Adrienne Bell is a wife and a mother of two. She’s lived her whole life in Northern California. She has a deep, abiding love of all things Disneyland and Supernatural, and is the author of One Lucky Night, as well as the Second Service and The Sinner Saints series. Hook, her new book from the Exiles of the Realm just came out on Feb 14th, 2017.
Craft Tip: Luck can come into the story into the first act, but after that, luck has to go away. Every action has to be because of a decision.
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Rachael: Welcome to “How Do You Write.” I’m your host, Rachael Herron. On this podcast, I talk to authors about how they write, what their process is, and how their lives fit together. I’ll keep each episode short so you can get back to writing.
Hi Writers! Welcome to episode thirty-five of How Do You Write, I am Rachael Herron.
I am so glad you are here. Today is a super special episode, because I am talking to my friend Adrienne Bell. Adrienne is legit one of my favorite people. She is solid. She doesn’t blow smoke. She just shows up and she does the work, and she does it with joy. I have been delighted and inspired by her from the moment we very first met, which was probably back in 2008. I wanna say, 2008, 2009, somewhere in there.
I want to share with you really quickly, (because we don’t talk about it in the interview), but the day she quit her day job to go full time writing… She and I are very similar in our work ethic. We have always worked. We have always worked very hard. We’ve always worked jobs with very long hours, jobs that are just exhausting, jobs that we needed to support ourselves, and support our families. She and I are the kind of people who never think about just up and quitting and doing something fantastic and new because the job is there. We need to go to the job. But, we both wanted out of our jobs so badly. I think it was probably two years, a year and a half or so before I quit my job last year, she quit hers. She came to my job on her way to quit. Where I worked was literally on her way and she needed some moral support and I really wanted to give that to her. I am not sure how I did, but the look on her face as she was driving to make that announcement to her bosses, give her notice, was something I will never forget. She was absolutely 100% terrified and I could understand the terror in a limited way, because I don’t have kids, but I wanted to have that terror for myself and she was one of the people when I was so scared to quit my job completely certain that I would end up living in a sleeping bag full of holes under the BART tracks, she was the one who just kept telling me, nope its just going to work out! You are just going to make it work. It just works, you just work harder. I don’t know if… I am sure I would be here without her, but I wouldn’t be here so strongly. So it is just a treat and a joy to interview her. You’ll love her writing and you will really enjoy this interview, because she is truly inspiring. I am going to stop praising her to the heavens now, because if she is listening she’s blushing. I know her.
A little update from what’s been going on in my world…
Yesterday I sent the first twenty-five thousand words of the thriller to my agent, which was in itself terrifying because this book is important to me. I’ve shared with you before, this book scares me in a way that a book hasn’t done in a long time just because it is such a new jump into a new genre. Because it is a new genre, I need to write it on sec, I need to finish the whole book before my agent can take it out and try to sell it. Because I have crashed and burned so many different parts of my writing career so far in different areas, I need to have a good book all the way together. I couldn’t sell it just on proposal.
If that scares you, it shouldn’t. Everybody in publishing crashes and burns.
I love writing the mainstream literary fiction. It is one of my passions, and it doesn’t sell, so I am moving on to something new. I am continuing with romance. I am continuing moving on to the thriller. I’d love to write mainstream lit again at some point after the thriller, after we’ve tried this experiment. So it’s a grand experiment. It’s big. It’s exciting. And that’s where I am, twenty-five k in, maybe twenty-eight or twenty-nine now and I’m loving it. It’s really fun. It’s compelling, and exciting, and I’m sure I’m going to hit that forty-five thousand word mark soon and it will all go to hell and I’ll hate it worse than anything I have ever done before, but that is just part of the process, so I am expecting that.
I am about to announce a writing retreat in Savannah in July, the week before RWA National. It’s going to be for three days. If you’re interested in coming, it is going to be fantastic. We are going to spend the mornings writing in a fabulous hotel and then the afternoons exploring. If you are interested in hearing about that when it goes live make sure you are on my writers list. You can subscribe to that at rachaelherron.com/write.
I also want to take a moment to say a sincere thanks to new patrons, Melena Torreta, beautiful name, ZhanTao Yang, also a beautiful name, and Tracy, which happens to be a name I have always liked! Thank you for supporting me on Patreon. I wish you buckets, and buckets, and buckets, of written words that you are going to be thrilled and delighted by. That is what I wish for you.
And to all my current patrons, I want to say thank you.
I can’t tell you how much it means to have you guys like at my back while I create these essays on creativity. You will get the book when it comes out, everyone who is a Patreon supporter. Right now I am working on an essay about finding what feels good in your creative work. So often we hurl ourselves at our creative work and then we run up against something that just doesn’t feel right. It just doesn’t fit. How do we handle that and where do we go from there, that’s what I have been working on right now, so that’s been really fun. Again, thank you to all of you who support at any level, absolutely any level. I have to say though that my favorite level is the $3 an essay level where you get texts from me and a whole bunch of back and forth communication where I get to know your guys’ work just texting back and forth which is fantastic. So, if you’re interested in that, patreon.com/rachael.
Now let’s jump into the interview because you are going to be delighted by the delightful Adrienne Bell. Enjoy and happy writing!
Hey, you’re a writer. Did you know that I send out our free weekly email of writing encouragement? Go sign up for it at rachaelherron.com/write, and you’ll also get my “Stop Stalling and Write” PDF with helpful tips you can use today to get some of your own writing done. Okay, now on to the interview.
Rachael: Okay, well I could not be more pleased today to welcome my good friend Adrienne Bell. How are you Adrienne?
Adrienne: I am doing really well. How are you doing Rachael?
Rachael: I am so happy to talk to you! I talk to fabulous people on this podcast, as you know, but I always think that the most fabulous are my people. Listeners, Adrienne is in my writing group. She is one of my people. She’s the one that I call crying for help. She is in our small circle of writing friends in the Bay Area here, the really selective circle that we have made over the years. Adrienne is the plot whisperer and in fact, Adrienne, I have a note in my bullet journal to talk to you about a plot problem I have, so soon I am going to be calling you…
Adrienne: Alright, right after this
Rachael: I don’t even know if I am ready for that. I just know that you are in my plan for execution. Well, let me give you a short little intro for those who might not know you. Adrienne Bell is a wife and a mother of two. She’s lived her whole life in Northern California. She has a deep, abiding love of all things Disneyland and Supernatural. She is the author of Once Lucky Night, as well as the Second Service and The Sinner Saints series. Hook, her new book from the Exiles of the Realm just came out this week on Feb 14th, 2017.
Adrienne: Valentines Day!
Rachael: Valentines Day!
Adrienne: I am really excited about this one.
Rachael: I am too and I personally cannot wait to read it. So, let’s jump in and talk about your writing process…
Rachael: because you are, you’re one of those writing dynamos. You are. I love saying that about you. What is the best time of day for you to write and where do you do your writing?
Adrienne: I write mostly in the morning. I can write at night, but I really prefer to write in the morning. My brain works well after sleep…
Adrienne: As the day goes on it gets worse and worse until at like eight o’clock at night I am just a little puddle of nothing on my couch. I can do it then, but good work isn’t going to come out.
Adrienne: I can write pretty much anywhere. Like it says, I’m a mother of two and I think when you’re a mom you get used to, or when you’re a parent anybodies a parent, you get used to writing anywhere. I prefer to write at my desk or on my couch in my, in my bed if I can. Anywhere where pajamas are optional…
Rachael: Preferred, dare we say.
Adrienne: Preferred. But you know what, I like to write at Panera too. I don’t know what it is about Panera, that you can buy your cup of coffee and get like your table rent for an afternoon.
Rachael: I feel like Panera is… you introduced me to Panera, and I feel like it is soulless in the best way.
Adrienne: It is. That’s exactly what’s right. There is nothing offensive in Panera at all. Nothing that will distract you. Nothing that will catch your attention.
Rachael: Nothing interesting at all. The coffee is serviceable.
Adrienne: Exactly. Nothing to distract your attention at all.
Rachael: I really like it, and they do not give a shit if you sit there all day.
Adrienne: No. Not at all. Buy your cup of coffee. Buy your muffin. It is table rent.
Rachael: Yeah, yeah. Fantastic. And, How do you write? Are you longhand? Computer?
Adrienne: Well, it depends. All my pre-work I do longhand. It’s like it is two different parts of my brain. All my pre-work is longhand. I can’t do my pre-work on computer.
Rachael: Okay. What kind of pre-work are you talking about?
Adrienne: Writing down what the story is going to be about. Writing about the characters. Writing what the plot is going to be. Oh, here, I will show you!
Rachael: I would love to see!
Rachael: Okay, so you have a spiral bound notebook. It looks like you are using black ink.
Adrienne: Exactly, and so I will write down little notes for myself, the way the story will flow. What act one is going to be, what act two is going to be, what the second part of act two is going to be… all that has to be in longhand for my brain, but when it comes to doing words, actual narrative words, that has to be computer.
Rachael: And you use Scrivener, right?
Adrienne: I do, yeah.
Rachael: Yeah. I think so many of us do.
Rachael: I think I always ask that question, because I am always waiting for somebody to say, “Well, I use D-Box12.” And I am going to go, “What’s D-Box12? Is it amazing? I want it!”
Adrienne: Ask Lisa Hughey, she still uses Word Perfect…
Rachael: I know!
Adrienne: And she loves it!
Rachael: I know people, including Lisa, who swear, live, and die by Word Perfect.
Adrienne: They just adore it.
Rachael: Yeah. Alright, I’d get behind that. How do you refill the creative well when you’re running dry?
Adrienne: I really, it’s funny, I really like being a fan of other things.
Rachael: You’re a good fan!
Adrienne: I love being a fan.
Adrienne: I really love it. It doesn’t matter what it is. Like, fan of movies, fan of tv shows, fan of books, comic books, things like that… I think all those different kinds of story telling teach you different things to bring to your own work. So, like tv shows… I love the tv show Supernatural. Like half my toys up here are all Supernatural toys.
Rachael: What do you love about it?
Adrienne: It teaches you, well it’s taught me, how to bring an audience back again and again to an ongoing storyline.
Rachael: Oh, interesting.
Adrienne: How to give them what they want, your audience what they want. How not to give them what they want. You know? How to disappoint them, but still hook them for the next one. You know?
Rachael: Oh, it’s like a masterclass.
Adrienne: It really is. And movies do the same thing. In movies that you’re really a fan of you can see how the director points your eye exactly at the scene and only that. Comic books are great for that too. They can show you, show you so much information in such a tiny amount of time. So, I really get it by being a fan of other things.
Rachael: That is such an excellent answer. I absolutely love that. What is the worst writing advice you have ever been given?
Adrienne: Okay, so sharpen your pitchforks…
Rachael: We’re coming for you!
Adrienne: Yeah, I know. The worst that I have ever gotten was the, “Write every day.”
Rachael: Yeah, I have had a couple people say that. Yeah. What does not work for you?
Adrienne: I get what’s behind it. It’s that prioritize your work. You know, make your writing important to you. I think people have that knowledge inside whether that is true for them or not. You know, if they really are prioritizing their work or not. I can remember when I was working full time, I would get up in the morning, I would go to work, my husband and I worked different shifts so that we wouldn’t need daycare. We have two boys, one of them has special needs, so it wasn’t like daycare was an option. So I would get home from work and then I would have another shift here at home with that and some days I couldn’t write.
Adrienne: I just couldn’t. Hearing that advice, “if you don’t write every day you’re not a writer,” I think I get where it’s coming from. You are trying to tel people, “value your work, believe in yourself. Hone your craft.” But you have to take care of yourself too.
Rachael: And that would be devastating to hear and internalize.
Adrienne: I think a lot of people do.
Adrienne: I think a lot of people do. What happened for me was when I started running and training for half marathons I got the opposite advice, which sort of changed things for me, which was, “whatever you do, don’t run every day. It is very bad for you to run every day.”
Adrienne: And so that sort of changed my mentality. Because they said, you need to take care of yourself. You need this down time to heal…
Rachael: Oh, wow.
Adrienne: You need to refill. So don’t run when you’re exhausted. Don’t run when you’re hurt. So I sort of took that and put it into writing. Don’t write when you’re exhausted. Don’t write when you’re hurting and take a nap.
Rachael: That’s super gorgeous.
Adrienne: Take care of yourself, because this isn’t a sprint. It is a marathon. You have to keep going.
Rachael: And doing that makes you a runner.
Adrienne: It does, yeah.
Rachael: And taking those rests in your writing makes you a writer and I really want to callback what you just said about asking yourself and internally knowing the answer already whether you’re doing your best.
Adrienne: Yeah, exactly.
Rachael: Because we know the true answer when we ask ourselves that.
Adrienne: We do, yeah. We know if this is something we are trying to show everybody else or if the answer is, “Yes, I am a writer and you know what, me going to bed at eight o’clock at night is not going to change that.”
Rachael: It’s going to only help me continue to survive this life in order to be a writer.
Rachael: I love that, Adrienne. Thank you. That’s perfect.
Adrienne: No problem.
Rachael: What writing secret, wait… I have to say that all over again because I’m so excited about what we were just talking about. What secret writing tip of awesomeness did you discover the hard way?
Adrienne: I loved this question! I had to think about it so long and hard! I absolutely loved it. What I came up with is that, for me the hard way I struggled was with voice for a long time. That concept of what in the world is voice. You know? It’s one of those things where you go to, you know, so many chapter meetings of RWA and you hear people talk about it, but what is it? For me it was when I learned that voice is as much what you don’t put into your book as what you do.
Adrienne: And I had to learn that the hard way.
Rachael: You are blowing my mind, Bell. You are blowing my mind. Go on.
Adrienne: I can remember being in a particular RWA class and it was a very good teacher, and a very good class, and she taught me a lot. Just not what she thought she was teaching, which was fabulous. She was saying, “Go through your work and take a highlighter. Highlight every time you use setting. Highlight every time something’s about character. Highlight every time something’s a plot point or action and then try to make it balanced throughout the book.” So I did that and it was not balanced at all.
Rachael: How did it skew?
Adrienne: I’m very emotional and action oriented.
Rachael: Action, I was going to say you’re an action girl, yeah.
Adrienne: Yeah, I write action and I write emotion. I don’t write setting very well. I’m proficient at it, which is all that I need to be.
Rachael: Exactly, yeah.
Adrienne: But that’s what I learned. It’s as much… if I write a book that’s all balanced it’s not going to sound like me.
Rachael: That’s amazing.
Adrienne: So, that’s what I learned the hard way.
Rachael: I am all emotion, dialogue, and smell.
Adrienne: I am terrible at smell.
Rachael: Everything has to have a smell, everything.
Adrienne: I try to put like one smell in the book…
Rachael: In the whole book
Adrienne: Because I will notice that it’s not there, and half the time it’s fire.
Rachael: That’s a really good smell!
Adrienne: I’m like, “what doesn’t smell bad?” Fire.
Rachael: My sister has a perfume, I think it’s by I Hate Perfume, whatever it is, and it’s burning leaves and it smells like burning leaves. It’s amazing. Can you give us a quick craft tip of any sort?
Adrienne: Uh, sure. Yeah. Once again, I mean, there’s so many that when you give these your mind is just like, “which one are we going to do?” So the one that was fun for me to learn, and it keeps me out of trouble, is that luck can come into a story in the first act. You can have luck. Doesn’t matter if it’s good luck or bad luck, but after the first act luck has to go away in the story. Every action has to be because of a decision that a character makes. It can’t be because of luck. The actions have to come out of the decisions and that’s it.
Rachael: I learned that the hard way.
Rachael: I think maybe a lot of us learned that the hard way.
Adrienne: I think so too.
Rachael: So, listeners, this is an absolutely true and salient point, but I really like how succinctly you say it.
Adrienne: It’s… people just don’t connect to luck.
Rachael: No, it’s not interesting. Even if it’s a huge stroke of good or bad luck.
Rachael: In those second two acts it’s just not believable.
Adrienne: No, and it doesn’t have any emotional resonance at all.
Rachael: Yeah, fantastic. On really bad days what other profession do you wish you had? I can’t wait to hear your answer.
Adrienne: I would be a Disneyland Jungle Cruise Skipper. It is my dream job. If I could give everything up right now, I would easily give up writing to be a Disneyland Jungle Cruise Skipper.
Rachael: I believe you. I believe you and you love writing as much as you love anything that is not your family. I love the Jungle Cruise.
Adrienne: Oh, yeah. I just want to tell the cheesy jokes and go around in a loop on a boat all day and pretend to shoot at hippos.
Rachael: And they have such joy doing that.
Adrienne: They do. They really do.
Rachael: They seem to have such joy. I think they get fired if they’re not actually joyful.
Adrienne: I don’t know how you could not be joyful doing that. You tell everybody, “Wave goodbye to the beautiful people on the dock. Now say goodbye to the ugly ones, they need love too”
Rachael: I wanna go on the Adrienne cruise.
Adrienne: I’m so corny. I love it. I love it.
Rachael: I have been near you when you are near Disneyland and you glow, you glow.
Adrienne: I do. I do.
Rachael: And if you were starting over as a new writer right now, what advice would you give baby Adrienne?
Adrienne: It’s not a race. There’s no finish line.
Adrienne: There’s absolutely no finish line. I would tell myself if I was starting all over again, take a breath. Enjoy your accomplishments, but at no time are you going to be like, “That’s it! I’ve done it!”
Rachael: I literally had that realization again yesterday driving home.
Adrienne: Yeah, I keep having it over and over again.
Rachael: Yeah. How do you feel about it when you realize that? Does it make you feel better or worse?
Adrienne: Both at the same time.
Rachael: Yeah, me too.
Adrienne: Like bad and then good, and then bad again.
Rachael: Yeah, I had the thought yesterday. I was walking the dogs and I was like, “What if I had a book that became…” You know every writer wants to have the book that’s a breakout success. You know, the next JK Rowling and as I was enjoying that fantasy my brain went, “Well, but I would just have to keep writing, so really what’s the point?”
Adrienne: Exactly. You’d get up and tomorrow would be Wednesday and you’d be at it again.
Rachael: Yeah. That whole adaptive thing we have in our brains, that you adapt to anything, even being JK Rowling. She’s gotta get up and write.
Adrienne: She is still writing too. When it’s your work it’s just your work. It’s not like a plumber gets done with their job and their like, “Damn, I fixed the hell out of that toilet…”
Rachael: “Never have to do it again for anyone!”
Adrienne: Exactly. You’re never going to get a medal and be like, “That’s it, my crowning glory.” You’re going to get up the next day and you’re going to go to work.
Rachael: Yeah, yeah. Sit at the desk.
Adrienne: So pace yourself. What’s good about it is that no matter how bad you screw up it’s not a race. You haven’t failed anything.
Rachael: Oh, yeah.
Adrienne: You can get up tomorrow and do it again. You might have to change your name, but who hasn’t.
Rachael: Right, exactly. You and I both have.
Adrienne: Exactly. You might have to change your name. You might have to change your agent. You might have to change…
Rachael: Your genre.
Adrienne: Exactly, but you get up tomorrow and you try again.
Rachael: And that’s why I love you. You are delightful as always. 100%
Adrienne: Thank you, pretty lady.
Rachael: Tell us where you are. Would you please tell us about, Hook? Also, I know the hook of Hook, but please describe it for us because I think it’s fantastic.
Adrienne: Okay, so it’s in a new series of mine. Before this I wrote romantic suspense. It was very light romantic suspense. It was sort of Bridget Jones meet 007…
Rachael: That’s a great way to put it. That’s exactly what you write. Oh my gosh.
Adrienne: So this is a little bit different for me, it still has that humor and that sense of action, but this series, The Exiles of the Realm, is about a group of fairytale bad guys that are exiled from their world and tossed to earth which is like their prison planet. There’s no magic here and they are cursed until they can find love to be able to go back home.
Rachael: You have told me this before, and I freaked out then and I just got goosebumps all over again. This is why you are the plot whisperer. Your writing is so insanely good and your ideas are just so insanely amazing.
Adrienne: Thank you.
Rachael: Uh, Okay, so where can we find you and that.
Adrienne: You can find me on all major vendors.
Rachael: Adrienne Bell, and your website is…
Adrienne: I’m on twitter, I’m on Facebook, I’m on Instagram… I’m just like everybody else in the world.
Adrienne: Exactly. Throw a rock and you’ll hit me. I’m not hiding.
Rachael: Thank you so much, Adrienne!
Adrienne: Thank you!
Rachael: I’m going to see my girl on Saturday, so if you guys want to rewatch this here you can, but I am looking forward to seeing you on Saturday.
Adrienne: I can’t wait to see you.
Rachael: Okay my dear, bye.
Rachael: Thanks so much for joining me on this episode of “How Do You Write.” You can reach me on Twitter, @RachaelHerron, or at my website, rachaelherron.com. You can also support me on Patreon and get essays on living your creative life for as little as a buck an essay at patreon.com/rachael, spelled R-A-C-H-A-E-L. And do sign up for my free weekly newsletter of encouragement to writers at rachaelherron.com/write. Now, go to your desk and create your own process. Get to writing, my friends.
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