There are four thousand love stories in Central Park

Central Park has over nine thousand benches. You might wonder why I’m telling you this, but I promise it will all become clear. Most people who head to New York, can’t wait to hit the shops, take in a Broadway show, visit the Statue of Liberty, and look out from the observation deck of the Empire State Building. I was no different, but what I didn’t expect, is that all of those things would pale into insignificance for me, when I fell in love. With Central Park.

At heart, I’m a country girl, so maybe it’s no surprise that I loved the oasis of tranquillity that Central Park provides in such a vibrant city. But it fired my imagination in a way that I’d never thought possible. And it was all down to those benches.

Over four thousand of them have been ‘adopted’, which means they’ve had plaques assigned – each one a mini love story in its own right. There were hundreds of them that touched my heart, and, if I’d had the time, I could have spent the entire ten days I was in New York, just wandering around Central Park, reading those plaques. There were proposals, dedications of love, and the marking of every momentous occasion you can imagine. But this was my favourite:

Isn’t that the most beautiful love story you’ve ever read, in so few words? I’d really like to know more about Meg and Wes, but what I do know is that they inspired the idea behind my latest novel The Christmas Shop at Central Park’. When Libby moves to New York to recover from the death of her parents, and takes a job working in a Christmas shop on Seventh Avenue, she reads a message on a bench – from Charlie to Grace – that changes her life.

The benches in Central Park weren’t the only things to influence the story, though. There’s a scene in the novel where the heroine can’t find the Empire State Building, even though she’s standing right in front of it. It happened to me, and I’ve never seen a police officer laugh so hard! But shrouded in mist, it didn’t look anything like I’d expected. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it… Just look how different it looked in these two pictures, taken on the same trip, I think it was a case of being too close to see what was right in front of me, first time around!

Leeds trip – Paula’s in the centre and I’m back left.


Four of the characters in the book are named after some friends I met up with on a trip to Leeds, and a throw away comment from someone when we were at that stage of the evening where rash promises are made! I’d gone on the trip with one of my best friends, Paula, and she was probably an even bigger influence on the story than those beautiful benches in Central Park. She’s an absolute inspiration, dealing with health issues which would stop most people, but somehow she keeps grabbing life by the scruff of the neck. One of the main characters in the story represents everything I love about her – intelligence, wit and the absolute refusal to do anything but live life to the full. I’d give Paula her own plaque in Central Park if I could, but for now she’ll just have to settle for having the novel dedicated to her instead.

If you get the chance to spend an hour or ten wandering around Central Park, reading those plaques, you won’t regret it. After all, you can go shopping in any city, but where else will you get the chance to read thousands of mini love stories, all in one place?


In a Manhattan Minute

In a Manhattan Minute is out today! October 20th sees the publication of my fifth novel.

A winter story set in the snow and excitement of the big city, In a Manhattan Minute is the perfect romance to curl up with. And for only 1.99 it’s a bargain price for a trip to New York City…


Here’s the blurb…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… but when the temperature dips, can Manhattan work its magic?

Jack exists in a world that has seen its fair share of tragedy, but also success and the wealth that comes with it. One snowy night, he crosses paths with Evie, a homeless girl, and it changes everything.

Three years on, Evie’s life is very different. She’s the assistant to a prestigious wedding gown designer, she’s settled in Manhattan, has her own apartment and friendships she holds dear. But the past is lurking in the background, threatening to spoil everything, and it’s catching up with her.

Kent has kept a family secret for two decades, a secret he never wanted to share with his son, Jack. And even though she doesn’t realise it yet, his life is inextricably tangled with Nicole’s, the woman who was his housekeeper for thirteen years and the woman who helped Evie turn her life around.

It’s Christmas and a time for forgiveness, love and Happy Ever Afters. And when the snow starts to fall, the truth could finally bring everyone the gift of happiness they’re looking for.

Grab a hot chocolate, turn on the twinkly lights and snuggle up with this unputdownable heart-warming novel. 
In a Manhattan Minute 

Helen J Rolfe x


In a Manhattan Minute


In a Manhattan Minute… everything can change.

And there have been a few changes over the last couple of months. My first bit of news is that my new novel, In a Manhattan Minute is available for pre-order from Amazon now!

I loved writing this book because it was a leap in setting for me. When I read I love to travel to different parts of the globe and with this story, as the title suggests, I have been living in the world of New York City. And what a lot of fun it has been!

Here’s the blurb…

Jack exists in a world that has seen its fair share of tragedy, but also success and the wealth that comes with it. One snowy night, he crosses paths with Evie, a homeless girl, and it changes everything.

Three years on, Evie’s life is very different. She’s the assistant to a prestigious wedding gown designer, she’s settled in Manhattan, has her own apartment and friendships she holds dear. But the past is lurking in the background, threatening to spoil everything, and it’s catching up with her.

Kent has kept a family secret for two decades, a secret he never wanted to share with his son, Jack. And even though she doesn’t realise it yet, his life is inextricably tangled with Nicole’s, the woman who was his housekeeper for thirteen years and the woman who helped Evie turn her life around.

It’s Christmas and a time for forgiveness, love and Happy Ever Afters. And when the snow starts to fall, the truth could finally bring everyone the gift of happiness they’re looking for.


I loved being in New York City so much that I’m busy penning another novel set in the same place and plans are underway to release this towards the end of the year.

In other news, The Friendship Tree has been given a makeover with a brand new cover and is currently on special normal-jpeg-for-website-use-etcoffer at 99p for a limited time.

Wishing all our readers a wonderful September and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Helen J Rolfe x


New York Dreams by Helen Phifer

Have you ever wanted to go somewhere so bad, but knew that you never would because you couldn’t afford it or it just wasn’t possible?


I have since I was a child and learnt about the Statue of Liberty, I longed to go to New York. As I got older it was always in the back of my mind. Thanks to watching Ghostbusters numerous times I felt as if I knew the place pretty well already. I met Steve when I was eighteen and we did go on an amazing holiday to Hawaii, before we settled down. Then we bought a house, got married and our five children came along, so a day out in Blackpool was a luxury that we couldn’t really afford, but we would save up and take them so they never missed out. We did have one holiday abroad when the kids were very small, but it was such hard work that I swore to myself I would never go abroad again. At least not until the kids were old enough that they didn’t need nappies, buggies and more clothes than we could carry. Fast forward to nine years ago and I had five teenagers, we discovered Centreparcs which is perfect for our family, especially my son Jaimea who is severely disabled. We try and go there every year because we love it so much and now I have grandchildren to share it with. Gosh I feel old, however New York it isn’t and I still desperately wanted to go there. Jaimea needs round the clock care and we’ve never left him so before so I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I wasn’t bitter about it because Jaimea is my world, but it’s hard knowing that you can’t do what everyone else is doing.

This year has been a tough one for my family, my two adorable grandsons decided that being born at 27 weeks was fine and Jaimea became seriously ill. He ended up in intensive care for longer than I care to remember. Thankfully he eventually got better and the twins were well enough after one heck of a fight to come home.

I was looking at my emails and found an invite from my publishers Harlequin to a Black & White Ball, to be held at… guessed it The Waldorf Astoria in New York. My heart filled with pride that I had even been sent such an invitation, but seconds later it sunk again. I knew I could never go, but being invited was almost as good I told myself. I printed the invitation out and stuck it to the front of my fridge, hoping it would give me some incentive to stick to a healthy eating plan in case I got another invite next year.

Later that day my daughter brought the twins to see me and read the invitation, she looked at me and said, ‘You have to go.’ I laughed and told her I’d very much love to go, but I didn’t even have a passport. She rang the passport office and made appointments for me and Steve to go to Liverpool the next day. We told ourselves we would get the passports then see about booking, the next day after a four hour wait we had our shiny, brand new passports in our hands. Then fellow write romantic Rachael who was also invited asked if I had my ESTA, my what? We drove home and I applied, within a minute we had our approval. I was terrified to book because as much as I wanted to go I was scared to leave Jaimea. We finally talked ourselves into it with the promise that if all was not well on the day we were supposed to travel then we wouldn’t go.

It was eight days until the ball and it was amazing how things fell into place. I even had a brand, new black dress that I’d never worn hanging in my wardrobe. It was as if it was meant to be, so we packed our bags and said our tearful goodbyes. I was only going for three nights but it seemed like forever, we needn’t have worried. Jaimea had the time of his life without us, my kids who are actually all adults now took care of him brilliantly.

When we arrived in New York I got a text telling me Jaimea was fine and to enjoy myself, which quite frankly I did. We packed everything in those three days that I’d ever dreamt about. The Statue of Liberty, The Top of the Rock, The Empire State Building, The American Natural History Museum, The One World Tower, we paid our respects at the 9/11 memorials. We saw Central Park, shopped on Fifth Avenue, visited Times Square – a lot and we would visit the summer bar outside the Rockerfeller Plaza each night and sip cocktails. We went to Grand Central Station, The New York Public Library and of course Cinderella went to the ball at the Waldorf, which was the hotel we were stopping in anyway. The ball was amazing, it was the kind of party I’ve always dreamt about since I was a teenager and as I sat there sipping my champagne I could not believe I was there, in the city that never sleeps. After dreaming about it for more than thirty five years, let me tell you something, it was even more amazing than I’d ever imagined. By the time we flew home we were exhausted, but I’ve never been so thankful or grateful that I was able to go. We arrived home to find our house was still standing, Jaimea was fabulous and I felt as if my spark for life had been reignited after all these years.


The moral of this story is never give up on your dreams, even if you think there is no way on this earth you will achieve them because of the obstacles life puts in your way. If you want something bad enough you will find a way and when you do take the opportunity to have the time of your life.

Helen Phifer xx

Helen Phifer and Rachael take New York

For months I’d been looking forward to going to New York for Romance Writers of America‘s 35th annual conference and even more so attending my first Harlequin party. I thought I’d be the only Write Romantic in New York, so was overjoyed when Helen announced, almost at the last minute, that she would also be in New York and at the party. Here’s our time in The Big Apple.

2015-07-22 17.06.37

For me, being in New York was all about connecting with other Harlequin authors, many of whom I’ve read for a long time. I also signed copies of my second and third books at RWA’s Literacy Signing, along with over 480 other authors and my place was next to Jodi Thomas, a RITA nominated author!


It was a full on week, but I also managed to squeeze in a bit of sightseeing. I couldn’t possibly go all that way and not see something of such a wonderful place. Top of my list of places to go was Central Park. The book I’ve just finished writing was set in New York and a scene was written against the backdrop of Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, so I had to go there and check it out.

The highlight of the week was the Harlequin party and meeting up with Helen. Here we are all ready to dance the night away.


Helen Phifer, Rachael Thomas, Chantelle Shaw and Bella Frances.

New York was an amazing experience and both Helen and I managed to see quite a bit of the famous city. We both made it to the 86th floor of The Empire State building and Helen went to the Top of the Rock, an observatory at the top of The Rockefeller Center. We also both saw The statue of Liberty, but Helen was lucky enough to get really close. I just saw the famous statue from a river cruise. Here’s a view shot I took from The Empire State Building.

Streets View of New York


There really are so many sights to see it just wouldn’t be possible to get round them all, not in one trip. Although I gave it a good shot! Which of New York’s iconic landmarks would you most like to see?

Reach for the Stars by Helen Phifer

The past few weeks I’ve been thinking, actually I’ve been thinking a lot because I haven’t had time to write with various family emergencies and long hospital visits. In fact I have very itchy fingers, for me not being able to write is the equivalent of depriving myself of chocolate, I can’t live without it and I can’t live without writing. It’s the most amazing feeling being able to lose yourself in a completely different world as any other writer will tell you, I love the excitement that writing about police officer Annie Graham brings into my everyday life. Although I’m quite relieved that I don’t have to do battle with the serial killers, ghosts and monsters that she does. My amazing readers have been telling me how much book four, The Lake House has been scaring them when Annie finds herself face to face with the creature that dwells in the cellar. In fact I’m relieved that I don’t have a cellar because it gave me nightmares writing about it, but to hear such brilliant feedback is truly amazing and I don’t think I will ever get over the excitement of hearing someone tell me how much they enjoyed a story that I wrote.

Whilst I was doing all this thinking I came up with lists, then lists about my lists. What I realised is that I want to take my writing career as far as it can go and to do this I would have to start stepping out of my comfort zone. I’m quite shy and not to keen on putting myself out there in front of crowds of people but I was offered the opportunity this year to take part in a literary festival where I was to be interviewed in front of an audience. I have to say that I was dreading it but I knew that it was something I would enjoy once I got over my initial nerves, unfortunately because of my son becoming very poorly I wasn’t able to go but I’m hoping to take part next year. I also have big plans next year to attend as many networking author events as possible, again something I’m not too keen on but it’s on one of my lists therefore I will force myself to do it.  Which brings me back to today, well last week actually I got an email from my publishers Harlequin inviting me to attend a ball they were hosting at The Waldorf Astoria in New York. I read that email and sighed, as if I could ever go to a ball especially in New York. I had a list of reasons why I couldn’t, I’m too fat, I’m too shy, I haven’t got a passport was actually the biggie, I haven’t flown for over twenty years, I can’t leave my kids (Who are all adults now as much as I hate to admit it) So I printed off the email and pinned it to my fridge hoping it would inspire me to actually stop eating chocolate and follow my Slimming World plan. Fast forward two days later and my eldest daughter came to visit, she read the invite on the fridge and said ‘You have to go.’ Just like that, I laughed and told her maybe next year. She then made me list why I couldn’t go this year so I told her and she told me they were just excuses, I could get a passport in fact she phoned up and booked appointments for both me and my husband to go to Liverpool to get one three days later. She also told me that there was no point putting it off because I might not get another chance to go. She even talked her dad into going and after a lot of debating and worrying it was finally decided we would. So I’ve started working on my list, the one that said network with other authors and I have to say that I’m thrilled to be finally fulfilling a twenty year old dream of going to New York for my first networking event this year. So reach for the stars my friends because you just might touch them and if you get the chance to do something exciting then go for it because as I’ve learnt this year more than anything life is short so live it.

Helen xx

Behind the scenes… with Sophie Childs

Me croppedHappy Valentine’s Day! Our guest on the blog today is Sophie Childs, who shares a publisher with both Write Romantic Julie and Jo.  Sophie is a home educating mother of five. She spent five years living in New Zealand, but home kept calling to her, so she now lives in the lush Welsh Valleys, along with her husband, children and their copious amounts of animals. She’s the author of Behind the Scenes, which is due for release on 26 February 2015 from So Vain Books and would love to hear from anyone who reads it to know what you think.

Welcome to the blog, Sophie, we’d love to start by asking you a little bit about your writing journey so far and how your publication deal came about?

It sounds like a total cliché, but I’ve always been a writer. I used to make books when I was a child, sewing together the pages then creating elaborate covers before filling in the pages. I wrote my first full length novel when I was 18 during the summer holiday before starting university, just to see if I could sustain a story for 50,000 words. I could, but not well enough to attract the attention of a publisher or agent.

Fast forward many years of office work followed by marriage and full time motherhood, and I set up my own publishing company because I knew too many talented people who deserved to be in print but weren’t. Eventually I sold the company as a going concern to focus on my own writing and started working as a freelancer, which brings us to today.

So Vain knew me through my freelancing work and they approached me to see if I had a novel I wanted to pitch to them. Luckily for me, I did, so I finally got the coveted book deal I’d always wanted.

What are the best and worst things about being a writer and how did writing a novel under your own name differ from the ghost writing you’ve done in the past?

I don’t know that there are any downsides to being a writer, although my family would probably tell you that I’m a workaholic! Writing’s both my job and my hobby, so it makes me happy to be able to do what I love and get paid for it.

The biggest difference between ghost writing and my own work is that with ghost writing I’m writing for a client, so I need to produce something that fits their vision, whether it’s what I would personally usually write or not. I always go out of my way to exceed their expectations, but you are restricted by the brief and their target market. If I’m writing for myself, I have the freedom to do whatever I like, so if I don’t like a concept, or I realise that it’s a bad premise, I can ditch it and move on to something new.

We know you love to write horror and that ‘Behind the Scenes’ is more of a romantic comedy, but do you Behind the Sceneshave a favourite genre – either to write or to read?

That’s like asking me to choose my favourite child! I do love reading and writing horror. I enjoy taking outlandish ideas and really twisting them to see just how strange things can get, but there’s also a lot of fun to be had in creating characters that are more true to life and watching them deal with the stress and strain of everyday living. The one common theme with all my work, though, is that there’s a distinct quirkiness to it, which comes out in characters like Bethan.

What inspires you most in your writing and what gave you the idea for ‘Behind the Scenes’?

I take inspiration from all around me. Sometimes someone will just say something and I’ll use it as the opening line of a story or something happens and I know that if I just tweak a few of the details, it would be perfect in a book. There’s a lot in ‘Behind the Scenes’ that’s based on my own personal experiences. There isn’t anybody directly copied from real life, but elements of lots of people I’ve met over the years have found their way into the story.

As far as where I got the idea from, I was writing articles for a movie website and read about how Keanu Reeves is known for travelling around on the subway in New York. It got me thinking about what would happen if I’d met a Hollywood A-lister on the train. The closest I ever got to one was when Ewan McGregor came to an open mic night I used to host, but sadly, I didn’t even spot him in the audience (which is probably a good thing, because, unlike Bethan, I probably would have dissolved into a gibbering wreck!). However, I did get talking to Darren Boyd, who was also there and is one of my favourite actors, and that encounter formed the basis of ‘Behind the Scenes.’

What are the best and worst things about being traditionally published? Would you ever consider self-publishing?

I must admit that I can’t think of any bad thing to say about being traditionally published. My publisher and agent have been absolute dreams to work with. We have a fantastic working relationship and it’s thanks to them that the book turned out the way it did. They’ve been really supportive of my work, so it was really easy to sign a second contract with them for another book.

However, I’d never say never to self-publishing. I set up my own publishing company a few years ago and ran it for five years before selling it, so I understand the hard work that goes into getting a book on the market. If I had a manuscript I felt really passionate about but didn’t think I’d have any success with getting it picked up, there’s a good chance I’d put it out myself.

How have you approached the marketing of your novel?

I’ve had a lot of support from my publishers in helping to get the word out. Obviously, I’ve been tweeting up a storm and the book’s listed on my website,, and I’ve also got a number of guest blog posts coming out over the next few weeks to help spread the word. There’s even going to be a book launch event, but the details haven’t yet been made public, so I can’t talk too much about it.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Who is your writing hero/heroine and do you have an all-time favourite novel?

My favourite book of all time is “Tigana” by Guy Gavriel Kay. It’s a truly beautiful book and if I had half the talent he does, I’d be happy. He manages to make all his characters so well rounded, even the most minor, and he pulls you through every emotion imaginable. I can’t recommend it enough.

As far as chicklit authors are concerned, I’d have to say that I have huge amounts of respect for Marian Keyes. She manages to deal with some really deep issues in her book, yet keeps her tone light and readable. Mike Gayle’s another favourite, too – I’ve never read a book of his I didn’t like.

What are you working on at the moment and what are your writing aspirations for the next few years?

I’m working on my next project with So Vain, which is due out in February 2016. This one’s based around an internet dating site and it has some larger than life characters in it that I’m really loving writing about.

My ambition is to take over the world! In all seriousness, though, I would like to get a few more books out over the next couple of years, hopefully some horror as well, although that will be under one of my other pen names. I’d like to build on my freelance career as well. I write part time around my children and I’d like to see how far I can push that side of things.

Who is your favourite character from ‘Behind the Scenes’ and was (s)he based on anyone in particular?

Obviously, I adore Bethan. She’s the kind of girl you can’t help but like because she’s such a sweetheart and tries so hard to make everyone around her happy. But I also have a soft spot for Livvy, Bethan’s predecessor in the office. She doesn’t actually appear in the novel, but some of the stories Bethan hears about her are outrageous and I’m working on a short story based around her, just so that my readers can get to know a little more about what makes her tick.

If one of your children told you (s)he wanted to be a writer, what would you say?

Two of my daughters already have expressed an interest, which I think is great. Writing’s such a versatile career and you can do it from anywhere in the world, so it would give them a lot of freedom to do whatever they wanted.

There’s two things I think they need to know. One is that if you want to be a writer, you have to write. It sounds obvious, but you only get better by doing, so you need to keep creating stories until you find your voice and then create some more. The stories I wrote as a child were horrendously derivative, but they taught me a lot about structure and gradually I’ve managed to hone my style over the years until I have a distinct style of my own.

The other is that if you want to make a living as a writer, you need to change your preconception of what writing actually means. I write both fiction and non-fiction for my clients and the non-fiction pays significantly more money. If you want to pay the bills, a few business clients who come to you for regular work is a really good way of funding yourself while you write on something of your own that you truly love.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given as a writer and would you add anything further for author 2aspiring writers reading this interview?

When I was at college, I went on a writing course run by Joseph Heller. He could barely understand my generic London accent and I struggled to cope with his thick Bronx dialect, but somehow we met in the middle. He told me that it was important to stay true, not just to yourself, but to your story. Your story has a point and a message – it’s up to you to make it sing.

Is there anything else you want to tell us or any other advice you can share?

Just that I’m really excited about the release of my book at the end of this month – it’s been a long time coming, and I’m so glad it’s finally happening. I’d also say to any other wannabe writers out there, don’t give up. It might take you years to get you where you want to be, but if you keep working hard and don’t lose focus, you’ll get there in the end.

Thanks so much for joining us on the blog, Sophie, and we can’t wait to read ‘Behind The Scenes’.

You can tweet Sophie @sophiewritealot or visit her website

You can order an ebook or paperback of ‘Behind The Scenes’ via Amazon or the So Vain website.