Loveland author Helen Colella talks ‘Matters of the Heart’
Helen Colella of Loveland, author of “Matters of the Heart,” center, meets Oct. 16 with her writers group that gets together every week in downtown Loveland. With her are Jenny Sundstedt, left, and Linda L. Osmundson. The members discuss recently released children’s books Jennifer Schafer, not pictured, showed to them for their review. Other members attending that night were Ellen Javernick, host of the group, and Liz Alexander. (Photo by Shelley Widhalm/ For the Loveland Reporter-Herald)
By Shelley Widhalm |
November 30, 2019 at 8:46 pm
Loveland author Helen Colella’s son looked at the cover of her romantic suspense and asked, “Mom, how dirty is this book?”
“It’s a little sweet romance. It doesn’t sizzle; it suggests,” said Colella, 77, adding that when characters ask, your house or mine? “You know what goes on. It’s not for coffee obviously.”
Colella published “Matters of the Heart” in July as an e-book through romance publishing company, Red Sage Publishing, Inc.
“I’m old but still have a romantic heart,” Colella said.
Loveland author Helen Colella’s e-book, “Matters of the Heart,” is now available through Red Sage Publishing. (Photo by Shelley Widhalm/ For the Loveland Reporter-Herald)
Telling the story of ‘Matters of the Heart’
Colella tells the story of bank executive Amanda Conifer, who becomes the target of a secret group that wants to turn the fictitious small mountain town of Crestview, Colo., into a gambling Mecca.
But one of the town’s founders and Conifer’s grandfather, Peter Russo, who owns the Italian Farmhouse, stands in the way, unknowingly putting her, himself and Conifer’s surrogate big brother, Charles Wharley, at risk.
Conifer meets the handsome Nick Dalton briefly, but when he comes back to town to sell his wares at the restaurant where she now is the owner, they reconnect and you can guess the rest.
“It’s filled with love, mystery, twists and turns, and surprises,” Colella said in her social media blasts about her e-book.
The story is engaging and fast-paced and not overpowering in the details, she said. “You want to find out whodunit, so to speak.”
Colella went through three title ideas for her book, but didn’t find any that worked.
To come up with something, she started writing words on pieces of paper related to romance and suspense until she found the right combination.
She had written her book several years ago, deciding to try a romance after working in other genres, wondering if she could do it. She had her manuscript critiqued in her writers groups and submitted it to several publishing houses, but couldn’t find a home for it.
“One editor wrote back and said you’re marketing it as a romantic suspense, but you seem to focus on suspense,” Colella said. “I never thought about it that way. I rearranged the first couple of pages to move the romance up front. She’s a young banker, and he comes in on business. … She bumps into him and spills coffee on him. He goes his way, and she hers.”
Helen Colella of Loveland holds up the cover image of her e-book, “Matters of the Heart,” published in July by Red Sage Publishing, as she sits Oct. 9 in a downtown coffee shop. (Photo by Shelley Widhalm/ For the Loveland Reporter-Herald)
Finding the right publisher
Colella submitted her revised novel to Red Sage Publishing on a Thursday and was offered a contract on Monday.
“It’s amazing that I sold it after all these years,” Colella said. “This romance genre is insane. They have oodles and oodles of people who read romance.”
Colella uses the restaurant as part of her setting to share her knowledge about the business, since she and her late husband, Eddie, owned several restaurants, bars and pubs that include the Golden Eagle Restaurant in New Jersey, Crosby’s in Nevada and the Farmhouse Tavern and the Osprey in Colorado.
She also likes to visit Central City every so often, so she put the two concepts together to see what happened.
“I let the story write itself,” Colella said.
Colella doesn’t outline but knew that because her book was a romance, it had to have a happy ending. She also knew she likes to mix fact and fiction in her storytelling.
“I like to mix the two, so you’re imparting some information to somebody,” Colella said, adding that she likes hearing she shared a little known fact with her readers. “I like to tell a story. And I like to think people who read it will like it.”
Drafting other projects
Colella has drafted other books, including four middle grade novels, a middle grade nonfiction account of American primatologist Dian Fossey’s interest in the mountain gorillas of Rwanda, Africa, and another romantic suspense about a stalker that she started a couple of months ago. The romantic suspense is a sister book to “Matters of the Heart” with a crossover of some of the characters.
“I’ve got about 18 chapters written, and it’s as smooth as it can be; however, the beginning is not right,” Colella said, adding that she has tried several different openings but hasn’t found the right one. “I know the ending before I know the beginning.”
Colella writes when she has the time — not every day, trying to fit it in as much as possible, she said.
“I do the gamut, whatever I come across that strikes my interest. It’s always been that way. I don’t have one main focus,” Colella said.
Colella began writing as a freelance writer in 1979 and has written educational books and materials, nonfiction articles and short stories. She has been published in “Chicken Soup for the Soul” and for 40 years has belonged to a writers group that meets weekly and is led and hosted by Ellen Javernick of Loveland, plus a second one for a few years.
Colella, mother of five, earned an education degree from New Jersey City University in 1965 and taught for four years before staying at home to raise her children. She and her husband moved from New Jersey to Loveland in 1979. She substitute taught at Thompson School District for several years and now is a consultant for blue13creative, an independent creative shop in Denver that specializes in writing, editing, graphic design and custom apparel services.
Engaging in feedback
With “Matters of the Heart,” Colella isn’t doing any book talks or signings since she does not have a physical book to present.
“What I’m doing is emailing everybody I know and asking them to tell their friends,” Colella said.
Colella’s writing colleague LeAnn Thieman of Fort Collins describes her book as “a contemporary romance filled with mystery, surprise and twists and turns. It leads the reader through heartwarming relationships to devastating deceptions to other frightful events.”
The storyline asks “who can be trusted?” and “then shows how people can survive life’s challenges and surprises,” Thieman said.
Another of Colella’s writing colleagues, Linda L. Osmundson of Fort Collins, a freelance writer and author of the “How the West Was Drawn” picture book series, said she didn’t want to stop reading what she described as “a real page turner.”
“A violent attack, an aggravated assault believed to have caused a death and other acts of intimidation are only a few events challenging the path and love of Amanda and Nick in this romantic suspense,” Osmundson said.
And Javernick, a writing colleague and children’s book author who lives in Loveland, said, “‘Matters of the Heart’ is a fast-paced love story filled with suspense, mystery and enough twists and turns to keep the main character, Amanda Conifer, wondering just which of her family and friends can be trusted. Readers will get lost in the drama as it unfolds via the depth of subplots.”
If you are interested:
What: “Matters of the Heart,” by Helen Colella.
When: Published in July by Red Sage Publishing Inc.
Where: Visit amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com.
Shelley Widhalm is a freelance writer and editor and founder of Shell’s Ink Services, a writing and editing service based in Loveland. She has more than 15 years of experience in communications and holds a master’s degree in English from Colorado State University. She can be reached at shellsinkservices.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.