Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Interview with Helen Phifer plus 5* review - The Ghost House

I am so happy to have one of my favourite authors joining me today, for the first interview on my new blog! I thank her so much for fitting it in with her busy life! Helen...thank you! 

Firstly, Helen, I’d love to congratulate you on the paperback release of The Ghost House, the first in the Annie Graham series. This may be a very silly question, but how did holding your first book baby feel?

It was truly amazing, the first thing I did was open it and have a good old sniff. It’s something I’ve dreamt about for so long that I can’t actually believe I have one, well several copies actually because the kids are all getting one for their birthdays.

I don't blame you at all! I'm sure your family will be proud and thrilled to receive them!

I absolutely love this series of books, I first discovered you on NetGally and very thankful I am for that. I love the character of your leading lady, Annie Graham, could you tell us a bit about her?

I love crime stories but they always focus on the higher ranks like Detective Inspectors which is good but I wanted to write about a police constable who was just like you and me, with the same insecurities that a lot of women have. I wanted readers to see what it was like from someone’s point of view that is first on scene at the incidents as they get called in.  She is a great friend,  she has a crush on her best friend even though he is  gay, she’s fun and forever worrying about her weight. She also doesn't have much self confidence and has no idea why she attracts all the wrong sorts of men.

Well we readers are up to book three in the series, and life for Annie is going well (except that someone out there in the shadows has murderous intentions in mind), in your mind is there a finale to Annie’s story or do you think as with many crime novels this story has a lot of life left in it?

I originally thought that there would be possibly two, maybe three books in the series but thankfully my publishers love Annie as much as I do and my lovely readers so I think her story can go on for quite a while yet.

I am so pleased you said that! I am really not ready to step out of Annie's world!

Although I have referred to your novels as crime, which is a huge element of the plot, but also a major part is supernatural. What gave you the inspiration to combine the two?

I love being scared, I was brought up on Hammer House of Horror films because my mum loved them. My favourite television programme when I was a kid was The Munster’s closely followed by the Adam’s Family. Then when I was old enough I discovered Stephen King so I blame him and my mum,  plus the fact that I couldn’t find enough of those kind of stories which are my favourite so I thought I’d write my own.

Now I know how you manage to create characters like that AWFUL shadow man (from The Secrets of the Shadows, book 2 in the Annie Graham series) who I have to admit, as I may have mentioned to you before, scared me more than any other fictional character that I have read?

You did and I’m sorry about that Donna, I’ll be completely honest with you, I have to admit I was terrified. I scared myself so much when I wrote about him that I would have to leave the house if I’d been writing about him when I was on my own.  Which I suppose in a way is good.

Yes, as  writer I think if you scare yourself then you're definitely halfway there! Out of your books do you have a favourite ghost (maybe a less scary one!) and which villain did you have the most pleasure in seeing get their comeuppance?

Ah my favourite ghost, can I have two? I love both Alice from The Ghost House and Sophie from The Secrets of the Shadows. I think that my favourite villain is Henry Smith who is one very, cold calculating man.

I would have chosen exactly the same as you, although I also loved 'the witch' from The Forgotten Cottage and hearing her tale. And Henry Smith is absolutely wonderful!

Who or what are your main influences in writing?

Stephen King’s early books scared the living daylights out of me, Dean Koontz, Graham Masterton and James Herbert. I used to love hiding under the bedcovers reading their novels when I was a teenager and I think that has always stayed with me.

I think you have accomplished such a huge amount in your writing career, I remember well you beating Stephen King in the Amazon bestseller charts and I cannot imagine your jubilation, but are there any other writing ambitions that you have?

Aw thank you so much Donna, I have to say that in such a short space of time I managed to achieve what I’d always dreamt about so I’ve been very blessed. I’ve also worked very hard the last eighteen months to meet my publisher’s deadlines. The day my little old book pushed Stephen King my hero from the #1 spot in the Amazon Contemporary Horror chart was one that I’ll never forget, it was so surreal it took a couple of days to sink in.

I have so many writing ambitions they will keep me going for years but I really, really admire Sally Wainwright’s writing. Happy Valley and Scott and Bailey are two of the best programmes I’ve watched in a long time so I’d love to have a go at screenwriting. I’d really like to see The Ghost House made into a film or television drama, you have to dream big.

I would say it would be my happiest moment to see The Ghost House made into a film or drama, but I think also it would terrify me. I'd so still watch...

Well thank you so much for this interview, Helen. I have enjoyed your take on your writing so much, all the luck for your future work! I can't wait to see you back with your next book!

5* Review for Helen Phifer's debut novel

The Ghost House

I was gripped by The Ghost House from the absolute beginning, when Annie Graham began exploring an old mansion in Abbey Woods where her brother was the caretaker.

She found far more than she bargained for though when a ghostly voice scared the living daylights out of her. She escaped back to her brother’s house, determined never to set foot in the eerie old house again – when she remembered grabbing an old leather bound book that she had been flicking through, and stuffing it into her bag before she ran out. She realised that she had taken the journal of a housemaid, Alice Hughes, who had lived more than a hundred years previously in the manor house in the woods.

The story then flashes back between the late 19th century and the present day, with the diary of Alice helping to illustrate the story of the house in Abbey Woods and its inhabitants, which holds the most terrible and gruesome secrets.
While Annie is delving into the secrets of the mansion that she feels inexplicably drawn to, a young girl has disappeared in their town, and the police fear that time is running out to find her safe and well. As the death toll rises, they realise they are dealing with a serial killer who is very much on the loose, and he seems to have his sights set on Annie to be his spectacular finale.

The Ghost House is a gripping tale, full of spine chilling mystery and suspense (and a lovely romance!) I loved to read Alice’s tale and the flashbacks of the 19th century, as harrowing and heartbreaking as the were, and felt her fear and heartbreak as though it were a true story.
The police aspect seemed extremely true to life and well researched, and the murders were as gruesome and chilling as you would expect in a book about a serial killer – although not too awful to deter me at all, even though the ghost story at times left me peering round doors when I was alone. Having said that, it took me less than 12 hours to complete as I really couldn’t put it down.
I found the conclusion brilliant and it ended exactly how I would have liked. I loved the kick-ass heroine, Annie: definitely not a simpering female and I enjoyed watching Will’s character change around her!

The Ghost House is the most exciting book I have read in a very long time, and would make an absolutely perfect Halloween read! Amazing d├ębut from Helen Phifer.

My review of The Ghost House has previously been published on http://judgingcovers.co.uk/


Find Helen here at:
Helen Phifer on Amazon.co.uk


  1. Thank you so much for having me Donna, I'm very honoured and thrilled to be on your fabulous blog.

    Helen xx

    1. You're very welcome and thank YOU so much for fitting this in! I really enjoyed working with you, Helen xx

  2. I absolutely love hearing about the background and inspiration for a novel, so I really enjoyed this interview. Hmmm.. don't know if I dare read it though. I'm the biggest whimp there is so usually steer clear of this genre. Must admit, it's very tempting though. You must stop writing such good reviews Donna. Thank goodness for my kindle (invisible buying) he he.

    1. Thank you, lovely, so pleased you enjoyed reading! I always love hearing the back story to novels and writing too!
      Wimp or not, you should read this. I quite enjoy scaring myself but it is worth it! Love these books a lot!! X