Posted on 04/09/2018 at 12:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
Kids are fond of making sweeping declarations for their futures, but sometimes it’s fortunate that we can’t keep those promises as adults.
Consider E.C. Bell, whose first foray into collaborative writing didn’t end as she'd hoped.
In fifth or sixth grade, she and her classmates were assigned to write the beginning of a story, then pass it off to another student, who would finish the story.
Bell’s thriller, about bank robbers who crashed their getaway car, turned into a morality tale at the hands of a classmate who added in police, an ambulance, and a happy ending.
Both young writers were horrified with each other, and Bell vowed to keep writing — but alone.
Years later, she’d change her mind about that ... but with no regrets.
Read on to find out what pushed the paranormal mystery and urban fantasy novelist back outside of her comfort zone.
SADYE: After that school project, did you continue writing as a youngster?
E.C.: Yes, I wrote lots of stories — and plays — when I was a kid.
My favorite memory is my brothers and sisters and I writing a play (with time travel, for heaven's sake!) and putting it on for our parents and grandparents in the building where my dad used to store grain on the family farm.
We spent hours cleaning out the last of the old grain so we could use the building. Then we built sets for the big production and practiced. (A couple of times, at least.)
Our audience clapped most appreciatively (you have to love parents and grandparents), and Dad was glad we cleaned the building in time for harvest, so it was a win-win.
I didn't realize at the time how lucky I was to have a support system like that for my creativity, but I know now that without that support, I might not have had the courage to try bigger things, like writing a novel.
SADYE: You kept writing solo for many years until becoming part of a writing collaboration called Apocalyptic Four — how did you end up joining that project?
E.C.: I had written a couple of trunk novels, had some short stories published, and was just starting to realize how hard it was to break in when four of us in a critiquing group to which I belonged were handed an opportunity.
A tiny flash fiction anthology we put together was being published. (Print on demand was a new thing then, which is why it happened at all.) It was exciting, but we wondered what could do with it. It was so small we couldn't even do readings!
We decided to celebrate. Wins don't come along every day, after all. We threw a great big launch party and sold well over 100 books there.
And then, we wondered if we could do it again. A bigger anthology this time, but again, with four of us writing the stories. We pitched the idea and got the go-ahead. That was how Women of the Apocalypse — and the Apocalyptic Four — was born.
We did a couple of other collaborations after that — The Puzzle Box, and the online anthology series called the 10th Circle Project.
But it was always with the understanding that if one of us sold a novel, they would consider that the beginning of a solo career, away from the Apocalyptic Four. And that's what happened.
SADYE: What was the experience of writing a novel with three other people like, in a nutshell? (For those seeking more than a nutshell, check out this interview with Nine Day Wonder.)
E.C.: It came down to trust. We all had the interests of whatever story we were working on front and center at all times. It was never about us, it was about the story.
At the beginning of a project, we'd decide what the story would be, and then each of us would write our chapters to best fit the storyline.
Then we'd edit. No egos and no divas, because everybody had their eyes on the prize, which was telling the best story in the shortest amount of time possible.
It was harrowing and wonderful, and it helped me prepare for working with a publisher and editor when my solo work got published.
SADYE: When you went back to writing by yourself, what did you miss most about the Apocalyptic Four days?
E.C.: I missed talking to members of the group every day. We still talk, but we're not as close as we were.
They're there, though, if I need them. And I'm there for them. I don't think we'll ever lose that. I hope not, anyhow.
SADYE: What has been your proudest or most rewarding moment of being a writer?
E.C.: Over the years my writing won some awards, and those were cool — but the most rewarding moment was when I opened the first box filled with Seeing the Light, my first "on my own" novel.
I'd seen all the component parts, of course, but seeing my book all together for the first time was an absolute thrill. There was the proof, in my hands, that I'd achieved a lifelong goal.
However, getting a contract from CBC Anthology for one of my creative nonfiction pieces and seeing my name beside the word "author" was pretty sweet.
This happened the year I decided to get back into writing for real, and it was my first sale in a very long time.
I'd never felt like an author before that, but I decided that if CBC thought I was, I must have made the jump. I never looked back after that. Not once.
SADYE: The title character in your Marie Jenner mystery series can see ghosts. Have you ever seen one?
E.C.: Never. I wish I had the ability, because there were people I lost in my life that I would have loved to have had one more conversation with, but it never happened.
On the good side, I never had to deal with a nasty ghost, either. (I've seen the movies and read the novels. Those guys can be scary!)
That's probably why I invented Marie Jenner. She could have experiences with ghosts that I never did. Luckily, she's a lot tougher than me, so she can handle every ghost I throw at her. So far, anyhow!
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Know an author you'd like to see featured? Email sadye (at) thefussylibrarian.com with a recommendation!
Categories: Author Interview