My debut novel was initially inspired by a John Donne poem.

Helen Cullen by Demian Wieland

Helen Cullen by Demian Wieland

I read John Donne’s poem, ‘To Sir Henry Wotton’ while in secondary school and one line really stirred something in me; “More than kisses, letters mingle souls.” When I attempted to write fiction for the first time, more than a decade later, it was the very first thing I wrote and remains the epigraph in the finished novel.

I want to start a letter-writing revolution

My novel meditates on the lost art, and power, of letter-writing. I think we are missing out on something really wonderful by not writing letters any more. There is nothing more exciting than seeing an envelope waiting on your mat with your name written in the handwriting of someone you love.

You won’t know what you want to say, until you start writing.

It is only when you create the opportunity of writing a letter, that all the things you have to say reveal themselves, safe in the knowledge that the recipient won’t, and can’t, reply immediately but will also have time to think and reflect about what they want to say in return. Your thoughts slowly unravel when given the chance.

I worry social media disconnects us from each other

I think that digital communication gives us a false sense of community - an illusion that we are connecting with each other - but often really doesn’t help sustain relationships in meaningful ways. People are lonelier than ever, and we need to make more of an effort to see each other in real life, to use our mobiles for actual calls, and write to each other again.

I believe big things are achieved through tiny steps

When faced with a challenge that seems overwhelming at first, I remind myself that I don’t have to achieve it all today but just need to take the first step. Bit by bit you get there. Without that philosophy, I could never have finished the book!

Being a bookworm as a child made me a writer

I am convinced that the voracious reading I indulged in when I was little laid the foundations for me to become a writer as an adult. In classic children’s novels I learned so much about storytelling, imagination and the power of books to be agents for huge change in oneself.

If you have an instinct to write, you should go for it

I didn’t start writing until I was thirty. I’d always daydreamed about being a writer but didn’t believe I could do it for a long time. It was only when I eventually sat down to try that I discovered the words there waiting – they could be waiting for you to give them a chance too!

Music is my other great passion

In my pre-writing life, I loved working in the music industry and music is still a huge part of my life. Building a soundtrack into the novel, sharing artists I loved with my characters, was one of my favourite parts of building the world of the book.

I am inspired by so many wonderful women writers

Some incredible women writers fought hard for a place in the literary world to make it easier for women like me to follow in their wake. One incredible example is the Irish writer Edna O’Brien who is a literary hero of mine. Women writers need our support to garner equal representation, respect and recognition in the publishing world.

I love to write literary prescriptions

One of my favourite things to do is prescribe a book to a friend to tackle any problem, trouble or emotional quandary they might have. Tweet me your ailment (@wordsofhelen) and I would love to prescribe one for you!