Good morning Helene and welcome. Can I start, as always, by asking you a little about yourself?
Good morning and thank you for having me on your blog this week.
I was born in Brussels of German parents and grew up with two brothers and a twin sister. It was fun being exposed to many different languages and cultures from an early age because I now appreciate the fact that it is a great way to step outside the idea of a common national identity and its many restrictions. Brussels is a fascinating example for a multi-cultural society that at its base has three official languages and yet is such a small place compared to its neighbouring bigger nations.
After finishing University in Brussels, I worked and lived in London and later also in Edinburgh. I was lucky that my job as a reporter and producer allowed me to travel extensively worldwide … until I met the love of my life and thought it was time to settle down. We moved to Belgium for a few years, then decided to take our two children to live in Southern Portugal where life is so much simpler, healthier and laid back than in a big city. I learnt Portuguese and when both children started attending school, I found more time again to write, pick up the study of philosophy and eventually created my first work of fiction. I’ve loved the written word ever since I started reading as a child, devouring Enid Blyton’s books, writing poems, stories and filling many notebooks and diaries.
When did you first decide, you wanted to write and how did you begin that journey?
As I already mentioned briefly, I have always enjoyed writing as a child, carrying a notebook or a diary around with me so that I could jot ideas and thoughts down. As a teenager, I contributed to the school’s monthly journal and loved creative writing in my spare time. By the time I reached the end of school, I decided that I was either going to study journalism or philosophy because both would involve writing as well as reading a lot. I opted for the journalism degree which I very much enjoyed and led me into writing features for magazines, then radio reporting and further television production.
I was in my early forties, when my children were both in school and I had more time again to think about what to do with myself next. I always had a passion for philosophy and after some research found out about the MA in Philosophy course at the OU. Their distance learning programme was my best option and it was indeed a wonderful journey. It sparked my keen interest for psychology through research in the philosophy of mind and more specifically the human capacity for empathy.
Personal tragic circumstances (a close relative has been the victim of psychological abuse for almost two decades) and the completion of a couple of creative writing courses with the OU and Oxford University have eventually made me pick up a pen and transfer my ideas into the writing of my first anthology of novellas.
Manipulators are everywhere and to some extent we all do use manipulative tools to reach our goals. It is a survival skill but one that if present in a narcissistic and perverted individual who lacks the capacity for empathy is dangerous for all those who get in contact with them. I found that once I’d started writing, I couldn’t stop.
What inspired you to write your debut novel, Manipulated Lives?
When I found out what a deceptive and narcissistic manipulator had done to someone I love, behind closed doors, I was determined to somehow make her voice heard. There are many excellent self-help books on the market giving advice on how to deal with controlling and manipulative individuals but I felt most comfortable taking the idea into fictional territory. By opening up to people about this topic during the initial stages of plotting my ideas, I was stunned to hear that everyone had a story of their own. This was the reason why I decided to explore the impact of psychological manipulation on people of different ages and backgrounds. The five novellas can be read separately yet each aims to take the reader to question the fact that as an outsider, nothing is ever what it seems at first sight and that toxic manipulation happens in a wide variety of human interactions.
Can you tell us something about your current WIP?
I am currently writing my second book – a novel this time. One of the main underlying themes running through the story is what impact your childhood experiences can have on your behaviour and how lasting memories can shape your personality and outlook on life.
Describe your writing room. Do you prefer to write in silence or with background music? If the latter, have you any favourites?
I write anywhere and at any time …but a favourite is sitting at my laptop at home in our lounge because every time I look up, I have a splendid view of the Atlantic Ocean.
If I was to let in any background music, it would be songs by Norah Jones. She adds a soothing atmosphere to any situation and always helps me drift into another world.
And lastly, if you were preparing to spend a year on a desert island, what four ‘must haves’ would you take with you and why?
If the practicalities allowed it, I’d take my close family, Diane Meur’s ‘Les Vivants et les Ombres’, a thick notebook and a pen. The first is because my husband and two children make my heart tick and are the reason I get up in the morning, the second because it’s over 700 pages and is a book I could read again and again. Lastly a notebook and pen so that I can continue writing.
Helene’s Social Media Links:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Helene Andrea Leuschel was born and raised in Belgium to German parents. She gained a Licentiate in Journalism, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. Helene moved to the Algarve in 2009 with her husband and two children, working as a freelance TV producer and teaching yoga. She recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. Manipulated Lives is Helene’s first work of fiction.
Manipulated Lives – Amazon Book Purchase Link