Helen Simonson author photo_credit Nina SubinDon’t second novels always tank?

Thanks for getting straight to the point. There have to be exceptions for rules to be proven, right? Knowing a second book would not be greeted like a sparkly fresh debut all I could do was put some extra effort and ambition into the effort. Five years and 465 pages later you’ll have to be the judge!


You’ll never make a Thirty Under Thirty list.

I know. I was 45 when I sold my first book and now I’m 52. My husband wants to know how many books I’ll write so he can figure out how early he can retire. I tell him at least two. I’m actually not sorry I got to skip the ‘starving in a garret’ phase of being a young writer. All those dead end jobs and rolling your own tobacco. OK, so no one rolls tobacco anymore. Today it’s dead end jobs, flash fiction and Tinder? The real question is: can I now carve out a real body of work and, at my age, can I ever stop approaching the blank page with all the angst and despair of a nineteen-year-old? Age, it turns out, does not bring one iota more of creative assurance.


Do you have any qualifications to write a historical novel?

None whatsoever. But what fun to spread out in major reference libraries and look over my little glasses like I was a PhD. There are great egg and chips available at the café across from the British Library Periodicals Building. There are long underground passages—straight from a spy novel—at the Library of Congress. And who could resist the marble staircase and lions of the New York Central Library? Did I mention these are all warm, quiet and FREE for the people to use? Civilization lives!


Some writers dislike the book tour. Are you ready to get on the road again?

I have heard that but I fail to understand it. Who wouldn’t like a couple of weeks of nice hotels, warm audiences and signing autographs? Would Ms. Simonson like a martini with her free room service? Indeed, she would.



HELEN SIMONSON was born in England and spent her teenage years in a small village near Rye, East Sussex. A graduate of the London School of Economics, she has spent the last three decades in the United States and currently lives in Brooklyn. She is married, with two grown sons. Her debut novel Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, was a New York Times bestseller and was translated and published in twenty-one countries. This is her second novel. Find her online at www.helensimonson.com.

Author photo credit: Nina Subin


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