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The Sirens of Suspense




David Bell is the author of four novels including the recently released THE HIDING PLACE (NAL/Penguin), CEMETERY GIRL, THE GIRL IN THE WOODS and THE CONDEMNED. His short fiction has appeared in numerous journals including Cemetery Dance, Western Humanities Review and Backwards City Review. With Molly McCaffrey, he co-edited the short fiction anthology COMMUTABILITY: STORIES ABOUT THE JOURNEY FROM HERE TO THERE, which was published by Main Street Rag Publishing in 2010. His short fiction has appeared in Cemetery Dance, Western Humanities Review, Backwards City Review and other journals. His work has been nominated for the Kentucky Literary Award and translated into several foreign languages including French, Italian, and Mandarin.In preparation for his life as a writer, he worked as a delivery driver, film projectionist, telemarketer, and bookstore clerk before attending graduate school at Miami University and the University of Cincinnati. He currently teaches English at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, KY.

Find David on Twitter and Facebook.

item1 Write What You (Don't) Know item1

I don’t have any children. I also don’t currently have a dog or a cat or a pet of any kind. Can I be honest with you? We don’t even have any houseplants. (In our defense, we did have houseplants when we lived in North Carolina, but when we moved to Kentucky, we sold them at a yard sale.)

You may be wondering why I feel the need to confess to all of these things. It’s simple—for some people it seems to be a bone of contention because of what I write. My two most recent novels—CEMETERY GIRL and THE HIDING PLACE—are books about parents and children. The books are about a lot of other things, of course, but parents and children take up a lot of the books’ space. And I’ve noticed at readings that there is always someone who wants to ask me if I have any children of my own. In fact, once, during a reading for CEMETERY GIRL, someone in the audience asked me if I had children, and then proceeded to tell me—with fire practically coming from their nostrils—that I couldn’t, couldn’t write about being a parent if I wasn’t one myself.

But why is that so?

There are a lot of experiences I haven’t had in life, but I’ve written about them. I’ve never had a crazy half-brother, but I’ve written about one. I’ve never taken a dog to a pound, but I’ve written about it. I’ve never been the single mother of a teenage daughter, but I’ve written about it. I’ve never had one of my parents murdered, but I’ve written about it. I think if we can imagine it, then we can write about it. And the burden of proof falls on the writer to convince the reader that the world he/she is creating is so. If the writer fails to do that, then the reader can call the writer on it. But—and I don’t want to sound defensive here—the reader can’t call the writer on something simply based on the writer’s biography. After all, I don’t come to the reader’s house and say, “Hey, you can’t read this book about a missing child because you’ve never had a missing child!” I’d never do that. (In the spirit of confession, I’d never discourage anyone from reading one of my books. I’d always do the opposite. I like it when my books sell.)

My writing is never based on fact. I don’t write true stories. But I do write true stories. Emotionally true. (I hope.) So, I’ve never had a crazy half-brother. But I have two siblings and siblings-in-law as well as friends and cousins who feel like siblings to me. And I know the ins and outs of those relationships. The complicated swirl of love and hate and love again. I’ve never taken a dog to a pound like Tom does in CEMETERY GIRL, but I have owned dogs. And I’ve lost them. To old age, disease, cars. I know how attached we get to pets, and I know how it hurts to lose one. I’ve never had a parent murdered—as I’m writing about in my new novel, NEVER COME BACK—but I have lost my father to a terrible disease. I know how deep that loss cuts. And I’ve never been a parent. That’s true. But I have nieces and nephews in my life, as well as the children of my friends. As well as the countless students I’ve taught over the years. And I’ve been someone’s child my whole life. Always have been, always will be.

Am I saying that is the exact same thing as being a parent. No. Of course not. But I’m saying I can understand and imagine what it’s like to be a parent. I had a psychology professor in college who said the most important skill for any human being to learn is empathy. To understand how other people feel. And isn’t that what we read for? To be taken to places we haven’t been or wouldn’t want to go—and to understand them? To understand people different from ourselves? I don’t throw THE HOBBIT across the room when I read it because I just know J.R.R. Tolkien never lived in a hold in the ground. I read THE HOBBIT—or any other work—because I want to hear what that author, that particular brain and soul, has to say about being a human. The author’s thoughts may be quite different from my own. In fact, I usually hope they are. I don’t want to read something just to have my own opinions about the world confirmed. When I want to do that, I talk to myself.

And writers talk to themselves a lot. I know.





DO YOU WRITE (OR READ) ABOUT WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW? Tell us or ask David a question by commenting below or on our Facebook page and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of THE HIDING PLACE!


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