In Conversation with Helen Hardt
by Donna Soluri
Donna Soluri (DS): Thanks for taking the time out to talk with me today. I read your latest release, Follow Me Darkly, the first in your Follow Me trilogy, and I was blown away. In a wild year of uncertainty that has caused me to start and stop and start again with books, this one sucked me in from the very beginning and didn’t let go. I guess a little push, pull, control kink was what I needed to kick me out of my reading funk, who knew?!!? Let’s talk about it!
Helen Hardt (HH): Absolutely! First of all, thank you for reading Follow Me Darkly. I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Even better that it helped you escape the rage of 2020, if only for a bit.
DS: Skye Manning is our heroine. She’s a small-town girl making her way in a big city in a rather cutthroat industry, influencing. I love how you applied her passion for photography to a relevant, real-world, relatable new profession. There are layers of her personality we haven’t uncovered yet, albeit not as many as our hero, but we will get to that in a bit! What is your favorite Skye Manning trait? Was this a known foundational trait you built from, or did it surprise you during writing?
HH: I’m a “pantser,” which means I don’t plot my books ahead of time. I begin with a premise and then let my fingers do the walking across the keyboard. That means I get to know my characters as I write. I had a general idea about Skye when I began. I knew she liked to be in control, and I knew Braden would challenge that control. Honestly? I truly expected Skye to go to bed with Braden right away, and I was totally surprised when she didn’t. She wanted to, but she denied herself. That’s when I realized her need for control was more than just your typical Type A personality. This is a woman who will do almost anything to remain in charge, even deny herself something she desires. As Braden says, she is a challenge, and I love that about her.
DS: Braden Black is our hero. He’s a self-made billionaire, thirty-five years old, understandably guarded, and whoa boy, my personal catnip, broken somewhere deep inside. Something is haunting him, and I’m hoping Skye can soothe his demons. Braden is a tough nut to crack, a dichotomy of sorts because he was raised very poor and didn’t come into his success until a bit later in life. He’s no trust fund baby. How has his upbringing shaped him into the man he is now? Did you find getting into his head as complicated and full of roadblocks as Skye has?
HH: I got to know him the say way I got to know Skye—by writing him. Yes, he has reasons he is the way he is, and it goes way beyond what we learn about him in book one. I don’t want to give away any potential spoilers, so let’s just say Braden isn’t necessarily as self-assured as he seems, and he has an Achilles’ heel.
“With an edgy, enigmatic hero and loads of sexual tension, Helen Hardt’s fast-paced Follow Me Darkly had me turning pages late into the night!”
— New York Times bestselling author J. Kenner
DS: Let’s take a moment to look at social media. Skye and her boss, hotel heiress Addison Ames, run in an elite circle of influencers. In the book world specifically, has social media changed your approach to writing? In a world of going viral, does that weigh heavily on your mind when you craft your stories?
HH: Absolutely, social media has changed my approach. Social media, for instance, is the main way I promote my work, so what I write must be something my followers (and their followers, and so on…) will want to read. Social media also helps me keep apprised of what’s hot in the genre. For example, though I love writing historical and paranormal romance, they don’t sell as well as contemporary (at least for me). If I want a chance at going viral, I have to give the readers what they want. Social media is a valuable resource for knowing what’s hot and what’s not.
DS: On a lighter note, what’s the wildest thing you’ve seen on social media? Aside from cute cat videos, what is the one part that makes you believe social media isn’t the hellscape it often tries to be? Where do you look on social media when you need to rest your eyes? (I personally seek out cooking videos; those things are literal comfort food for me!)
HH: The wildest thing I’ve seen on social media? Wow, I could go to town on that one. Rather than write something X-rated, though, I’ll just say that I can’t stand how mean people are. Maybe that’s not what you meant by wild, but it still leaves me flummoxed. Hiding behind a computer screen brings out the beast in some, and I don’t think they know how hurtful they’re being. As to the next part of your question… Honestly, when I want to rest my eyes, I usually run away from social media! If I have to choose, though, it’s puppies (not cute cat videos!) Cute and adorable puppies. When hot fireman are holding them, even better. Next is inspirational quotes. I follow several Instagrammers who do nothing but post feel good quotes, and I have to admit, it works!
DS: Let’s talk about success. You have a hefty backlist of books on your shelf; you’ve been a published author for a while now. Has your idea of success changed over the years?
HH: When I first began writing, I just wanted to make a living. I never expected to hit any lists, so when that happened it was a dream come true. I think every author secretly wants to hit those milestones. I’ve been very blessed to have amazing publishers and editors who helped me get there. So what do I consider success? All of it, really. I want to write good books that readers love. But honestly, the personal messages from readers mean the most to me and make me feel the most successful. Many readers have told me my books got them reading again. One reader told me that one of my books saved her life. That’s pretty powerful.
DS: Can you give us a tease of what we can expect for Skye and Braden? I’m sure their road to an HEA will be a bumpy one. Will we get more on his brother? His father? What can you tell us without giving too much away?
HH: Oh, yes, the road will definitely be bumpy! Expect to shed some tears. Yes, we’ll meet Braden’s father and brother, as well as Skye’s parents. Secrets will be revealed and feelings will be tested, but in the end, love will find a way! (It’s still romance, after all!)
Thank you so much again for reading about Skye and Braden and for inviting me to hang out today!
About Helen Hardt
#1 New York Times, #1 USA Today, and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author Helen Hardt’s passion for the written word began with the books her mother read to her at bedtime. She wrote her first story at age six and hasn’t stopped since. In addition to being an award-winning author of romantic fiction, she’s a mother, an attorney, a black belt in Taekwondo, a grammar geek, an appreciator of fine red wine, and a lover of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. She writes from her home in Colorado, where she lives with her family. Helen loves to hear from readers.
Visit her website at www.helenhardt.com
Donna should be an empty nester, but she’s not, thanks COVID-19. She’s a voracious reader of all books; she can’t pick just one sub-genre. A staunch supporter of seasoned romance and a lover of cupcakes, you’ll often find her with a cup of tea and a mountainous TBR pile close at hand. Follow her @DonnaSoluri on B+M Bites.
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