Interview with Author Helen Cassidy Page

By Elizabeth Gracen:

I've know Helen Cassidy Page for many years now, and I am totally in debt to her for supporting and guiding me through my first YA fantasy book, Shalilly. Helen has always been in my corner, encouraging me to write, to create. She was the best friend to my recently deceased mother-in-law, and I know that they shared a special bond forged by time and experience. Helen is a unique, supremely talented author who inspires me to keep writing. I'm so happy to feature her work on Flapper Press and to have interviewed her about her work and influences.

Please meet Helen Cassidy Page!

EG: First of all, when I started my research for this interview, I was simply blown away by how prolific you are! So impressive! I don’t even know where to start other than to ask you if you are writing all the time—seriously! I have such romantic images of you sitting by a window with your laptop, a pot of hot tea nearby as you gaze out the window and contemplate your next story. Your work spans several genres and subjects. How do you decide what to write?

HCP: I enjoy writing almost anything. I write a lot of stories because I hope they will sell on Kindle, but I can’t write anything if my heart isn’t in the story. I’ve discovered I enjoy writing mysteries, and I’ve written cozies, which is a popular genre that works as a series, more lighthearted than thrillers or police procedurals. But I’ve also written romance thrillers, supernatural thrillers, and even children’s stories. I get invested in the characters and then the story takes off.

I’ve written a historical novel detailing the Irish famine, which I consider my literary work. I’ve published it in volumes, and while the book is finished, I’m still editing parts of it and hope to publish the remainder before too long.

EG: How did you first get started writing professionally?

HCP: I began writing in 1973 or thereabouts when John Schroeder, a cardiologist at Stanford, where I worked at the time, asked me to write a low-cholesterol cookbook with him. He knew that I had been giving cooking lessons because the local paper had done a feature on my classes for bachelors.

I’d been teaching French cooking at a time when Julia Child was the reigning food queen, and I had learned everything I knew from watching her shows and cooking out of her books.

Although I was an avid reader, I’d never considered writing. But I was game for anything and agreed to John’s project. His dream was to save the world from heart disease. I’m not sure I had any dreams beyond providing a stable home for my teenage daughter at the time. However, as soon as I sat down to write the first page of the book, a new world opened up for me. I knew I loved food and cooking, but I never believed it was my true passion, although I believed I had one. I just didn’t know how to find it.

As soon as I begin writing, though, I knew I’d found it. It was a profound moment. I’ll never forget it. We found a publisher for that first cookbook and when it was finished, I knew I wanted to write what I considered a “real” book. I had no idea what it would be, and it took years before I realized a cookbook was as real as any book, but that’s how I got started writing.

When I began promoting the cookbook, I met a writer who encouraged my dream of writing and eventually I began exploring fiction. I took classes, read books on craft, and basically dedicated my life to learning how to write and discovering myself as a writer. Fifty years after that first page of writing, I have now written many books, taught writing classes, mentored writers, and have an editing business.

Writing continues to challenge me, thrill me, humble me, and enrich my life. I’m not sure where I would be as a person if John Schroeder had not asked me to write a cookbook with him, because even after we finished that book, it took years before I was able to consider myself a writer, and now it is my whole life. But without his dream, I’m not sure I would have found it on my own, because I didn’t start out seeing myself