Wow!! Today I’m interviewing Don Helin, author of Thy Kingdom Come. His book is coming out in March from Medallion Press. You can check it out here: http://www.medallionpress.com/authors/helin.html. (For a sneak preview, check the Medallion Press website after March 1, 2009, to read the first 3 chapters. Once you start, I guarantee you won't want to stop reading.)
Don, Thanks for joining us on the blog today. It’s great to have you here. This is your first book, but I’m sure we can look forward to many Sam Thorpe adventures in the future. I'm curious. Did you always have a taste for adventure? What was your childhood like?
I had a pretty average childhood. Loved sports (football and basketball). My dad wanted to make sure we saw the U.S., so each summer we'd head off someplace else.
I guess all that traveling got into your blood. You and your wife have also taken some adventurous/exciting trips. Can you tell us about a few of the most unusual?
We have enjoyed cross-country skiing in Canada and the northern U.S., biking in various places in the U.S., and hiking. The most unusual trip (and one of the most fun) was a dog sledding trip to northern Minnesota. The dogs love to run and once they start out, you as the driver just have to hang on. The trails are narrow, and some of the hills are steep, so there are lots of challenges.
Where do you plan to go next? And why?
I'd like to go biking in France or Italy. I try and pick spots I'll enjoy as well as great places to research the next Sam Thorpe novel.
Speaking of Sam, I think everyone wonders how much an author has in common with the hero of his book. In what ways are you and Sam Thorpe alike? Different?
Sam and I both grew up in Minneapolis and went to the University of Minnesota. I had a pretty normal childhood, while Sam ran away from home at fourteen. He played football at the university; I never made it that far. We both served in the military.
You seem to have a knack for putting Sam into perilous circumstances. What is the most dangerous situation you ever faced?
During my time in Vietnam, we would experience rocket attacks on our compound. The danger was you never knew where the rockets would land.
So you obviously write some of Sam’s adventures from firsthand experience. I know that some of Thy Kingdom Come is taken from your work in Washington, DC. From your experience with the Anti-Terrorism task force there, what would you say is the greatest danger facing America today?
I hate to say it, but I think we're too quick on the trigger. Military force should be used only as a last resort. Most military guys will tell you it's not an exact science, and people get hurt and killed in wars. It has to be worth it.
Washington wasn’t the only place you’ve lived and worked. You’ve moved pretty often in your military career. Of all the places you were stationed, which was your favorite, and why? Ditto for the least favorite.
Probably my favorite place was Fort Carson, Colorado, located right outside of Colorado Springs; the Rocky Mountains make it one of the most beautiful places in the world. I enjoyed each assignment, so no least favorite. Probably my tour in Vietnam would be closest, although that is a beautiful country.
Can we get a sneak peek into your writing life? With all your traveling, moving, etc., how do you find time to write? What’s your usual writing routine? And how long did it take you to write & sell Thy Kingdom Come?
I'm a morning person so I try and get three or four hours in, then go outside for a run. I try to tie travels into writing. Take my writing stuff with me. I just got back from Puerto Rico and hope to make that country a site for Sam's following adventure. There were a lot of rejections before Medallion Press bought Thy Kingdom Come (about four years worth).
And now you’re hard at work on the next book in what hopefully will become a many-volume series. What can you tell us about the sequel to Thy Kingdom Come?
In Sam's second story, he is faced by Vietnamese men taking retribution for the massacre at My Lai forty years ago. [I’ve been lucky enough to get a sneak peek at this sequel called, Sons of My Lai, and it’s guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat—with murders, political intrigue, kidnappings, and a cast of unique (and sometimes humorous) personalities.]
So, Don, has getting published changed your writing and/or your writing life in any ways?
I'm spending a whole lot more time marketing and promoting my novel. If the books don't sell, the publisher isn't interested in another one. [With a fast-paced adventure such as Thy Kingdom Come, I doubt you’ll have a problem selling books. I wouldn’t be surprised to see your name on the bestseller list shortly.]
As you move into the realm of superstars, do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Join writers groups and go to conferences. Learn the craft as well as the business of writing. Pick the brains of the folks who have done well. Join a critique group. You need a good group to work with you and tell you where you need to improve. I believe my group, of which Lily is a member, has been a driving factor in my publication. The key is to never give up.
You’ve obviously reached one of your big dreams with the debut of Thy Kingdom Come. And I know there are sequels in the works (Sons of My Lai, for instance), but can you share any of your other dreams/hopes with us?
The key is to keep improving. As much as I enjoy Thy Kingdom Come, I suspect I'll look back one day and shudder at some of the mistakes I made.
For those who want to know more:
I hope everyone will go to my website, to get more information on Thy Kingdom Come, me, and where I'll be. Thanks for the chance to be here and please drop me an email to let me know how you enjoyed the book and things you wish I'd done differently.
Thanks, Don! Best of luck with those book sales!