Book Nerd Author Interview
David Bell was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. More specifically, he was born and raised on the west side of Cincinnati, which matters—a lot—to people from Cincinnati. The sound of Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall broadcasting Reds’ baseball games provided the soundtrack to his childhood.
David attended St. Catharine of Siena grade school and spent countless hours at the Westwood Public Library developing his love of reading. As a child, one of his favorite books was KING ARTHUR AND HIS KNIGHTS by Mabel Louise Robinson. David read this book over and over and was disappointed when he grew up and found out the stories in the book weren’t true.
David then attended high school at St. Xavier in Cincinnati. He took his first creative writing class at St. Xavier and wrote his first short stories. Unfortunately—or fortunately, depending on how one looks at it—those stories, written before the age of computers, are lost forever.
David attended college at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. Not only is it one of the most beautiful campuses in the country—and at the time was home to one of the best basketball teams in the country—it was a great place for someone interested in books and writing to study. David majored in English and took as many classes in his major as he could, studying everything from Homer to Saul Bellow and Grace Paley. He only took one creative writing course—and again those stories are lost to the ages—but he did decide, absent any other job options, that it might just make sense to try to pursue a career as a fiction writer.
Do you really want to know about David’s twenties? Does anyone?
David worked a series of odd jobs—waiter, bartender, book store clerk, telemarketer—in a series of odd places—Shreveport, Louisiana; Savannah, Georgia; Washington D.C. After five years of that, he decided he had had enough of the real world and went to graduate school for creative writing. First for an M.A. at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and then for a Ph.D. at the University of Cincinnati. During graduate school, David wrote a few novels, which still survive on his hard drive but have not been published, and sold some short stories to journals large and small—Western Humanities Review, Backwards City Review, The Edge: Tales of Suspense. Some of these journals still exist even after publishing David’s work.
After completing his Ph.D., David returned to teach at Miami University as a visiting professor of creative writing for one year before accepting a tenure-track job at St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, North Carolina. After two years in the Tar Heel state, David moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky where he accepted a tenure-track job at Western Kentucky University. While at WKU, David sold his novel CEMETERY GIRL to NAL/Penguin. When he is not teaching or writing, David watches lots and lots of movies and reads lots and lots of books. He also enjoys walking in the cemetery near his house with his wife, writer and blogger Molly McCaffrey.
Where are you from?
I WAS BORN AND RAISED IN CINCINNATI, OHIO.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grow up?
FIRST, I WANTED TO PLAY FOR THE CINCINNATI REDS. WHEN I REALIZED THE LIMITS OF MY ATHLETIC ABILITY--THIS HAPPENED ABOUT THE AGE OF TWELVE--I SHIFTED MY FOCUS TO BOOKS AND READING. AT SOME POINT, I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE COOL TO TRY TO WRITE MY OWN STORY SO THAT I COULD BE LIKE THE AUTHORS I ENJOYED READING SO MUCH. IF I'D KNOWN HOW MUCH TIME IT WOULD TAKE, I MIGHT HAVE RECONSIDERED MY CAREER CHOICE AND GONE BACK TO BASEBALL.
What inspired you to pen your first novel?
MY FIRST NOVEL--WHICH REMAINS UNPUBLISHED, NOW AND FOREVER--WAS TOTALLY AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL AND SO INSPIRED BY MY OWN LIFE. I MADE THE MISTAKE OF 1. THINKING JUST ANYTHING THAT HAPPENED TO ME WAS INTERESTING AND 2. I TRIED TO WRITE ABOUT MY LIFE AS IT WAS HAPPENING. I HAD TO GROW UP A LITTLE AND REALIZE THAT I COULDN'T JUST SIT DOWN AND WRITE ABOUT MY LIFE. I HAD TO SHAPE IT INTO FICTION--COMPLETE WITH CONFLICTS AND PLOTS AND THINGS LIKE THAT.
How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
I GREW UP IN THE MIDWEST AND SO I WRITE A LOT ABOUT THE MIDWEST. I THINK IT'S A PLACE THAT SEEMS "TYPICAL" AND "TRADITIONAL" TO SO MANY PEOPLE, EVEN PEOPLE WHO LIVE THERE. BUT EVEN THE MOST TYPICAL PLACE IS FULL OF GREAT STORIES. ALSO, I GREW UP CATHOLIC, WHICH IS A VIOLENT, COLORFUL RELIGION. I THINK MY CATHOLIC UPBRINGING WARPED ME AND CAUSED ME TO LOOK AT THE WORLD IN A UNIQUE WAY, ONE THAT COMES OUT IN MY WRITING QUITE A BIT.
How does your family and/or friends feel about your book or writing venture in general?
MY FAMILY IS SUPPORTIVE, ALTHOUGH I'M NOT SURE THEY ALWAYS UNDERSTAND THE LIFE OF A WRITER. I WOUDN'T BE HERE WITHOUT THEM BECAUSE I GREW UP IN A HOUSE FULL OF BOOKS. MY PARENTS TOOK ME TO THE LIBRARY AND BOOKSTORE ALL THE TIME. MY LOVE OF READING DEVELOPED WITH THEM, AND I OWE THEM A GREAT DEAL FOR THAT.
What genre are you most comfortable writing?
I THINK OF MYSELF AS A SUSPENSE WRITER. OF COURSE, I THINK ALL BOOKS SHOULD BE SUSPENSEFUL AND THRILLING--BUT I LOVE A STORY ABOUT ORDINARY PEOPLE FACING EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES. AND THOSE ARE THE STORIES I TRY TO WRITE.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
SOME OF THE ACTION OF THE BOOK TAKES PLACE IN A CEMETERY NEAR THE PROTAGONIST'S HOUSE. IT'S BASED ON A REAL PARK AND CEMETERY WHERE I LIVE IN BOWLING GREEN, KY. IN THE BOOK, A YOUNG GIRL DISAPPEARS FROM THE PARK AND CEMETERY, AND THAT SETTING LENT THE MOOD TO THE BOOK. THE TITLE WAS A NATURAL FIT.
Who designed the cover of your book?
A WOMAN NAMED MIMI BARK WHO WORKS FOR NAL/PENGUIN. I HAVE TO SAY SHE DID AN AMAZING JOB--AND I THINK THE COVER REALLY HELPS DRAW READERS IN TO THE BOOK. I FEEL VERY LUCKY.
If you gave some of your characters an opportunity to speak for themselves, what would they say?
I THINK ALL OF MY CHARACTERS--EVEN THE ONES WHOSE MOTIVES WE QUESTION--ARE TRYING TO DO THEIR BEST. I HOPE THE BOOK ITSELF SAYS, "LISTEN TO ME. LISTEN TO MY STORY." I THINK THAT'S ALL ANY OF US REALLY WANTS--A CHANCE TO BE HEARD, AND I THINK MY CHARACTERS WOULD ASK FOR THE SAME THING.
Why do you feel you had to tell this story?
I WAS FASCINATED BY THE FAMILY DYNAMIC IN THE STORY, THE IDEA THAT THESE PEOPLE COULD LIVE IN SUCH CLOSE PROXIMITY TO EACH OTHER AND STILL NOT BE REALLY CERTAIN THAT THEY KNEW OR TRUSTED EACH OTHER. IT CREATED A LOT OF TENSION.
Are your works based on someone you know or events in your life?
NOT DIRECTLY, OF COURSE. I THINK OF THEM AS BEING EMOTIONALLY AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL. I'M A MEMBER OF MORE THAN ONE FAMILY, SO I ALWAYS THINK ABOUT THE ROLE FAMILY PLAYS IN OUR LIVES. IN THAT WAY, THE STORY IS UNIVERSAL--WE ALL HAVE CONNECTIONS TO FAMILY--BUT IT GREW OUT OF MY OWN MUSINGS ABOUT FAMILIES AND THE ROLES THEY PLAY IN OUR LIVES.
What was your favorite chapter to write and why?
I LIKE DIFFERENT ONES FOR DIFFERENT REASONS, OF COURSE. BUT THE FINAL CHAPTER STICKS WITH ME. IT'S A GREAT FEELING WHEN THINGS COME TOGETHER--AND I THINK THE READER WILL BE MOVED BY IT AS WELL.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing Cemetery Girl?
I REALLY ENJOYED WRITING ABOUT COMPLICATED CHARACTERS WHO MAKE DIFFICULT CHOICES. I KNEW THAT SOMETIMES TOM, THE PROTAGONIST, WAS DOING THINGS THAT WOULD MAKE READERS MAD AT HIM. SOMETIMES I GOT MAD AT HIM. BUT I ALSO BELIEVED THAT WOULD MAKE FOR A BETTER STORY IN THE END.
What question are you never asked in interviews but wish you were?
HMMMM. WHO DO YOU THINK WILL WIN THE SUPER BOWL OR WORLD SERIES? HOW DID YOU GET TO BE SO DARN HANDSOME AND SMART?
Has a review or profile ever changed your perspective on your work?
NOT REALLY. I'VE TAKEN A LOT OF CREATIVE WRITING CLASSES AND WORKSHOPS AND THAT KIND OF CRITICISM HELPS A LOT. BUT REVIEWS HAVE A DIFFERENT PURPOSE. A VERY IMPORTANT PURPOSE, BUT THEY'RE WRITTEN MORE FOR THE READER THAN THE WRITER.
Do you have any fun Halloween experiences you can tell us?
I LOVED HALLOWEEN BECAUSE IT WAS A HOLIDAY I SPENT WITH MY FRIENDS AND NOT MY FAMILY. I ALWAYS FELT LIBERATED ON HALLOWEEN BECAUSE WE COULD RUN AROUND THE NEIGHBORHOODS AFTER DARK--AND END UP WITH A BIG BAG OF CANDY AS WELL. I WISH I COULD STILL DO THAT, BUT I THINK PEOPLE WOULD LOOK AT ME FUNNY.
What was the first horror book/story you remember reading?
STEPHEN KING'S STORY COLLECTION NIGHT SHIFT. ONE OF THE BEST HORROR COLLECTIONS EVER. IT FREAKED ME OUT, BUT I REMEMBER BEING THRILLED THAT SOMEONE WAS WRITING STORIES LIKE THAT, STORIES ABOUT KILLER RATS AND SERIAL KILLERS. ALL THE CRAZY STUFF I THOUGHT ABOUT WAS IN THAT BOOK.
Are there any tips you would give a book club to better navigate their discussion of your book?
I THINK TO FOCUS ON THAT ISSUE OF FAMILY AS WELL AS THE CHOICES THE CHARACTERS MAKE IN THE BOOK. I HOPE THE BOOK DOESN'T LEND ITSELF TO EASY ANSWERS AND THEREFORE COULD CREATE SOME GREAT DISCUSSIONS. I ALREADY KNOW OF SEVERAL BOOK CLUBS THAT ARE GOING TO READ IT. I LOVE TO HEAR FROM THEM.
Any recent appearances that you would like to share with us about/any upcoming ones?
I'VE BEEN TOURING FOR THE LAST TWO WEEKS AND HAVING A GREAT TIME MEETING READERS FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE. VISIT MY WEBSITE >>>>HERE<<<< TO SEE UPCOMING DATES.
What books have most influenced your life?
KING ARTHUR AND HIS KNIGHTS BY MABEL LOUISE ROBINSON, WHERE I'M CALLING FROM BY RAYMOND CARVER, THE SUN ALSO RISES BY ERNEST HEMINGWAY, NIGHT SHIFT AND 'SALEM'S LOT BY STEPHEN KING, RUM PUNCH BY ELMORE LEONARD.
What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
CHARACTERS MAKING TOUGH CHOICES WITH REAL CONSEQUENCES. CLEAN, CRISP SENTENCES THAT EVOKE A MOOD WITHOUT GETTING IN THE WAY OF THE READER'S INTERACTION WITH THE STORY. REAL EMOTION.
Are you working on any books/projects that you would like to share with us?
I'M HARD AT WORK ON A NEW NOVEL CALLED THE UNKNOWN CHILD WHICH IS ABOUT A FAMILY DEALING WITH THE LONG-TERM AFTEREFFECTS OF THE MURDER OF THEIR CHILD. AND NEW QUESTIONS ARE BEING RAISED IN THE PRESENT DAY ABOUT THAT MURDER AND WHETHER OR NOT IT HAPPENED THE WAY EVERYONE THINKS IT DID.
What are you reading now?
I, ROBOT BY ISAAC ASIMOV. I'VE ONLY RECENTLY STARTED READING ASIMOV AND I LOVE HIS STUFF. VERY SMART AND VERY FUN
Four years after Tom and Abby's 12-year-old daughter vanishes, she is found alive but strangely calm. When the teen refuses to testify against the man connected to her disappearance, Tom decides to investigate the traumatizing case on his own. Nothing can prepare him for what he is about to discover.
David Bell’s thriller debut, Cemetery Girl, is the story of the disappearance of 12 year old Caitlin Stuart and how her parents, Tom and Abby, coped with her being gone. Bell starts the story four years earlier after Caitlin’s disappearance. Frantic and besieged, Tom vowed to never give up the hope that she is still alive and will come back home. However, Abby has given up and decides it is time to move on. She planned a memorial service and ordered a headstone as she felt the marriage ended when Caitlin disappeared.
When Caitlin was found alive, she does not discuss the details of the events leading up to her disappearance and anything in between. Happy that his daughter has returned home safe, Tom is now on a mission to learn about her disappearance.
The book is told from the perspective of Tom, which Bell did an excellent job getting the readers intrigued and fulfilled. His writing style made a sensitive issue easy to comprehend. The aftermath of Caitlin’s disappearance tested the marriage of Tom and Abby and Bell’s efforts to describe the different aspects and reactions of people were fantastically written.
Cemetery Girl is a riveting and powerful novel, maintaining the reader on their toes until the end. Mesmerizing and full with torment, this captivating story shows to be a page-turner. It is a forceful ride, coiling through psychological territory and pulling the reader into emotional suffering. It is worth the read as the book is truly thought-aggravating.
You can purchase Cemetery Girl at these following retailers.
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And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you US Penguin Group for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive one copy of Cemetery Girl by David Bell
WINNER: E-mail has been sent. You have 48hrs to claim your prize otherwise another will be chosen in your place.
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