Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Hello, I am Stephen Helmes, and I am 49 years young.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born in the hills of Northwest Georgia, a little place called Fort Oglethorpe. Those who know it, know it from the battlefields, and Green Eyes, a ghostly creature that has been seen by many roaming them.
Fiona: A little about yourself (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I am a father of two, a boy age 20, and a daughter age 23. Once they both became adults, I decided to follow my dream of living near the ocean. I moved from the Georgia hills down to the tropical, and sometimes windy, beaches of Palmetto, Florida.
Not only am I into writing horror, I have a very strong passion for music. I have been a musician almost all of my life, playing guitar since I was ten-years-old. Music really is the gift that keeps on giving. Four decades later, I still love taking the acoustic down to the sands of Bradenton Beach and playing by the water while the sun sets.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I am in the middle of a book race at the moment. I am working on my third, fourth, and fifth books all at the same time. Ideas are never good cold, so I jump on them while they are hot. This means, when a new idea is born, the writing begins. My daily mood decides which story I will be working on that day. So the race is on, as to which book will be finished and released next.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing
?Ha! It was an accident! I had never even dreamed of being a writer. I have loved horror all my life, and that is the spark that started the fire in me.
It was around 4am on a cold winter’s morning in 2001 when I woke from the worst nightmare I’d ever had. I raised straight up in sweat drenched sheets, eyes darting all around the dark, cool bedroom until I realized I was home and safe in my bed. The dream hit me so hard, and being a horror lover, I didn’t want to forget it. Rather than going back to sleep and forgetting the dream, going on with my day to day life, I got myself out of bed long before daybreak, and began writing the dream down while it was still fresh in my mind. As I said earlier, ideas are better while they are hot.
After finishing that story, I realized that I really enjoyed writing, really as much as playing music. So I started my second story and I am still writing today.
The nightmare that became my very first story is in my first book, Nightly Visits. It’s called Glasswalker.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I knew I loved writing when I was working on Glasswalker, after that 2001 nightmare. But even then, I didn’t consider myself as a real writer. I was treating it like a hobby. It wasn’t until I released Nightly Visits in February of 2014. The sells started, friend requests started coming in on Facebook from people I had never met, yet all seemed to be real and legit. Most of these new friends were book lovers. That and when I saw the first really nice reviews from people I had never met started coming in for Nightly Visits. One horror lover said that a part of my book actually brought tears to his eyes. That was when I began to realize that people were out there reading my work, and I could really start taking this writing thing seriously.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Nightmares. Plain, simple and true. It started with the historical nightmare of 2001, and after that I began recording all of my crazy dreams onto a little voice recorder that I now keep by my bed while I sleep. Ideas are best while they are hot! You should hear some of the weird, off-the-wall stuff that recorder deals with!
About once every three months I will hit the play button and listen to the many voice recordings that I have collected over the past several weeks. All of them in a hoarse voice that I barley recognize as my own. Many of these recordings I don’t remember. A lot of the ideas are too disoriented or even crazy to use. I delete those. But every now and then a new character spawns from the bits and pieces of my broken dream world, and a new story begins.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Dreams. I hate to answer every question with similar answers, but it’s really true. Most of my stories revolve in and around dreams that have come to me in the night, after I pull the sheet up to my neck and close my eyes. They are my Nightly Visits. Oh, and I have some good ones too. Read the books, you’ll see.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
The most challenging thing I deal with is that pesky writer’s block. If you write, then you know what I’m talking about. We all get it!
As for my writing style, I choose to call it free-style writing. I’m not sure if that is a real term of if I invented it, but that is what I call it. There are no set rules in the art. I write the way I think. I want my books to read with a smooth flow; a good rhythm. But I am not trying to be poetic or use seven-syllable words where the reader has to keep a dictionary close by to understand what I am trying to say. There are rules in writing a quality novel, but there are no rules in the language we speak on a day to day basis. My characters recognize that, so they speak in their own tongues.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
A lot! Even though most of my stories are based on dreams, they can’t be written on that philosophy alone. There has to be structure. There has to be a beginning, a middle, and an end. There has to be a spine to make all this madness somehow come together into the real world. That is where real life comes in. When a character runs into a situation where she has to make a tough decision, I may think of one of my close friends. What would Connie do in this situation? This not only makes the story come to life, but Connie may think differently than I would, therefor lead the character down a completely different path. So we never know where the character will end up. We just have to follow the Trail of Dreams to find out. Friends and family play a huge role in Nightly Visits. I just pray that many of them never recognize the parts they are playing.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
No, but I do admit that some places have lit sparks in my imagination. I used to be a truck driver, and I have seen almost every state in our great country through the windshield. I have seen hot and dry deserts, snow covered mountains, driven up and down the east and west coast beaches, in the big cities and the narrow curvy roads of wooded forests. I have even experienced two tornadoes while in the front seat of a truck. Great stories can certainly come from traveling. But I have one of those imaginations where if I just go out at night, sit in a lawn chair and stare up and the star-filled sky, my mind will take me to galaxies far far away without even having to leave my driveway.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I created the covers of ‘Nightly Visits’ and ‘From 12 to 6.’ Wrapping the gift is part of the fun. I love playing with the imagination, and that’s not just in the writing. A lot of imagination goes into the artwork of the cover as well. I enjoy creating, and the cover is the icing on the cake.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
RUN! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! Seriously, there is no secrets inside my stories. I just want to give the reader a place to go to escape the real world, even if only for a few minutes a day. It’s not all about scaring. I want to make them smile, laugh and maybe even shed a tear from time to time. I think it’s healthy to experience different emotions. In many ways, it can make us better people to feel what those on the other side may be feeling. Stories can give you that. They can put you into someone else’s world, dealing with their problems and emotions. But mostly what I want to give the reader is a good time-out from the real world. We all need a break sometimes.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I cling to the indie author world these days. But my all-time favorite writer is Stephen King. Remember what I said earlier about free-style writing? King is my inspiration for that style. He writes what he feels, what he sees in his head. He isn’t trying to impress his fans with fancy words or poetry, as nice as some of it sounds. He tells the story as he sees it. Don’t spend three paragraphs explaining in long drawn out words what each shard of broken glass looked like after the vase fell off the mantel. “They were fighting and he fell back into the mantel. The vase toppled over and fell to the floor, shattering into a million pieces.” There’s the visual. Now, get back to the story before it gets cold. Ideas are best while they are hot! Let the story tell itself. Give a good visual of here and now, then move on to the next visual. That’s what I love about Stephen King, and I admit, that is how I model my writing style.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. This is a book by Stephen King, released in 1999. I simply love this story. Many will disagree, but it’s my favorite book I have ever read by him or any author. I had just finished this book about the time that nightmare hit me in 2001. I think that’s why I was so inspired to write Glasswalker. I was so fired up about The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, I decided to give it a try and see what would come out.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Not yet, but I am trying to reach that point. The world of entertainment has always been a world with many teeth, and it will bite you. Whether be music, acting or writing, you have to be in the right place at the right time to meet the right people while they are in the right mood in order to get the publicity you need to really make a strong career of the art. I have never had such wonderful luck. But I am a believer that dreams can come true. I have wished upon many stars and followed many rainbows that haven’t led me anywhere yet. But give up? No, never!
There was a popular song by Jennifer Warnes and Joe Cocker that stated, “There are mountains in our way, but we climb a step every day.” I believe in these words. I work hard to gain one step closer to writing success every single day. I hope that by the time my hair is white, I will be able to stand behind my books and say, “It was a roller coaster of a ride, but I made it.”
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Actually, I did the first book all over again. When I released the original Nightly Visits back in 2014, I was entering a new world. I didn’t know anything about publishing a book. I didn’t have a hand on the art of writing a quality story. I had great ideas, but that’s all they were.
When I released my second book, ‘From 12 To 6 (More Nightly Visits),’ I looked at it and I could see how I had improved as a writer. I had sold very few copies of the original, so I knew I had time and room to correct my mistakes in both, the writing and the publishing, and do it right. The original Nightly Visits was rewritten and republished in 2016 and I can now stand behind the work with my head held high. I am grateful to have been able to do that. Not every author is given a second chance.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Nothing that would be life changing. Writing takes a lot or research. We are constantly learning a little bit about everything, but not a lot about anything. Our heads are full of bits and pieces of useless information that have no purpose other than finishing a great story. But as far as really learning anything about life from my writing, no.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
No, certainly not. I would want the movie to be good, so leave me out of it. But I wouldn’t mind popping up in small scenes like King has done in many of his films over the years. That would be pretty cool.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Think like that Fleetwood Mac song. “Don’t stop thinking’ about tomorrow. Don’t stop. It’ll soon be here.” Whether you have a dream of writing, acting, music, any of the fine arts, you must always follow your dreams. Do everything you can to make them come true. When somebody tries to pull the chair out from under you by saying that you’ll never make a career of it, look at them with a big smile, climb back up on that chair with your chin high, and start again. Dreams are rarely handed to us for free. We have to follow that rainbow. Remember, there are mountains in our way, but we climb a step every day.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Buy my books! You’ll love them! And also, be sure to check the backseat of your car before you get in to go somewhere at night.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I read a lot of indie author’s books these days. These are stories not known by many. I am reading a book by an author friend of mine, Mathew Williams, called ‘Shadowchild.’ Before that I was reading a book from another author friend of mine, R.L. Smith, titled, The Legends of Castle Rock. I have also helped Lisa Binion with some editing on her book Softly and Tenderly.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Frisker. It’s a children’s book by Mary Lauer Nowak, about a little dog in the pound who pretends to be things he is not in order to be adopted. It was my favorite story as a child, and the first one I remember when I was learning to read.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
When it comes to laughing, put in a Monty Python movie, Airplane, or Naked Gun. I admit, I love the silly humor and terrible puns. They will crack me up every time!
As for crying, I don’t like to think about that very much. My kids have a strong hold on me as well as a weak marriage. If anything ever happened to either my son or my daughter, I would go insane. I have gone almost insane over a bad marriage. But that was a long time ago. If you are not in love with somebody, don’t make them think that you are. Nothing in the world hurts more than a broken heart. Let’s move on.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Alice Cooper. He’s a good friend of mine. He just doesn’t know it.
Many hear the name Alice Cooper and they cringe. He’s that rock star that kills chickens and chews them up on stage, and all this hear say stuff. But they never take the time to check it out for themselves and see what he really has to say when he’s not on stage. When he told an interviewer that he became a Christian, the interviewer asked, “Doesn’t that go against your image of being a rebellious rock n roll star?” Alice said, “If anything, it proves that I am the ultimate rebellion. I can go on stage and play this evil character and when the curtain closes I can live a clean and decent life. No one expects the real me.” He is truly the man behind the mask. I would love to be able to join him in a game of golf someday. But he would beat my socks off. I love playing golf, but I am terrible at it.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Many hobbies. I love going to the beach.
I love playing my guitar. I still love playing with my band, House of Flies when I can get up to Georgia. We have slowed considerably since I moved to Florida, but we refuse to quit. After twenty-five years of doing shows together, we have become family to each other.
I also love some video games and working my Facebook groups. I have four groups on Facebook. The Author’s Circle, Author’s Bus Depot, 100 Laughs a Minute and The Rock N Roll Experience. If any of these subjects seem interesting to you, come join us!
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I don’t watch very much television, though I do keep up with The Walking Dead. I guess there are exceptions to every rule. I do love movies, however. I have a very strong passion for horror films such as the first two Amityville Horror films, Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. There are thousands of others that I love, including films of different genres than horror, but those always come to mind first when I think of movies.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Food: “Food glorious food. What is there more handsome. Gulped swallowed or chewed. Still worth a king’s ransom.” Yes, food. Steak, seafood, Mexican, Chinese, you name it, Fast food or sit down, I love almost anything.
Favorite colors: I am a very colorful person. I love bright colors that make you cover your eyes in fear of going blind at the sight of them. However, my favorite color of all is black. Black goes well with any other color you can think of, and it helps hide the effects of the food glorious food that I mentioned a minute ago. I know what you’re thinking. “Black isn’t actually a color.” Right? Well, as long as there is a crayon in that little box of Crayolas that has the word ‘Black” on it, it’s a color to me.
Music: Rock N Roll stands tall and bright at the top of my musical pedestal, but I love music in general, whether be heavy, soft, old or new, gentle or aggressive. If it sounds good to your ears and makes you feel good, then you should enjoy it. First names that come to mind when you ask who are my favorites are Alice Cooper and Led Zeppelin, but there are thousands that I love.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Play guitar and sing at poolside parties, beachside tiki bars, and anywhere people love music and want to sing along.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
I’m still thinking about that one, actually. I want something original, clever that may put a smile on someone’s face or even make them laugh. I hope to have a while longer to come up with something.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
At the moment I do not have an actual website. Keep an eye peeled in the near future for that though. I do have my Facebook page where I keep folks updated on upcoming events and book releases. You can find me at this link. https://www.facebook.com/stephen.helmes.5
What cha waiting for? C’mon and friend me!
Nightly Visits – https://tinyurl.com/j8jqu7a
From 12 to 6 (More Nightly Visits) – https://tinyurl.com/h7dpuj8
Stephen at Hellbound Books – https://tinyurl.com/jfetdhc
Free audio story on Youtube “SPOTS”: http://tinyurl.com/zmsdtkh
Facebook Page: http://tinyurl.com/hdof2s8
Facebook Author Page:http://tinyurl.com/j542syo
Facebook Nightly Visits Page:http://tinyurl.com/gswtrpe
Guest Post at Lisa’s Writobia – http://tinyurl.com/hcdr4hp
SPOTS Read yourself at Lisa’sWritobia – http://tinyurl.com/ztotnss