Helena Harper is a native of England, but she grew up in a household that did things somewhat differently to other English households, because her mother was German (her mother had met her father in Hamburg at the end of WWII, when as a British soldier he had been stationed there). This mixed background has had a profound influence on Helena and her understanding of so-called national divisions and whom we call an 'enemy' and whom we call a 'friend'.
From an early age she loved to read and write, particularly fantasy stories, and later she enjoyed studying foreign languages. At Surrey University she studied German, Russian and International Relations and spent considerable periods of time in Germany, Austria and Russia as part of the course. After university she went into banking, but soon realised that was a big mistake. “I felt like I was being suffocated,” she says of the experience.
She then spent a year teaching languages at a private school in London, and enjoyed it so much she decided she would get properly trained. She did a Postgraduate Certificate in Education at Exeter University and then started her career as a modern languages teacher, a career which has lasted twenty years. During that time she has continued to write, concentrating primarily on fantasy stories for young children. However, in the past few years she has also discovered the joys of writing poetry for adults, and her first two books are poetry collections: It's a Teacher's Life...! and Family and More – Enemies or Friends?, which have been inspired by her professional and personal life.
Helena is now a private tutor and translator. She is continuing to write children's stories, and illustrations for her first children's picture book are now being done. Her aim is to see the book in print before the year is out. Many people ask Helena why she likes to write. She feels she can best express it like this:
The blank page calls,
the heart responds,
imagination spreads wide its wings
and launches into infinity...
the page fills,
the soul takes flight
and the spirit sings.
Copyright © Helena Harper
I asked Helena some questions. so we could get to know her better.
- Can you tell us a little about yourself? (i.e. Pets? Where you live? Special interests of hobbies?)
I live in the UK, quite near London, in a county called Surrey. I was born in this county and – apart from periods spent abroad when studying my foreign languages – have always lived here. Although it's very much 'communter' country and very densely populated, there are still lovely pockets of countryside and quaint, historical villages. I'm within easy travelling distance of one of the neighbouring counties, Hampshire, and the village of Chawton, where Jane Austen lived for the latter part of her life. I love Jane Austen's stories – don't you?
Besides reading and writing, I enjoy walking, playing tennis, doing Pilates, dancing and spending time with my niece and nephew.
- What inspired you to write your book? My book “It's a Teacher's Life...!” is based on my own experiences as a teacher and came about after I'd written some poems whilst on a retreat, including one for the cook who was producing some wonderful meals for us. It reminded me of one of the cooks at the school where I worked and I thought I could adapt the poem for her and then I started to think of other 'school' poems I could write about.
- Do you have a favorite poem, if so tell us why? No, I can't say I have a favorite. They are all so close to my heart.
- Tell us a little about your writing schedule. What do you find most difficult, easiest? I have to fit my writing around my tutoring and other commitments. I write whenever I find some time to write, which could be any time of the day. The easiest thing is coming up with an idea, the most difficult thing is then sorting out the details of the story.
- What are your future writing plans? I hope to get my second collection of poems, Family and More – Enemies or Friends?, which at present is an ebook, published as a paperback, and the illustrations for my first children's picture book are being done at the moment. I have another picture book that I would like illustrated after that and I will be looking for suitable publishers.