Today I’m interviewing Darcia Helle, author of SIX novels! I had the pleasure of reading Enemies and Playmates, and here’s my review from Goodreads:
“Wife Beater Meets His Match”
In this suspenseful and entertaining novel by Darcia Helle, Alex Covington is a powerful attorney who beats his wife and terrorizes his children (his college student daughter Lauren is the protagonist). When Alex tries to add private investigator Jesse Ryan to his corrupt payroll, he finally meets a man strong enough to challenge his vicious ways.
The story begins as Lauren’s friends drag her to a nightclub where she meets Jesse, and their mutual attraction is tangible. I liked how it was unclear if Jesse was one of her father’s minions at first. Then I really grew to love Jesse. He and Lauren are excellent characters.
Lauren has a younger brother Stephen, and his storyline is heartbreaking. Due to his father’s harsh criticism and bullying, Stephen has immersed himself in drugs. Lauren wants to help him but doesn’t know how.
There were several unexpected developments that kept me on my toes. The Gina storyline shocked me. I was also surprised when Kara, Lauren’s mother, pulled some moves of her own. And, happily Darcia is not afraid to kill off characters!
I particularly enjoyed the banter between Jesse and his police friend. The story was a good balance between romance and suspense. I thought Alex’s character could have been more multi-dimensional, and I was frustrated by Jesse taking so many risks but I guess that’s the kind of hero he is.
Overall a great read—-one I’d highly recommend! And now on to the interview.
Jennifer Lane (JL): Welcome, Darcia! I really enjoyed Enemies and Playmates. What inspired you to write that novel?
Darcia Helle (DH): Hello everyone and thanks for having me here today, Jen!
Enemies and Playmates is my first novel. I started the original draft way back around 1993 and did about a dozen revisions and edits before finally publishing a couple of years ago. I don’t remember there being any specific inspiration for the story. I was going through a tumultuous period in my life and I think Jesse was the hero I wished would rescue me.
Writing was something I always did, though at that point only poetry and short stories. From early childhood, I had elaborate daydreams and scenes would play out for me like movie clips. One day, pieces of the first scene from E&P popped into my head. I sat down to write it, only because it haunted me. I had no intention of writing a novel. But the story kept moving and evolved on its own. Sometimes I’m not sure I should even take the credit!
JL: What genres do you usually write and why?
DH: All six of my books to date are some form of suspense, though none of them were planned that way. Actually, I don’t plan and don’t outline. Characters pop into my head, have a story to tell, and I follow where they lead. I’m fascinated by human nature. What makes one person seek revenge, while another walks away and forgives? This is always where I begin, with a character and a concept. Suspense seems to be the natural evolution of my exploration.
JL: Could you tell us a little blurb about each of your novels?
DH: Enemies and Playmates is romantic suspense, exploring the roots and effects of domestic abuse. Lauren has grown up with abuse and her natural instinct is to keep the family secret. Jesse is a private detective who stumbles into Lauren’s world and helps her to dig her way out.
Hit List is suspense with a twist of insanity and a side order of romance. Lucianna is a private detective hired to find out what happened during one woman’s last sane day.
No Justice is suspense and my first Michael Sykora novel. Michael is a hit man whose mission is to prevent others from suffering the sort of tragedy that tipped his world upside down.
Beyond Salvation is my second Michael Sykora novel. He is asked to find a teenage runaway and, in the process, uncovers a world where salvation comes with a price tag and God’s words are used to incite fear in a congregation of believers.
Miami Snow is part suspense and part drama, exploring the consequences of divorce on a man who wanted nothing more than to be a husband and a father. Nick’s desperation after losing everything he believed in leads him into a world of sex, drugs and murder.
The Cutting Edge is dark comedy/suspense and is the closest thing to autobiographical that I’ve written. Skye Summers is a hairstylist, burned out on her job and her clients, and fantasizes about gruesome things she could do with her surgically sharpened sheers. The salon in this story is a spinoff of the salon I worked in and helped manage for 15 years. The clients and conversations that take place within the salon are based on real clients and conversations. I’ve only changed the names and minor details to protect the innocent and hide the guilty. I need to make it clear, though, that we had no murders at our real salon!
JL: I’ve heard that name recognition is so important to the success of an author. How has publishing multiple books affected sales?
DH: Having a backlist definitely makes a difference in sales. The biggest bonus, I think, is that readers who enjoy one of your titles will come back and buy another. Rather than working for each individual sale, an author with multiple titles can make multiple sales by finding one reader.
The indie book world has exploded with new authors and continues to grow by the hour. That makes it difficult for authors to get noticed. With only one or two titles, you easily get swallowed up by the masses. When your backlist grows, your web presence does as well. This makes it a little easier to stand out from the crowd.
I also think that some readers look at authors with backlists as better established. With more titles, you’re likely to also have more reviews. These things help nudge readers into trying a book by an author unknown to them.
JL: You also generated interest in Enemies and Playmates by offering it for free for a period of time. Any suggestions for indie authors on pricing their ebooks?
DH: Getting E&P listed free on Amazon was pure luck. Most readers are not aware that Amazon does not allow indie authors (self-published) to list their books free for Kindle. We must charge a minimum of 99 cents. Only major publishers are allowed to offer free ebooks. However, Amazon does price match and will pluck up indie books and offer them free when the mood strikes them. I had listed E&P free for a few weeks on Smashwords, Amazon caught up with it, and set it free for Kindle. In just five days, I had more than 30,000 downloads.
That exposure has made an enormous impact on my subsequent sales and author status. My other five books began selling like never before, which I attribute to readers who had downloaded the freebie, liked it, and continue to come back for the others.
That being said, I have mixed feelings about the freebie thing. Yes, it absolutely helps indie authors get our names and work out there. The promotion factor can’t be overstressed. On the other hand, in our desire to promote our work, we’ve created a bit of a price war amongst ourselves. In order to compete in the overcrowded indie world, we’re expected to price our ebooks at 99 cents or, better yet, give them away. Most of us spend the better part of a year or more on each book and, quite honestly, I think we’re worth more than a buck.
A major point I noticed is that free really only works well on Amazon. I had E&P free for an entire month on Smashwords and that had no effect at all on my sales there. At the time, I had Smashwords set up to feed Barnes and Noble, so E&P was also free on the B&N site for the Nook. My sales there spiked minimally. Yet, Amazon picked it up for a mere five days and my sales skyrocketed.
Having multiple titles published also makes a difference. Free does not work as a promotion if it’s the only title you have published. I now have E&P priced at 99 cents and it remains my bestseller. The others are all priced higher and sell quite well with minimal promotion. The low price of one works as a great draw when you have others.
JL: How has coping with a chronic illness affected your writing?
DH: Chronic health problems have always been an issue for me, though they’ve intensified quite a bit over the years. Consequently, I can’t really compare a time when I was well and wrote to not being well and writing. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, writing has truly been my salvation. When I’m writing, reality fades away and I exist through my characters and their world. For the past eight years or so, I’ve been mostly housebound and writing is a welcome escape.
The challenge comes in when I go through a particularly bad spell, like this past year. Concentration becomes a larger than normal problem and the writing process slows way down. I’d intended for my work-in-progress to be completed and released early this spring. Now I’m hoping that will happen by late summer. Chronic illness has taught me the art of patience and adaptability.
JL: We met through Bestseller Bound. Please tell us about that site, what made you start it, and how it’s going.
DH: I am an author but I’m also an avid reader. I was looking for a group where I could connect with other readers and writers, share thoughts on books we’ve read, authors we like, etc. I also wanted to be free to talk about my own writing. I don’t mean that so much in the promotional sense but rather in simply talking about the process, asking opinions and being involved in general discussions in which it would be okay to mention my own books. I searched for more than a year but could not find a place where I could be both a reader and a writer.
I joined a few readers’ groups that were great but talking about my own work was forbidden. If a topic was being discussed, I could not mention that I’d written about it in one of my books. While other people talked about their jobs and what they did with their day, I was not allowed to do the same, since even mentioning that I’d spent the day writing would be considered promoting my work. I always felt like I was being asked to check a part of myself at the door.
On the opposite spectrum, I joined writers’ groups where the entire focus was promotion. No one discussed other books they’d read or even really supported each other’s work. Those groups were great for networking and finding marketing ideas but they never had a welcoming feel for me.
Through Facebook, as well as reading other indie authors’ books, I began to build a small network of very good friends who were having the same problem finding a comfortable place to express themselves. Since I wasn’t the only one searching for this, I decided to build us that place. Stacy Juba and Maria Savva agreed to come in as moderators. As I was building the site, they gave me tremendous support and insight. They each played a large part in helping to create what we have today.
The site – http://www.bestsellerbound.com/ – is designed as a reader and/or writer friendly environment. I’ve met some of the most amazing people through the site and the support I receive there is irreplaceable. I designed and maintain the site but it’s the members who make it work so perfectly.
Thank you Darcia! And now on to the Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop, hosted by Lisa Sanchez.