What an intriguing visit I had with Kevin Helmick. His latest book, Sebastian Cross, is one that my husband will definitely want to read. He has a fast-paced ability at storytelling.
Kevin Lynn Helmick was born in Fort Madison IA in 1963, is the author of The Lost Creek Journal, a collection of poetry and 2 novels: Clovis Point, a modern thriller, and Sebastian Cross, a literary adventure. He now lives near Chicago IL.
Kevin Lynn Helmick began writing short stories and poetry in his early teens and gained small successes and notoriety throughout the eighties and early nineties. After a over decade long departure from any writing Helmick returned to the keyboard and produced a collection of selected poems and writings in 2009 and followed up with two novels in 2010. His influences range from classic literature greats like Hemingway and Faulkner, to more contemporary writer like Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurtry.
Tell us about the genre of your work.
I would say the genre of my writing leans toward literary adventure. I like thought provoking prose, exciting characters and action in my favorite books and writers, so that is what I try to do.
Why did you choose this genre?
It was not like a conscience choice. I write about things, people and places that interest me. I like to have a fast moving story with a lot of tension, lot going on. I like a lot of dialogue it brings the characters to life. Basically, it comes down to what I like to read.
What are some of your books, stories that have been published?
Well…I have self published everything I have written, except for a few small pieces here and there. My wife helps with editing my books, but I do all the writing, and the artwork. The Lost Creek Journal, Clovis Point, and my latest and best work to date, I think anyway, Sebastian Cross.
The Lost Creek journal came about as collection of poems and writing I have accumulated over the years, some as far back as my teens. I plan on re-writing it sometime in the future, get the cost down, it’s priced to high where it is and I want to publish it somewhere else, I don’t know if I will, but right now you can get it by a general search.
Clovis Point was intended to be a coming of story, loosely based on some of my own experiences, I had a bit of a first draft that looked that way, but when I started to actually write it, I changed the setting and just about everything else. It’s a story of 19 year old kid in Fallon Nevada, Ryan Sheppard, a part time ranch hand who is stuck in that depressing grey area between high school and life. He’s a little screwed up, mentally, probably from the trauma of watching his bull riding father get killed in the ring as a child, I don’t get specific about it, it’s just implied, by his thoughts and actions, everyone else knows it but him. Anyway, he has visions, and circumstances happen that implicate him, His best friend Jim, finds a rare artifact on reservation land and winds up dead, staged suicide, And Shep is determined to find out what happened. There is a county sheriff that is a constant thorn. There’s a mysterious, shape shifting, Indian shaman that appears to be helping Sheppard, There’s a girlfriend from the better side of town with some serious issues, there’s killing, car chases, bank robbing, and unpredictable ending that’ll blow you away. It has all, make a great movie. It is at CreateSpace, Amazon books, kindle, and a few stores here and there.
Sebastian Cross, the current book, is bigger, bigger in every way. I wanted to write about writing, about a literary genius and set it right on the cusp of this information age, early 80’s up to the present because I couldn’t think of any particularly important literature produced in this period, I’m sure there was, maybe not. It seems to me most people want their art, media, and entertainment, in a kind of fast food way today. The Catcher in the Rye thing has always been a scenario that fascinated me, you know, the whole Hinckley, Chapman thing. Why and how certain books have the effect they do on certain people and culture. It is interesting to note that Salinger died on the day I was writing a passage in the book about him, weird. Anyway, I magnified it of course, this loony fan scenario.
Sebastian Cross is this exciting, adrenaline junkie author who writes a book that does not just affect a few loons, but a few thousand. His writing changes everything. I narrate the story through his Chicago based literary agent, Murray Henshaw, as they are young and just starting out. Cross soon becomes world famous not just from his writing but his exploits and personality create controversy as well. He summits K2, he sails the globe. He is an individual that ignores all boundaries of social norm. You will love him and you will hate him. His writing and fame becomes a sort of Frankenstein’s monster, and this fame attempts to destroy him. It is a cautionary tale, an epic, high concept and something I am really proud of having written it.
During my re-writes, I came across a book at some flea market called Forbidden Knowledge by Roger Shattuck. It is about how the search for knowledge, technology, how it can destroy the human race when it is obtained faster than we can deal with, or digest it, and how some things are better left alone. We as people are not meant to know certain things, we cannot handle it. The first chapter was about literature through the ages, the conflicts of science and religion, Shelly, Milton, Dante, the bible. I realized that this was exactly what I was writing about, and how the story of Sebastian Cross, the theme anyway, so closely resembled Shelly’s Frankenstein. It felt pretty good. It felt like I was writing something important, without really being aware of it.
It is good book, and it would make a great film. It would be a high budget film I guess, because it takes place all over the world. Cross, the character has the means and motivation to do whatever he wants when he wants, and does.
All my writing plays like a movie in my mind, probably does for most writers but I see it, very vividly.
Both novels are available at Amazon Books, Create space, kindle, smash words.
How do you come up with the names of places and characters in your books?
Names, I try to use names that I think fit the characters. Sometimes the characters personalities are dictated by the names I choose, either way names are important in the same way the title is in helping the reader form a visual of that character or book, they are for me anyway. Sometimes there is some symbolism in the names I decide on, but not always. Sometimes the entire story is shaped by a name and a character, as it more or less is with Sebastian Cross, which is an attractive, action name, to me anyway. Ryan Sheppard, I thought, sounded like the name of a rodeo kid, so I went with it. Actually, Cross was taken from a poem I had written years ago about a misunderstood, overlooked artist. I think it was Sebastian Crowe then and I changed it to Cross for symbolism. There are many bible references in Sebastian Cross, The all time best seller, the bible, right?
Place, settings; a lot of writers use fictional places or hint a lot but never really come out and say it. I use real places. I find that readers find it easier to identify with them. Its fun to be coy, but I write about places I know, have been or would like to go. It’s fun when I’ve written about a real town that I’ve never been to, but talk about a completely imaginary building, store, or person, and a reader who live there indentifies and says, “I know that place, or oh, you must be talking about so and so, you must have been there, that was dead on!” That just gets me, makes me smile, because I made it all up. Some things, places, people, are the same all over, where ever you go. Details like this are just not as unique as we would like to think. So all setting really does for me is give the story a place to happen, and help refine the dialogue, speech patterns, character development, stuff like that, which is setting is very important in that respect, character development.
How did you develop the character of your protagonist in this book?
This book, Sebastian Cross, is kind of collection of my hero’s and idols throughout my life. His philosophies are mine, as well as his accessories: from his pea coat, cowboy boots to his ever-present Zippo lighter, all me. His interest and hobbies are mine. He is one the kind of guys I admire and he is the man I will never be, almost flawed, super hero like.
Ryan Sheppard in Clovis Point is probably as close to the real me, as any of my characters get; me at nineteen anyway. I do not know. The characters of my protagonist seem to exist already as real people; I am just trying to describe them. I develop characters for reasons that I hope support the story. I tried to make my characters interesting with relatable attributes, even if that character, like Sebastian Cross, is an extra-ordinary one, with personality traits that reject all concepts of social normality, he still has to deal with real problems that society brings, or not deal with them, or whatever. You can be sympathetic even when he is at his worst. That is what make a well-rounded character, protagonist.
What about an antagonist…is there a unique “bad guy” or a recurring nemesis of any kind?
My wife pointed out something that I was unaware of: that my writing was kind of “dark.” I disagreed but thought about it. The antagonist, the real “bad guy” in my stories are mostly struggles with the protagonist, overcoming obstacles, finding oneself, searching for meaning, things like that. There is a bad guy in Sebastian Cross, but he is of no real threat comparatively, not to Cross anyway. He is metaphorical really. His name is John Chase; he is a dangerous religious fanatic. I chose the name for the initials, J.C., again some biblical reference, and Chase, symbolic. He is there to give a name and face to a more universal struggle. My antagonists are usually intangible: personal struggles, fighting the system, fighting the man, overcoming odds. I love a good underdog story, comeback kid.
What is your favorite thing about your book?
My favorite thing would be the fact that I finished the book. No really, my favorite thing about Sebastian Cross is that it has all the elements that appeal to me in a book. I feel that it is bigger in scope, in theme, than the book itself. I think it is a solid body of work.
How is writing in the genre you write, different than other genre?
I do not think a lot writers write the way I write anymore, as least not in this genre. I could be wrong, I probably am. However, everything new seems so formula written. I can usually tell from the first couple chapters how it is going to end and that is disappointing, predictable sucks, and we have too much of it.
Why and when did you begin writing?
I don’t why, but I remember very early on, about seven or eight, climbing up my brothers dresser and listening to the Beatles 45, Paperback Writer and thinking, wow, that’s cool. It made being a writer sound cool, even though later on I realized the lyrics were a desperate plea to a publisher, prophetic. I have four older brothers and the house was full of books, paperbacks, and Hardy Boy mysteries. I was reading a lot very early. Around seventh or eighth grade, I was introduced to The Outsiders, Huck Finn, Catcher, stuff like that made me want to write too, so did.
High School, I had very supportive instructors, and good classes, that included creative writing and American Literature. My teachers would encourage me, without judgment on language or content. I started writing then, really writing. I still have some of it, some of it is not bad, and some of it is. I never took it serious, like, as maybe a career like serious, until the last three or four years. I need something to do in my old age.
What is your writing schedule?
I write in the morning, for the most part.
What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future?
I am working on another novel; I have about 40.000 words written, but it is too early to tell how it will turn out. However, my plan was for it to be a slice of life, a redemptive piece, A failing Hollywood screenwriter is forced to return to his Midwestern roots after a family tragedy, a kind of “who’s saving who”. It is a small book, smaller than Sebastian Cross is. I am making it effort to keep it small and tight, we will see. I like a big story in a small book, so, that is the plan. For the future, I would like just to make a comfortable living at it.
What kind of advice or tips to you have for someone who wants to write (especially mystery)?
I do not know; read a lot, write a lot, do not take advice from other writers, pick another career, I have enough competition.
Are there any other comments, advice or tips that you would give to beginning writers?
It is not that I hate these kinds of questions as much as hate the answers most writers give. They’ve published a book somewhere, some obscure small press, maybe they have a degree, and all of sudden their experts and start spouting formulas, iceberg theories, show don’t tell, stuff you should already know, and I’m not so sure is even relevant with today’s or the future’s reading audience, because really your writing for the future. I say evolve, push the envelope, remember, writing, at its best, is an art form, and the best art has no rules or boundaries, so do what you want, but don’t be don’t such a control freak, keep it loose, keep it coherent. If it rocks your world, chances are it will rock someone else’s, and if it does not, do not worry about it, move on.
What do you do when you are not writing?
Not much, these days, I hang out with my family, and do things with them. I am a carpenter too, so I work at that when I can. I am over due for some travel, some adventure. That is for sure.
What “Made It” moments have you experienced in life?
Climbing to the top of Pikes Peak, “made it,” made it to the top of several of the most difficult rocks in The Garden of the Gods. Those are some of my “made it” moments, but that was twenty years ago. I do not believe in “made it moments” when it comes to writing. No one who claims they have mastered something or “made it,” probably has been challenged enough. Creative writing is a work in progress and the summit is hundreds of years away; just my opinion, and that does not mean much.
Authors Page on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Kevin-Lynn-Helmick/e/B003IR7PU0/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1
Sebastian Cross http://www.amazon.com/Kevin-Lynn-Helmick/e/B003IR7PU0/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1 ISBN: 1456480006Clovis Point http://www.amazon.com/Kevin-Lynn-Helmick/e/B003IR7PU0/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1 ISBN: 1451