Today I have the grand pleasure of having Nancy M. Bell on RTF!
Nancy had the dubious honor of editing my first book for publication years ago, and despite those first awkward interactions, our friendship has grown along with our shared love of writing, research, magic, reading, and of course attending writing conferences. Nancy is still editing, but due to an injury (bad bad horse) she made lemonade and finished two more books in her Cornwall Adventure Series. Then Nancy went on to write, and recently publish, a horror novel with a fresh new twist on Jack the Ripper. Nancy is also the author of Storm’s Refuge, A Longview Romance, and several books of poetry.
Welcome Nancy, and thank you so much for agreeing to visit RTF this week.
Nancy: Hello, Sara. Thank you for inviting me to Rockin’ The Fodder. It’s always a pleasure to visit with you. Might I also add it has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with Sara on her wonderful novels.
RTF: Thank you for that:)
RTF: I’ve finished two out of three of The Cornwall Adventures Series so I'd like to start with some questions regarding the research that went into writing these enchanting middle grade books. ~Cornwall, England with its rocky coast and its quaint villages draws the mind toward mystery and magic. Did you know all along you would write a story in this setting? And what type of research did your story entail?
Nancy: Years ago I heard someone talking about the musical Pirates of Penzance and immediately it piqued my interest. It was almost as if I recognized the name or something. The ancient stone megaliths and arrangements have always fascinated me and I tend toward an animistic world view, so the idea that elements of nature like stones, trees, etc. are sentient beings comes rather naturally. I’ve always believed in magic, it’s all around us. While things like the Fibonocci sequence can scientifically, or mathematically, explain the way things grow the way they do, the fact that they do grow and multiply is surely magic. Writing about and visiting Cornwall is like visiting the home of my heart.
RTF: I love the characters that you’ve created for this series, Laurel, the tough Alberta girl who at times is vulnerable and unsure of herself, Aisling who at first appears quiet and timid, yet has an inner strength of her own, Gort who has his own personal battles to overcome, Coll, the staid young man and Cornwall native that befriends Laurel, and then there is Chance, the childhood friend back at home, who wants to be more than friends with Laurel (which is a source of conflict in the third book). And we cannot forget those unique and clever magical creatures you’ve brought to life in these adventures!
Tell us a little about how your character’s come to you. Do they just pop into your thoughts, or do they come after the story idea has seeded in your mind?
Nancy: Lucky for me my characters tend to just show up, jump in, and take over. I have to type pretty fast sometimes to keep up with them. There are times when certain characters have just shown up without any notice. Case in point is Morgawr in Laurel’s Quest. He’s the flying sea monster who gives his friend Vear Du a ride to the Cheesewring to meet with Laurel. He just appeared out of nowhere along with his penchant for gossiping and eavesdropping. And even though he has no wings he can fly.
I was asked why this creature from the ocean could fly and the simple answer is because he wanted to. Belerion, the fire elemental, is also one of those who jumped into the breach and showed up in Sarie’s fire to give Laurel another clue to her riddle in Laurel’s Quest. He’s one of the cuter characters who have graced me with their presence.
I’m a pantster, I just kind of start writing and see where it goes. The Cornwall Adventures took some planning because I had to get Laurel and her friends from point A to point B and so on, following the earth energy line across South West England, but other than mapping out the points I needed to have her get to, we just flew by the seat of my pants.
RTF: There is a fair bit of mythology and legend that is touched upon in the Cornwall Adventures. What research did you do for the story regarding these legends? Or did the research find you?
Nancy: Oh, man! I did tons of research for this series. Most of it while I was working on Laurel’s Quest. I spent hours on the internet and tracking down reference books which I waited impatiently for Amazon to deliver. My bookcases are stuffed full of research books and my favorites list on the computer is very long. One of the very pleasant things that happened while I was scouring the internet was that I met some wonderful people who have become friends. On my last trip to Cornwall I met up with some of them and John Watts was kind enough to take us out to Carn les Boels where the Michael and Mary lines come to earth in England. From there we followed the South West Cornish Coastal Path down to Nanjizal Bay. The cover of Go Gently has a picture I took there as the background. I also made the acquaintance of renowned dowser Hamish Miller. I was having trouble tracking down his book The Sun and The Serpent so I emailed the publisher ~ Penwith Press~ and lo and behold Hamish himself emailed me back. We corresponded until his death a few years ago.
I’m hoping to return to Cornwall in the next year or two. We rented a taxi for the day the last visit and Jamie our intrepid driver took us to Port Isaac where Doc Marten is filmed, and he also took us to Minions and the Hurlers Stone Circle. Jamie was interested in my quest to visit all these ancient stone arrangements and asked if we minded if he tagged along with us. He even crawled through the holed stone when we trekked to the Men an Tol. Walking along the Promenade in Penzance and then walking along the edge of the sea to Mousehole was incredible. And Saint Michael’s Mount… it’s hard to put into words.
RTF: Are you planning on writing more books in this series? Any other character’s who are demanding their story to be told?
Nancy: Oh yes. Aisling has a story to be told still. And Coll, of course. I’m halfway through Gramma Bella’s story. This is where she first meets Vear Du and Gwin Scawen. Uncle Daniel is there too, in his younger days. I’m toying with the idea of another series set in Alberta. Writing on Stone down near Milk River, and the Sweet Grass Hills keep coming to mind as possible settings. Also there are some stone sun dials or medicine wheels hidden on the prairie that could come in handy for mysterious backdrops for the stories. I have to finish Arabella’s Secret first. That’s the working title, I’m not sure if it will be the final choice. Maybe simply… Secrets or oh, I don’t know.
RTF: It took me a few years before I realized you not only write stories, but write poetry as well. Was poetry your first love? Or was writing?
Nancy: I’ve always loved poetry. I can’t remember when I haven’t been playing around with putting words together. So I guess poetry came first. It’s nice when I can merge the two together on a project.
RTF: Now I’m going to take a left turn and ask you about Jack the Ripper. What drew you to this dark villain, and made you want to tell his story?
Nancy: You know, I honestly don’t know. It actually started as a joint project with another author. She was writing every other chapter from a female protagonist point of view and I wrote the male villain point of view. It kind of fell apart and after letting it sit for a while I found that the character wouldn’t be quiet. So I decided I’d better just write his story to shut him up and appease my muse.
The Jack character changed a lot from my original vision of him. He became much grittier and unsettling. I gave him an overbearing father figure who haunts him in ghost form as the catalyst for his crimes and to counter balance his mother’s ghost who tries to appeal to his better side. I think it works. It is certainly not something that I usually write and I’m really not sure where it came from. I do know I was very conscious of not ‘channelling’ the actual Jack the Ripper, whoever he was.
While we were in England, we spent a few days in London and took the tube to Spitalsfield and walked down Commercial Road into the heart of Jack the Ripper territory. It was very interesting to say the least. I read tons of stuff about Jack, both in books and on the web. I took what I could use and ignored all the “I know who he was” stuff. I created my own Jack, not based entirely on any one of the usual suspects. I did a fair bit of research on the actual area, using correct street names as well as local landmarks like churches and public houses. I also used events like the fire at the dry docks the night Polly Nichols was murdered and inserted them into my sequence of events. It’s not something I think I will do again. My venture into the Historical Fiction – Horror genre will most likely be my first and last.
RTF: I mentioned earlier that we met over the painful first edits of a newbie writer/author (me). When did you start editing professionally? Do you still edit part time? And do you have any words of wisdom for writers starting out? Or for writers who’ve been at it for awhile and still struggle with getting their story published?
Nancy: Hmmm Advice for new or unpublished writers
Most important, I think, is believe in yourself and your stories. No one can tell your stories but you. Use your own judgement and don't get too hung up on crit group comments. Yes, they are great sounding boards and wonderful for an outside opinion on your craft, but trust your gut.
Please, please, don't pay tons of dollars for editing. I talked to one gentleman a few years ago at a conference. He'd self pubbed and told me he paid $1500.00 USD for an editor. He gave me a copy to consider and oh my, the editing was terrible. Find an editor you trust if you intend to self-publish and stay within a budget. I usually let the author tell me what they can afford, and depending on the length of the manuscript, I decide if I can do it for that amount. Generally, it seems to be around $250.00 USD for around 30 to 35K word count. I can live with that and I don't feel the author is being take advantage of. Edits include content and line edits for as many rounds as the author and I feel are necessary. Finding an editor by word of mouth or recommendation from someone you trust is the best way to go.
Also do your research on potential publishers. See if there are authors who are published by them grousing on line about things like late or no royalty statements, or lack of communication etc. When you are offered a contract, don't sign it right away. Wait for the euphoria to die down and then go over it carefully. Be sure you can live with the terms. If you and the publisher/editor have an irreconcilable difference, is there a way to get your rights back or are you locked in. How long is the initial term of the contract, does it automatically renew at the end of the term, is there a date stipulated that the book will be published by, and if that is not met do the rights revert back to the author? You don't want your work tied up with an iron clad contract and have it never see the light of day. In the event of an insolvency or the company goes out of business is there a trustee to handle returning the rights to contracted authors? If not, you could end up with your work tied to a company that doesn't operate anymore, but that still owns your rights. It can be easy to solve this, or it can be costly and time consuming. Better to know up front what you're agreeing to.
Most of all, please keep writing. If you're hoping to make a living at writing, you have to view it as a job, but never lose the thrill of putting words on paper and watching your characters come alive.
And yes, I do some freelance editing at very reasonable rates. I also do editing for my current publisher Books We Love. It leaves me plenty of time to work on my own stuff. I love editing and working with authors on their stories. A lot of my authors have become good friends who I value very much.
RTF: In your personal life you are a champion of animals, birds, cats, dogs, horses (I’m sure I’ve missed a few) and you have been known to take in more than a few fosters. Tell us a little about that and how it shows up in your stories.
Nancy: I just can’t say no to an animal in trouble. I always think ‘what if I was the one who was left out in the cold” and I just have to make room. All of my stories have animals in them, even No Absolution with Jack the Ripper. There’s a rescued puppy and an old tom cat in that one. Storm’s Refuge centers around a rescued dog who is a composite of a lot of dogs I’ve known. One of my own rescued dogs is called Storm after the momma dog who never made it to safety. I work with an animal rescue here in Calgary, called Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society. They take in dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, even turtles and lizards. I foster for them, and I am on the Medical Team and do three shifts a week as a Cat Caregiver.
RTF: Anything else you’d like to share?
Nancy: Thank you so much for hosting me, Sara. It’s always a pleasure to spend time with you. On May 14th I was featured on Rave Reviews Book Club Blog Talk radio show called Bring On The Spotlight. In October I’ll be attending the Surrey International Writers Conference again. It’s a great event and one of the highlights of my year. It’s always special because I get to spend time with friends like Sara and our other cronies. Dressing up for the Friday night costume dinner is great fun. I hope I get to wear my big red hat again this year! I’m also hoping that the Arabella book will be out sometime this summer. On June 12, 2015 I’m at Pandora’s Boox and Tea in Olds, in Alberta for a book signing and then on June 17, 2015 at Shelf Life Books in Calgary, Alberta for another signing. I hope to see some of you there! There’ll be goodies and giveaways.
Thank you again Nancy for taking time to be here today and sharing your writing/editing life! It’s wonderful to see you have been so busy writing, and I ‘m looking forward to whatever stories come next!
Nancy would like to invite the readers to make a comment for a chance to win copies of all three in The Cornwall Adventure Series: Laurel’s Quest, A Step Beyond, and Go Gently. Announcement of winners will be May 30th. (be sure and leave an email in comment section!)
Where to find Nancy:
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/emilypikkasso
Publisher’s Webpage: http://bookswelove.net/authors/bell-nancy/
Books We Love blog on the 18th of every month: http://bwlauthors.blogspot.ca/
Writing as Nancy M. Bell:
Laurel’s Quest, The Cornwall Adventures Book 1 (formerly: Laurel’s Miracle)
A Step Beyond, The Cornwall Adventures Book 2 (formerly: A Step Sideways)
Go Gently, The Cornwall Adventures Book 3
Storm’s Refuge, A Longview Romance, Book 1 (formerly: Christmas Storm)
Irish Fireside Tales- retelling of Irish myths and legends
Writing as N. M. Bell:
Through This Door: available on Amazon and from the author