Helene grew up in Belgium where she gained a Licentiate in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She has recently written a collection of novellas.
It was a pleasure to welcome Helene Leuschel to the Chat Room. I collected her from Cardiff Airport and we could chat on the journey. I instantly liked her and she was genuinely thrilled to be in Wales. Helene is bright and bubbly and it is obvious that she enjoys meeting people.
Once we arrived, Helene requested some green tea. She had brought some delicious nutty biscuits from Belgium. It was rather grey and cold outside, such a contrast to Helen’s home in Portugal.
Jessie: Welcome to Wales. Do you speak Portuguese?
Helene: Olá. Yes. I attended language classes as soon as I moved to Portugal. I believe that languages are the door to the county where you live, it allows you to understand people’s customs and habits. I love meeting people.
Jessie: I can imagine that you have met lots of people on your travel and through your profession. Now, tell me about your book.
Helene: ‘Manipulated Lives’ is a collection of five novellas, each different in perspective yet with the same core theme: psychological manipulation. From the octogenarian, an ageing mother, young professional to a vulnerable teenager and a manipulator himself, the stories develop the pitfalls that any individual can fall into when charmed and deceived by clever manipulators.
Jessie: Why did you decide to select the theme of manipulation and what is the genre of your collection of novellas?
Helene: I heard of someone whose husband lied, cheated, deceived and manipulated not only his wife and children but every single person who ever crossed his path in an extremely clever manner. Family members and friends had made numerous attempts to ‘free’ her from her husband’s abusive control, but it took immense courage and determination to eventually follow it through. I realized that during much research and talking to psychologists that manipulators can invade a person’s life at any stage. The five stories, told from five different perspectives, were the result of that creative idea. Maybe my collection of novellas will provide support for someone suffering from manipulation in the future.
Jessie: Your collection sounds intriguing and thought-provoking. I like the idea of taking a theme and then presenting it from different perspectives. It sounds like a unique read. How has the book been received?
Helene opened her notebook and read from a collection of reviews.
‘The beauty of Leuschel’s collection of stories is how they highlight the way we, as humans, often blind ourselves to the truth which can make us both manipulators and victims. The stories are all character driven by realistic and flawed characters and this allows us to relate to the behaviour depicted no matter how extreme it may become.’ E.L. Lindley
‘This book is made up of a superb collection of 5 short novellas depicting manipulators and the manipulated, highlighting to what extent abusive manipulation can distort and threaten lives.’ Miriam Smith
‘All five of these stories are thought-provoking and emotional and it is clear that the author has well researched her subjects. There is a lot of in this book, but Leuschel gets the balance between information, education and entertainment spot on.’ Feminisia Libros Book Blog
Jessie: Read an extract to tempt a reader.
The moment I wake up, the dismay and desperation are back. I cannot understand why I am lying in this tiny room attached to an IV drip with only a glass of water as my companion.
Jessie: How did you feel when you had finished writing your book, and did you miss any of the characters?
When I finished writing my book, I felt excited as well as apprehensive all at once. It had been a long emotional journey. Thinking about the characters, I guess there is one who I missed the most. It is Molly, the teenager in my story ‘Runaway Girl’. She is still on my mind and the reason why I would like to write a follow up story.
Jessie: Who would you like to read your book and why? This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family.
Helene: I would like my former neighbour, an experienced clinical psychiatrist to read my book one day (when there is a translation into French available) because throughout her long career working as a private therapist and in prisons, she has witnessed the baffling power of denial time and again.
Jessie: Why should I keep your book in my handbag?
As much as the five novellas are linked by the same underlying theme, they are each a standalone story that can be enjoyed in one single sitting – during a commute, when waiting for an appointment or an hour before going to sleep.
Jessie: What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?
Helene: ‘It had felt right but not for long enough.’
Jessie: Tell me a little more about this sentence. Is this an insight into your next book?
Helene: Yes, I have finished with the first draft of my first novel and what felt right for the main character at the start of the story, doesn’t for very long …
Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an author?
Helene: For me it was pressing the ‘publish’ button. I was exhilarated, worried and nervous all at the same time, so much so that I couldn’t sleep a wink the following night.
Jessie: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?
There is plenty of good advice around but the following work for me:
- Give yourself a daily target – 1000 words, 2000 or more, it doesn’t matter but make sure you sit down and reach the target. Be consistent, so turn off social media, switch off the phone, whatever it takes to remain undisturbed so you stay focused on filling the pages.
- When you are finished writing, start editing – be ruthless, don’t hold on to paragraphs that simply don’t sound right. Be brave, send your text to someone who you know is critical as well as fair. Lastly be truthful, write something you’d like to read not what you think could appeal to an audience. It won’t sound authentic.
- Don’t give up – feel the story come alive, the characters breathe as if they were real people and most of all enjoy the journey.
Helene lives with her husband and two children in Portugal and recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. When she is not writing, Helene works as a freelance journalist and teaches Yoga. Her collection of stories sound intriguing and completely unique. Helene has received high praise and support from her readers. I admire the fact that she had used fiction to explore a challenging theme.
As much as I attempt to see the good and authentic before the ugly and corrupt, what tends to always convey peace and quiet for me is noticing the beauty of nature.
For more information about the author and her upcoming books, please visit
Please see all my articles on my blog at jessiecahalin.com