Why do you write in your genre? What draws you to it?
I actually consider myself a mixed-genre author. My ideas, as you will see when my other books are published, are varied, and are hard to truly pigeon-hole into any one genre. The most important thing to me is a successful story and narrative, which may require genre elements from a number of sources. From a Killer’s Mind is a mix of Horror, Psychological Thriller, Science Fiction and Urban Fantasy. I’m drawn to odd ideas, and I like figuring out what aspects of different genres will properly support these weird ideas. For instance, my next novel draws on some aspects of old Greek Mythology and fiction relating to questing heroes and how they are poked and prodded through their journey, and I also had to reverse some of those elements to make the story pop, and work for the reader. Ideally, I’d like to produce original and new works, which, in my mind, requires a cobbling together of the old into an interesting new whole.
What research (or world building—for fantasy/paranormal/sci-fi) is required?
That is dependent on the book I am writing. From a Killer’s Mind required some delving into the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) in order to pick the group of mental issues and traumas that would make my main character, John, work. It also helped me choose and develop my other characters, which are closely tied with John’s mental state The next book, which I will release in a few months, required some research of Greek Myths and stories. The book I am currently writing has required a lot of research on earth sciences, the brain and the notion of future tech.
,br> Name one thing you learned from your hero/heroine.
,br> There is no hero in this story, but I learned how to truly write without judging from my main character, John. It is a common refrain for learning writers, but until you come up with an extreme case of it, the notion can remain nebulous and hard to really understand. Some scenes were quite gruesome, and I actually had to step away from the keyboard and take a few deep breaths, but I made sure that my language was not accusatory or judging, and that I allowed the scene to play out as it had to, with no narrative commentary. I also wanted to engender some confusing sympathy in the reader, so that they would start to understand this horrible character they were reading. Two of the themes I overlaid in this novel are that even those deserving of harsh justice are deserving of some understanding, and that the worst criminals often started out as victims: neither one of those themes would have worked if I was judging my main character. I also learned that I really don’t like being in the head of a serial killer. Wee bit dark.
Any odd or interesting writing quirks, habits or superstitions?
When I’ve finished one novel, I like to take a month or so to let the next book idea speak to me. I have the ideas for most of the novels I am going to write already worked out, but the specifics—the significant details that will make my story really pop—are things that hit me at random moments when I’m suddenly inspired. I don’t know if that is odd, but I will sometimes just be talking to a friend, say one small thing, and suddenly a couple dozen notes will just hit me and a whole section of the book just fleshes out. My Dad is a table-knocking God-forbidder, so I definitely have some mild superstitions, but nothing too weird or quirky. At least that is what I like to tell myself. Knocks on wood.
Plotter or Pantser?
,br> I am a plotter for all of the details, thematic overlays, and general tone and scope of each chapter, but I am a pantser for dialogue and certain characters that I want to be quirky. I like organic dialogue, and I find I get there best when I have a general idea of where I’d like a conversation to go, but I let the characters talk for themselves, so to speak. I should have probably put this in as a quirk in the question above, but I let the story play out like a movie in my mind, and describe what is happening, letting the odd characters kind of flesh themselves out and take the conversations where that type of character likes to go. So, the answer to your question is “yes.”
Look to your right—what is sitting there?
My dog Sunset. She is a Brittany, and she thinks she is a person and I am both a pillow and vending machine. Anything new coming up from you? What?
My next book, Written in Hell, will be out in the next few months. It is about a mediocre writer who failed in life, but is huge in Hell, and was given an invitation he could not refuse. The story follows him through his travels and travails in Hell. I believe that it is a new and non-clichéd take on Hell, and just a really bizarre, fun story. I have another untitled work that I am just beginning to write that is an apocalyptic story set in the future, interspersed with some themes of hope. I’ll be mixing up narrative voice and person to actually drive the plot, trying to create an interesting structure to the story. I plan to stay busy.
Do you have a question for our readers?
Can you dig it?
While you, dear reader, are thinking how to answer Jason's question, enjoy this promotional short story:
“Oh, yes, yes, yes,” said the grizzled, little man, patting a spot next to him on the bench he was sitting on, just outside of the light cast from the basement window. “Sit, sit, I have a book to tell you about. A book about the best of us. Yes, yes, yes, the best, the very best…”
His voice trailed off as he twitched and glanced around the dim room, seemingly looking everywhere at once. Every time the thin, feeble rays of the waning sun shining through the basement window caught his face, the man’s eyes glinted like a predator staring out from the edge of the dark, his lined countenance fierce and mercurial. The rhythmic pat-pat-pat of his hand sounded hurried and impatient on the old wood, thumping out an anxious rhythm. His clothes showed wear, riddled with holes and frayed threads. The threads stuck out to make his outline look indistinct and animalistic in the shadowed basement.
“John was the best of us. Yes, yes, undeniable,” he muttered quickly, his words coming so fast that they melded into a long, nervous sound. “His numbers were undeniable, and once the book, From a Killer’s Mind, came out, we learned his techniques. His care. His love…love…loved what he did, yes, yes! Did it alone, though? I don’t know. The book makes excuses, tells tales, but John is larger than any one man’s jealousy. You read it and decide. I know I’m alone…mostly. Mostly alone, alone alone…until I’m not…”
He cackled and jumped off of his seat, and rummaged through some boxes and loose items lying around in piles, his bare feet slapping on the basement floor. He grabbed what looked to be a hairy bit of leather from a small box in a low shelf under the window, causing a waft of stale, faintly rotten-smelling air to enter the room with it. His hands were a blur, petting and stroking the thing, turning it over in his hands again and again as he talked and fidgeted while staring out the window.
“John’s story is my story. I want his story. Mine,” muttered the man, looking back from the window with intensity in his eyes. “His Mama and Papa, they loved him fiercely. All his little friends, too. They had to love him to help him in the end. The sweet end. You don’t think I can take as many as him?! I’m careful, too! I like to keep my friends, too! See!”
The little man ran around the room, pushing and pulling odd sacks hanging from the ceiling sporadically throughout the basement, causing the chains they were hanging from to squeal on their rusty hooks. They looked like punching bags, but whenever he hit them, sending them swinging to and fro, they sloshed and splashed like half-filled water bladders. He picked up a screwdriver from a table in the corner and punched a hole in one bag, laughing and running faster as the room filled with a putrid stench and the sound of a thick, gelatinous stream splashing on the floor.
“John killed, but so do I,” yelled the wide-eyed man, pushing the bags back and forth like some sick child’s game. “He had his techniques, but so do I! So do I. Good book, I learned a lot, but he’s the best. The best. I want to be the…”
Suddenly, he stopped, and ran to the window. His face lit up as he peered into the lengthening afternoon shadows to see a young man walking alone between his house and the forest, carrying a basketball.
“Ahhhh, I see you,” he whispered with a grinning snarl, tapping on the window until the young man stopped, looked, and began to cautiously walk over to the window to investigate the sound. “I seeeeee youuuuuuuuu…”
“Shhhhhh!” he snapped as he dipped lower in the windowsill, looking back into the room and holding up his hand. “You will scare him away. Mine. Mine. Need to catch up to John. And I will. I will. In time. Buy the book! From a Killer’s Mind. You will learn. Enjoy John. Now go!”
About the Author:
Buy the book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Sony Reader Store, Kobo, or Diesel. For iBooks, search for "From a Killer's Mind" in the iBookstore.
From a Killer’s Mind, the debut novel of writer Jason Helford, is a mind-bending, scary, and emotionally honest trip through the life of a serial killer, laying bare the killer’s soul for all readers to see. The remarkable twist at the core of this novel is something that will leave you open-mouthed, shocked, and completely hooked, until the very last page.