Helena Lancaster: Writing Her Way Out of Darkness

by Amber E. Box

behindthemaskfrontcoverHelena Lancaster began writing as a young child, winning her first award at the age of seven. It wasn’t until she experienced the darkest time in her life, however, that she was inspired to pursue writing as a career. In her first book of poetry, “Behind the Mask,” she explores powerful emotions brought on by a deep depression. Lancaster has co-written a novel, “Hearts on Fire, the Story of Vlad the Impaler and the Women He Loved,” which will debut in early March. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing at SNHU, specializing in fiction.

You can find out more about “Behind the Mask” and Lancaster on her website.

What led you to write poetry?
To be honest, I just started writing it one day. It became my catharsis for handling every range of emotion that I was feeling. I had a former teacher introduce me to the works of Sylvia Plath to try to show me I wasn’t alone with the things I felt. That ended up being the reason I turned to poetry as a form of self-therapy, so every single poem I write is deeply personal. As it became what helped me deal with everything that went on in my life, I started carrying a journal with me everywhere. I still write poetry, but I can definitely say that it is a lot happier these days.

Tell us about the inspiration for “Behind the Mask.”
The title was actually inspired by the lyrics to the Evanescence song “Everybody’s Fool,” something I had known I wanted to do since the tenth grade. The bridge of the song, “Without the mask where will you hide? Can’t find yourself lost in your lie,” made me think of what people hide from the world behind a façade and the things that I hide behind one. Ever since, I always knew that my first poetry release would carry that title. I was very dependent on the “Fallen” album at the time. Music has its way of not only speaking to you and helping you through emotions but also being quite inspiring, and “Fallen” did this for me. All of the poems, though, are inspired by my personal experiences in life and the emotions surrounding my experiences with bullying, abuse and depression.

You go into some pretty dark emotions in “Behind the Mask.” Can you tell us about that?
I suffer from depression and have since I was around nine years old, when my parents split up. In the beginning, it was just feelings of being lost and alone. As I got older, it progressively worsened. I became a victim of bullying in school at thirteen, and no matter whom I went to for help; no one seemed to want to help me. Between that and suffering emotional abuse at the hands of family members, especially my mother, I spiraled into a world of darkness, suicidal thoughts and self-harm. I did not feel many truly happy emotions throughout my teenage years. I am now in what I can call stable recovery. I finally found the place that was right for me in this world and it has helped me go from the deep, dark hole that is “Behind the Mask” to a much happier and more positive person. I have not used self-harm as an outlet since the age of seventeen, almost ten years now. My poetry became the outlet that helped me express the nightmarish emotions and keep me from doing harm to myself. I went through a lot of struggles, especially through the ages of fifteen through twenty-three, which is when these poems were written.

How do you feel now that those emotions are out there?
Today those emotions being out there are a sign of my personal growth and recovery. “Behind the Mask” is a physical remnant of that dark period and the feelings of solitude, abandonment, loss, heartbreak and depression. It shows me now where I have been and how far I truly have come. Now it feels really good to have them off of my chest. I can only hope that maybe one day the poems inspired by those emotions might help another who finds their self in that same dark hole.

How can readers purchase the book?
“Behind the Mask” is available as an e-book through Smashwords in almost every e-book format there is. It is also available directly through Amazon Kindle. Paperback copies are available through CreateSpace and on Amazon. I’ve also set up a Facebook store where paperbacks and signed paperback copies may be ordered.

You also have a novel coming out this spring. Can you tell us more about that?
“Hearts on Fire: The Story of Vlad the Impaler and the Women He Loved” is a novel that I co-wrote with my best friend Rayna Kingston. It spurned from this insane discussion we had several years ago about Vlad. I don’t think either of us expected it to be happening now, but writing it with her has been a wonderful experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. We always saw it as something in the future, but most of it ended up just flowing out in a matter of about a month. It’s still a bit surreal that it’s actually done and about to release, but it’s also very exciting!

Where can we find out the latest about Helena Lancaster?
I have a tumblr blog, where I have information about my work, writing and a bit of randomness.