Helene Young, author of Safe Harbour, answers Six Sharp Questions

by |February 28, 2014

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Helene Young

author of Safe Harbour, Burning Lies and many more

Six Sharp Questions


1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

Thank you! It’s lovely to visit Booktopia again.

Safe Harbour is set in a small coastal Australian town called Banksia Cove. I fiddled with the topography around The Town of 1770 and Agnes Waters for this story so Google Earth won’t help pinpoint the location!

Darcy, an up and coming chef, has reluctantly returned home to support her mother through ovarian cancer treatment. After she’s involved in the rescue of a stricken yacht, the past she thought she’d put behind her crashes back into her life. This time there’s danger everywhere she turns. Should she follow her heart or listen to reason? As the weather closes in she finds herself stranded in an old whaling station and only one thing is certain, by morning not everyone will survive.

Safe Harbour has back story themes of drugs in sport along with the challenges that young people living in rural and remote areas face every day. Flying in and out of those communities has given me an appreciation for the role that sport has to play in giving them golden opportunities. Sadly, sometimes it’s dross beneath the gold…

Grab a copy of Helene Young’s Safe Harbour here

2. Times pass. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

The worst moment was developing vertigo and being grounded from flying until I find a solution. There’s nothing so sulky as a pilot with clipped wings…

The best moments? Too many to list – being surrounded by whales in the Whitsunday Islands without another boat in sight. Bringing my ninety-one year old mother home from hospital with a huge smile on her face. Stepping off the plane in Beziers in France to see my sister again. Life’s full of magical moments.

3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” ARISTOTLE

In both flying and writing I really think that saying holds true, but it also applies to life. Striving to do the best every time you do something will build a lifetime habit and that means you’ll just keep getting better.

I reckon it even applies to smiling.

4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.

I’d definitely say I’m not easy to live with. Capt G and Zeus are often in competition with the characters filling my head. And if it’s not stories, then it’s probably issues with the 250 pilots I manage that gives me selective hearing…

Our day starts early with a walk for Zeus and breakfast then I head off to my day job around 6.30. When I get home at around 5.30, 6 pm there’s time for another walk, dinner, and then it’s writing time. Weekends I write when I can.

And if an idea strikes at 4 am then I’ll get out of bed and start tapping away on the computer so I think that definitely makes me difficult to live with!!

5. Some writer’s claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

Ha, the fickle market place… I think the nightly news has a greater impact on me as my stories are always topical.

But I do have lovely loyal readers who support me and wait anxiously for each new book and, if I’m going to have a sustainable career doing what I love best, then I need to listen to my readers and, to a degree, the market.

I don’t mean that I write by committee or that the market changes the stories I write, but I definitely consider it in the way I approach the promotion of a book.

Who knows what the next big thing will be? If you find out can you let me know in case it’s a story I’d like to write?

6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?

Wow! That’s a tough assignment, but here goes!

Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden – it teaches resilience and the worth of standing up for what you believe in.

Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan – great values, but also puts an empowering spin on perceived weaknesses ie kids who are dyslexic and attention deficit are actually the sons and daughters of gods.  It also has a cleverly packaged message about the strengths of outsiders and what happens to bullies.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – with its clear message about fighting for your beliefs and persevering. (They’ll all have seen the movies so that will help too!)

Animal Farm by George Orwell – on oldie but a goodie with its message that people can be easily manipulated (and what can start with the best intentions in the world, can go so radically wrong…)

Ice Station by Matthew Reilly – because it’s a ripping good yarn and those adolescents will need to unwind after all that learning!!

Helene, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Helene Young’s Safe Harbour here

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About the Contributor

Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

Follow Andrew: Twitter


  • rowena715

    February 28, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    Those are some tough questions! Well done, Helene. Can’t wait for Safe Harbour to be available.

  • March 2, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    Thanks, Rowena! The list of boys books was the hardest!!

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