What came first when developing the Helens of Troy story: the characters or the plot?
The characters definitely came first. I had the Helens, and I knew they were demon killers, but I didn’t know the rest of the who/what/where. So I wrote an outline, which gave them a beginning and a middle and an end and the Helens pretty much took over from there. I had to reel them in a few times, and refer back to the outline so they could get from point A to point B without getting lost in the woods, so to speak, but eventually it came together. I tend to write in three chapter blocks, and then move on. And I don’t necessarily write them in order, which sometimes helps and other times makes you go back and change things. How does Ryan get out of jail? I don’t know. Wait a minute, what was in Jacey’s pocket? THAT could get Ryan out of jail. That kind of thing.
Are any of the characters intentionally based on someone you know?
No, they’re all figments of my imagination, although as I get older and crazier, I may wind up a lot like Helena. I’m already wearing my pajamas into our condo’s common laundry. It’s just a small step to lingerie on the front doorstep, I suppose.
If you were to cast the Helens, which actresses would you choose?
I always saw Helena as a blonde version of Dolly Parton, or maybe Delta Burke, but my friend said she was Susan Sarandon. Then again I saw this picture of Roseanne Barr where she was all vamped up, and that gave me another idea. The actress who plays Kenzie on The Lost Girl, Ksenia Solo if she were a bit younger, would be perfect for Ellie. Helen has always been a bit of a stumper, but I can see Fairuza Balk playing her a few years down the road.
Will you continue to write about the Helens?
Yes, I love the Helens. The first book takes place at Halloween, and if you’ve read the book, you know that Helena had a disastrous Fourth-of-July. So it’s fair to say the holidays are always going to trouble for them. Helena thinks they’re going to have a nice quiet Thanksgiving, but all hell will break loose before the turkey hits the table in Nightmare on Jacey Street. As for Christmas, Helena’s being summoned to England for festivities with her own mother Elaine, in The Boughs of Holly.
Would you rather live in a small town like Troy or do you prefer the city?
I’ve lived in both. I was born in the city (Toronto), grew up in a small town (Mount Forest, Ontario) and have spent most of my post-college years back in a city (Vancouver). I think I’d like something in the middle. A town big enough to have a mall. I need my stuff.
What authors have the strongest influence on your writing?
I read a lot of Janet Evanovitch because she entertains me. I know her Stephanie Plum books are going to be an easy read. Her characters have danger around them, but they also have comedy too, and I think that’s true about the Helens.
Other than your characters, who is your favorite female literary character?
And other than Stephanie Plum’s grandmother? Nancy Drew. She of the titian blonde hair, that is probably a more contemporary color now, like Champagne 104. Nancy Drew was in my opinion, the first kick-ass babe in pulp fiction for girls. Why she kept hanging onto Ned, I’ll never know.
What is your favorite supernatural being (vampires, werewolves, etc.)?
This is a good question. I set out to be a vampire expert…then I did this zombie walk last summer, and suddenly everyone was asking me questions about zombies (even before The Walking Dead) which just goes to show you, you don’t necessarily pick your passion. The truth though? Witches. Definitely witches.
Are you reading anything right now?
I have two books on the go. One is Steven Tyler’s Do The Noises in My Head Bother You? And the other is Lucy Maude Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. I maybe the only Canadian woman who never read it as a young girl, but somehow I escaped it. So I’m reading it now, before they take away my passport.
What is the one item you can’t live without?
One? Who has only one? (sigh). Okay…my laptop. I’m addicted to social media.
About Janine McCaw
HELENS-OF-TROY is the second novel completed by Janine McCaw. For the Vancouver-based novelist it is the continuation of a dream, and the fruit of years of working in a different creative realm.
McCaw’s deep understanding of compelling plots, widely appealing characters, natural dialogue and strong story arcs comes directly out of her early career in the film and television industry. McCaw’s skills as an observer started early when her family uprooted from the City to small town Ontario – and she became the classic fish out of water. Writing down her thoughts became an outlet as she scribbled her way through childhood, while she also developed her observational skills and visual eye with photography. A die-hard hockey fan, McCaw studied Cinematography at Humber College, and was headed for a career as a cameraperson covering professional sports when she landed an internship in a broadcasting services company.
McCaw excelled in the television distribution arena. She joined Thomas Howe & Associates and moved with that company to Vancouver, where she distinguished herself with her talent for identifying the right product for the right market, and her people-skills in negotiating contracts. After furthering her professional development with several high-profile Canadian entertainment companies, she parlayed her reputation as a leading Cable Programming specialist into her own boutique firm. Formed with a partner, Dark Horse Ent. specialized in finding, and selling, niche Canadian television series – entertainment, information and variety – around the Globe. McCaw also acted as an independent executive producer on award-winning television Classic Car series, CHROME DREAMS, and as a distributor for series including ENTRÉE TO ASIA, and AT HOME WITH HERBS.
In high demand as an insightful, humorous and engaging guest speaker, juror and analyst for festivals and trade forums around the country, McCaw also spent large amounts of time traveling abroad to television markets. Writing relieved the stress of constantly being on the road. Increasingly, she turned her main hobby into outlines for novels, and finished fleshing out the characters, plot and dialogue for OLIVIA’S MINE, a fictional account of a young bride’s struggle to make a life for herself against the backdrop of the disasters that hit Britannia Beach, British Columbia in the early 1900s. The book was released in 2006 and continues to be sold at the British Columbia Museum of Mining.
HELENS-OF-TROY was released early in 2012. McCaw is also currently developing eight other stories for novel form. All set on the Pacific North West and in Canada’s North, they include the murder mystery A LITTLE FIRST DEGREE, a feel-good trilogy THE INN AT HAZY WATERS (Northern Exposure meets Fantasy Island), and PUMPER an action romance that has already garnered interest as the basis for a feature film.
About Helens of Troy
“The Gilmore Girls meet Buffy the Vampire Slayer”
Fifteen year old Goth-chic Ellie has a lot of explaining to do. She’s just moved to the small town of Troy, fought with her uptight mother Helen, met the boy of her dreams and found a dead body on her sexy “new-age” grandmother Helena’s porch. All on the first night!
But Ellie’s not alone. Helen is hiding something. Helen knows all about the kind of eerie dreams her daughter is having — the dreams that show the whereabouts of the missing children of Troy — because she’s had them herself. But she’ll never admit it. Not while Ellie’s sex-crazed friend Ryan is safely behind bars for the murders. Helen knows what it’s like to be attracted to dangerous men.
Then there’s the little matter between Helena and Gaspar BonVillaine, the teenaged vampire who is learning to feed on young prey. Now that he’s caught Ellie, he doesn’t know whether he wants to kill her or turn her to the dark side and keep her forever. Helena should have finished him off when she had the chance.
To survive the vampire feeding frenzy surrounding them, mom Helen needs to come to terms with her own insecurities and deal with the gifts she has. Helena must learn to ground herself for the good of mankind and more importantly her own family. And Ellie has the toughest choice of all. Ellie must decide whether its time to let her own childhood go and become the woman she is destined to be, one of the ageless and timeless “Helens of Troy”.
Author Janine McCaw (Olivia’s Mine, Feb. 2006,) has written this 100,000 word novel, the first in a fantasy series about “the Helens”. The three generations of gatekeepers will take the reader on a trip to a realm mere mortals fear to visit alone, and they’ll make her want to stay a while.
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