Becoming a Writer
Copyright © 2018 Helen Starbuck, all rights reserved
People write for a lot of reasons. Writing for me has always been an escape, a way of dealing with life, and my favorite form of entertainment. The say if you don’t like the way things are, then rewrite your story. I subscribe to that wholeheartedly. My writing career got its first boost when, as a young teenager, I fell in love with Paul McCartney. My best friend and I wrote romantic stories about Paul and Ringo and it was a way to fantasize that was endlessly entertaining. I view those now as my first attempts at writing a romance novel.
Growing up I read voraciously, in fact my mother complained that I needed to put the books down and go out and ‘do something.’ I was doing something, it was just in my head and she couldn’t see it. I was never part of the ‘in crowd’. No matter how hard I tried, I just didn’t fit in. As a result, I wrote about my disappointments, about my desires and my hopes, and about guys I had had crushes on from afar. Writing about this made the lack of social grace and connection more tolerable. I think watching people and studying them, trying to figure out what makes them tick, like I did in high school, helped me write. I think most writers have this interior life that drives them and that they use to fuel their writing. We grow and learn from other writers who inspire us.
I still watch and listen to people to hear their speech patterns, to listen to their stories, to get a feel for a character. Sometimes it’s quite amusing listening to those around you, like the twenty-something guy on his way into Home Depot talking on the phone who said, “Yeah, man I’m done. I’m having a garage sale and she’s the featured item.” I still laugh when I remember that. What perfect dialogue, his frustration and his humor visible in one line—a line I intend to use in one of my stories.
The urge to tell a story has always been strong for me. I love mysteries and suspense novels and it always helps if there is a little bit of romance to spice things up. I grew up in Colorado and I write a mystery series set in Denver with an OR nurse as the protagonist and narrator. Professionally, I am an OR nurse so I write what I know. I have learned as a nurse to listen to what is said and what is not said. People tell nurses things they rarely tell other people and you get a great sense of the human experience.
My first book, published in October 2017, is The Mad Hatter’s Son, An Annie Collins Mystery. It’s a tale of love, friendship, betrayal, and consequences. Annie Collins, a nurse used to caring for others in the OR, is drawn unwillingly into the chaos that is her long-time friend Libby Matheisen’s life. With puzzling symptoms and a plea for help, Annie wonders whether Libby is really ill or whether there’s more to the story than what Libby is saying. Faced with Libby’s apparent suicide, Annie is beside herself with guilt and unable to stop asking questions to uncover the truth. The answers to these questions don’t come without a price. Faced with a friend’s life that has derailed, pursuing the mystery of her illness and death threatens to derail Annie’s life as well.
The Mad Hatter’s Son is loosely based on a patient I helped take care of years ago. She had very puzzling symptoms and it took her doctors a long time to figure out what the problem was and it was a shocker. The story is not about that patient, but the circumstances are similar. I am working on the second book in the series, No Pity In Death, which I’m hoping it will be published in the fall of 2018, if everything goes according to plan. It’s a continuation of Annie’s story and involves her helping to solve a rash of patient deaths at her hospital.
The paperback and e-book are currently available on Amazon and at the Tattered Cover in paperback. The audio book will be available in late May 2018. You can connect with me on my website www.helenstarbuck.com where you can sign up for my newsletter and read a teaser chapter from the next book. There are hints at the books planned for the series and a link to a radio interview I just did on Clear Creek Radio. You can also connect with me on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/helensstarbuck/ and on Twitter @helensstarbuck.