An interview with Helen Trevorrow - Fyne Times
Kay, devastated by her mother’s death, is struggling to maintain her high-flying career in public relations. When called upon to handle a gruesome discovery in London’s Royal Albert Dock on behalf of her client, she soon becomes entangled in the mystery she’s been brought in to manage. As she spirals out of control, long suppressed memories surface. What lengths will she go to in order to right the wrongs of her past?
In The Wake is a feminist crime thriller about family, unrealised trauma, alcoholism, secrecy, and strong women teetering on the edge of disaster. Here the author Helen Trevorrow tells us more.
Helen Trevorrow has worked in PR for 20 years. It wasn’t something she initially set out to do; she was just naturally very good at it. It’s a diverse industry, she states, saying those in it need a range of different skills to succeed. Describing her style of PR as “laid back”, she talks of the sort of coverage she’s secured over the years – whether that’s getting people onto The Sun’s Page 3 or hitting the front page of The Financial Times with the company DoubleClick.
She further discusses her trade in relation to her father-inlaw, a Daily Mail reader. In the past she’s told him about a product she’s been promoting, only for him to be dismissive of its so-called benefits. Then when the product in question was featured in his newspaper of choice, he changed his tune: “Helen, it’s in the Daily Mail, it must be true.” The paper had told him the same thing he’d heard from her, she says, “but he believes what they say more”. People struggle to understand how PR works, she continues, “because there is a little bit of magic in it, and it’s to do with [consumers’] sub-conscious and the way they emotionally feel – PR works on an emotional level like love. There’s so many different ways that it works, but there’s a little bit of, I suppose, psychology underneath it all.”
As well as doing PR, Trevorrow is an author. A graduate of the 2016 Faber Academy creative writing programme, her novel In The Wake publishes in June. The story follows Kay, also a PR bod, and her involvement in the case of a dead man found at London’s Excel Centre. Like Trevorrow, the protagonist is gay; in the words of the writer: “Kay is gay, and she really doesn’t give a fuck.” Her sexuality doesn’t serve as a plot point, the author says, it is just part of the character. “I wanted to write a book that was unapologetically gay, where it wasn’t an issue, where [Kay] was just gay and didn’t feel bad about it – because that’s what I want to read. I want to read a story with gay characters in it who aren’t shocked by their own gayness. I think all my books will always have to have gay characters because that’s who I am and what I relate to.”
Despite being similar to Kay in some ways, she describes the character as fictional. Her brother has a copy of the book, she says, though “it will be a miracle if he reads it because the last book he read was Ivanhoe in 1973”. In any case, he has asked if she is Kay. “No, I’m not. She’s a made up character from a world I know well.”
In her novel, London itself becomes a character, a quality she also recognises and praises in the likes of Sarah Waters’ The Night Watch and Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series. She lived in London for 20 years before moving 18 months ago to Brighton, where she lives with her wife Vicky and their three-year-old daughter. A lover of London, her PR work still takes her to the capital once or twice a week. “I really miss London if I’m not there for a long time so I get that fix on a weekly basis.” On relocating to Brighton, she says, she thought they were “making a big dramatic move”. It turns out a lot of people living there had done the same. “Half the people here have come down from London.” Brightonians might refer to people who have done what she’s done as DFLs (Down From London) – “which isn’t a very loving term, I don’t think”. Nonetheless, from her house she can see the sea, and at them time of talking there’s “totally blue sky” where she is. Further, while she never had any problems because of her sexuality in the metropolis, “You go into Hove,” she says, “and you just see gays everywhere holding hands – it’s wonderful. It just makes you feel more comfortable. It’s lovely to see other people that are like yourself.”