Thursday, February 4, 2021

Helene Opocensky Interview - Smoke and Mirrors

Photo Content from Helene Opocensky

Helene Opocensky was born in Germany and immigrated to the United States as a child.

After college graduation, she worked for an insurance company for ten years but, after filing a sex discrimination lawsuit against them, she was hired by her law firm and encouraged to attend law school.

After graduation, she worked for many years in the child support department as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Connecticut.

She has recently released her debut young adult novel, Smoke and Mirrors.


Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Storytelling? I can't say if it's important for all of us. I've done it inside my head ever since I can remember, and I found it surprising to find out that not everybody does that, or that there are people who don't enjoy fiction. Storytelling is important for me because it opens up universes where anything is possible and exciting.

Tell us your latest news.
I've been holed up on account of the virus. Thank goodness I'm a writer and am able to spend time by myself without going stir crazy. I've been readying book two of the Smoke and Mirrors series. It's called The Heartstone and should be out sometime before summer 2021.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
I was pretty solidary as a child. We lived out in the country. I had my brother, of course, but he had friends that lived across the street from us, but my friends lived more than a walk away. I spent a lot of time inside my own head.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Having people say nice things about something that is so personal to me.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
That anything is possible.

In your new book; SMOKE AND MIRRORS: THE TRUEHEART, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it?
Corbin is a kid who thinks things out. Maybe that's because his mom told him to beware of consequences. Maybe it's because he felt burdened by her sadness, or maybe it's because he was, even though he didn't always know it, a crow.

He found out he was a crow the day his mother died when a crow showed up on his fire escape, showed him how to turn into a crow and then led him to his nest where Corbin helped to take care of the crow's family.

Eventually, the owner of the estate, where the crow's nest is located, finds him, teaches Corbin about his magical heritage and about the dangerous of world they live in, a world in which evil Inquisitors pursue magical beings to destroy them.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
Probably the having enough time to be able to give it the attention writing requires. I finally got that after I retired.

What part of Corbin did you enjoy writing the most?
I liked exploring his thought processes, finding out who he is.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Max Grobian to Dr. Frankenstein or Dr. Jekyll, so that Max would understand what manipulating things without exploring the consequences can result in. It probably wouldn't work, though. I doubt Max would visualize the lesson.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?
That they tell me who they are and surprise me with the things they do.

What are you most passionate about today?
Unfortunately, politics. The state of the world upsets me.

Best date you've ever had?
There are so many elements to 'best' date: the person, where it took place, what we did. So, I may have had dates that were more exciting (seeing the Arc de Triomphe in Paris with someone who turned out to be a jerk, dinner in NYC then going to see Sweeney Todd with someone who was a user) but the one that stands out in my heart was having a picnic by a waterfall with someone who truly cared about me.

Tell me about your first kiss.
New Year's eve, midnight when I was fifteen. I think there was mistletoe involved as well. It was sweet, and I didn't know the fuy was even interested.

What is your most memorable travel experience?
There are so many. I love to travel and have been to many great places. It is hard to pin it down to one, but if I have to choose, it would probably be going through the locks on the Nile.

First of all – it's the Nile! The cradle of civilization. I couldn't get over that throughout the whole trip. Going through the locks, though, was extra special because while our boat was rising in the lock, vendors in the river were trying to sell us things. They shouted up to us about the items they were trying to sell, and we shouted down to them about what we wanted to see. They would then put the item in a plastic bag and toss it up to us to inspect. If we liked it, we put money in the bag and tossed it back down. It was so much fun. I bought stuff just because of the transaction.

But then, there was the time in Turkey when our tour watched their Independence Day parade.

Erdoğan had tried to cancel the parade, but the people of the city had gone forward with it despite his efforts. We had been given small Turkish flags to carry, and when the parade was over we continued or tour of the city with flags still in hand. As we walked, the local people started cheering us. They thought we were a group of Americans in solidarity with their fervor for independence and their protest of the government action.

There was also the time we walked over the Charles Bridge in Prague. The stars were just starting to come. Crowds of people filled the bridge. An orchestra, located off the side on the bank of the river, started to play Dvorzak, and we realized, to our delight, that we had walked into a concert. But why were all the people on one side of the bridge?

We understood why the minute the night exploded into fireworks set off in time with the music. We rushed to the other side of the bridge with everyone else so we could see them.

What is the craziest thing you have ever done?
Gone off the path on a mountain in Switzerland to stand maybe five inches from the edge so I could look down.

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
A number of things have affected me in a significant way. Most recently? I died and was brought back to life by paramedics. Dying wasn't bad at all.

What is one unique thing are you afraid of?
Sorry, can't think of anything. I get frightened, of course, but not of anything in particular.

What was the best memory you ever had as a writer?
Giving poetry readings and seeing the faces of the audience.

  • 1. Best roommate ever
  • 2. Carmine Dandrea and learning to write
  • 3. Touring Peter and the Wolf. I was the duck.
  • 4. Marijuana
  • 5. A night at Niagara Falls
  • 6. Spanish in pajamas.
  • 7. Boone's Farm Apple Wine. Really? Yuck!
  • 8. Frat boys.
  • 9. Miniskirts and granny dresses
  • 10. Talks in the hall waiting for the shower to be free.
Corbin was not what Max expected. He expected the boy to be dazzled by the evening and then offer him some well-worn remarks about the stupidity of the guests. He expected that he would then have to explain to Corbin the true character of the guests. He did not expect this boy to have such insight on his own. Corbin worried him sometimes. He was smart and his magic was very powerful. But, Max reassured himself, Corbin belonged to him. Yes, he owned Corbin, lock stock and barrel, just like he owned the wolf-pack and the boys in school. He congratulated himself on having the insight to befriend Corbin that day in the barn even though he had not been looking for a protégé. He realized then as he did now that Corbin would be very useful to him and despite his brains and perception, Max was sure that given both Corbin’s history and their history together, Corbin would be his very willing accomplice. Yes, Max decided, he would reveal his plans to the boy. Not all of them, of course, but enough to appeal to someone of his age and background.

The scene is too Max centric and tells too much. I thought it would be better for readers to find out about Max themselves instead of my telling them. Besides this is only what Max thinks. He doesn't truly understand himself. 

When you’re a young orphan left to your own devices and living in the wild, finding a warm bed and a guiding hand is magical enough. But when your seeming savior offers explanations of a world of shapeshifting mages that make all too much sense, it’s downright extraordinary. Enter a world where the mystical exists alongside the ordinary, every alliance is subject to suspicion, and the fate of a magical way of life hangs in the balance of a seemingly-impossible mission in Smoke and Mirrors: The Trueheart by Helene Opocensky.

After his mother’s death, Corbin discovers an impossible talent – he shapeshifts into a crow to escape being shipped off to one of two unpleasant familial connections. When he is discovered by Maxim Moritz Grobian, he doesn’t realize how rare it is to shapeshift without instruction at his young age, or how many strings are attached to the bits of knowledge Max doles out like precious treats. Soon enough, Corbin owes Max everything and it’s time to pay the debt. Corbin is given a mission that involves a mysterious girl, a powerful crystal and an army of Inquisitors set on keeping the mages from taking their rightful place in the world.

You can purchase Smoke and Mirrors at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you HELENE OPOCENSKY for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Smoke and Mirrors: The Trueheart by Helene Opocensky.


  1. I don't sleep enough, so I'm pushed into REM sleep quicker, which means I often remember my dreams.