Helen Parusel: feedback and friendship on the road to publication – Jericho Writers
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Helen Parusel: feedback and friendship on the road to publication

Helen Parusel: feedback and friendship on the road to publication

We caught up with Helen Parusel, a Self-Edit Your Novel course alum and Jericho Writers member (who’s also used our AgentMatch and editorial services) to hear about her journey to publication.

JW: We’re so pleased to hear your debut A Mother’s War was published with Boldwood Books recently. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your writing journey that led you up to this point?  

I come from London but have been living in Hamburg, Germany for over 25 years. Like so many of us, I always wanted to write a book, but there never seemed an appropriate time in daily life.

In order to avoid empty nest syndrome when my daughter left home to study, I decided that was the moment to start my writing journey. But how? I had no formal writing qualifications, had never had anything published and had no idea what skills were required to actually write a novel.

Stumbling around the internet I came across Jericho Writers and that changed everything. Working my way through every teaching video available, I studied the craft of writing and learnt about the fascinating world of publishing. I completed a novel and using the Jericho Writers AgentMatch service, I started the tortuous process of submission.

I didn’t receive a full manuscript request but one particular encouraging response from an agent at Curtis Brown inspired me to keep going. When lockdown arrived I joined a Curtis Brown Creative online writing course. By this time I had a new idea for a book, and the manuscript I worked on with Curtis Brown became A Mother’s War which was published in May.

JW: Can you tell us a little bit about the process your book went through from writing the first draft, through to publication?

I sent out my manuscript on submission, again using AgentMatch. This time, I received a full request. The agent felt it wasn’t quite ready and kindly gave me detailed feedback. She also invited me to resubmit. Not wanting to mess up this amazing opportunity, I decided I needed a professional manuscript assessment and turned to Jericho Writers. I read the profiles of their editors and came across Clare Coombes of the Liverpool Literary Agency. Amongst the things that attracted me to Clare was her love of WW2, historical fiction which was the genre of my novel.

Clare did a detailed, brilliant assessment which shone with knowledge and passion for the genre. She also loved my book! After a couple of video calls and numerous emails, she offered me representation; an unbelievable and wonderful moment. After that, things moved very fast. We edited for about six weeks and Clare submitted to about 12 publishers. Within three months I had a publishing deal!

Image displays the book cover of 'A Mother's War' by Helen Parusel. On the cover, text reads: 'The Nazis  want her baby. She'll risk her life to stop them.'

JW: You were developing your craft for several years before you were published, is there anything you found particularly useful on your journey?

Definitely being part of a writing community such as Jericho Writers. The support, feedback and friendships are invaluable. Also a shout out for Debi Alper’s incredible Self-Edit Your Novel Course, and of course for Clare’s astute manuscript assessment.

JW: Were there any surprises along the way? Or perhaps anything you wished you had known earlier, or been prepared for?

I was stunned how many times a book is edited before it goes to print! I also didn’t realise I would be working on three books at once: marketing the one out now, finishing book two, and starting book three. It is all very intense, but I love it and am very grateful to have this opportunity.

JW: What advice would you give to writers working on their first draft?

Every writer has to find a way that works for them. Some throw out a messy first draft and just get the words down, others like me edit as they go. But what I would suggest is getting feedback and another perspective on your work, either through the Jericho Writers community or an online writing group. No one needs to write in isolation.

JW: We understand A Mother’s War is part of an exciting three-book deal with Boldwood Books. Can you let us know what are you working on now?

I have just submitted book two to my editor which is another WW2 story, this one set at the time of Austria’s annexation with Germany. Like my first book, it contains themes of romance, resistance and impossible choices.

About Helen

Helen is from London and now lives in Hamburg Germany with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.

After giving English lessons to retired Germans for twenty years, she became intrigued by many of their wartime stories which has inspired her writing. Helen’s childhood summer holidays were spent with family in Austria and she draws on her experiences for her second book.

Her debut novel, A Mother’s War, was released in the summer of 2023.

You can follow Helen on Twitter and Instagram.