This being my first book release, and the first of anything I have written longer than a term paper, I thought I would talk about my experience as a new author. First off, I’ll tell you a little secret. I’m not a real writer. That’s what I told my editor Jeff after he reviewed my original draft. I got C’s in high school English. I can’t spell. I didn’t know what a dangling participle was (I only kind of do now). So how did I end up writing a novella in the first place?
I’ve always liked sci-fi, fantasy and comic books, and I had the general idea for a comic or novel that I hoped to get someone else to write. So I started by trying to create a world based on ancient history, and spent quite a bit of time on Wikipedia researching ancient civilizations and their religious beliefs. My background of Catholic school upbringing didn’t hurt either.
Once I had a rudimentary universe built, I was sort of stuck. I didn’t know what to do with it. I’ve read enough books to know that a good story requires likable characters, but the idea of creating characters was daunting. So I cheated. I just based the characters on my lifelong best friend and myself. Now it’s not an exact match, but there is quite a bit of realism in their personalities, and many of Helmut’s stories and memories are based on my friend’s life. I changed the names (somewhat) to protect the innocent and the guilty.
Now I had characters, I just had to make them do something that was worth reading about. For that I fell back on my love of detective novels, specifically the stories about Nero Wolfe, written so excellently many years ago by Rex Stout. The mystery was never too complicated, and really was only the backdrop to the wonderful personality quirks of the two main characters, Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe, and the way they played off each other throughout the story.
Up until that point all I had done was Internet research and daydreaming. That was fun. Actually starting to write words on paper was bear. My first thirty or so pages were written longhand in a spiral notebook. I purposefully wrote it more illegibly than my usual chicken scratch, just in case my wife came across it and decided to try and read it.
I didn’t have any expectations for publication when I started, but I wanted at least a little validation. I figured the real version of my main character was my best bet for that. My goal was simply to make him laugh, so I sprinkled the pages with enough one-liners and references to our favorite cult movie to keep him interested. After I had finished typing the first two chapters onto my iPad, I went over to his house to let him read it. The ten minutes of waiting while he read—he reads soooo slow—were some of the most anxious moments in my life. It was worth it though. He laughed, many times, which gave me the confidence to push on through till the end.
There are multiple references to a cult movie from the 90’s throughout the book. The first to name the movie in the comments or the Facebook site will have the honor of knowing that their taste in fine cinema is first class. Here is an excerpt from the book.
My name is Helmut Haase and I’m one half of the Fog City Detective Agency—specifically, the half that pays all the bills. My partner, Shamus O’Sheehan, mostly drinks beer and naps. I keep him around because he’s my friend, but also because he’s a Druid. I’m just a detective, and there are plenty of those in Wudong, the Confederacy of Hesperia. There’s not another Druid for miles.
We had it pretty good until the day we met Alek Pallas. He hired us to track down a thieving employee, and even though something was off, his big fat check was too much to pass up. But the man we found wasn’t what we were led to believe, and neither was Alek.
I’m talking shape-shifters, fallen angels and a conspiracy involving the vicious Cretan Empire. At least we didn’t die. Hope that doesn’t ruin the story.
Why am I telling you all this? Someday I’d like some credit for saving the world. Maybe not the entire world, and maybe not alone, but I still deserve a medal. And perhaps a cash prize.
Helmut Saves the World is available from Carina Press.
About Matt Sheehan: Moody and sarcastic at the best of times, the author should not be conversed with prior to his morning cup of Joe. Excels at sitting with his feet up, drinking beer or coffee, depending on the time of day, and reading—but has yet find someone willing to pay for that service. Has always been, and will always be, his mothers favorite child. Dreams of someday moving to a deserted island that supports coffee trees and hop vines.
Connect with Matt on Facebook or Twitter.