Author Spotlight – Helen Garraway

Vintage typewriter with lamp on wooden table at wooden wall background

The January 2024 Author Spotlight is with Helen Garraway. Helen and I met in Miami, FL at the Readers’ Favorite Awards ceremony. I enjoyed chatting with this USA Today Best Selling Author and wanted to share her work with you. She’s answered some questions about why she writes and what she is working on for 2024 (and it’s pretty exciting)!

And for those of you who have been around the blog for a while, the Author Spotlight is the new name for The Power of Connection. The change in names is all about putting the author under the spotlight, getting more information about why they write and how they got to this point.

On to the interview!

Photograph of author Helen Garraway taken by Jeff Krotz
Helen Garraway
How did you get started writing?

I never planned to be an author. I have always been a voracious reader, especially for fantasy and adventure books. I happened to have an idea rattling around my head, and I jotted down a few thoughts, but never really wrote anything. Then there came a period in my life when I had time on my hands, an empty nest, and I started writing. Out poured six books over two years. I loved reading them. I wrote the type of books I love to read, and I wanted to read it as a physical book, so I investigated how to publish it, and chose self-publishing. And voila! I learnt about editing, formatting and self-publishing and published eight books and two novellas in three years. I absolutely love it!

What genre do you write in and why?

I write fantasy because it is the genre I love to read. I enjoy world building, creating cultures, and environments, that become an integral part of the story. I like the freedom of writing a story in a world that I have created, because nothing is wrong, and I want to immerse my readers in the wonder and richness of ‘somewhere else’. 

I am also interested in sub-genre hopping! I started in Epic Fantasy with the Sentinal Series. My SoulMist series has a stronger romance plot line, Romantic Fantasy, and I am in the process of editing a standalone Dystopian Science Fantasy, called Harmony which will be my next release.

How do you get the ideas for the stories and books you write?

For the Sentinal series, it was my surroundings that sparked the idea. I was walking through a local ancient woodland near where I live, and I wondered what tales those trees could tell if they could talk. Centuries old, twisted and gnarled, they have watched history evolve. And then I thought what if there was a man asleep in that tree, and he awoke many years into the future. What tales he could tell. And so was born the Sentinals series.

How do you come up with character names for your stories?

Names just sort of evolve. I try and find variations of common names so that the reader can consume them easily, but they are different enough to have an ‘other world’ feel. Often, I take a common name and move the letters around. That was how I came up with the name for the magical Arifels, the Lady’s messengers. They were based of my cat Alfie. He has this position where he sleeps with his chin flat on the floor and elbows out, and he reminds me of a dragon. I took his name, Alfie, and moved the letters around and added a couple. They became Arifels.

How did you come up with the title for your book? 

I went though many different iterations trying to come up with a series of six titles that worked together. I had a couple of alpha readers to begin within and I sent them my options and one of them said I should use Sentinal in the title. I had come up with the name Sentinal for my guardians based off the word Sentinel. But I associated sentinel spelt with an ‘e; with software and technology, and my world was low tech to no tech. But I wanted the idea of guardian or protector, so I changed the spelling and created my own word! From their it was easy as I progressed through the series, from Awaken to Rising to Justice and onwards.

I’m not sure where the idea for SoulMist came from, but I had signed up to write a novel for an anthology, and it had to have a paranormal element and I chose a fallen angel. SoulBreather went on to hit the USA Today bestseller list as part of the Realm of Darkness anthology. Such a great experience and the first time I have written a book to an external deadline.

What is the story behind the cover of your book? 

Sometimes I think covers are the most difficult part of creating a book! Sentinals Awaken was my debut novel, so everything was a first along with designing a cover. I went into the video meeting with the cover designer with ideas in my head for the Sentinal trees. He soon put me straight as to what was ‘expected’ for a cover and especially for epic fantasy.

Watching him design the cover live as we chatted about the book, the themes, the characters, was one of the most amazing experiences of my writing career so far. We went through many iterations, but I love the final epic quest vibe with a touch of magic that we landed on. The process got much quicker as we went through the series, and I now realise, not one of my covers ended up with the Sentinal tree on it! Though I love them all and he designed a logo for me for the Lady and the Sentinals, so there is an image of a tree and a moon behind the titles if you look closely enough!

Do you have any book recommendations? 

My recent Indie reads that I would highly recommend if you love fantasy are:

  • A Wolf so Grim and Mangy by Caroline Noe. A laugh out loud romp of a read, loosely based on Red Riding hood, Absolutely hilarious!
  • A Breaking of Realms by Jasmine Young. An epic fantasy with dragons!
  • Of Stormlarks and Silence by Constance Lopez. An excellent hidden identity fantasy romance.

I read a lot of indie books, supporting other indie authors. You can find my reviews on my website.

Tell us a bit about your WIP. 

I am currently working on three books! All at different stages. 

Harmony is a dystopian fantasy which I have finished editing and sent off for the copy edit. Harmony is a standalone novel, one I wrote in 2020, and it’s taken me until now to do something with it!

I am half-way through writing OblivionGate, the third book in the fantasy Romance SoulMist series. Hoping to get that released in the summer, and I think that will complete the SoulMist series.

Although the epic fantasy Sentinal series is now complete, I have a prequel written, explaining how the Sentinals ended up asleep in the trees in the first place. I am still working on it, because I think I need to split it into two books, and develop the second half more. So that’s four books for 2024!

What would you like the reader to take away from reading your book? 

All my books are a form of escapism. I hope my books instil a sense of wonder and strong emotional reactions to my characters and the journeys they embark on. If you get a chance to read my books let me know if you think I succeeded!

A big thank you to Helen for chatting with me. I find it amazing to hear how other authors find their inspiration and I can’t wait to go check out the Sentinal covers and look for the tree and the moon!

More about Helen and where to find her work

Helen Garraway is the USA Today Bestselling author of the award winning epic fantasy Sentinal series and the fantasy romance SoulMist series.  

An avid reader of many different fiction genres, a love she inherited from her mother, Helen writes fantasy novels and also enjoys paper crafting and scrapbooking as an escape from the pressure of the day job.

Having graduated from the University of Southampton with a Degree in Politics and International Relations, she remains an active member of their alumni.

Until next time…