I'm delighted to welcome Helga Jensen to our Summer picnic
Welcome to Jaffareadstoo, Helga. Which favourite foods are you bringing to our summer picnic?
There have to be sausage rolls at any picnic, so they are first on my list. I love good old-fashioned British food as you’d have at a birthday party growing up. There would be crisps and fairy cakes, but I may also add a touch of extravagance with some smoked salmon sandwiches.
What would you like to drink? We have white wine spritzers, locally brewed beer, traditional Pimms, sparkling elderflower cordial or a thermos of tea or coffee?
Ooh, this is a hard one. For a summer picnic, Pimms is a must. I often make my own pitcher of Pimms for parties and think of it as my speciality. However, a white-wine spritzer on a hot summer's day is tempting too.
Where shall we sit, by the pool, on a beach, in the garden or in the countryside?
By the pool with the sun shining would be perfect. However, the countryside would be beautiful for a picnic. I’m not such a beach person. I wouldn’t want sand getting into my salmon sandwich!
Do we have a wicker hamper, tablecloth and cutlery, or is everything in a supermarket carrier bag?
Definitely a wicker hamper. A Fortnum and Mason one, if possible.
Which of your literary heroes (alive or dead) are joining us on the picnic today?
It would have to be Enid Blyton. Can you imagine having a picnic in the countryside with your wicker hamper, drinking Pimms and chatting to Enid? Now that would be the perfect picnic.
Do you have a favourite place to have a summer picnic?
Yes, sometimes we cycle to a woodland area and have a picnic there. I have a bicycle with a basket on the front (just like the one in my latest novel, A Scandinavian Summer), and I pop the food in the basket, and we take our bikes down to the woodland area. The problem is that after all those sausage rolls, cycling back is hard work!
Do you have a summer music playlist? And if so, will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you feel happy?
There is a very old song called Airport by The Motors. It makes me feel happy as it is all about jetting off somewhere.
Which summer read are you bringing with you today?
Anything by Julie Caplin. I absolutely adore every book she has written.
When you are writing do you still find time to read for pleasure? And is there a book you would like to read but haven’t had time for …yet!
In between my writing, I am doing a Creative Writing PhD. I haven’t long finished my MA, so reading has had to be centred around the books I have been studying recently. I would like a bit more time to read the books I want to, though. I have a few on Net Galley at the moment that I can’t wait to get started on. I have two very different books I am about to start. One is a rom-com called My Big Fat Italian Break-Up, and another is a crime called The Carmarthen Murders by John Nicholl. As you can see, my reading can be rather eclectic!
Where do you find the inspiration for your novels?
For my first book, Twice in a Lifetime, something happened to me in New York which made me think up the plot. From a tiny seed I thought, what if? My latest novel, A Scandinavian Summer, is fiction but based on my favourite Danish island.
Have you a favourite place to settle down to write, and do you find it easier to write in winter or summer?
I do wish I could only write in winter as I love being outdoors in the summer. However, I tend to have a new book out every summer, and the deadline is usually around September the year before. So, the summer months are hectic for me. I wish I could sit in the sun with a laptop and write, but I need complete quiet. So, I only work upstairs in my study out of everyone’s way!
When writing to a deadline are you easily distracted and if so how do you bring back focus on your writing?
I tend to be quite good. As a journalist, I work to deadlines all the time. When the pressure is on, I tend to work better as I know there is no time to procrastinate. Ooh, look, Twitter…
Give us four essential items that a writer needs?
Tenacity, don’t ever give up. A writer really needs to keep writing no matter what setbacks occur.
A quiet space or a suitable space. Everyone works differently. However, I believe that you need that familiar space to write, whether a café you visit regularly or the garden shed, having a dedicated space for writing is essential.
A thesaurus. Mine really is my best friend, and having written for over 17 years, it is now in bits. However, I refuse to replace it as no other thesaurus would be the same!
Chocolate. After a long day of writing, there is nothing like a treat. Get that target word count done, and then indulge yourself with whatever you enjoy. It can also be wine! Of course, none of this is good for the waistline, though.
What can you tell us about your latest novel or your current work in progress?
My latest novel, A Scandinavian Summer, is due out this week, June 30th. It is a summer read set on a stunning Danish island with thatched cottages and cobbled streets. I only write about protagonists over forty as I believe there are enough books out there with twenty to thirty-year-olds. So this is the story of fifty-year-old Martha, who tries to pick up the pieces after the death of her husband and gets some surprises. I recently signed a new two-book publishing contract, so I am now busy working on my current work in progress, which is very exciting and set in Wales and Paris.
It's the right time for love, but is it the wrong place?
After the tragic, premature death of her husband Anthony, Martha has spent all her time focused on her teenage daughter Rosie in their small Welsh village.
But with Rosie leaving the nest, and Martha's own job on the line, it feels that life is passing her by.
Inspired by her love for Scandi-noir dramas, Martha impulsively books a trip to Denmark, determined to push herself out of her comfort zone - even if the thought terrifies her...
Her trip to the tiny island of Fano becomes something much more: in the form of a handsome stranger, Lars. Can Martha find love under the Scandinavian skies... but more importantly, can she find herself?
More about Helga
Helga Jensen is a freelance journalist and award-winning author. In 2020 Helga secured her first two-book publishing contract with Hera books. Her debut, Twice in a Lifetime, was published in June 2021, and A Scandinavian Summer was published the following summer. A further two-book publishing contract was signed with Hera Books in 2022 and Helga is now working on her third novel.
Helga has a BA Hons in English Literature and Creative Writing through the Open University and a Creative Writing MA from Bath Spa University. Helga is currently studying for a Creative Writing PhD.
Helga, where can we follow you on social media?
Thank you for sharing your summer picnic with us today
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