Author Helen Matthews on writing and raising awareness

Helen Matthews, ambassador for Unseen and author of 'After Leaving the Village' and 'Lies Behind the Ruin', tells us why she is continuing to support Unseen from sales of her new book, even though it isn’t related to human trafficking.

The thrill of having a novel published ranks high in the league table of life’s standout moments but, for me, that pleasure has been doubled by having the opportunity to raise funds (from a percentage of royalties and fees) and awareness (from giving talks) of the inspirational charity, Unseen.

I discovered Unseen when I was researching my debut novel After Leaving the Village which has a theme of human trafficking. It’s hard to believe now, but, when I began researching trafficking back in 2013-14, awareness was low and research material sparse. I discovered occasional feature articles in the archives of mainstream media, but my main source was case studies and survivors’ testimonies, published by charities. Often when I contacted those charities, I found they had gone out of business due to funding cuts. Then I discovered Unseen.

I became a supporter, making a monthly donation to sponsor a hostel room for a trafficking survivor. While writing my novel, experts at Unseen answered my questions and, after it was finished, the amazing Founder and Director, Kate Garbers fact-checked my full manuscript. Fortunately, Kate loved my novel and saw its value in raising awareness of the plight of women who have been duped and sold into modern slavery. I entered a partnership agreement with Unseen, committing to raise funds from sales of my novel, and to continue my support longer term. More recently, I’ve been made an ambassador for the charity and I take this commitment very seriously.

My second novel Lies Behind the Ruin, published in April 2019 is also psychological suspense but it’s not about human trafficking. It’s domestic noir about a family who flee overwhelming problems in England and escape to France to renovate a derelict property. But their marriage is beset by secrets and lies which escalate and threaten their safety because – how can you build a new life on toxic foundations?

The underlying themes in my new book include debt and (mild) coercive behaviour and I’m sure there are many excellent charities working in those areas. But I’m not fickle or capricious so I’m sticking with Unseen and continuing to offer a percentage of royalties of my new book. When I give talks at libraries, festivals, book clubs or women’s organisations, I do a book signing afterwards and having a new book out boosts sales of the previous one. And if I’m paid a fee for a talk, whether it’s about slavery or about writing, I donate the whole of my fee to Unseen. Last year I managed to donate around £1,000 and so far this year it’s £360 but I expect to boost that from many talks I have scheduled in the autumn.

If you want to know more about my books, described by reviewers as ‘gripping page-turners with an important message’, they are available in eBook and paperback from Amazon and from good bookshops.

You can read reviews and find out more about Lies Behind the Ruin at this link: https://amzn.to/2WIVIyB