Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Author Interview ~ Darcia Helle

Darcia, where are you from and how old are you?

I was born, raised, and spent most of my life in Southeastern Massachusetts. In 2002, I escaped the snow, ice and cold and moved to Florida. I’m 48, generally behave like I’m 28 and sometimes feel like I’m 88.

When did you begin writing and can you remember how it felt inside, back then?

I don’t remember ever not writing. When I was very young, I wrote children’s picture book stories. (And I am a horrible artist!) In my teen years, I progressed to the typical teen angst poetry. I do still remember how it felt to complete my first full length novel. The best description I can give is euphoric. Or, now that I think about it, shocked is probably the first emotion I felt.


Was there any certain date or time you remember when you began to either think of yourself as or call yourself a “writer”?

That’s been a very recent development for me. Even after I’d written and published a few books, I didn’t refer to myself as a writer. For some reason, it felt presumptuous to pin that label on myself. I had this preconception that, to be called a writer, a person had to be receiving a regular paycheck for his/her work and be recognized by the mainstream world. I was self-published and unknown, therefore who was I to claim to be a writer? Now I realize how silly and illogical that was. I’m still self-published and only slightly more known than I was a year ago–but I now regularly call myself a writer.

What are your hopes, or dreams, or goals for your writing?

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that one of my dreams was to see my titles regularly appear on the bestseller lists. That’s the ultimate form of recognition for any author. Beyond that, my hopes and dreams are that my books are able to touch those who read them. I’d love for my words to leave a lasting impression. Fiction has the ability to impact readers in profound ways. To accomplish that would be the ultimate high point for me.

As for my goals, I want to keep writing until the characters in my head stop speaking to me. And I hope that never happens.

I hope so too :-)

Have you had any “formal” training in the art of writing?

Aside from one college English composition class, no, I’ve had no formal training.

What do you feel has taught you the most about “how to write”?

That’s a tough question. Different things, to varying degrees, have helped me along the way. If I had to name the one thing that taught me the most, I’d have to say reading. As a writer, I read differently. I pay attention to pacing and style, take note of what I like and what I don’t. This isn’t something I set out to do with pen and paper and note-taking. Instead, it’s often a subconscious thing that occasionally jumps out at me.

After I’d written my first novel, I realized I had a lot to learn about the process. At that point, I read a lot of “how-to” books that I obtained through Writer’s Digest. I learned quite a bit that way. The other two big teachers for me are the process of writing in and of itself and talking to other writers, sharing thoughts and helpful tidbits.

Who are your favorite writers and why are they favorites?

Oh, so many and for so many reasons! I can’t name a few authors because I know I would inevitably leave out a few other equally important favorites. I have eclectic taste and read a wide variety of both fiction and nonfiction. I am inspired by authors with unique voices, who are able to bring characters to life and suck me into their world. I love fiction that entertains while tackling a social issue, whether that is poverty, greed, homelessness, etc. These types of books make me think long after I’ve turned the last page. But I also enjoy fiction that is light, with the sole ability to make me forget the evils of the world for awhile. For me, there is no one formula, genre, or writing style. My favorite authors are those with the ability to step out of the way of the story they’re telling.

Yes, step out of the way of the story they’re telling

Where and/or how do you get the ideas for your writing?

I wish I could tell you! In all honestly, I don’t know. Most often, a character will pop into my head out of nowhere. I have competing voices in my head almost all the time. Sometimes it will be a 15-second scene that plays in my head. Occasionally, a plot idea is the initial spark and a character fitting the scenario will emerge as I mull the idea over. I’ve always been fascinated by human nature and the drive behind certain behaviors, so this is likely the root of all my ideas. I’m always character-driven first. Plot is secondary in my approach.

What is your normal revision or editing routine?

I typically write the entire novel first in a rough draft. I don’t like to spend a lot of time dissecting my work at this stage. For me, that ruins the creative flow. I do my entire first draft on my laptop. When the rough draft is complete, I print it out. I have to do the initial revisions using printed pages. I need to hold them and feel the pages as I work. I read through, make corrections, expand on characterization, add scenes, remove scenes, etc. Then I take my jumbled mess of corrected pages and retype it all onto a Word file. This forces me to work slowly and, as I do this, I make further changes. These are typically the minor edits, such as word choices and sentence structure.

Once I’ve finished, I like to let it sit for at least a few days. I’ll work on cover design, write the blurb, and do assorted tasks unrelated to editing. This gives me a fresher perspective when I go back to the manuscript for the final micro edit.

Please tell us a bit about your blog and your published books.

My blog is a hodgepodge of book and writing related information. I try to make it both fun and informative. Each Thursday, I host a guest author. Typically, this includes an interview about a book I’ve read. Occasionally, the author will instead write a guest post on a topic related to his/her book. Mondays were my day for random posts from my own perspective, on anything from the history of book burning to background on one of my novels. I’ve recently begun a new Monday feature called Quirky Question Monday, in which I ask an indie author one quirky question. On Sundays, I toss out a sample of my writing. I also host giveaways and keep my readers posted on new developments.

As for my books, all six are some aspect of suspense. Enemies and Playmates (my first) is romantic suspense. The Cutting Edge (my last) is dark comedy/suspense and also the only book I’ve written in first person. My other four are a combination of mystery and suspense. Number seven, the book I’m working on now, is my first paranormal suspense.

I’d love it if you’d give us a little behind the scenes on a couple of your books. How about No Justice?

Some time ago, I served on a jury for the murder trial of a man accused of raping and murdering his girlfriend. While I had known that our justice system had flaws, this was a close-up view of those injustices behind our justice system. We, the jury, were not allowed to hear anything about the plaintiff’s past. His life was a locked box. The victim, however, had no such privacy. The defense attorney gleefully flaunted the victim’s past, including her sexual history from as far back as her teen years. I will never forget the look of anguish on her parents’ faces.

The defense did a great job of spinning the tale and making the victim out to be less than virtuous. After a week of this, when we were sent to deliberate, only two of the 12 jurors initially voted for murder one. I was one of them. The other 10 wanted involuntary manslaughter, citing her behavior and his cocaine use as “excuses”. I should mention here that the man had left his dead girlfriend in his bed, while he went out and partied with friends all night. Also, according to witnesses, he was quite sober at the time of the

The other juror and I fought for, and eventually won, a murder one conviction. Before we left the courthouse, the judge spoke to us privately. She congratulated and thanked us for the conviction. At that time, she was able to tell us what had been carefully kept from us throughout the trial; the man we’d just convicted had a long history of abusing women. He’d already been convicted of several assaults and one rape. An involuntary manslaughter charge would have been little more than a slap on the wrist. He’d have
been out in no time, free to rape and murder yet another woman.

My husband and I were discussing this one day; that case specifically and the justice system in general. That’s when the character Michael Sykora was born. In many ways, Sykora is my husband’s alter ego. (But, to be clear, my husband does not moonlight as a hit man!)

As for the specific plot, that developed from a combination of the characters’ voices and the conversation with my husband. I don’t write from an outline. I start with a character and a vague idea. Then I listen and follow where that leads me. About midway through writing No Justice, I realized that I had way too many plots and subplots going on. At that point, I knew that Michael Sykora needed to be a series. He wasn’t happy with one book. I stripped down that initial manuscript and told the story of where I thought the series needed to begin.

And, Beyond Salvation, the sequel to No Justice?

Homelessness is a huge problem in the U.S. Every age range, from children to the very old, exist in a separate and hidden world on our streets.

In No Justice, two homeless teens made a brief appearance when they helped Nicki out of a difficult jam.

I wanted to bring them back and let them tell their story. That’s when Sara popped into my head and led the way.

Sara is a teenage runaway, friends with the two boys, and missing. The problem with runaways is, when they disappear from the streets, no one but their few friends on those same streets notices. Often there is nowhere to turn for help. Michael Sykora works within that lost world and sets out to find Sara.

To be honest, when I began writing this book, I had no idea what had happened to Sara. I don’t outline and only began with that vague premise. As I explored the reasons behind Sara and her friends winding up on the streets, I was led to the few options they might have to reach out for help. Sadly, there will always be people who prey on those who are desperate. Cults are one of the biggest offenders, often masking themselves as Churches and various sanctuaries of hope. Sara stumbled upon one of these.

As I was writing this book, I wasn’t looking to give a lesson in morality or write a societal thesis. I simply wanted to give these lost people, the characters in my head, a voice. I hope that I achieved that and managed to entertain at the same time.

Darcia, thank you, ever so much, for taking the time to tell us your background as an author and give us your insights about writing; and, those two Stories Behind The Stories :-)
Darcia’s WebSite
You can buy her books on Smashwords and Amazon
Now, it’s time to ask Darcia a question :-)
Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)
AND, Get A Free Copy of Our Book


15 responses to “Author Interview ~ Darcia Helle

  1. Stacy Juba March 2, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Great interview, Darcia! As you know, I love your books having read Miami Snow, Hit List, the Cutting Edge, and Enemies and Playmates. The Michael Sykora books are next on my to-read list. It’s amazing how prolific you are. Have you been able to fit much writing into your schedule lately with all of the book promotion that comes with having so many books available to readers? I hope so because I am looking forward to more!


  2. Darcia Helle March 2, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Thank you for hosting me today, Alexander!


  3. Alexander M Zoltai March 2, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Pure pleasure, ma’am :-)


  4. Darcia Helle March 2, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    Stacy, recently I’ve backed off on spending so much time promoting and marketing. I know you’ve been in that same rut of working so hard on the business end that there is no time left to write. I had characters stomping around my head, demanding attention. I’m still not spending the time I’d like on writing but I’m getting there. At least my head is a bit less cluttered! :)


  5. Joel Kirkpatrick March 3, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    Darcia, you know I’m a devoted fan now. I just shiver and squeal, and keep reading. I can’t wait to read your paranormal.

    Alexander, great job of bringing out just a little more from each author. Very fresh interviews!


  6. Darcia Helle March 3, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Thank you, Joel! I’m finally going to start Breathing into Stone. I’m looking forward to another journey with you. :)


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  10. Jackie Paulson August 17, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    And, Beyond Salvation, the sequel to No Justice? I will have to pick up her book, as I have two others that I really enjoyed. This is a great author interview and I could spend hours here.


  11. Darcia Helle August 18, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Thanks for stumbling upon this and commenting, Jackie! I received an email notice about a comment being posted here, and I was completely baffled. It’s been such a long time that I’d forgotten about this interview. I’m glad it’s still out here being found. (Thank you, Alexander!)

    I just recently published the third book in this series – Killing Instinct. I’d gotten away from the series writing, but now, thanks to some persistent fans, I’m back to Michael Sykora’s world.


  12. Pingback: Author Interview ~ Joel Blaine Kirkpatrick | Notes from An Alien

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