Q&A With Author Heatherly Bell
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Which do you find harder to write: the beginning or the conclusion?
Absolutely the conclusion. I always start out of the gate with an exciting (to me) beginning that gets me going. Inspired to tell my characters’ stories, I usually gallop towards the end. Then I realize the end isn’t going to come easily. The end has to involve a change, and most of the time I have to go back and rework from around the middle to the end. That’s why writing isn’t easy, otherwise everyone would do it. Right?
Have you ever tried writing in a café? How did you find that experience?
I know people who can’t write in a café because of all the distractions – music, people talking, laughing, ordering, etc. I find it comforting. Of course, I bring an Alphasmart with me so that I have no way to connect to the internet. Otherwise I’d have those “oh look, a squirrel” moments. I sometimes need to stare into space – and all of today’s distractions mean that there are fewer and fewer of those moments.
Have you self-published a book? How did you find your experience?
I have now self-published three books in my “Napa vineyard” series set in the fictional town of Starlight Hill, California. I’ve never had a scarier moment than the first time I hit “publish” and let my baby novel off into the wild blue yonder. I now completely understand why a publisher hands you the galleys with the words “No further creative changes.” Otherwise we tend to drive ourselves nuts changing this and that. I know it’s time to hit publish when I’m starting to make the manuscript worse. “Let it go” has become my mantra, but then again I’m a latent perfectionist. I employ professionals at every step of the process. I hire a cover artist and an editor. The only thing I do myself is write the book, format, and upload to Amazon. And as soon as I go to all platforms, rest assured I will hire a formatter too.
When you begin to write, how do you get started? With an outline, character idea, title, theme, plot?
I start with the characters and an idea, usually the inciting event. I have the goals and motivations of the hero and heroine. I know how they will meet up with each other and initially rub each other the wrong way. I have the first act turning point. But after that, I do let myself go and let the characters take me away. I do wish I could plot more, but my brain just doesn’t work that way. There is something about my subconscious mind that is released when I’m writing. The ideas seem to flow then. Of course this means I usually have some revisions to do in the next drafts, but that’s okay. Everyone does.
Do you prefer to have friends and family or a professional editor review and critique your work?
I prefer to have a professional editor review my work. I don’t think that my friends and family can be objective enough. I also have CPs that I trust. But having said that, I don’t always take the suggestions they offer. In the end, I have a vision for the story I want to tell and now I have the control to do it.
When early onset stage fright dashed dreams of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame status, Heatherly Bell tackled her first book in 2010, and now the people and voices that occupy her head refuse to leave. She no longer sings unless you count randomly bursting into song to annoy her children (and the dogs). Heatherly lives in northern California with her family, including two beagles, one who can say “hello” and the other who can feel a pea through several pillows. If she were not an author, Heatherly maintains she would be a detective and a criminal’s worst nightmare. She watches Dateline every Friday night and takes notes.
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