HELEN OF TROY
BY TESS COLLINS
Pub date: January, 2012
Casebound: ISBN 978-1-937356-00-2
Trade: ISBN 978-1-937356-01-9
Kindle: ISBN 978-1-937356-02-6
EPUB: ISBN 978-1-937356-03-3
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—HELEN OF TROY, a novel of mythic mischief will be available January 1, 2012. Best known for her thrillers, HELEN OF TROY marks the entrance for Ms. Collins into mainstream storytelling. “It’s all about creating an experience for the reader,” she says, “I want them to get lost in the characters, invested in their decisions and remember their names years after they’ve read the book.”
Tess Collins is a coal miner’s granddaughter, raised in a southeastern crater town Middlesboro, Kentucky. Living in a crater made for bad TV reception and after the town’s only movie theatre burned down, Tess spent most her time in a one room Carnegie Library reading around the room. She started at SALLY AND THE BEAR and ended with WAR AND PEACE at which time she thought, “I want to do this.”
Previous novels include THE LAW OF REVENGE, THE LAW OF THE DEAD, and THE LAW OF BETRAYAL. Her non-fiction book HOW THEATER MANAGERS MANAGE is published by Rowman and Littlefield’s Scarecrow Press. Miss Collins received a B.A. from the University of Kentucky and a Ph.D. from The Union Institute and University.
Synopsis of HELEN OF TROY:
HELEN OF TROY is a quirky and lively retelling of the classic Greek legend in small-town America. Helen Ramsey and her good-old-boy husband, Rudy, fight like caged roosters. When their bachelor neighbor becomes Helen’s confidant, rumors spread and sides square off until the entire town joins the ruckus. After Helen is kidnapped by her would-be lover, Rudy resorts to a clever Trojan Horse stratagem, and Helen wages a war worthy of a goddess. But will even that be enough to triumph over the gossip of a small-town Cassandra?
Q: Here’s a question that always gets asked, but readers always want to know: how did you get started writing?
TC: Around the age of 13 I wrote teenage angst poetry about escaping my life of pain and misery in deepest, darkest Appalachia. I also daydreamed of kissing cute football players who never looked my way. Playwright Paul Green sent me the most encouraging letter after I poured my heart out to him in a nine page handwritten diatribe about my ho-hum life, and I thought, damn, I should be a writer.
Q: Was college any better?
TC: My years at the University of Kentucky were filled with worry over landlords who ripped me off, and basketball players who never looked my way either, much less kissed me. I did have some terrific teachers: Gurney Norman, Ed McClanahan, James Baker Hall. From among the three of them, I got the romantic notion of running away to California. I was so eager I graduated in three years, and took off.
Q: To California?
TC: In a cast-off ‘68 Buick Electra my father gave me for graduation. My best friend and I had a Kerouac-ian journey across the country, she as Gypsy Woman and I as Princess Knight, on our search for the Holy Grail. And if you ever ask which of us made the midnight phone call to a well-known writer in Butte, Montana, I’ll never tell.
Q: What has been the most important influence on your writing?
TC: It’s a who: James N. Frey, author of HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD NOVEL. He’s part evil Santa Claus and part fascist taskmaster, with a glint of satanic elf about the eyes. If you don’t have conflict in every scene and drama in every line you get “Freyed” (fried), as his students say behind his back. Write a static scene and he’s apt to vomit in your lap. Jim’s influence helped me develop into a professional.
Q: You’re a small-town girl living in a big city. Differences much?
TC: I grew up in eastern Kentucky where you learn to duck bullets before you're out of diapers, where only a few years ago the Hatfields and the McCoys signed a peace treaty. Only time I ever got shot at was in my hometown of Middlesboro. You come to realize that the fight over who kicked my dog is really about how am I going to live my life. In San Francisco, I’ve woken up to a dead body under my window, walked upon shootings in the Tenderloin where I work and oddly, even in the city, the fight over who kicked my dog is really about how am I going to live my life.
Q: Do you have a favorite author?
TC: I lean toward writers who tell stories and invent characters that stay with you for a lifetime—Thomas Hardy, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, John Irving.
Q: Maybe this is an obvious question, but did growing up in Appalachia influence your writing?
TC: How could it not? It’s a place of contrasts that lives in your blood. There are many successful people living there though the poverty-ridden drug culture gets most the attention. In the everyday life, people battle for justice as they see it, and if that means a knock-down fistfight breaks out on election day, then there’s gonna be a fight. One of my favorite true stories is the beauty contestant who got in a fight in the afternoon and still placed in the beauty pageant that night with a black eye. It takes me hours to make up a story with that much energy, passion and a touch of pathos. Many of us who leave the area struggle with who we are in that page of history that is as bloody and infuriating as it is nostalgic. But don’t bad-mouth our hometowns to us. We’ll usually come out most aggressively defending our heritage.
Q: Your writing often has mythological structure. How does this fit in?
TC: I believe all human beings respond to a mythic structure, whether they know it or not. Myth is an obsession of mine because it delves into our collective psyches. In fiction my characters will have as much inner struggle as outer, and this affects their psychology, giving the story more depth.
Q: You’ve worked a day job—or is it night job—in theater for many years. Any plans to set a novel in a theater?
TC: Day and night, and what an excellent idea. I may have to consider a thriller that takes place on or off stage. After all, with over thirty years of theater management under my belt, I’ve experienced a great deal of drama in public and in private. I know where the bodies are buried and who has slept with whom.
Q: HELEN OF TROY is a little different from the kind of books you usually write. How’d that come about?
TC: Glad you asked that because I’m known for darker stories. HELEN OF TROY, while it has its dramatic moments, is a quirky, light-hearted retelling of the Greek legend. Its origin was in a personal experience of being torn between two wonderful men, but as I wrote the book, Helen’s circumstances inspired me to delve deeper into what many married women face. Getting lost in a marriage and searching for oneself, having feelings for another person, and how she handles those challenges morphs Helen into a hero of sorts, a strong woman who overcomes a tragic past.
Q: One last question—is it true you were born in a crater?
TC: Born and raised. Google it. Middlesboro, KY is one of the few cities built in a meteorite crater. Maybe that explains some things, I’m just not sure what things.
Any information in this press kit may be used for print/electronic articles or reviews. If you have additional questions for Tess Collins, please submit them to: TessC33@gmail.com
We would appreciate a copy of the article or review. Thank you.
© BearCat Press LLC.