Helen in 2004

Present day


Born Helen Mary Turner in Walthamstow, northeast London in 1953, I began writing at the age of thirteen. Desperately wanting a pony of my own, but not being able to afford one, I invented an imaginary pony instead, writing stories about our adventures together at every spare opportunity.

In the seventies I turned to science fiction; this was the age of Dr Who, Star Trek and Star Wars (first time round!). I still have an unfinished adventure about a bit of a rogue smuggler who travelled space with his family, making an honest(ish) living and getting into all sorts of scrapes. Perhaps one day I might finish it.

I had wanted to become a journalist when leaving secondary school, but my careers advice at Wellington Avenue Secondary School for Girls, was not helpful. "Don't be silly," I was told, "you can't type." (I still can't, I use four fingers.) Instead, I worked in South Chingford library where I stayed for thirteen years, although I was not very happy there - I did not realise it, but I wanted to write. The one advantage of the library, however, was the access to books, and it was there that I came across the Roman historical novels of Rosemary Sutcliff, the Arthurian trilogy by Mary Stewart, and the Glastonbury-based historian Geoffrey Ashe. I was hooked on Roman Britain - and the historical speculations about King Arthur!

Reading everything I could, I eventually became frustrated that novels about Arthur and Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere) were not satisfying my theories and ideas, or how I saw them as characters. So I decided to write my own version. Little did I know that it would take me more than ten years.

I married Ron in 1981, and our daughter, Kathy, came along a year later.

Writing was somewhat half-hearted, but when Kathy went to playgroup I had a some space of my own time on my hands to get back to writing.

I had a small success with a children's personal safety book (stranger danger) called "Come and Tell Me," a little story that I wrote for Kathy, and was immensely proud when the British Government took it as their official safety book for a period of ten years. It was even included as a featured story in a children´s TV programme.

Unfortunately, it is now out of print, but second-hand copies are still available. Authors usually frown upon second-hand because we receive no royalties for them, but in this instance, if you have young children, please do buy the book if you happen to see it on eBay or Amazon. The safety of children is more important than earning a few pennies!

Rosie detail Rosie    
Book Launch
Ron, Kathy and Helen
Rum detail     Rum
And so I started writing again – properly - with a determination to actually finish this idea for a novel set in post-Roman Britain circa 450 AD. I made a deliberate decision not to include Merlin or Lancelot in my story, there was to be no magic or Medieval knights in armour. No Holy Grail quest, no ‘courtly deeds’ and no turreted castle of Camelot. My book was to be a ‘what might have really happened’ historical novel, not a fantasy, and most certainly not a romance!

I found an agent who, to my surprise, informed me that what I had submitted would fill the first two books of a trilogy. William Heinemann offered me a contract for a three-book deal a week after my 40th birthday. The result was the Pendragon´s Banner Trilogy: The Kingmaking, Pendragon´s Banner and Shadow Of The King.

My fourth historical novel, first published in 2000, is about King Harold II and the sequence of events that led to one of the most famous battles in English history - Hastings in 1066, and titled Harold The King. It is published under the title I Am the Chosen King in the United States.

Following the success of that novel, I wrote A Hollow Crown (The Forever Queen in the United States) which is a prequel to Harold, telling the story of Edward the Confessor's mother, Emma of Normandy, who was Queen of England twice, as wife to Æthelred the Unready and then to King Cnut (Canute). I am connected to a major project - 1066 the movie - as co-scriptwriter and general advisor, although it is never certain whether such projects eventually reach fruition.

In 2005 I had a major disagreement with my agent. I felt that she was not doing the best for me or listening to how I wanted to expand as a writer, so we (unfortunately, not amicably) parted company. Simultaneously, William Heinemann decided not to print any more of my backlist, and so I became redundant. I moped for two weeks then decided to pick myself up and start afresh.

I obtained the copyright to my books and took them to a small independent company. I also decided to go ahead with the project that my ex-agent was not interested in - a series of pirate-based nautical adventures, starting with the first Voyage of Captain Jesamiah Acorne - Sea Witch. I describe these adventure books as ‘a typical sailor´s yarn’, since, unlike my historical novels they are part fantasy, and are intended for adult reading.

Meanwhile, the Arthur Trilogy, Harold the King and A Hollow Crown were picked up by US Publishing House, Sourcebooks Inc. (Note the different titles mentioned above.) The Forever Queen became a USA Today Bestseller, and the books are still doing very nicely.

In 2011 I again found myself without a publisher when the UK company I was with went bankrupt, so I took my titles to Bristol-based SilverWood Books Ltd, an Indie assisted publishing company, a choice I have not regretted.
2012 brought life-changing excitement when we won the Lottery raffle on the opening night of the London Olympics. The result being a much-longed-for move away from London to the rural tranquillity of North Devon.

We purchased an eighteenth-century farmhouse overlooking part of the Taw Valley, with thirteen acres of land and stabling for our horses. We moved house, in the snow, on January 18th 2013. Kathy´s boyfriend Adam – who is now her husband – moved down with us and they are now a successful show jumping team, with Kathy doing the riding and Adam being the horsebox driver and groom.

We also have a variety of animals, hens, ducks, geese, dogs, cats and several moorland-bred Exmoor Ponies.

In 2018 I was commissioned by publishers Amberley Press and Pen & Sword to write two non-fiction books, Pirates: Truth and Tales and The Life of a Smuggler: Fact and Fiction.

Joining with eight other authors I then contributed to 1066 Turned Upside Down, an ‘alternative history’ e-book containing a series of short stories for the year 1066 – where the factual history is re-imagined.

The Sea Witch Voyages have currently expanded to five adventures: Sea Witch, Pirate Code, Bring It Close, Ripples In The Sand and On The Account plus an e-book prequel novella When the Mermaid Sings, with a sixth series book, Gallows Wake, in production.

I also have ideas for Jamaica Gold, Hurricane Wind and The Turning Tide (titles may change), as well as maybe two more ‘spin-off’ short stories or novellas.
In early 2019 the Voyages were picked up by a small independent US-based publishing company, Penmore Press.

During the Covid lockdowns of 2020/21 I went self-published with my own Taw River Press, producing the sixth Sea Witch Voyage Gallows Wake, and republishing When The Mermaid Sings, followed by new UK editions of the Pendragon's Banner Trilogy.

I also wanted to have a go at writing something completely different. I'd been mulling over using my thirteen years as a North London library assistant as a plot for a tale of some sort, so during those lockdown weeks I delved into the Cosy Mystery Genre. The Jan Christopher Mysteries are the result.

Set during the 1970s the series starts with A Mirror Murder, followed by A Mystery of Murder, A Mistake of Murder and A Meadow Murder. The fifth in the award winning series will be A Memory Of Murder.

November 2023 saw me publishing Historical Stories of Exile, an anthology of short stories written by thirteen well-known authors, my contribution being an exploration of how the Doones (of Lorna Doone fame) came to be living on Exmoor in the 1700s.

I now have the next Sea Witch Voyages to write, and have been commissioned to write about the Ghosts of North Devon for Amberley Press. It looks like 2024 is going to be a busy - and hopefully productive - year!