What Inspired Me To Write My First Book Series

What Inspired Me To Write My First Book Series

Readers often want to find out what inspires us authors to write. Today, I’d like to tell you what inspired me to write my first book series.

When I started writing the first novel in The Nordic Heart series, I wasn’t planning to write more than one book. I wasn’t even planning on writing a whole novel!

The English Heart

Book 1, The English Heart, started as a series of blog posts.

Over fifteen years ago, when I began my blog, Helena’s London Life, many of my readers asked me why I moved to England from my native Finland. So I started a series of posts, telling the story of my life, of how I met and married my English husband. I was imagining that I’d write four or five posts at the most, but when I got to number 25, I realised what I was writing was a novel. During the writing, I changed characters and added plot twists. Later, I named my characters Kaisa and Peter. I did this mainly to avoid upsetting real people in my life, but also because I wanted to make the story more engaging, and most importantly, faster-paced than real life. (I’ve written a guide on how to turn real-life events into fiction. Go here to find out more.) 

But in essence, the whole of The Nordic Heart series is inspired by how I met and married a British Navy Officer.

The True Story

The Englishman and I have recently celebrated 40 years of marriage, which (I guess!) is a testament to the strength of feeling we both had for each other when we met at the British Embassy in Helsinki in 1980.

I was a shy student of Economics and he was a gregarious, smart, confident newly qualified naval officer. I’d only gone to the cocktail party, held in honour of the British Navy’s visit, as a favour to a friend.

Because, reader, I was already engaged to be married to another man.

But the Englishman swept me off my feet and throwing caution to the wind, I met up with him again two days later. We spent a wonderful evening together, getting to know one another. But our situation was impossible. He was in the British Royal Navy and I’d promised myself to someone else. And we lived on opposite sides of the Cold War. Even though Finland was not behind the Iron Curtain, the country was still in the grip of our powerful neighbour Russia, or the Soviet Union, as it was called then. 

(I found out later the Royal Navy divers spent hours under the ship’s hull looking for spying submersibles during the visit. The Cold War was very real in those days!)

I cried buckets and buckets on the day the British frigate left Helsinki harbour, carrying with it the man I’d fallen in love with. Not only was I devastated because I truly believed that I wouldn’t see the Englishman who’d stolen my heart ever again, but I was also confused about my own emotions. What had happened to the love I had for my fiance? How could I, a sensible and cautious person, fall head over heels for a foreigner when I’d already had my future planned with my equally sensible boyfriend of four years?    

You’ll have to read the book to find out what happened next! 

The Faithful Heart

After I published The English Heart (then titled The Englishman), I had no plans to publish a sequel, let alone write a series. The novel was successful, with over 500 downloads in its first 24 hours. This was early in the ebook revolution, so these figures were encouraging for a debut novel. 

After the book’s publication, readers asked me if there would be a sequel. They wanted to know what happened next in Kaisa and Peter’s lives. I was reluctant to write another novel because I didn’t wish to carry on writing about my own life.

But then, during a house move, I found a diary I’d kept as a young naval wife. It made quite riveting, and shocking reading. I realised there was another story I could weave around these notes, so I began writing the second novel in the series. 

The Real Naval Wife

The Faithful Heart is loosely based on those terrifyingly sad lines written when I was a lonely, displaced young woman. Newly married, I was happy when my husband was at home, but when he went away, which he did for long periods, the house was empty and there was nothing for me to do. I tried to find work, but even with my hard-won degree in Economics, I couldn’t get a job.

‘As soon as that handsome husband of yours gets reposted you'll leave us,’ was the most usual comment at a job interview. Or, ‘Where is Finland? Never heard of it,’ was another. 

The four years of study were a waste of time since my degree seemed useless in the minds of British employers. Don’t forget, this was the mid-1980s when a new naval wife was expected to have a baby instead of pursue a career. 

‘Chance would be a fine thing,’ the Englishman joked, when at home from sea.

But it wasn't funny to me. The Englishman was a submariner and he would sail off and we would have no contact for weeks on end, apart from the occasional letter. 

The letters written across the oceans were full of longing and very little news but were another good source of inspiration for The Faithful Heart. In addition, there was a multitude of interesting characters in our lives that I could borrow personality traits from. I had great fun imagining how life might have been for me if I had been dropped into an isolated married quarter on the far western coast of Scotland. I’m not sure I would have had such a drastic reaction to my loneliness as Kaisa in the book does, but hey, it’s fiction! 

Although there is a lot of sadness in The Faithful Heart, I enjoyed writing the novel. I loved to weave a different future for myself and the Englishman. 

The Good Heart and The True Heart

Once I had published The Faithful Heart, writing the next two books in the series came fairly easily. Writing is never easy, but once you have a series going, the follow-on books can sometimes feel as if you are rolling down the hill on a bicycle with your feet up in the air. That’s how it was with both The Good Heart and The True Heart

The writing was also easier because of the hooks for the next book(s) I’d left while writing The Faithful Heart. I also had lots of new ideas of how life could go for Kaisa and Peter. 


Because I wanted to end the series, I chose a dramatic closure for Book 4, The True Heart, for which I had to pay with several emails and comments on social media from my readers, berating me for what I had written. 

The ending also had a surprising impact on me. Finishing a series is an emotional time for a writer, something I hadn't realised until I’d published The True Heart. Afterwards, I was bereft. I missed both Peter and Kaisa, so much so that at one point I considered rewriting the ending!

The Christmas Heart

Having mulled over my predicament, I decided to write another book, which would give a happy ending to the series. Again, I could go and root around the plot in the four earlier books and behold, I found the character I wanted to bring back into the storyline. 

Another source of inspiration for The Christmas Heart was the setting. I have spent many happy weeks skiing with friends in Åre, the Swedish mountain resort, so I knew the place well. It was the perfect place for a second-chance Christmas romance.

Download The Young Heart: A Prequel for Free

All the books in The Nordic Heart series are available in both paperback and ebook format in the shop. Just go here: https://helenahalmebooks.com/collections/the-nordic-heart

There is also a prequel to the series which charts Kaisa's life before she met Peter. You can get a copy of The Young Heart for free when you join the Readers' Group. More details here: https://helenahalmebooks.com/pages/free-exclusive-reads

Over To You

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the various sources of inspiration for The Nordic Heart series of books. To start the conversation, please comment below. I’ll reply to any questions as best I can!

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