An Interview with David Bell
David Bell writes psychological thrillers/crime fiction and is the author of "Cemetery Girl", "The Hiding Place", "Never Come Back", "The Forgotten Girl", and "Somebody I Used to Know". He hails from Cincinatti, Ohio, USA, and holds a PhD in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Cincinnati. He is currently an Associate Professor of English at Western Kentucky University in Kentucky, where he lives with his wife.
Your new novel “Somebody I Used to Know” comes out in July 2015. Please could you tell us a little about it?
A middle aged man goes into a grocery store and sees a young woman who looks exactly like his college girlfriend who died twenty years earlier. The next day, the young girl ends up dead—with his name and address in her pocket. What’s the connection between the past and the present?
Which of your own novels is your favorite?
Very tough question. But I think SOMEBODY I USED TO KNOW is the best.
What inspires you to write? How do you get your ideas for your novels?
Inspiration can come from many different places. Things I observe, things that happen to people I know, things I read about in the news. And, of course, things I totally make up. Each of my books is probably a combination of those things.
Is your head full of story ideas, or do your ideas rather come slowly one after the other?
I keep a file of story ideas. Sometimes I go back and the ideas seem idiotic. But some of them are good and end up getting worked up into a novel.
How did you get started with writing?
I’ve always been a reader. I read all the time as a kid. At some point, I wondered about trying to write my own stories. But it started with a love of reading.
Please describe your journey to finding an agent and to the publication of your first novel.
Two different things in a way. My first novel was published by a small press. But because of that book, I managed to get an editor in New York interested in my novel, CEMETERY GIRL. Based on that editor’s interest, I landed my amazing agent. Not the typical path, but maybe nobody’s is.
What is your writing routine?
I’m a college professor by day, so I write a lot in the summer and on holiday breaks. During those times I’m not working, I write a lot. I tend to revise during the school year because it’s a little easier to go back and work on smaller portions of the book that need to be addressed.
Which aspects do you enjoy most about being an author?
I really do enjoy the work, the act of writing. If I didn’t enjoy that day to day there’d be no point to being a writer. I also really enjoy hearing from readers and knowing I connected with them.
Not many writers are crazy about the business side of things. But it is a business and we have to sell books to survive.
Do you enjoy the actual writing process?
How much research do you do for your novels?
I feel like I’m always researching. Life is a research project. But sometimes I have to stop and look things up or talk to smart people who know more than I do about a certain topic.
Are you usually confident when you start writing a new novel, or are you plagued by self-doubts?
A little of both. It’s exciting and scary. But so is life.
Do you first write verbosely and then need to shorten a lot, or do you write a lean first draft that you afterwards flesh out with more details?
I tend to flesh out more than cut. I usually go back and clarify things I didn’t make clear the first time through.
What would you tell aspiring authors is the most important key aspect for writing a great crime novel?
All writing starts with great characters. It doesn’t matter what genre the story is. Always start with characters.
Do you sometimes listen to music while writing? If so, which music?
Sure. I went to high school in the ‘80s so I tend to listen to music from that time period: Echo and the Bunnymen, The Go-Betweens, The Dream Academy.
Did you ever suffer from writers block? If yes, how did you overcome it?
I’d never say I’m blocked. But I get stuck. And that usually means I just don’t know where the story is going to go next. It’s good to step away and take a little break. Walk around the block. Watch a baseball game. Just make sure you come back quickly.
How long does it approximately take you to write a novel?
About a year all told.
Do you celebrate a newly published book?
Sure! But I’m usually doing a reading on the day a book comes out. That’s how I celebrate.
Do you usually take a break from writing before starting with your next novel?
I never take long breaks. I write a book a year, so there’s little downtime.
What are your favorite ways to spend your non-writing time? What are your hobbies and interests?
I watch a lot of movies. I watch baseball. I read a lot. I walk in the park.
How would you describe your personality?
Magnetic and dazzling. Wait, it isn’t???
Which genres or types of novels do you enjoy reading most?
I read anything. Mystery, history, historical, fantasy, horror, sci-fi.
Do you already have an idea for your next novel?
I’m already writing it. It’s due in six weeks!
Thank you very much for your time, and all the best for your future!
For more information, please visit David Bell’s website.