Today;s interview is with Helen Madden. Met her at EPICON in Virginia Beach and love her Cynical Women cartoons. She's an author and an artist.
1. What's your genre or do you write in more than one?
I started writing in erotica, specifically sci-fi, fantasy, and horror erotica. I spent over 3 years writing a short story a week in those genres, and then recorded each story for my podcast, Heat Flash (http://www.heatflash.libsyn.com). I’ve also written a fantasy erotica novel, “Demon By Day,” and am currently writing a sci-fi thriller novel which I’m also recording and distributing on my podcast.
2. Did you choose your genre or did it choose you?
I would have to say I pretty much fell into the erotica genre. I started writing 15 or so years ago, mostly science fiction and fantasy, but was unable to sell any of my stories. Then one afternoon, I picked up a copy of “PlayGirl” and read the stories in their Readers’ Forum. I thought the stories were awful, and I said to myself, “I could write better than that!” So I gave it a try and submitted my story. A month later, PlayGirl offered me $100 for that story. It was my first published work. I had two other sales not long after that, both erotica stories, and since then erotica has always been a mainstay in my writing.
3. Is there any genre you'd like to try? Or is there one you wouldn't?
Outside of erotica, I have written straight up sci-fi, horror and fantasy. I’ve tried my hand a bit at mystery writing too, and have done my fair share of technical papers, reports, and newspaper articles. One thing I’d like to do is write a collection of contemporary humorous stories. I come from a family of jokers and storytellers, and there are plenty of wild tales I could write about us all, including one story about how I once went to the wrong funeral.
4. What fiction do you read for pleasure?
Sadly, I read very little fiction these days. I’m just too busy with work and family to stop and read for pleasure. And when I do have time to just relax, I often find myself drawing these days. I draw obsessively now, spending at least an hour each day painting and sketching pictures on my iPad. On the rare occasions when I do read for fun, it’s usually sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, with some mystery series thrown in for good measure. I rarely read erotica for pleasure, though. While I enjoy writing it, it’s just not something I gravitate toward when it comes to reading. Most of the erotica I do read has been from the Erotica Readers and Writers Association (www.era-readers.com). I worked as an editor for their online writing group for a few years, and had the chance to read many wonderful short stories as a result.
5. Tell me a bit about yourself and how long you've been writing,
I am the classic outcast, the square peg in the round hole. In high school I was voted most artistic and worst dressed. Very little has changed over the years. Which is not to say I don’t have friends. I’ve found over the years the outcasts vastly outnumber the popular kids and I have quite the motley crew of companions in my life. I’m a huge geek, given my interest in speculative fiction, and a bit of a gadget girl. Being a podcaster, I spend quite a bit of time working on my computer, editing audio files and producing shows. And I love to draw. I produce a weekly webcomic called “The Adventures of Cynical Woman,” which is sort of autobiographical. I’m a work-at-home mom, spending many hours each day writing, drawing, and podcasting. In addition to my work as an author, I also create cover art, and have produced a number of book covers for LL-Publications.
6. Which of your characters is your favorite?
That would have to be Orziel, the half-demon protagonist of my novel, Demon By Day (http://www.mojocastle.com/DemonbyDay.html). He’s not a hero – that would imply he was out to do something good with his life. Instead, he’s a troublemaker to the Nth degree, which is pretty stupid in a way because he’s also very powerless compared to the other demons that inhabit his world. But he’s cunning and brazen and full of tricks, so he usually gets out of any scrapes he gets himself into. Usually.
7. Are there villains in your books and how were they created?
Demon By Day is just chock full of villains. In fact, out of a cast of dozens, there’s really only one good guy among the bunch (again, not the main character Orziel). I love writing villains. I love seeing how far I can push them and how bad I can make them. The more wicked the better, in my opinion.
8. What are you working on now?
Currently, I’m writing a science fiction thriller called “The Little Death.” The main character, Agent Robin Helki, is a telepath who works as an evidence collector for the local police. She lives in a very totalitarian world, where all telepaths are forced to live in compounds and can only work outside their compound under the supervision of a “norm.” When Robin is asked to collect telepathic evidence for what appears to be a suicide, she suddenly finds herself embroiled in a nasty government conspiracy. She also discovers that the more she uses her abilities as a telepath, the more likely she is to go insane. The story is told from her point of view, and I’ve enjoyed experimenting with how her perception of the world changes as she slowly goes mad.
9. What's your latest release and how did the idea arrive?
“The Little Death” is currently being released in audio format a chapter at a time on the Heat Flash podcast (http://www.heatflash.libsyn.com). The podcast is free, so if you enjoy listening to audio books, you can download all the chapters so far and listen at your leisure.
The idea for “The Little Death” was inspired by a theme challenge posted on the Erotica Readers and Writers Association critique group. The theme was “noir” and I wanted to do something in the vein of “Bladerunner,” only with a female protagonist. I also wanted to explore the concept of telepathy and think about how it might work in the real world. Telepathy is a common trope in science fiction. Whenever it shows up, it’s just assumed that it works and very rarely do you see an author look at how those abilities developed. I wanted to get into that idea in depth, especially as it concerned the effects reading other people’s minds might have on the sanity of a telepath.
10. Tell me about your latest book and how it came about. Enclose the opening of the book around 400 words.
Here’s the opening for “The Little Death,” along with an illustration of the main character, Esper Agent Robin Helki.
"I killed him! I swear I killed him!"
This is the way a case is supposed to end.
"I killed him!" the woman on the vid-screen shrieks again. "I killed him!"
Her aged features twist into a mask as she howls the words over and over. She pulls hanks of iron grey hair out of her scalp, gouges the wrinkled flesh of her cheeks. Blood mingles with her tears.
This is the way a case is supposed to end, I tell myself again. Not how it's supposed to begin.
"I killed him!" the old woman screams one last time. Then the picture cuts off and the vid-screen fills with static.
"What do you make of that?"
I stare at the vid-screen a while longer, trying to ignore the presence at my shoulder. Inspector Slade sits close, too close. He doesn't touch me, but if I move, I'll brush against him and he knows it.
"Well, you going to say anything, Agent Helki?"
"Yeah, get away from me before I report you to OverWatch for sexual harassment."
"Hey, can I help it if it's tight in here? Besides," he adds in a sing-song voice. "I'm not touching you."
He sounds like a damn kid.
"Not quite, no," I reply without looking at him. "But you and I both know what you're doing, and OverWatch won't be pleased. Neither will your wife."
"Fine, fine." He scoots away from me on the narrow bench in the forensics van. "So tell me what you think about the vid."
"Nothing to tell. A woman calls Emergency-9 and rants about killing someone."
"You don't know her?"
Slade shrugs. "I was thinking maybe she was one of your kind."
I glare at him. "Why? Because she's crazy?"
He looks away. "Okay, so you don't recognize her."
"No I don't. Although frankly I don't think her own mother would recognize a face that panic-stricken. Who is she?"
"You mean who was she," Slade says. "Step out of the van and I'll show you."
We clamber over stacks of equipment and make our way out of the van. Outside, rain pounds the asphalt lot of a run-down sex-tel, standard weather for Old Manhattan. Standard weather for just about any place in the city-state, to be honest. I can't recall a day in my life when it didn't rain. A slump-shouldered man stands in front of the worn, pre-fab building, wringing his hands and pleading with the two uniforms who affix a massive security lock on the double doors...
Bio for Helen E. H. Madden, aka Cynical Woman
Helen E. H. Madden, also known as Cynical Woman, is a writer and artist who quit her lucrative day job years ago with no idea what she might do next. In the last three years, she’s written 165 short stories for the Heat Flash Erotica Podcast. Recently, she has begun writing in other genres, especially horror and science fiction. She is currently podcasting her second novel, “The Little Death,” a tale about telepathy, government conspiracies, and the dangers of the human touch.
Helen’s other works include her webcomic, “The Adventures of Cynical Woman,” a look at life as a stay-at-home mom and erotica writer. She is very much in love with zombies right now, but that’s probably because she is one, and could someone please explain the concept of “sleep” to her? Because she’s never experienced it herself.
Visit Helen’s websites at:
Writing, artwork and webcomics - http://www.cynicalwoman.com
The Heat Flash Erotica Podcast - http://www.heatflash.libsyn.com