My guest today is author David Bell, author of The Hiding Place. This is a fascinating story about presumptions of guilt and innocence, secrets we keep, and how violent crime changes the families involved. David has graciously agreed to answer some of my questions today. Before we get to that, let’s meet the man behind the words:
David Bell is an assistant professor of English at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, KY. He received an M.A. in creative writing from Miami University in Oxford, OH, and a Ph.D. in American Literature and creative writing from the University of Cincinnati. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
Twenty-five-years ago, the disappearance of four-year-old Justin Manning rocked the small town of Dove Point, Ohio. After his body was found in a shallow grave in the woods two months later, the repercussions were felt for years.…
Janet Manning has been haunted by the murder since the day she lost sight of her brother in the park. Now, with the twenty-fifth anniversary of Justin’s death looming, a detective and a newspaper reporter have started to ask questions, opening old wounds and raising new suspicions. Could the man convicted of the murder—who spent more than two decades in prison—really be innocent? Janet’s childhood friend and high school crush, who was in the park with her that day, has returned to Dove Point, where he is wrestling with his own conflicted memories of the events. And a strange man appears at Janet’s door in the middle of the night, claiming to know the truth.
Soon, years of deceit will be swept away, and the truth about what happened to Janet’s brother will be revealed. And the answers that Janet has sought may be found much closer to home than she ever could have imagined.
What was the inspiration for this story?
I READ A LOT OF STORIES—REAL LIFE STORIES—ABOUT MISSING PERSONS CASES. I’VE ALWAYS BEEN INTERESTED IN MISSING PERSONS CASES, THE WAY SOMEONE CAN GO AWAY AND LEAVE THE PEOPLE BEHIND WONDERING ABOUT WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: DID THE PERSON RUN AWAY? ARE THEY ALIVE OR DEAD? ARE THEY TRYING TO GET BACK AND CAN’T? DO THEY NEVER WANT TO SEE US AGAIN? SO “THE HIDING PLACE” IS PROBABLY JUST THE RESULT OF ME SPENDING TOO MUCH TIME THINKING ABOUT STRANGE, DARK CASES LIKE THIS.
BUT I REALLY THINK THE STORY IS ABOUT A FAMILY MORE THAN IT’S ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE. FAMILIES ARE ALWAYS CHALLENGING AND DIFFICULT FOR US. THEY ARE WHERE WE EXPERIENCE OUR GREATEST JOYS, BUT ALSO OUR GREATEST FRUSTRATIONS AND ANXIETIES. THE BOOK IS CALLED “THE HIDING PLACE” FOR A COUPLE OF REASONS, BUT ONE OF THEM IS BECAUSE EVERYBODY HAS A SECRET—AND THEY KEEP THESE SECRETS FROM THE PEOPLE THEY ARE CLOSEST TO. HOW SCARY IS IT TO WONDER WHAT THE PEOPLE IN YOUR OWN HOUSE ARE HIDING FROM YOU?
Your characters are all multidimensional, with very human quirks that make them feel real. Do you intentionally create them ahead of time for a specific role, or do they develop over a period of time?
THEY CERTAINLY DEVELOP OVER TIME. I START WITH AN IDEA OF WHO THEY ARE, BUT THEY REVEAL THINGS ABOUT THEMSELVES AS THE STORY MOVES ALONG. IT SEEMS NATURAL FOR THIS TO HAPPEN BECAUSE WE ALL REVEAL DIFFERENT THINGS ABOUT OURSELVES DEPENDING ON THE DIFFERENT SITUATIONS WE FIND OURSELVES IN. WE HAVE NO IDEA IF WE WILL BE BRAVE, HONEST, OR FUNNY UNTIL WE’RE IN CERTAIN SITUATIONS, AND CHARACTERS ARE THE SAME WAY. ONE OF THE GREATEST JOYS OF WRITING HAPPENS WHEN CHARACTERS REVEAL THINGS TO THE WRITER—AND THEN TO THE READER—THAT WE DIDN’T SEE COMING.
The Hiding Place has many layers. Do you outline the plot and subplots in advance, or do you have an idea and run with it?
“THE HIDING PLACE” WAS OUTLINED IN A VERY DETAILED WAY BY THE TIME I WROTE IT. I SPENT A LOT OF TIME MAKING AN OUTLINE, SO ONCE IT CAME TO WRITING THE STORY I KNEW WHERE I WAS GOING AND HOW I WAS GETTING THERE. IT WAS A VERY DETAILED ROAD MAP. IT HELPS TO HAVE THE OUTLINE IN ORDER TO MEET A DEADLINE.
According to your bio, you’ve worked a series of odd jobs in a series of odd places. How, if at all, have these past experiences influenced your writing?
I THINK WRITERS NEED LIFE EXPERIENCES IN ORDER TO UNDERSTAND THE WORLD AND THEN WRITE ABOUT IT IN A CONVINCING WAY. ALL OF THOSE ODD JOBS I’VE HAD OVER THE YEARS HAVE EXPOSED ME TO A LOT OF DIFFERENT PEOPLE—THE FUNNY, THE STRANGE, THE SCARY, THE PHONY. AND THEN WHEN I’M GOING TO CREATE A CHARACTER, I CAN DRAW ON THINGS I’VE OBSERVED ABOUT ALL THOSE DIFFERENT PEOPLE. I CAN MIX THEM UP IN THE BLENDER OF MY IMAGINATION AND GET SOMEONE WHO COMES ALIVE ON THE PAGE.
I ALSO THINK WRITERS NEED TO BE CONSTANTLY OBSERVING THE WORLD BECAUSE A WRITER NEVER KNOWS WHERE A NEW STORY IDEA WILL EMERGE FROM. I THINK WRITERS SHOULD LIVE AS THOUGH THEIR ENTIRE LIVES ARE A RESEARCH PROJECT. EAVESDROP, SPY, LISTEN, ABSORB. THESE ARE THE THINGS WRITERS SHOULD ALWAYS DO.
You also write short fiction. What are some of the things you find more enjoyable and/or more challenging about writing short stories?
IT’S BEEN A LITTLE WHILE SINCE I’VE WRITTEN A SHORT STORY SINCE MOST OF MY ENERGY HAS BEEN GOING TOWARD THE NOVELS. IN MANY WAYS, WRITING SHORT STORIES CAN BE HARDER BECAUSE SHORT STORIES NEED TO BE CONCISE AND DIRECT AND COMPACT IN WAYS THAT NOVELS DON’T ALWAYS HAVE TO BE. NOVELS CAN WANDER A LITTLE BIT—JUST A LITTLE. BUT SHORT STORIES HAVE TO DELIVER PRETTY QUICKLY. I’VE BEEN APPROACHED TO WRITE A SHORT STORY FOR A SERIES, SO WE’LL SEE HOW I DO IN THAT SHORTER FORM. WISH ME LUCK!
Do you have a new book in the works?
I’VE JUST COMPLETED ANOTHER NOVEL WHICH SHOULD BE OUT NEXT YEAR. IT’S ABOUT A WOMAN WHOSE MOTHER DIES—AND THE SEARCH FOR THE IDENTITY OF THE MYSTERY WOMAN NAMED IN THE MOTHER’S WILL. AND THE SEARCH FOR THIS WOMAN IS COMPLICATED BECAUSE SHE HAS THE EXACT SAME NAME AS THE PROTAGONIST. IT SHOULD BE FUN…
Thank you, David! I’m looking forward to the new book!
David’s books are available on Amazon, in print and Kindle format:
I hope you’ll take the time to connect with David and explore his fictional world. We’d love to hear your thoughts!
Thanks for reading.