This week, we’ll meet Spencer, who was the person assigned to read my story in And Man Grew Proudbefore publication and had some delightfully nice things to say about it.
Hi, what’s your name and where are you from?
Hi, I’m Spencer Helsel and I am from Culpeper, Virginia, United States.
When did you start writing and what got you interested in seeking publication of your work?
I began writing when I was in middle school, but didn’t seriously begin writing and seeking publication until I was out of college. I guess I’ve always been writing and this story is an idea that’s been rattling around in my head for awhile, but I never put much thought into it or planned it or even considered writing it until this contest came up.
What’s the name of your novelette and what’s the story about?
The story is called “Dust” and it takes place in a world with very little water. Most of the world is covered by desert, which the characters call The Dust, and it follows a family of three who are trying to cross it for a better life elsewhere. Problem is, there are people who want them and will do anything to get them.
Writing such a work in just 7 days from scratch must have been difficult, run us through that week, how did you find it? What came easily and what was a challenge?
As I said, I had the idea for a bit, but it was never more than the thought “what if the world had almost no water?” I didn’t have characters, or a story, or even a title. I almost didn’t enter this contest, but a friend down the street encouraged me to do it. He took both my children, for almost five hours a day, while I wrote like a madman. The hardest part was I wanted to spend hours and hours world building and planning, but with so little time, I had to stop myself and just start writing.
Strangely, having them constantly traveling across the Dust for the whole novelette made writing it the easiest part. The other difficult aspect was that I was 5,000 words over in the original draft and had to talk it out with my wife as to what part I could cut. Eventually, I cut a scene I loved, but it allowed me to come in under the word count.
Tell us a little bit about the main characters in your novelette.
There’s two groups you encounter. The first is the family: Jameson, Charlotte, and Sofia, or Fia as they call her. Charlotte, the teenage daughter, takes center stage for most of the novel. She’s very protective of her little sister; probably even more so than Jameson, the father. Fia, a six-year-old, has a mental disability, but that helps her to see the world in a different way. The whole family feels out of place on the massive crawler that used to cross the Dust, so I love how unsure they are of themselves. It made it fun to write.
The other group is the crew and the two you really get to know from this group are Gran, the captain of the crawler, and her grandson, Derry. Derry and Charlotte connect very easily because of their similar age, and though he’s very protective of her, Chsrlotte shows she can hold her own when things get bad. Gran, on the other hand, is a seasoned fighter who needs nor takes help from others. I loved writing her. She doesn’t take crap from anyone, but she’s also an affectionate, old soul. I really think readers will enjoy her character.
Did you draw upon your own experiences for this story? Were you inspired by real people or events in your life?
My family and I travel a lot around Europe and across the United States. We’re been in cars, on planes, and on ferries. Watching the world crawl by, and yet not be able to interact with it, inspired the idea of the main setting. Also, I’m a big believer in the science of climate change, so a world where there is little water or resources is an interesting concept for me.
As for the characters, Gran was inspired by my grandmother, who we all called MeeMaw. She was this strong, independent woman, but was gentle and kind. I think that comes out in Gran.
Is this the longest work you’ve had published? Tell us a bit about your writing career highlights.
This is my first published work outside of self-published material. I have been on cloud nine and overjoyed since I got accepted. My other works consist of urban fantasy novels. I’ve worked on them with my wife and have published three: Empyreal, Stygian, and Pyrophoric. But I want to focus on short fiction and broaden my horizons before I take on a full-length novel again.
What motivates you to succeed as a writer?
My kids and my wife. I have three sons now: Adam, my 7-year-old; Sammy, my 2-year-old; and Oliver, my newborn. Oliver was born in-between getting accepted for this publication and its release! But my sons are so important to me. I want to show them it’s possible to push for and work for what you want and succeed. And my wife has supported me in all my endeavours. She reads my works, gives me feedback, and pushes me to be better, both in writing and in my every day life. She’s the best person I know and I love her more than I can describe.
Besides writing, what do you enjoy doing with your time?
I really love exploring castles. We live in Europe currently. There’s so much history here. In addition, I exercise and do jujitsu, a martial art. And I’m an avid Scotch drinker.
Thanks for your time. If readers would like to find out more about you or read your work where can they find you on social media or elsewhere on the internet?
I’m active on Twitter @spencerhelsel and they can find me on Facebook by searching Spencer Helsel – Author. And all my works can be found on Amazon.