Home > NewsRelease > In Conversation With Helaine Mario Whose Recent Novel Shadow Music (3) has just been published
In Conversation With Helaine Mario Whose Recent Novel Shadow Music (3) has just been published
Norm Goldman --  bookpleasures.com Norm Goldman -- bookpleasures.com
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Montreal, QC
Saturday, October 23, 2021


Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest Helaine Mario. 

Helaine is the author offour novels of suspense, Firebird, the award-winningbestsellers, The Lost Concerto and Dark Rhapsody, andShadow Music, #3 in the Classical Music Suspense Series.

The Lost Concertowon the Ben Franklin Silver Medal for Suspense, a Library JournalStar, First Place Royal Palm Award, and was a Finalist for: USA BestBooks, International Book Awards, National Indie Excellence, and NextGeneration Indie Books. 

Dark Rhapsody wonthe 2018 Best Book Award for Mystery/Suspense from American BookFest, was chosen by The Reading Frenzy for their 2018 Top 20, and waslisted under ‘Page Turners to Devour’ in Hollywood Weekly.

Helaine graduated fromBoston University and has been married fifty plus years, with twochildren and five beautiful grandchildren. She lives in Arlington, VAand is grateful to be a two-time cancer survivor.

Helaine was a White Housevolunteer for Tipper and Al Gore and continues to be a passionateadvocate for women & children’s issues. Because she believes in“giving back,” she founded The SunDial Foundation, Inc. in 1998. 

Now the ‘Helaine andRonald Mario Fund’ continues this work.  All net royaltiesfrom Helaine’s books support children’s reading programs andprograms that benefit our most vulnerable women, children andfamilies.

Good day Helaine andthanks for taking part in our interview.

Norm: How did you getstarted in writing? What keeps you going?

Helaine: Hi, Norm, thankyou so much for your interest in my books.  I always loved toread but never ever expected to write fiction. 

Then one day I was sittingby the water, reading a newspaper, when I saw a photo that remindedme of my first, long ago love, and I found myself wondering…whatif? 

I wrote the prologue toThe Lost Concerto that day. 

Now, 4 books later, whatkeeps me going is loving what I do.  I write the books I want toread.  I cannot NOT write.  ?

Norm: Are you a plot orcharacter writer and what helps you focus when you write?  

Helaine: I am all aboutcharacter.  I believe that flawed, deeply-layered characterswhom readers will care about make a story so much richer - and mycharacters frequently tell me what will happen next. 

Plot is much harder forme, but research and strong characters open many new paths to followand inspire new story.

I don’t have too muchtrouble focusing – I just turn on the classical music and watch thenext scene unfold like a film before my eyes.  Then I just fallinto it.  I am there.

Norm: What did you findmost useful in learning to write? What was least useful or mostdestructive?  

Helaine: I never took awriting class.  My inspiration and writing lessons came from 3women authors from the 50s – Helen MacInnes, Mary Stewart andEvelyn Anthony. 

Reading their books, Ilearned how to write strong women characters and create complex plotswith international settings. 

Their stories taught mehow to write believable dialogue, mystery, heart-racing suspense,swooning romance, and history.  I read every one of their books,and miss these authors still.

One interesting note toadd.  My publisher advised me early on to deepen my characters. 

My Colonel originally washard as granite.  Adding a rescue Golden Retriever gave theColonel humor and humanity and made the story so much better.  

As for bad advice, myfirst agent wanted me to change my style to a domestic thriller. I chose to be true to myself, and I’ve never been sorry. 

Norm: What served asthe primary inspiration for Shadow Music? As afollow up, how did you decide you were ready to write the book?  

Helaine: I signed my firstcontract for The Lost Concerto, my classical music suspensenovel, at age 68.  Needless to say, I thought it would be myonly book. 

But readers began askingwhat happened next for my main character, pianist Maggie O’Shea. And I realized that I wanted to know as well. 

But I was terrified towrite another book because I had poured my whole heart and soul intoThe Lost Concerto and did not think I could write a book asgood… and I could not bare to disappoint my readers. 

But my publisher, PatGussin, gave me excellent advice.  She said, “Readers want tore-visit the character they have come to love, but in a series thatcharacter needs new challenges to change and grow.” 

Excellent advice.  Ifound the new challenges by adding new characters to the familiarones – strong supporting characters who added new emotions, story,plot, and depth.  And so Maggie O’Shea’s book #2, DarkRhapsody, was born. 

But the end surprised me,and I realized that Maggie’s story was not done.  Shadow Musicwas the result.

The power of classicalmusic is at the heart of each of my books. 

Norm:  Did youwrite the book more by logic or intuition, or some combination of thetwo? Please summarize your writing process. 

Helaine: Interestingquestion.  I think readers are very smart, and they expect astory to be realistic, honest, and as truthful as possible.  So,the answer for me is both. 

Logic, in terms of whatmakes sense, what should happen next organically, what consequencefollows the choice? 

But intuition, too, basedon the characters’ choices, emotions and personalities.  Notalways what should they do, but what WILL they do?  Frankly, mycharacters often surprise me.

As for the writingprocess, I would love to write every day but with travel andgrandchildren that is not always an option.  I write when I can,hopefully for at least 3 hours at a time. 

Then the next day I edityesterday’s work, and that leads into the next scenes.  Ibegin with a vague outline, but honestly, the story takes over and Iend up re-writing the outline to follow my scenes. 

Finally, I try to stayopen to new inspiration and be willing to change course.  Younever know what will fall out of the sky.  

Norm: What was thetime-line between the time you decided to write your book andpublication? What were the major events along the way?  

Helaine: I am a very slowwriter.  It takes me two years to write a book, and then oncethe contract is signed, another year to work with my publishers toedit, market and finally see it on the shelves. 

Not sure what you mean bymajor events…. In the publishing world, there are hours of editing,jacket and cover choices, interviews, newsletters, social media –months of reaching out to new and established readers. 

The highlight, of course,is that emotional moment when that first box of books arrives.  

Personally, for me, healthissues and choosing family time and travel also have slowed down mywriting process.  But I have found a balance and would notchange my choices.  I am doing what I love. 

Norm: How did you createthe character of Maggie O'Shea? Is she based on someone you know? Isthere much of you in her?

Helaine: The inspiration for mypianist Maggie O’Shea comes from my son, Sean, who asked for pianolessons at age 6.  Within a few years, we went from a ‘no-pianohome’ to a ‘grand-piano home.’ 

Sean studied classicalpiano for 15 years, and as I listened to him practice, I fell in lovewith the great composers and their music.  So when I began towrite, there was no question that my main character would be apianist.

Maggie is flawed, complex,and layered with depth, a woman who must find a way to move on aftertragedy with grace and dignity.   

Maggie is not based onanyone I know.  But she is strong, compassionate, talented,kind, beautiful, very smart, loving, and very courageous – she isthe person I want to be.  

Norm: How much researchdid you do before writing Shadow Music?

Helaine: Hours and hours,months and months!  The truth is, many writers include only 10%of their research in their books.  Otherwise, your storyresembles a college text. 

The trick is to share yourinfo in interesting ways, through dialogue or backstory or specialscenes. 

For me, the most importantthing about research, besides needing to be accurate, is that onepiece of research leads to another, and often you find yourself goingdown an unexpected but rewarding path. 

Research on WWII led me tomissing music, which became the plot of The Lost Concerto.

More recently, research onmissing art led to a vanished Van Gogh, and that led me into Maggie’ssearch in Shadow Music. 

Also, as I researchedRachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, I realized that the music,with its emotional beginning, middle and end, could mirror Maggie’sjourney.  Rachmaninoff’s Concerto became the heart of ShadowMusic.  As Maggie’s father Finn says, “Music tells ourstories.”

Norm: Did you know theend of your book at the beginning?  

Helaine: Nope, no idea. I hold my breath and keep banging forward through each scene and hopehope hope that inspiration will strike. 

Several writers say thatnot knowing the ending to a story is good, because if the writerdoesn’t know how the book ends then their readers won’t knoweither.  ? 

Also, as I’ve said, mycharacters often drive the action. 

InDark Rhapsody, when it came time to write the climax,my characters took over and surprised the heck out of me. 

In Shadow Music, Maggiehas to make a life-changing choice, as does the Colonel she has cometo love.  I feel as if they made the choices, not I.

I’ve also been surprisedto realize that each of my books involves a search for somethinglost.  Not just art, or a person, but on a deeper level, findingwhat is lost within ourselves.  

Norm: What do you wantyour book to do? Amuse people? Provoke thinking? 

Helaine: My books aresuspenseful, yes.  But on a deeper level, I want my stories tosweep readers into another world, to strike a deep chord withinthem. 

I hope to make my readerslaugh, cry, swoon, think, feel real concern and fear, and… want tolisten to classical music.  I want my readers to stay up allnight reading, and I want my characters to resonate long after thelast page.  

I believe story-loversrespond to the healing and transformative power of music and art inmy books.  I also explore loss and grief, aging, doing the rightthing, the consequences of the choices we make over decades, findingthe courage to move on.  I hope my readers will find themselvesasking, What would I have done? 

Norm:  Where canour readers find out more about you and Shadow Music?

Helaine: I hope readerswill check out my beautiful WESBSITE

The site has my bio, infoon all my books, and lists all the children’s charities I supportwith my Royalties.

Readers can also sign upfor my Newsletter – For the Love of Books – on my website.

Finally, there is alwaysgood info on Amazon and Goodreads.

And I always love it whenreaders reach out to me with their questions and reactions to mystories. 

Norm: What is next forHelaine Mario?

Helaine: I want to keepliving in the moment, enjoying the gift of time with my sweetheart,my children and grands, and my friends. 

As for books, I amhalf-way through writing my fourth Maggie O’Shea novel, Echoes onthe Wind.  I still want to give book lovers that magical feelingof expectancy and “falling into a good story.” 

Norm: As this interviewcomes to an end, if you could invite three writers, dead or aliveinto your living room, who would they be and why?

Helaine: Fornon-fiction, Bob Woodward, who has written extensively about ourmodern day political world.

Helen MacInnes, the firstQueen of Espionage, who inspired my books.

Kate Quinn, who hasinspired me with her beautifully written historical books about WorldWars I and II.

And finally, to add a #4to the list, Kristen Hannah, because for me she is the ultimate,sweeping storyteller.

Norm: Thanks again, andgood luck with all of your endeavors.

Helaine:  Thank you!

Follow Here To Read Norm's Review of Shadow Music

 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Norm Goldman
Title: Book Reviewer
Group: bookpleasures.com
Dateline: Montreal, QC Canada
Direct Phone: 514-486-8018
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