Sedona Lit is a series by Dr. Elizabeth Oakes, an award winning poet and former Shakespeare professor. A Sedonian of three years, she will highlight the literature, written or performed, of Sedona, past and present.
By Elizabeth Oakes
(April 18, 2016)
Between them, David Bell and Molly McCaffrey have two Ph.Ds and twelve publications: eight novels, one volume of short stories, one memoir, and two edited anthologies, plus one long running blog. They will become a part of Sedona literary history when they read from their works and discuss writing at the Pumphouse Poetry and Prose Project at 5 p.m. Friday, April 29, on the steps of the old Pumphouse in Creekside. Both have very generously agreed to an on-line interview before their visit. Today’s is David’s, and next week’s will be Molly’s on writing a memoir.
David’s eighth mystery, Since She Went Away, to be published by Random House, will come out on June 21, and he has just signed a contract for a new two-book deal with Penguin/Random House. If you go to the Random House building in New York, you’ll see a display of his books, but you don’t have to go any further than Pumphouse!
Here are my questions for David and his answers:
EO: Besides raw talent, how did you get an agent, an editor, and Random House as a publisher?
DB: I think a writer has to be persistent. There will be a lot of rejection, but a published writer is just a writer who kept going after every rejection.
EO: Best advice ever given to you?
DB: My agent always tells me: “It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon.”
EO: What’s the roughest part of the process of writing a mystery?
DB: Trying not to repeat myself. Trying to stay one step ahead of the reader. Trying not to confuse myself.
EO: What mystery novel or novelist or film influenced you the most?
DB: Elmore Leonard, John D. MacDonald, Patricia Highsmith, Robert B Parker
EO: My biggest thrill when it comes to book sales was when I saw my book on sale at –
DB: Target and Kroger.
EO: Do your characters ever haunt you after a book is published and want you to write a sequel?
DB: I really don’t look back that much. Sometimes I read over passages I’ve written in older books and think, “Hmmmm, that’s pretty good. Did I write that?”
EO: Is there such a thing as writer’s block?
DB: I think writer’s block is a lack of confidence or a problem with the story. If a writer steps away and figures out what’s wrong – either with the story or with oneself – they can get past the block.
EO: Where is the center of the publishing universe? Is there one?
DB: I think New York is still the center, but new technologies are allowing things to become more and more decentralized. Just about anybody can become a writer, editor, or publisher. Some of that’s good and some isn’t so good.
EO: You hold the Ph.D from the University of Cincinnati and are an Associate Professor in English at Western Kentucky University. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a professor and a writer?
DB: The big advantage is I get to talk about writing all day instead of working in a bank or something. The disadvantage is that teaching takes a lot of time and energy.
EO: What do most beginning mystery writers do wrong? Right?
DB: I think most beginning writers in any genre imitate too much. It’s natural to imitate, but we all have to move past that . Writers are doing something right when they find that unique, crazy thing that only they can say. That’s when we see true originality,
EO: What advice do you have:
DB: Write the kind of book you’d like to read. Write what you want to write and not what you think other people want you to write. Enjoy the work every day. And keep going forward no matter what.
EO: Thanks much, David!
There will be much more about David, Molly, who is a short story writer, memoirist, and blogger, and their books in the regular Pumphouse publicity.