Friday, October 03, 2014

Author Interview: Darcia Helle: 9 Novels, 1 Short Story Collection and Minds Eye Series

Your real name and pen name?

I only use my real name, Darcia Helle, which almost always has people stumbling to pronounce. For those who are curious, it’s Dar-SEE-ah HELL-ee.

Please share some of the best memories of your childhood.

My best childhood memories all stem from salt air, ocean, my dogs, and books. Each summer, my mother and my grandparents rented a cottage together, right on the beach on Cape Cod. (“Down The Cape” to those of us from Massachusetts.) We lived less than an hour’s drive away, so it wasn’t a big excursion or exotic trip. For me, it was simple freedom. We’d spend the days on the beach, playing in the ocean and reading in the shade. At night, when the beach cleared, we’d take the dogs for a swim. There were no schedules, and the overall mood was always lighter and freer.
Each trip began with a visit to the used bookstore a few miles from where we stayed. I remember the place as being huge, though I’m sure that was just a child’s perception. My mother would let my brother and me stock up on as many books as we wanted. I was probably 12 when I came upon The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I remember staying up late into the night reading that book. I was, without question, enthralled. That one book sparked my ongoing love of edgy crime, mystery and suspense.

About your education.

After high school, I did a little more than a semester of college. I had no direction in mind, or maybe too many directions. What I wanted most was to study English, psychology, sociology, and ancient history. What I absolutely did not want was to study art history, geology, chemistry, and calculus. I was not good about sticking with subjects that didn’t hold my interest. (Something I never mastered.) Boredom and rebellion got the better of me. I dropped out, went to cosmetology school, and worked in my mother’s hair salon for about 15 years. During that time, I developed an interest in alternative medicine. I got my B.S. in Natural Health and Nutrition, did some writing for emerging health websites on the still nascent internet. I started working toward my M.S., but by that time my own health had drastically deteriorated. I have an assortment of chronic health problems, including chronic Lyme disease, which is what prompted my interest in alternative healthcare. These health complications forced me to stop working and put a stop to further education. In the end, that worked out okay because I turned more to writing and found where I belonged.

What career did you plan during your education days?

I didn’t plan, which was a large part of my problem. I just wanted to learn things, though I had no idea what I wanted to do with that knowledge.

What languages you can speak and write?

Only English. I grew up in a Portuguese-speaking home, but only two words stuck with me. One is casa (house), and the other I can’t say (or type) publicly.
1975 - Mom and Grandparents at Cottage
What is your biggest source of inspiration in life?

Wow. Inspiration comes from absolutely everywhere. This might sound trite, but I suppose my biggest source of inspiration in life is life itself.

What hurts you most in this world?

Injustice in its many forms hurts me most. So much of it, really: People starving while someone spends $1,000 on caviar. People living on the streets while the extraordinarily wealthy own five or six mansions. Children who are abused by the very people meant to love and protect them. Fortunately, there is always light to balance the darkness.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced? How did you overcome it?

By far, my biggest challenge has been my health. As far as overcoming it, I haven’t. At least not in the sense that I found a cure or even an effective treatment. I have, however, learned to move beyond it or around it. I’ve known too many people who have been consumed by their illness, and I never want to live my life that way. When living with chronic illness, I think the trick is to find a passion. We all need that thing that takes us out of ourselves. For me, that thing is writing, both fiction and nonfiction. Fiction writing allows me to step into another world entirely. The process takes me away, and it’s impossible to focus on my physical pain when a character is leading me down his/her own path. With nonfiction writing, I get absorbed in the research. I love finding a way to put facts together so that the story is both interesting and educational.
on beach - 1974
If you had to live a day of your life as one of the living or dead personality, who would it be and why?

The philosophical part of me would say I’d live a day as my husband. As close as we are to the people we love, we can never truly know someone unless we’ve experienced life from their perspective. I’d love to really know how he sees the world.
The purely selfish part of me would love to experience a day as Robert Plant, back in the early 70s, at the height of Led Zeppelin madness. They remain my favorite band and he remains my favorite singer. I can’t hold a note to save my life but, in my mind, I am a rock goddess. It would be cool to experience a day as the ultimate rock god.
In both circumstances, I’d like to experience a day as a male so that I can truly see the flipside of things. But only one day.

What is your favorite genre and why?

Since the day I read The Outsiders, my favorite genre has been suspense. I love exploring the dark side of human behavior, when that fine line of right and wrong is completely blurred. I want to see what happens when you put a good person in an impossible situation. Why do some people fall off the cliff into oblivion, while others claw their way out of the pit? I love the sense of the unknown, not so much in questioning who the bad guy is, but what made him bad to begin with.
Mom at Beach - 1975
When did you start writing? What is the purpose of your writing?

I started writing as soon as I was taught how to put words together. I wrote my first “book” when I was five. For most of my life, I never stopped to question whether my writing had any purpose at all. I suppose the point of it was to provide an outlet for the constant thoughts and voices in my head. If I don’t write, my head will surely implode.

Which of your work has been published so far? Would you like to share a synopsis of your work?

I currently have nine novels and one short story collection of my own published. Three of these are part of a dark suspense series, and the rest are stand-alone suspense novels. I’m also excited to be included in the first short story collaboration from The Mind’s Eyes Series, which features another author and a photographer. Information and excerpts from all those are on my website:
We are getting ready to publish the next short story collaboration in the Mind’s Eye Series. This one features multiple authors and two photographers.
My true crime articles appear on the All Things Crime Blog (, run by Patrick Moore. I post direct links to my articles on my website:

What are your forthcoming writings?

I’m currently writing a paranormal suspense novel (no vampires) that will be the first in a series. This is a bit of a departure for me. I’ve always been a fan of paranormal suspense – psychic phenomenon, etc. But, for the most part, my writing has not ventured along this path. One of my novels – INTO THE LIGHT – features a ghost as the main character, so to some degree that one is also paranormal. There are no ghosts in the novel I’m working on, and the paranormal aspect is a strong part of the storyline.

What are your future plans?

The best laid plans…
I am a terrible planner. Really. I suck at it. I can’t even plan dinner properly. Halfway through cooking something, I have to call my husband to bring home emergency ingredients. I have future dreams (a house with no neighbors closer than a half-mile, a home library encompassing a city block, a yard big enough for a dozen rescue dogs, enough money to support all those dogs), but I have no real future plans. I guess I’m more of a ‘go with the flow’ person.

How much real life goes into a fiction writing?

The answer depends, of course, on the individual writer as well as the genre. My writing is very much character-driven and, for me, realism is essential. This is true even within the paranormal suspense novel I’m currently writing. The characters are “real” people, living real lives and facing real challenges. I have to get the details right. The emotional responses have to fit.
That is not to say I stick details of my own life within my novels. With the exception of one of my novels, every character and every situation is pure fiction. But it all has to feel real, which can be harder than one might think when dealing with psychological-based fiction. What helps me get it right (I hope) is that I read a lot of nonfiction. My shelves are filled with books about sociology, psychology, and true crime. I read about psychopaths so that I better understand how one might respond to any given situation. I know the difference between a sociopath and a psychopath, not because I expect my readers to, but because I want my characters to emerge in a way that feels like real life.

Is high level of imagination important to have for an Author?

Absolutely! But I think even more important than imagination is empathy. An active imagination allows us to come up with a million different “what if?” scenarios. Empathy is what allows us to step inside a character totally unlike us and see the world from his/her perspective.

Your dream destination on Earth?

I haven’t found it yet, but it involves mountains and the ocean, undisturbed and unpolluted land, wildlife, my husband, my dogs, and no tourists.

Your origin of birth and other countries you have visited/ stayed. What best things you liked in these countries around the globe?

I was born in Massachusetts. My grandmother emigrated from Portugal when she was a child, and my grandfather’s family came here to the US shortly before he was born. That’s on my mother’s side. I have no contact with my biological father and know little about his history.
The only places I’ve traveled to outside of the US were the Bahamas and Jamaica. I was particularly struck by the dichotomy of Jamaica, with the incredible beauty of the island, the opulent resorts, and the absolute poverty of the locals. Families live in tiny huts, with no plumbing, while the tourist industry rakes in money sending people to beaches the locals can’t access. 
In some ways, I suppose it’s not much different than situations here in the US. I live in Florida now, where we have both a large homeless population and a large tourist industry. The main difference here is that our city government works hard at keeping the homeless hidden from the tourists.

Your favorite time of the day?

I’ve always been a night owl. I love the darkness and the silence.

Your zodiac/ sunsign?

I’m a Gemini.

Your favorite color and why?

My favorite color is deep red, a crimson color, leaning into the purple spectrum. I don’t know why. I’ve always favored the color, though I don’t like reds that lean into the orange spectrum.

What is the last book you finished reading? What is the current book you are reading?

The last books I finished were:
Fiction - The Profiler by Chris Taylor
Nonfiction: Until You Are Dead, Dead, Dead: The Hanging of Albert Edwin Batson by Jim Bradshaw
I’m currently reading:
Fiction - The Darkest Hour by Tony Schumacher
Nonfiction - Eliot Ness: The Rise and Fall of an American Hero by Douglas Perry

Your favorite book and why?

Far too many, and all for different reasons. If I had to choose one, I’d say The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, simply because that book changed everything for me.

Your favorite movie and why?

I don’t watch a lot of TV or movies. I can’t even remember the last time I went to a movie theater. I was profoundly impacted by The Green Mile, both because of the story itself and because it was one of those rare times when the movie actually lived up to the book. I’m not sure I’d claim that as my favorite movie, though it’s certainly one that left a lasting impression.

Your favorite celebrity and why?

Boo me now, if you must, but I am not a fan of celebrities for the mere sake of their position in the entertainment world. I have to admit, I couldn’t name most of the celebrities in magazines or in movies. I suppose, if we’re talking favoritism on the merit of a single talent alone, my favorite celebrity is Robert Plant. I’m not sure if he qualifies as a celebrity. But I love what he stands for musically. (Sadly, I don’t know him, so I can’t speak as to what he stands for personally.)

Your favorite food?


Some quickies:

Sun or Moon - Both
Laughter or Smile – I love the sound of genuine laughter, but I’m more apt to smile than laugh aloud.
Morning or Evening - Evening
Coffee or Tea – Tea, always. I don’t drink coffee.
Mountain or Sea - Both
Long Drive or Short Drive - Depends on who I’m in the car with and where we’re going.
Silence or Conversation – Silence, mostly. I avoid small talk, but love in-depth conversation with open-minded people.
Water or Fire - Water
Air or Earth - Both
Mars or Jupiter - Jupiter, though I have no idea why.
Tulip or Rose – Neither. Wildflowers
Red or Blue - Red
Left or Right - Left
Glance or Stare - Glance

What three words come to your mind for each –

Technology: Computer, Internet, Headache
Life: Baffling, Beautiful, Short
God: Religion, Personal, Jesus
Humanity: Hopeful, Destructive, Diverse
Terrorism: Fear, Religion, Politics
Racism: Unacceptable, Ignorant, Intolerant
Childhood Abuse: Heartbreaking, Unforgivable, Hateful
Love: Elusive, Security, Warmth
Parenting: Challenging, Rewarding, Chaotic
Old age: Wrinkles, Wisdom, Ailments

State your signature line/ tagline/ best quote:

I write because the characters trespassing through my mind leave me no alternative.

The last line of your autobiography would be…

I got lost in the song, and found the most meaning in the space between the notes.

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