviews, four hundred thousand reads and counting) and I didn’t feel so crappy about everything anymore.
Writing is a beautiful thing. Words can move things, and people, and shape the way people think. Words are absolutely incredible in themselves, but when you combine them with characters that are so real you mourn their lives… well, who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
I got the feel of it with that first completed novel and then I couldn’t stop writing. Writing makes me feel like I’m actually alive and affecting reality in a bigger way than just existing – to me, it doesn’t matter really if it’s fanfiction, or original fiction, or just a couple of sentences scribbled on the back of a napkin… writing makes me feel like I’m doing something important.
Five years after I started writing fanfiction, I still maintained that I wasn’t a crazy fan girl and had just fallen in love with writing… but then I found Sherlock (damn, I could watch that show forever why would there only be six episodes) and I started writing Sherlock fanfiction. The same week I found out about the competition I also found Supernatural. This was significantly damaging to my revision and my sleeping pattern, but I managed to get through all eight seasons in um… about six weeks? I bought the boxset with my advance (no regrets) and… after a couple of re-watches I’m so entering the realm of Supernatural fanfiction.
So I guess that means I get my fan girl badge after all. Surprisingly, after all my vehement denying that I wasn’t that type of fan girl (ignoring the fact that one of my uni friends said, I quote, ‘I always like running into you Helen, because I get to play the spot the Harry Potter jewellery game!’ which is a game I fully endorse), it feels pretty damn good just to embrace it.
Now, I have thirteen finished stories, six of which are full length novels (two original fiction, four fanfiction), with the others being slightly shorter works. I’ve got… oh, about another nine on the go if you count all the fandoms and the original stuff too. I tend to do separate tallies, because that always seems a tad less overwhelming.
And I guess now one of those novels is published by Random House.
(If you’re curious as to what a nineteen year old student does after her big life dream comes true, it’s hibernate. Suddenly, I’m Mr. Sex – Sherlock reference, check! – I got fifty likes on facebook when I changed my profile picture two days ago… I feel violated.)
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