Helen Hanson writes thrillers about desperate people with a high-tech bent. Hackers. The CIA. Industry titans. Guys on sailboats. Mobsters. Their personal maelstroms pit them against unrelenting forces willing to kill. Throughout the journey, they try to find some truth, a little humor, and their humanity — from either end of the trigger.
While Helen writes about the power hungry, she genuinely mistrusts anyone who wants to rule the world.
Helen directed operations for high-tech manufacturers of semiconductors, video games, software, and computers. Her reluctant education behind the Redwood Curtain culminated in a B.S. in Business Administration with concentrated studies in Computer Science. She also learned to play a mean game of hacky sack.
She is a licensed private pilot with a ticket for single-engine aircraft. Helen and her husband spent their first anniversary with their flight instructor studying for the FAA practical. If you were a passenger on a 737 trying to land at SJC in 1995, she sends her most sincere apologies. Really.
Born in fly-over country, Helen has lived on both coasts, near both borders, and at several locations in between. She lettered in tennis, worked as a machinist, and saw the Clash at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium sometime in the eighties. She currently lives amid the bricks of Texas with her husband, son, and a dog that composes music with squeaky toys.
Today, Helen speaks with us about her Thriller ‘Dark Pool’.
What is the main premise of this book?
Forty Billion Reasons to Kill
By this time in her life, Maggie Fender expected to be on her way to law school. Instead she’s far from any degree, waiting tables to support her teenage half-brother and their ailing father. With early onset Alzheimer’s, her father’s lucid moments are few and unpredictable. Her brother’s legal defense for felony hacking charges strained their finances to a snap. In spite of the conviction, he claims he was framed. But now that he’s on parole, he also claims their father is sending them messages. Maggie’s tired of the struggle, but she’s everybody’s legal guardian. Slowing down will lead to disaster. She can hustle. Or face financial ruin. This isn’t the life she envisioned. In the news, disgraced hedge fund manager Patty O’Mara awaits trial for bilking investors out of forty billion dollars. The legendary dark pool wizard offered phenomenal profits until the SEC examined his books. Then they discovered O’Mara didn’t make any legitimate trades on the market. O’Mara ran his hedge fund the way Charles Ponzi and Bernie Madoff ran theirs. It was all a fraud. One wealthy investor rallies the troop of irate victims by hiring a noted private investigator to find the missing pot of gold. A Russian mobster, out thirty million in cash, prefers to search for the money alone and without witnesses. Their competing efforts sift the same set of facts. So why are they interested in Maggie Fender’s incoherent father? While SEC officials try to rebuild credibility for allowing the financial scandal to rage unchecked, the private investigator and the Russian mobster vie to answer a solitary question: What happened to all that money?
Who’s your favorite character in it?
I won’t call her my favorite as it might hurt Travis’ feelings, but I admire Maggie Fender. She’s not Wonder Woman. Her family burdens occasionally make her cranky, frustrated, and even resentful, but she’s taking care of business and her family as best she can. I think she’s an everyday her-o.
What projects are you currently working on?
My protagonists could be you or me–people thrust into peril because of someone else’s yearning. This time I’m writing about the man who entices the world to buy Viagra. Meet Baxter Cruise: spammer for hire. He spews garbage into your inbox to put himself through college. His cozy world of lattes and wi-fi hot spots is about to explode.
What one word describes how you feel when you write?
Seriously? Only one word for a writer? Can’t be done.
What are your pet peeves?
My dog, Maela, is a herder, and anyone outside of our pack peeves her. Consequently, dog parks are currently not an option. She loves squeaky toys, but pouts when we don’t want to play. She’ll place a squeaky toy on my chair and repeatedly ram her nose into it to entice me.
Lately, we’ve been watching the Dog Whisperer to understand all her peeves. The show makes her nervous.
Oh? You meant my peeves? Sorry.
So, do you like to cook?
I’m an awesome special events cook. Prime rib on the rotisserie. Smoked turkey (okay my husband makes this one). Homemade Caesar salad. Yes, you must use real anchovies. Cranberry cheesecake. Tart and sweet–the perfect combination. Flourless chocolate cake (recipe from The Fish Market in the SF Bay area). Grilled portabellas with parmesan. Artichoke risotto. Caprese salad. Mmmmm.
Daily cook, not so much. I reheat a lot. As the youngest of seven, I didn’t know how to make any recipe in smaller than Army chow-hall proportions. I’ve learned to make big batches and stow portions for the future. I heart my freezer.
What is something you never leave home without (apart from keys, money and phone)?
Pen and paper. The ideas for my stories, the threads and twists, usually come to me when my brain isn’t focused on the actual writing. Typing into a smart phone doesn’t offer the same sensation. I’ll see a person react to a situation or overhear snippets of a conversation, and suddenly I have an idea that I need to capture. If I don’t use it on my current project, I store it for consideration in a different work.
I record mannerisms, interesting phrases, and occasionally something diabolical comes to mind.
Do you have pets? Do you have a picture of them you can share?
When we brought Maela home from the shelter, she was stressed, losing hair, and exhausted. She slept almost non-stop for twenty four hours in her new pillow bed. My husband went out for an errand and returned to the house laughing because she looked ferocious through the window.
The Before picture on the left is her shelter photo. That was the dog we thought we’d brought home. The After picture on the right is the result of sleep, security, and a hearty meal.
What's your favorite gadget?
The Swiss Army knife–affectionately known as the SAK since my days behind the Redwood Curtain. Mine has no less than twenty six tools. I’ve used it to pick my own front door lock, saw branches for hot dogs skewers, and focus sunbeams to a flaming pinpoint upon dry tinder. Or ants. I hate ants.
The Swiss Army knife even played a role in my marital bliss. My future husband stopped by my office to troubleshoot a computer problem. He wanted to open the computer case but didn’t have any tools. I offered him the use of my trusty SAK fully equipped with both regular and Philips screwdrivers. Apparently, I won points for resourcefulness.
What’s your bucket vacation?
If I was forced to travel in a bucket, I would not want to go over Niagara Falls.
Not in a box. Not with the jocks. Not in a barrel. Not with a Daryl.
My bucket would require a multi-colored hot-air balloon lofting overhead so we could fly over the falls. I’d also take a
bucket seat in a Ferrari Enzo to cruise the coast of Italy. If I can’t go anywhere, a bucket full of red wine works.
If you were to attend a St. Patrick’s Day Party, which one thing would you never leave behind and why?
I would bring a mug of green beer for two reasons.
First: A Filipino friend of mine married an Irishman, and we happened to be at a party together one night. Being a gentleman, her husband offered to get me a drink from the bar. I requested a glass of water. My choice seemed to perturb him. When he returned with my water, I asked if I had offended him. He replied, “It’s damned embarrassing for an Irishman to be at the bar asking for a glass of water.” Yes, that’s a true story.
Second: I like beer. Alaskan Amber on tap. There’s none better. Sadly, they don’t sell it in Texas.
Where can your readers stalk you?
I’m highly stalkable online:
Amazon ~ iBooks ~ Amazon UK ~ Nook ~ XinXii
facebook ~ My IAN Page ~ WebSite ~ twitter ~ Goodreads
In real life, please remember that I’m half Sicilian, I own a killer dog beast (note the After photo above), and I live in Texas. Where even our little old ladies are packing heat!
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