Today I welcome Eileen Bell as my author in the spotlight!
Eileen Bell (also known as E.C. Bell) has had short fiction published in magazines and several anthologies, including the double Aurora Award winning Women of the Apocalypse (Absolute XPress) and the Aurora winning Bourbon and Eggnog.
The Puzzle Box, (EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing) a collaborative novel she wrote with Billie Milholland, Randy McCharles, and Ryan McFadden, came out in August, 2013. Her first “I wrote this myself” novel, Seeing the Light, will be available in November, 2014, through Tyche Books.
When she’s not writing, she’s living a fine life in her round house (that is in a perpetual state of renovation) with her husband, her two dogs and her ever hungry goldfish.
#1: What was your earliest writing experience:
I vividly remember the first creative writing project I ever did that involved other people. I think it was in 5th grade (though it could have been 6th), and the assignment was that we all wrote the beginning to a story, and then handed what we had written to the person sitting behind us so they could finish the story. I decided to write about robbers crashing their car while speeding away from the bank they’d robbed, with the POV character in the car. (Yep. Dark, even then.) I LOVED what I’d written, and handed it off, expecting the girl behind me to keep the blood and screaming going. Not so much. She, quite properly, wrote in the police and an ambulance, and then, believe it or not, she had everyone live happily ever after. I was disgusted, and I’m pretty sure she requested never to be stuck with me again. That’s when I decided I wanted to write — but I’d always write alone.
THAT didn’t work out, either. Luckily, I found people who don’t mind writing with me, and who will at least listen to my endings, so it’s all right. Though I have to say, I am pretty thrilled that I was able to sell a novel that I’d written on my own.
#2: Describe a day in your writing life:
On a good day, I get up, make coffee, watch the morning news (just to get my mad on), feed the dogs, answer emails, play far too long on Facebook, and then head upstairs to write. I apologise to my goldfish if I forgot to feed him the day before, and feed him. Write until the phone rings. Run back downstairs to find the stupid phone, and deal with whoever is bothering me (often it is my husband, so I have to pretend to be sweet and all that), then head back up and write some more. Run the dogs, either eat something or make more coffee, and write a bit more. If I get to the good place (where time disappears) I can write for hours. If not, I write until 3ish, run the dogs again (one dog is Border Collie, and REALLY good at guilting me) and then do some editing until about 5. Then my brain’s done, so I make supper and zone out until the next day. Zoning out is playing outside with the dogs (remember the Border Collie?), doing laundry (Where does it all come from?) and yelling at my sports teams as they fail. (It’s been a couple of really rough years in Edmonton. Seriously.)
On a bad day? I have stuff to do outside the house, and I’m stuck trying to write in the evenings. That never goes well, and I usually just end up editing or playing on Facebook… So I try to keep a lot of my days to myself, because I’d much rather have a good day than a bad day.
#3: What authors influenced you and how?
A.A. Milne – My mother used to read the Winnie the Pooh stories to us every night when we were growing up. This is how I learned that your words must sound as good as they look on the page.
Stephen King – His novels saved me during my “raising the kids” years. Scary and well written, they were my favourite Christmas presents year after year after year. And his nonfiction was almost like having a fantastic conversation with a fellow writer! Oh, and he taught me that sometimes you CAN write with someone else and have it work. (The Talisman, which he wrote with Peter Straub, was one of my favourites.)
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. — My husband introduced me to Vonnegut while we were dating, and that’s part of the reason why I fell in love with him. (My husband, not Vonnegut.) What did I learn? That funny works. And sometimes, it’s brilliant.
Margaret Laurence — She taught me that it’s all right to write stories based in Canada. Even in Western Canada.
Harper Lee — She taught me that writing unflinchingly — even about god awful things like rape and racism — will bring perfection. (I’m not there yet, but it’s what I strive for.)
Robert J. Sawyer — He taught me how to think like a real writer. (See #4)
#4: What are some things you learned to help with your success?
I took a writing course some years ago from Robert J. Sawyer. He prefaced everything important he taught us with, “If you want to be a successful writer…” Believe it or not, that was the biggest single thing I learned in that exhausting, ego bruising week. I really truly did want to be a successful writer.
Now, before I make almost any decision, I ask the question “Will this help me be a successful writer?” It really helps me focus. (And no, not everything I do will make me a successful writer. Sometimes, what I do makes me a good citizen (volunteering during an election), or good pet owner (playing with the Border Collie for hours, even in the snow), or whatever. And sometimes, what I do makes me a slacker… But I DO love my sports teams!)
I am not a naturally outgoing person, so I find all the promotion we do quite exhausting. However, I’m starting to learn how to have some fun while I’m doing it, because I have learned it is just as important as the writing itself. (And I’m learning to sleep for a couple of days after. That helps, too.)
And lastly, I still use something I learned when I raced catamarans with my husband. What I learned was, follow the rules, but don’t follow the pack. When we were racing, if we weren’t in front, we’d look for ripples on the water away from the rest of the boats. Those ripples let us know there was wind no one else had seen. Sometimes going our own way wouldn’t work, and we’d lose in a fairly spectacular fashion. But more often than not, we’d use that clean air to win. So now, I’m quite willing to give something different or unusual a go, just to see what happens. (And sometimes, I win!)
#5: Describe your writing method:
For novellas and shorter fiction, I know where I want to start (usually) and where I want to end (definitely). Usually I have a few plot points I want to hit, and something I want to try. (For example, the original version of “Seeing the Light” was a novella, and I wanted to write a building exploding with the point of view character inside. Fun!)
For novels, I know more or less where it will start and definitely where it will end. I research, and then I outline. I learn about my characters as I outline. I usually start writing at this point, but if I still need more detail, I do a scene by scene. Then I write.
I LOVE working on the first draft. This is where the white hot writing from the gut lives for me — and it’s my favourite place in the whole world. However, editing has its own charm. I do like to see the raw story molded into something other people would like to read…
#6: Tips for aspiring writers:
Read as much and as widely as you can.
Be tenacious. You remember “Never give up! Never surrender!” from the movie “Galaxy Quest”? My motto.
Learn something new about writing as often as you can, and apply it to your own work. Because you actually don’t know everything. Trust me.
Be polite. Publishers and editors talk to each other.
Rejection is part of the deal, so do whatever it takes to thicken your skin. Taking to your bed for three days because your latest novel/story/screenplay/whatever has been rejected is three days away from your writing. Which brings me to Rule 6. (And yes, this one’s a rule, not a tip.)
Write every day. No excuses. There IS time in the day. Trust me on that, too.
Yes, I sometimes break Rule 6. But I feel bad about it, and try not to do it often.
The Puzzle Box, by Apocalyptic Four (AKA Eileen Bell, Billie Milholland, Randy McCharles and Ryan McFadden) is an urban fantasy novel published by EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.
Archeology Professor Albert Mallory understands reality. He knows the way the world works. When he steals an ancient puzzle box to pay off gambling debts, he thinks the only mysterious thing about the artifact is how to get it open. But when a stranger appears at Albert’s door demanding to see the box, Albert is plunged into mysteries he never dreamt possible. Through the tales of four others who succeeded in opening the puzzle box — a musician named Warlock with a weakness for witches; photographer Autumn Bailey, with a strange link to the past; video store clerk Angela Matterly with those unworldly eyes; and a comic book illustrator called Sam, on a quest for his life — Albert learns that reality is transient and the way the world works is not found in text books.
Eileen’s upcoming release:
Seeing the Light is a paranormal mystery novel to be released November, 2014, by Tyche Books (http://tychebooks.com/announcing-seeing-the-light/). The book is based in Edmonton — and the Palais office building is based on the Arlington Apartments, built in Edmonton in 1909, and home, briefly, to a serial killer!
Marie Jenner has never had much luck. Her job sucks. Her apartment–the one with the unbreakable lease–has a ghost. And worst of all, her mother won’t let up about her joining the “family business.” Since that business is moving the spirits of the dead on to the next plane of existence and doesn’t pay at all, Marie’s not interested. She wants a normal job–a normal life. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
Apparently, it is. Even when she applies for the job of her dreams, Marie doesn’t get what she wants. Well, not entirely. She does get the job–but she also gets another ghost. Farley Hewitt, the newly dead caretaker of the building, wants her to prove his death is not an accident, and she’s pretty sure he’s going to haunt her until she does.
All she wants is normal. She isn’t going to get it.
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