Don Helin is the author of five thrillers that draw from his military experience, including three tours in the Pentagon. His novel, Secret Assault, was selected as the Best Suspense/Thriller at the 2015 Indie Book Awards. His latest thriller, Long Walk Home, won Runner Up for Best Fiction at the 2018 Great Southeast Book Festival. You can reach him on his website, www.donhelin.com. Don will present three sessions at Pennwriters 2018: Writing a Marketing Plan, London, Paris, or Dublin (about setting), and How to Keep Your Readers Turning Pages: The Art of Pacing.
Pennwriters: What do you think is special about the genre you write in?
Don: I have always enjoyed reading suspense/thrillers and that’s why I began writing them. A good suspense novel loses you in the story and you forget about all the stuff going on in your life. It’s a great way to relax, and I figure I may be helping someone else to relax. Although I do have to own up to staying awake a few times reading a really great part in a suspense novel.
PW: What do you find the most difficult part of writing?
Don: For me, it’s getting to the middle of the book. I love starting a thriller as I have all sorts of great ideas I want to put in the story. But at some point it seems the story begins to lag and I think, “This isn’t worth a darn.” That’s the time I’ve learned to keep on writing because I can always go back and edit the parts I don’t like. I know many writers who stop when they hit that lag point and never finish. I encourage everyone to slog through the slow point and finish you work. If you don’t finish it, you’ll never publish anything.
PW: What’s individual or unique about your writing space?
Don: My wife and I recently moved from the Harrisburg area to Lancaster. I’m really happy with the layout of the den. My desk is right next to a window and the view is really great. Probably the most unique item about my den is my dog, Max. When I start writing, Max always trots in and lies down on his pillow. Yes, he has a pillow in every room, but I think he loves the den the best, just like I do.
PW: What’s been the most satisfying part of your literary career?
Don: In the fall of 2013, Rog Smith, the Executive Director of the Perry County Council of the Arts, and I got together and agreed to start a program to teach authors how to draft a novel. Six of my friends agreed to help with the instruction. Between all seven of us we have published over 55 novels.
The first class started in the Spring of 2014 and today we are beginning the fourth class. To date we’ve had almost 75 students attend. We’ve published an anthology with 11 of the students and we are in the process of completing a serialized novel in our local newspaper. We will publish the total novel in July. It’s gratifying to see our students learn and feel more comfortable with their writing.
PW: What’s your favorite tip for writers?
Don: That’s easy. I have two tips I always emphasize: First: “Writing is an art, but publishing is a business.” If you forget this, you’ll have nothing but trouble. Second: “It’s not only about selling books, but building a community.” Many authors get discouraged when they don’t sell a lot of books at a signing. But, they need to remember the number of people they’ve met and the contacts they’ve made. People will remember you even if they don’t buy your book at that particular signing.
PW: What if you were stranded on a desert island?
Don: I was stranded on a desert island and realized I had no computer, gasp, no electronics at all. Thinking about it for a moment, I pinched myself, woke from my nap, and headed into the den with Max to get writing.
PW: Where would you like to be with your own time machine?
Don: I am really happy right where I am and don’t see any reason to jump to another time period. However, I do enjoy reading novels with a time travel theme.
To register for The Pennwriters Conference, visit:
Online registration ends May 15th, 2018 at midnight. Onsite registrations taken after that date.
All meal options end May 9th, 2018 at midnight.