Today on Awesome Authors it’s my pleasure to welcome fellow Sister-in-Crime member and bestselling romantic suspense writer, Donnell Ann Bell! Donnell and I have known each other a long time, having been members of the Guppies (the Great Unpublished), a sub-group of Sisters-In-Crime. Donnell grew up in New Mexico and has a background in court reporting and non-fiction writing. She’s also acted as coordinator for the Daphne du Maurier writing contest put on by the Kiss of Death chapter of RWA, which I had the good fortune to judge a few years back. She currently calls Colorado home.
Extra: Donnell is giving away a book to one lucky commenter today, so tell us something fun or leave a comment about the interview and you could win your choice of one of her fabulous romantic suspense novels 😀
(From the author’s website): Donnell Ann Bell is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, Deadly Recall and The Past Came Hunting, both of which were nominated for the prestigious Golden Heart® from Romance Writers of America® in their unpublished formats. Also, in October Deadly Recall was nominated for an EPIC Award in the Suspense/Thriller category. Her third release, Betrayed, from Bell Bridge Books is now available (November 18, 2013). Her website is www.donnellannbell.com
DV: Hi Donnell! Thanks for being here 🙂
DV: Tell us about your latest release, Betrayed.
Donnell: Thank you. As I wrote above, Betrayed is my third release from Bell Bridge Books and this book, too, is written around my theme of SUSPENSE TOO CLOSE TO HOME and the places I’ve lived. All my books are stand alone, but they revolve around the places I’ve lived, Colorado Springs, Albuquerque, and Betrayed takes place in Denver. I write cop protagonists who encounter very strong women.
DV: You mention on your website that your debut mystery, The Past Came Hunting, was inspired by a country song. What else compels you to write?
Donnell: I usually am compelled by an idea or something unfinished. In The Past Came Hunting I was overwhelmed that a young girl who goes off with her bad news boyfriend could wind up in prison after being charged as an accessory to armed robbery and murder. This bothered me so much that I had to make things right and give this poor girl her own happy ending.
I wrote an entire book after listening to a breaking news story about a man gunned down on the New Mexico capital steps. These kinds of things don’t happen in Santa Fe very often. I was on my lunch hour at the time and had to go into work. That night I watched the news broadcasts, I scanned newspapers but I couldn’t find out why that man had been killed. As I said, his story was unfinished, and it bothered me. I wrote my first book based on that breaking news story. If an idea resonates with me and I don’t like the ending, or can’t find the ending, I’ll finish the book.
“Although I like suspense, I’m really drawn to character development and conflict first.”
DV: Gotta hate an unfinished story 🙂What was your road to publication like?
Donnell: Long 😉 I started writing fiction in 2001, and used that time to hone my craft. I never seriously submitted because I didn’t feel I was ready. In 2005, I felt I was close with Walk Away Joe. In 2007, Walk Away Joe finaled in the Golden Heart. Deadly Recall finaled in 2010. In 2010, my agent and I parted ways. My manuscript was on a New York publisher’s desk, but I was so impressed at RWA National with BelleBooks aka Bell Bridge Books, I decided to submit. I loved Deborah Smith’s response to my query. She said, “Hey, this sounds good. Send it. Send Deadly Recall, too.” I did and I’ve been more than happy I did.
DV: Your books have an overarching theme of the past influencing the present—either from suppressed memories of witnessing a murder as a child, or from making bad choices as a teenager. Will your next books continue that theme? What motivated you to explore this subject?
Donnell: Oh, great question. Although I like suspense, I’m really drawn to character development and conflict first. And I think our childhood shapes us. The book I’m working on now has to do with cliques. I’m not a fan. I also detest bullies. The tentative title of this book is called The Follower, and guilt will swamp my heroine over a childhood decision she makes that gets another killed.
“…everything’s better with deadlines. I find them terrifying and effective—kind of like a muse with a whip 😉 “
DV: What is your process like? Do you write every day? Have a certain word count? Do you have a ritual that you enjoy doing before sitting down to write?
Donnell: I try to write every day, and generally write the first draft in Greg shorthand. (Yep, I’m that old <g>) Then I transcribe in a clean notebook, and eventually transfer it to the keyboard. This helps because by then I have a comprehensive manuscript that is basically draft 3. I have to get away from the computer to write and not get sidetracked by social networking. I learned with the advent and now the onslaught of social media that I have ADHD. I tried typing straight from the keyboard, but kept checking e-mail, Facebook and Twitter. I can’t be trusted so I stick with my trusty notebook.
DV: Totally get that, Donnell 🙂 Do you find you work better with or without deadlines?
Donnell: Oh, everything’s better with deadlines. I find them terrifying and effective—kind of like a muse with a whip 😉 I’ve worked without them, but I kept editing and didn’t move very fast. Is a book ever perfect, D.V.?
DV: Nope. Never 🙂 How much research do you do when writing your books?
Donnell: Probably as much as you do, given what we write. Gosh, it’s amazing how much I don’t know. I’ll get on a roll and have to stop to check a fact or learn about a career, or check police procedure. I find that every thread I create leads to more research. Research follows me from draft all the way to the completed project. I’m never done and I’m always double checking because technology is changing at such rapid speed.
“I usually am compelled by an idea or something unfinished…”
DV: In light of the huge changes in traditional as well as self-publishing, where do you think the publishing industry is headed?
Donnell: I think self-publishing has opened doors for writers and readers. I think it’s shown traditional publishers that readers don’t want the same ol’ same ol’ and that is a huge blessing. I’ve always written out of the box and I’m grateful my publisher took a chance on me.
I think self-publishing is making agents broaden their scope, and publishers take notice of self-pubbed authors to see how they fare. Unfortunately, I don’t see publishers taking chances on debut authors as much, and this worries me. I see a lot of writers publish before they’re ready (in my opinion.) As I said above, I studied and entered contests to gauge whether or not my manuscript was ready. It took me years, and the learning process was well worth the wait. It’s tempting to put our work out there, but even though I came from a nonfiction background, when it came to writing fiction, I had so much to learn.
DV: What advice would you give to new writers?
Donnell: It’s so tempting, but don’t rush. Learn craft. Study The Heroes Journey, Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict, enter contests to get feedback, and read, read, read. Join a qualified critique group, and if writing is your passion, enjoy every minute. Don’t believe every “rule” is gospel. If a book needs a prologue, it needs a prologue. For every expert that tells you to do it a certain way, there are successful authors who prove him wrong. Every writer develops a process. Do what works for you.
DV asked for an excerpt from my November 18, 2013 release, BETRAYED. So I’ll just say thanks again, and hope your readers will check out BETRAYED. I had a lot of fun writing it.
Most of the team respected Kinsey and wanted to play. And since she’d issued the unpopular decree, members of the male persuasion had tapered off. But Cara had one beau who was certified trouble. He was notorious for lurking in the distance. He showed up constantly, much like the tall dude in baseball cap and sunglasses on the hill.
“He one of yours?” Kinsey asked.
Cara shaded her eyes and stared off in his direction. “I wish.”
Kinsey kicked Cara a practice ball. “Work on your dribbling. Be right back.”
Trudging up the incline, prepared to set the kid straight, Kinsey stopped midway up the hill. This was no high school student she was about to face. This was an adult male watching her team. He was too young to be one of their parents, and at the thought of a potential predator scoping out her girls, she pulled out her cell phone and prepared to call security.
“This is a closed practice,” she called moving upward. “My players are on my clock now, so you’ll have to leave.”
“What if I’m not interested in the players? What if I prefer the coach?” the wise guy asked.
Much like Cara had, Kinsey shaded her eyes against the afternoon sun. She squinted some nice features into focus and stopped walking. “Nate?”
“Hi ya, Kins.”
She gulped in disbelief. She’d spent much of her high school career pining over this creep, and all he had to say to her was, “Hi ya, Kins?”
“I’m working. Is there something I can help you with?”
He pulled aside his hand, revealing a badge clipped to his belt. “Maybe. I’m here on police business.”
An odd sense of disappointment clutched at her chest. Somewhere she’d heard Nate had become a cop. Of course he hadn’t had a secret crush on her all these years, awoken this morning, and come to his senses.
Really, Kins, he can still get to you? She’d been tied to celebrities, a man running for Congress had proposed. Not that she’d accepted. She was still incensed about Griff’s engagement ring comment in front of the Continental Miracles CEO.
Her inner lovesick teenager disappeared, and the unbendable coach returned. “Does it concern one of my players?”
“It concerns you, Kins.” He waved an arm around LBHS’s wide open space. There weren’t a lot of students on campus after hours, but there were enough. “Out here probably isn’t the best place to talk.”
DV: Thanks for stopping by, Donnell. Good luck with your new book!
Donnell: Thanks so much for having me!
DV: Like I mentioned at the beginning of the post, Donnell is giving away a book (reader’s choice) to one lucky commenter, so if you have any questions you’d like to ask her, or if you’d just like to share your thoughts on the interview, comments are open!