Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Today my author spotlight falls on Helena Halme....

I am delighted to welcome Helena Halme to talk her about her book 

March 2013

What is it about your book that will pique the reader’s interest?

Coffee and Vodka has been dubbed, ‘Nordic Noir meets family saga’, because it’s a story of a dysfunctional family set in Stockholm.

Eeva is 11 years old in 1972, when Pappa decides the family will move from a small Finnish town to the more prosperous Swedish capital. There the displacement causes a family rift so severe Eeva is still reeling from it thirty years later when she’s forced to re-live the dramatic events of her childhood. The forty-two-year-old Eeva’s emotional roller-coaster journey back to her hometown to see her gravely ill grandmother, is the central theme of Coffee and Vodka.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of Coffee and Vodka?

I started writing Coffee and Vodka as part of my final piece of work for a MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, so the first half of the novel only took a couple of months. After I graduated, I was determined to finish the novel and wrote fairly intensely for the next three or four months. So all in all, the draft took six months. But the editing process took a lot longer and the version which is out now is the novel’s fourth incarnation.

The book world is very competitive – how do you get your book noticed?

A good professionally designed cover is a must, as is employing an experienced editor. I am lucky in that there’s a bit of a Nordic vibe going on in fiction at the moment, which makes it easier to sell a tale of immigration set in Sweden.

But to get noticed as a Finnish author, I also stay in touch with the Nordic community online and in person through the many Finnish and Swedish ex-pat events in London. My blog, Helena’s London Life, also attracts readers, and I always respond to queries and comments from my fans.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Read as much as you can and write every day. What you write doesn’t really matter, as long as you keep on improving your craft. The more you read the better you write and the more you write the better an author you become. Boring, I know!

For me the MA in Creative Writing spurred me onto thinking that writing could be a career, so if that’s what you need, I wholeheartedly recommend the course.

Which writers have inspired you?

I fell in love with Doris Lessing’s prose in my twenties and although I love a bit of Ian McEwen, William Boyd or Jeffrey Eugenides, I do prefer female authors. Margaret Atwood, Tessa Hadley, Louise Millar, Joanna Trollope, Rose Tremain and Lucy English are just some of my favourites. But the list is endless and constantly updated. At the moment I’m reading, and enjoying tremendously, ‘The View on the Way Down’ by Rebecca Wait.

Helena ~ thank you so much for spending time on my blog. Jaffa and I wish you much success with your writing career. Do come and visit us again soon.

Helena is kindly offering one copy of her book Coffee and Vodka to one lucky winner


My Review of Coffee and Vodka

In 1974, Eeva and her family move from Finland to Stockholm. In many respects this should have been an easy transition but the cultural differences between the two countries play an important role in the early part of the story. Evva is still a child and isn’t fully aware of the undercurrents of emotion which affect both of her parents, and whilst her elder sibling, Anja is close enough in age, there doesn’t seem to be a strong emotional bond between the sisters. Thirty years later in 2004, Eeva returns to Finland, ostensibly to visit her sick grandmother, but this visit is also a disturbing return to the country of her birth and stirs up long buried secrets and stifled emotions.

Overall, the story of Eeva and her family really took me by surprise. There are some clever observations which really make you sit up and take notice, and the dissection of family values is particularly well done. It is interesting to observe the changes that time imposes on all of the characters, as Eeva, Anja and their parents are very different people thirty years on. Part of the appeal of the story is observing how these changes affect the future happiness of all the family.

In the past my own personal knowledge of Scandinavian writing has been confined to the crime fiction genre of scandi-noir. It is always refreshing to try something different, and Coffee and Vodka with its subtle shades of light and dark is a perfectly good place to start.



  1. Thank you so much Jo for featuring Coffee and Vodka on your blog + and for the lovely review. I look forward to hearing who has won the free Kindle copy!


    1. It was a pleasure Helena. Jaffa and I have loved having you feature on our blog :)

  2. Well done for getting Helena. I tried a couple of years ago before she published her book and failed miserably! I was featuring guest bloggers and you very kindly visited me Jo :)

    1. Jane, I must have completely misunderstood! I'd love to feature on your blog. I'll send you an email, if that's OK?

    2. Hi Helena, I have replied to your email and no problem contacting me. It was nice to hear from you :)

    3. Hi Jane and Helena - glad you two got to meet each other !!

  3. Well done to Karen G who won a copy of Coffee and Vodka :)


Thanks for taking the time to comment - Jaffareadstoo appreciates your interest.