Cross, Helen 1967–
Cross, Helen 1967–
PERSONAL: Born 1967, in Newbald, East Yorkshire, England. Education: M.A.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc., 38 Soho Sq., London W1D 3HB, England.
CAREER: Writer and editor. Press officer for the Royal Shakespeare Company.
AWARDS, HONORS: Curtis Brown Award for Short Stories; Betty Trask Award, for My Summer of Love; Arts Council International Fellowship; Michael Powell Award for Best New British Feature Film, and Alexander Korda Award for the outstanding British film of the year, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, both 2004, both for My Summer of Love.
My Summer of Love, Bloomsbury (London, England), 2001.
The Secrets She Keeps, Bloomsbury (London, England), 2005.
Also author of radio scripts; contributor of short stories to magazines and anthologies. Guest editor for Pulp.net.
ADAPTATIONS: My Summer of Love was made into a motion picture and released in the United Kingdom in 2004.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A third novel.
SIDELIGHTS: Helen Cross is a novelist and short-story writer whose works have appeared in magazines and anthologies throughout the world. A playwright as well, her dramatic works have been broadcast on radio, and her debut novel, My Summer of Love, was adapted into a motion picture. The recipient of an Arts Council International award that allowed her to work on her writing in Canada, Cross takes a realistic view of the opportunities for publication. "There's this huge myth that finding a publisher to take on your novels is like getting blood out of a stone. This is rubbish," Cross remarked to Katrina Bradley on the Ideas Factory West Midlands Web site. "Publishers need writers. The hard bit is writing the novel." Cross continued, "So many people today think that it's near impossible to be a successful author, but there are so many opportunities out there, you just need to look for them."
My Summer of Love is a "savvy, comic/gothic debut exploring the angry mania of teenage alienation," commented a Kirkus Reviews critic. Set in Yorkshire in 1984, when the local tannery befouled the air and a serial killer stalked the streets, the novel centers on an intense summertime friendship/relationship between two teen girls, Mona and Tamsin. The fifteen-year-old Mona is the product of a working-class household, and she is straining under her burgeoning independence and sexuality. Abandoned by her mother three years earlier, Mona lives with her philandering father, a pub landlord, and odious stepbrother. Mona escapes from her stultifying home life through the freewheeling consumption of alcohol, sex, and criminal activities, but in her gentler moments she enjoys caring for a pony belonging to the wealthy Fakenham family. With her parents' relationship about to splinter because of Mr. Fakenham's infidelity, and with older sister Sadie a victim of anorexia, Tamsin returns from boarding school, troubled in her own way and feeling herself sliding toward adulthood.
In this emotionally turbulent setting, Mona and Tam-sin become friends and unlikely allies. With her parents at odds with each other, Tamsin is afforded complete and unsupervised run of the Fakenham house. When Tamsin invites Mona over to stay, the two embark on an extended spree of vandalism, alcohol consumption, and sexual experimentation. As the two bond more deeply, Mona becomes involved with a lowbrow local photographer, Phil, who takes suggestive pictures of her and who may be involved somehow in the serial killings that have plagued the area. The relationship between Mona and Tamsin intensifies, as does Phil's involvement, until their sordid relationships degenerate into unexpected violence.
"Scabrous and cleverly evocative of the confusion of emergent adulthood, Cross's blistering prose lifts a familiar storyline to another level," the Kirkus Reviews contributor concluded. A reviewer for BiblioFemme concluded that "it is the sheer quality of Cross' language that draws you in and keeps you hooked."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Advocate, May 24, 2005, Howard Feinstein, review of My Summer of Love, p. 64.
Guardian (London, England), August 21, 2004, Peter Bradshaw, review of My Summer of Love.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2005, review of My Summer of Love, p. 435.
New Republic, July 25, 2004, Stanley Kauffmann, "On Films—Early Sex," review of My Summer of Love, p. 24.
BiblioFemme, http://www.bibliofemme.com/ (April 14, 2006), review of My Summer of Love.