Book Nerd 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.
I can’t think of one defining moment. I always loved to read. My whole family loved to read. At some point, it made sense to take the leap from reader to writer. I know that at the end of my time as an undergraduate in college, I realized the gravy train was about to leave the station, and I had to hurry up and decide on a career path. I picked writer, which meant I spent a lot of time working as a bartender and a telemarketer.
What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I’ll give you three: Charles Manson and I are from the same town. Cult leader Jim Jones and I attended the same university. And I once peed next to Norman Mailer.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
Learning to read. What else is there? I had a lot of great teachers who loved books and stories, and they cultivated that desire in me. I also learned that even the smallest, oldest nun can pull your hair until it hurts.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
The greatest thing other authors have done for me is to simply believe in me. When hugely talented and experienced authors like Ed Gorman, Tom Monteleone, or John Lescroart say that they believe in me, it’s worth more than anything. Writers always need confidence boosts, especially when we’re young and just starting out. I can’t thank those authors enough for that.
In your new book; The Hiding Place, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it?
THE HIDING PLACE tells the story of a family that lost a child twenty-five years ago. As the anniversary of the boy’s death approaches, new questions arise about the case: Did the right man get convicted? Did the child really die? And who is the strange man who has come to town, claiming to know what really happened in the past?
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in Janet?
I knew she was tough and brave, but she kept surprising me with how tough and brave she was. She never backed down from a fight or a challenge, and I liked that about her a lot.
For those who are unfamiliar with Janet, how would you introduce her?
Janet is a single mom who has made a life for herself and her fifteen-year-old daughter, Ashleigh. But Janet is also haunted by the death of her brother when she was seven and he was four. Janet was supposed to be watching him the day he disappeared, and she’s really on a journey to try to understand what really happened that day—and hopefully find some peace of mind about it.
You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
Keep reading books! Buy books from your community bookstores. Go to readings and book signings. Spend time with other readers. Support your libraries. Keep books and reading alive!
If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
What a wild question. What would happen if Caitlin, the girl from CEMETERY GIRL, and Ashleigh, the girl from THE HIDING PLACE, got together? Any two teenagers can start a lot of trouble, but those two…yikes!
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
How much hair do you have left on your head?
What’s your most missed memory?
Maybe being a kid and just having hours and hours to read on a sleepy afternoon. Nowhere to go. No job. No demands. Just reading. That’s tough to find as an adult.
What's the most mermorable summer job you've ever had?
I worked as a movie theatre projectionist one summer. I could have all the Mountain Dew I wanted, and I saw TOP GUN, THE COLOR OF MONEY, LEGAL EAGLES, and MANNEQUIN more times than I can count.
Who is the first person you call when you have a bad day?
That would have to be my wife, Molly.
When was the last time you told someone you loved them?
I tell my wife all the time. When they bring me good news about my writing career, I tell my agent or editor that I love them.
Do you remember your favorite teacher?
I’ve had many, many great teachers who encouraged me and shared my love of reading and writing. In recent years, some of the best have been Tom Monteleone, David Morrell, F. Paul Wilson, Jack Ketchum, and Richard Chizmar at the Borderlands Press Boot Camp for Writers.
When was the last time you cried?
Before I paid off my student loan, I cried every time I mailed a payment.
In all seriousness, my dad died two years ago. I cried like a baby.
Most horrifying dream you have ever had?
I have dreams of falling. Dreams of being chased. And, of course, the scariest thing of all—dreams of books not selling enough!
Where can readers stalk you?
In person, in Kentucky. Online, which I’d prefer, they can find me at my website: davidbellnovels.com. On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DavidBellNovels?ref=hl. On Twitter: @davidbellnovels.
Sometimes it’s easier to believe a lie.
Twenty-five-years ago, the disappearance of four-year-old Justin Manning rocked the small town of Dove Point, Ohio. After his body was found in a shallow grave in the woods two months later, the repercussions were felt for years.… Janet Manning has been haunted by the murder since the day she lost sight of her brother in the park. Now, with the twenty-fifth anniversary of Justin’s death looming, a detective and a newspaper reporter have started to ask questions, opening old wounds and raising new suspicions. Could the man convicted of the murder—who spent more than two decades in prison—really be innocent? Janet’s childhood friend and high school crush, who was in the park with her that day, has returned to Dove Point, where he is wrestling with his own conflicted memories of the events. And a strange man appears at Janet’s door in the middle of the night, claiming to know the truth. Soon, years of deceit will be swept away, and the truth about what happened to Janet’s brother will be revealed. And the answers that Janet has sought may be found much closer to home than she ever could have imagined.
The loss of Janet’s brother and its affects towards her life and family are clearly depicted with rich textured details. Just like Cemetery Girl, the author’s first novel, it is enthralling from beginning to end. David has a knack for getting readers hooked from the very first page. The mixture of murder, mystery, secrets, and memories served as the perfect ingredients for a truly absorbing story. It will keep interest levels high as it builds up the tension, but only to have it fold creating a wicked twist in the storyline. The action and dialogue were plenty and kept the plot moving along well. The Hiding Place is an amazing and riveting police procedural that also tells a touching story about human emotions. David Bell has struck another homerun with this one and I certainly cannot wait for what he is going to pitch to us next.