Thursday, October 18, 2012

Interview: The Hounding by Sandra de Helen

Today I have author Sandra de Helen with me. Let's get to know her a little better!

Do you prefer .... 

Milk chocolate or Dark? Dark

Coffee or tea? Irish Breakfast black tea

Vodka or tequila?  I rarely imbibe, but when I do, it's single malt scotch on the rocks

Romance or a Thriller? Thriller, every time

Mystery or Horror? Mystery. Read 'em, and write 'em.
Did you always want to be an author? 
As soon as I realized that books were still being written and therefore it was possible to become an author. Before that I thought that everything that was written was already in existence. I guess I got that notion from Sunday School and the Bible. I memorized all the Books of the Bible at a very early age. Three I think. It was before I learned to read, I was reading at 4.

What authors had an impact on you growing up and as an adult? 
Growing up I would say A. Conan Doyle had a huge impact because the Sherlock Holmes collection was in the house and something I read over and over. Also Radclyffe Hall. I read The Well of Loneliness when I was 10. And A. A. Milne. I still have my copy of Now We Are Six that my first book and one of the ones I learned to read from. As an adult, I've been affected by Ann Petry, Eudora Welty, Proust, Tolstoy, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and all the great mystery writers like P. D. James, Ruth Rendell, Walter Mosley, Ian Rankin, Denise Mina.

Did anyone in your life influence you or encouraged you to be a writer?
Even though both my Mom and Dad wrote poems to each other and for other family members, they didn't consider themselves writers in the traditional sense. They were both great readers, but didn't have the privilege of education. My English teacher, Mrs. Wallace encouraged me in high school. The real turning point for me was when I met my friend Kate Kasten. She told me that I "had" to write plays because I was the one with "great ideas." I didn't know how to write plays, but I thought she knew what she was talking about, so I started writing plays.
What is your writing atmosphere like?
 I write in my living area. It's small and bright. My walls are orange, the ceiling is angular (also orange), I have as many windows as we could fit into this small space, and the remaining wall space is covered with original art and mirrors for more light. I have an antique Turkish rug, a few plants, crystals to further reflect light, and a Maine Coon cat. I write in my Eames lounge chair with my feet up, a lap desk and my MacBook.

What is your favorite aspect or writing? Your Least Favorite?  
My favorite aspect of writing is when I'm first struck by the idea for the project, the excitement of that, then the completion of the project when I'm just so totally in love with it, and high from the finish.  The least favorite is receiving the 10th or 12th rejection. The first few are to be expected, after awhile it gets old. I really work hard to not send things out too soon, to make sure I've had plenty of reads, edits, rewrites, all that before taking that next step. So rejections get wearing. But they are part of the process. One doesn't have to like them! They are however proof that I am doing my job by participating in all aspects of the process.

Your current book  your promoting is: The Hounding 

How did you come up with the your story line?
 All the story lines in the Shirley Comb/Dr. Mary Watson series will come the same way. They are "descended" from the adventures and tales of Sherlock Holmes. The Hounding is derived from The Hounding of the Baskervilles. In fact, the murder victim is an actual descendant of the original Baskervilles. The Illustrious Client comes from The Adventure of the Illustrious Client. My story is different in many ways because the original tale had no murder. Mine also has a Colonel James Damery, however, and a callous ruiner of young women.

How do you choose your characters names?  
Shirley Combs popped into my head one day, and Dr. Watson was elementary, right? The original Dr. Watson was John who married Mary, so mine just had to be Mary. Otherwise, I go to the internet and find age appropriate names for the ethnicity I'm representing, or I use last names from the original Holmes stories. I try not to use too many names that begin with L, M, or K as those are the most common.

Thank you so much for having me today! I appreciate it so much.

~The Hounding~

Tall, thin, androgynous Shirley Combs considers herself the world’s greatest living detective because she uses the methods and casebook of Sherlock Holmes to solve crimes of the gentry of the American city most closely resembling London, England -- in terms of the weather, at least. Sidekick/narrator Dr. Mary Watson both delights in and is frustrated by her partner’s behavioral resemblance to Sherlock. Combs is unemotional, analytical, and given to pacing through the night in the streets of the almost perfectly livable city of Portland, Oregon. Her ability to observe details and understand their relationship to a case is unmatched; her demands on Watson’s time are too.

Shirley Combs bills herself as the world’s greatest living detective, and why not? Taunted and teased as a child because her name sounded so much like Sherlock Holmes's, she developed an early obsession with the adventures and methods of Sherlock himself. She considered her fate sealed when she met up with Dr. Mary Watson. Shirley adds the technology of today to Holmes’s 100-year-old casebook and solves the mysteries of her much-beloved hometown. Mary Watson assists, and - of course - chronicles their exciting exploits. The planned series of novels incorporates and explores current events, types of people, social/economic situations that occur in Portland and the Pacific Northwest.

In their first documented adventure, Shirley is hired by 19-year-old Goldenhawk Vandeleur to investigate her wealthy mother’s untimely death. Timber heiress Priscilla Vandeleur Leoni, direct descendant of Sir Charles Baskerville, decides to spend the family fortune saving the old-growth forests of Oregon. She is a product of the 1960’s - former hippie and free-love advocate who gave birth out-of-wedlock, experimented with lesbian separatism, and married late. When faced with midlife, she tries to outrun her fears and give away her huge fortune. Haunted by a phobia of dogs, she is literally frightened to death by a pair of hounds.


Cilla can’t seem to shake the nightmare. She almost gives up her daily run rather than face the possibility of meeting those dogs in real life. Dogs are reality for every marathon runner, and each runner finds a way to deal with them. But for Cilla, the fear of being attacked runs so deep she feels it is part of her genetic makeup.

She jerks awake at 5:37 a.m. the sky barely light as she sits up, shaking, sweating, her heart pounding as she listens for the heavy breath, the pounding footsteps that haunt her awake.

Breakfast, newspaper, even the Today Show doesn’t erase the feeling that the giant hound is waiting for her around the next corner.

Finally she dons her running gear and sets out, determined to do her eight miles anyway. The Portland Marathon is seven weeks away, and Cilla intends to achieve her personal best. She adds a light windbreaker to her outfit, tying it loosely around her waist by the sleeves, because even though the calendar says August second, the temperature at ten a.m. is only 51 degrees.

As she crosses Highway 43 at Glenmorrie Road and starts the three point one mile trek that becomes Old River Road, Cilla breathes one small sigh of relief. She knows this stretch of road like no other. This is the one she includes on every run, every walk, and every bicycle ride. This beautiful road along the Willamette River has more trees and fewer dogs per square foot than any other property she knows.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Sandra de Helen lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. See more of her work at de Helen is also a proud member of the Dramatists Guild and International Centre for Women Playwrights.

Follow her on Twitter @dehelen
Read her blog
Like her on Facebook at

Sandra will be awarding the winner's choice of a backlist eBook to a randomly drawn commenter at every stop, and a $25 Amazon GC to one commenter from the tour.

To enter just leave a comment on this post, be sure to include your email address!

For more chances to win be sure and follow her Goddess Fish Tour! 


  1. That was an insightful interview! It is no surprise that Sir. Conan Doyle was one of Sandra's 'growing up' inspirations. I find it so sad that today kids are growing up to cartoons. People have watched the Holmes' movies but have not read a single short story at least.

    Thanks for sharing this interview!

  2. Great interview, I enjoyed the questions.

  3. I like that you shared not only the favorite part of writing but also the least favorite. I would agree that rejection is the worst but I am glad you've pursed through it to get your stories told

    fencingromein at hotmail dot com

  4. I don't know how many of you are going to read this story, but if you don't you will really be missing out. This was one of the best I have read in a long time.

  5. A living room with orange walls and an orange ceilings? Sounds wildly retro!
    catherinelee100 at gmail dot com

  6. That was a nice interview.


  7. Thank you all for your terrific comments. I wish I could post a picture here of my orange walls. My daughter handpainted them to look like a sunset. They are wildly original and creative, and I have grown to love them. I'm pretty sure they make me the creative source more accessible to me. :-) So, having run the random number generator, as I do every day, today's winner is: Shannon Ro! Remember, all of you are in the drawing for the prize at week's end (which is after tomorrow night).

  8. I'd have to say that Arthur Conan Doyle is a given as regards influence. I did laugh though.