Oct. 4, 2020
David Bell is a USA Today bestselling author, professor at Western Kentucky University, and author of nine suspense novels from Berkley/Penguin. In 2013 he was awared the Prix Polar International de Cognac for best crime novel by an international author.
Q. The theme of dark secrets runs heavily through your books. Whether it’s blackmail-worthy secrets (The Request), the secret of a missing person (Layover), or secrets of the dead (Bring Her Home). Why do you think you gravitate to this theme?
David: That’s a really good question, and I’m not sure I have an answer except to say we’re all attracted to certain kinds of stories as opposed to other kinds of stories. And I’ve always been drawn to stories about disappearances, murders, and secrets. Now maybe I’m just strange, or maybe I’m just fascinated by the things people try to keep hidden. But that’s what I like to write about.
I always hope readers are entertained by my books. I want them to be sitting up late at night and they just can’t put the book down. I want them to want to read just one more chapter no matter how late it is.
Q. You’ve talked elsewhere about Elmore Leonard and his influence on your writing. What other writers have you drawn inspiration from?
David: Too many to mention. But Elmore Leonard and Robert B. Parker for their plots and memorable characters. Mary Higgins Clark for the way she puts families and regular people in jeopardy. Walter Mosley for the way he incorporates larger issues into suspenseful stories. Richard Matheson for his concision and precision.
Q. In addition to your successful writing career, you head the MFA program at Western Kentucky. What do you think students get out of a writing program that most prepares them for a career in the industry? What traps do they fall into as hopeful writers?
David: The big thing they should get out of a writing program is producing a lot of material. Just read and write a lot. You don’t have to go to school to do that, but sometimes school allows writers a break from the mundane demands of the world. Also, it would help if school taught them a little about the professional side of the writing life. The business part.
Students fall into traps when they try to write to please their teachers or their classmates. I always say to write the kind of story you would like to read. Not what you think someone else wants you to write. Then you might discover something original.
Q. You’ve said elsewhere that you enjoy walking through a cemetery near your house. What does that do to get you into the creative spirit?
David: It’s a pretty cemetery, with lots of trees and birds and deer and the occasional fox. And it allows me to get away from the computer and the phone and think. It also reminds me that the clock is always ticking so get to work. I also like writing with a view of the water. That usually only happens here when it rains a lot and our backyard gets swampy.
Q. What are you working on now?
David: My next book, Kill All Your Darlings, will be out in the summer of 2021. When a professor’s student disappears and is presumed dead, he publishes her manuscript as his own—only to learn it implicates him in a murder.