Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Interview with mystery author Sandra de Helen

Mystery writer Sandra de Helen is in the hot seat today. She's in the midst of a virtual book tour for her novel,The Hounding.

And as part of her VBT, Sandra will be awarding the winner's choice of a backlist eBook to a randomly drawn commenter at every stop, and a $25 Amazon GC to one commenter from the tour. To be entered to win, just leave an e-mail address with a comment below, or at any of her other stops. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win. (Feel free to leave a comment for the author without your e-mail address, if you like!)

Bio:
Sandra de Helen lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. See more of her work at www.SandradeHelen.com. de Helen is a member of the Golden Crown Literary Society, Sisters in Crime, Dramatists Guild and International Centre for Women Playwrights. Follow her on Twitter @dehelen, read her blog Redcrested.com and like her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/drmarywatson.

Welcome, Sandra. Please tell us about your current release.
The Hounding is Book One in a series featuring Shirley Combs and her sidekick Dr. Mary Watson. Shirley uses the methods of Sherlock Holmes to solve her cases. They live in present day Portland, Oregon.

What inspired you to write this book?
As a kid I was a fan of Sherlock Holmes even before I read the Nancy Drew books. One day I had the idea to write a female duo based on Sherlock and Dr. Watson, and it feels like a kind of Nancy Drew for grownups to me. Not as stuffy as Holmes, not as fluffy as Nancy. 

Here's an excerpt that gives you an idea of the relationship between Shirley Combs and Dr. Mary Watson. Dr. Watson writes:

I was fascinated by this tall, plain-looking woman. Shirley reminded me of my sister in some way. Tommy died ten years ago, but I still saw her face, her expressions, her gestures nearly everywhere I went. I missed her companionship, and never found a friend to fill the gap Tommy left in my life.
At dinner, as I ate my way through a giant plate of pasta, still hoping to grow some breasts and womanly hips, I couldn't help noticing that Shirley ate only raw fruit, vegetables and bread. I always noticed what everybody ate and drank because I was so acutely aware of the effects our intake has on our bodies and minds. "We are what we eat," someone said. And she was right. I'll always believe that Tommy developed that brain tumor from drinking so much diet pop. At twenty-one she had been dieting for eight years. That was six diet drinks a day times 365 days a year. I would have gladly given her my boyish figure if I could have saved her life.
But Shirley was not Tommy. After a few minutes, I could no longer see the resemblance. Shirley was so clearly herself. Her brown eyes matched her brown hair that matched her brown sweater. Visually, she could have faded into the woodwork except for her height and that mane of hair.
Shirley's dinner mates were soon laughing at her acerbic remarks about our leader. She was sarcastic and cast aspersions on his mental capabilities. I sat at the next table and marveled at her confidence in her own intellect.
As dinner break came to a close and we all began making our way back to the auditorium, I garnered my courage and made my way to Shirley's side to introduce myself. "Shirley, I wanted to meet you. My name is Mary Watson, and I'm a naturopathic doctor from..." I began.
One eyebrow arched its way into that glorious mane of hair and her lip curled as she said, "Really. Really, Dr. Watson, how clever of you. No one has thought to play that one on me before.” She managed a pained guffaw.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I'm working on the second book in the series, another stand alone mystery, The Illustrious Client. The first chapter of this book is included at the end of The Hounding so readers can see what's coming up next in the lives of Shirley and Mary.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I wanted to be a writer from the age of 8. I won my first writing contest when I was 12, and did a reading at the American Legion and collected my award of $3. At 14 I had a poem published in a teachers' magazine. My English teacher sent it in on my behalf. I had more poetry published in my 20's. But I didn't really consider myself a writer until I became a playwright at 32. Once I saw my work come to life on the stage, I was a goner. I've been writing ever since.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I do write full-time now. I worked day jobs full time until I retired at 55. So until then I got up hours before my work day began so I had time to both walk and write. I would write first. Now I walk first. For many years, I got up at 4am because I had to be at work by 7:30. Now I stay up late and get up whenever I wake up. But writing is what I do, and I do it every day. I rarely take a day off from writing.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I like to use a mind map to get started on any new project. I use a screen writing book to outline all my projects, although I've never written a screenplay (yet). Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder is the book, BTW. Brilliant. I used to always write by hand, then type up what I'd written. I was quite precious about that process. Now I write everything on the computer except the mind map. I have that on the computer as well, but I don't care for it. I still like drawing the circles by hand. That will probably pass with time, and I'll be all computer all the time. It's faster. I like faster.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A writer. Always a writer.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I believe that for me, writing is a calling. I've tried to stop writing. There are many things to do in this world. Lying in a hammock reading is a perfectly fine thing to do. Going to yoga, walking in the woods, puttering. I am not happy unless I am writing. I do the best job I am capable of doing, I take classes and workshops to continue to improve my craft, I listen to feedback from my readers. I'm reachable, I'm accessible, and I listen. 

And p.s. I adore Book Clubs. If your club reads my book, invite me to your discussion, I'll come! I might have to appear via Skype or Google Hangout or FB Chat, but I'll come.



Thanks for stopping here, Sandra. 

Readers, don't forget! And as part of her VBT, Sandra will be awarding the winner's choice of a backlist eBook to a randomly drawn commenter at every stop, and a $25 Amazon GC to one commenter from the tour. To be entered to win, just leave an e-mail address with a comment below, or at any of her other stops. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win. (Feel free to leave a comment for the author without your e-mail address, if you like!)






9 comments:

bn100 said...

Nice interview. I also like Sherlock Holmes.

bn100candg(at)hotmail(dot)com

Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you for hosting Sandra today.

MomJane said...

I really love this story. I can hardly wait for more in this series. What a great idea.

Mary Preston said...

I'm wondering how many books you plan for the series?

marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Ingeborg said...

Great interview,I enjoyed it.
Kit3247(at)aol(dot)com

Sandra de Helen said...

Thank you so much for having me today Lisa. I can't wait to read all these interviews with other authors! Thank you all for the comments. Mary, I'm going to write until I can't write any more. There are plenty of Holmes's adventures to draw from. And more to make up. So long as people want to read them, I can keep writing them.

Casey Wyatt said...

Hello my friend!! Just stopping by to say hi and wish you the best of luck with your new release :)

Shannon Ro said...

I love that you've "retired" and can now live your life freely and write novels. Maybe someday I too will be able to do that. Thanks for the interview

fencingromein at hotmail dot com

Catherine Lee said...

I like the Sherlock twist. I've enjoyed the new TV show Elementary...It's a modern NY twist on the theme.
catherinelee100 at gmail dot com