Today we travel to London to chat with Holly Bell about how photography, chocolate, videography, cats, going with the flow, celebrating holidays, flowers, Georgette Heyer, and Julia Cameron are seeds in the flower garden of Holly’s life.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Holly Bell, and I’m writing from London in the UK. Less than two years ago, I started publishing novels. I have written reams of non-fiction over the years, although I did attempt a science fiction book at the age of 19! But 2018 marked a new horizon. Photography and videography are also things I do and have done professionally and for pleasure. I love chocolate and cats. And rainbows seem to show themselves to me.
In which genre do you write?
Cozy paranormal mystery.
How many published books do you have?
Four in the series so far.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?
I first realised I wanted to be a fiction writer once I began writing Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was to become Book 1 in the Amanda Cadabra series of British humorous cozy mysteries.
One day, in the winter of 2017, a friend, the novelist TJ Brown, whose second novel in his Unhappy Medium series I’d edited, phoned me. Had I heard of cozy mysteries? he asked. It was new to us both. Somehow within half an hour, he’d persuaded me that it was right up my street and I could write one.
Looking for the name of our heroine, the pair of us poured over thesaurus and googled away in search of inspiration. Suddenly Tim said, ‘Amanda Cadabra?’ She was born. Tim helped me to create the bones of a plot. I was off. The spark was kindled. I was soon in flow with the new book, and I knew I was a fantasy mystery writer.
What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?
I go with the flow. No schedule, no words per day. I just wait for the creative wave and surf it. Once I’m in writing mode I go there, in editing mode, I surf there, marketing, doing something else, with that. It’s an exhilarating way to produce books and to live.
List 3 interesting facts about yourself.
I always buy myself flowers. Second, I love high days and holidays of all kinds: Christmas, Easter, Halloween, the equinoxes and solstices, any reason to celebrate and make a special day or evening. That’s why one always features in each book I write. Third … pecan nuts are my favourite snack.
I mention these three because I’ve learned over the years how important it is to treat yourself even in small ways. You don’t need someone else to do that for you. Of course, it’s a pleasure if they do. Still, you can buy yourself wine, chocolate, flowers, light candles, put on your favourite songs, dance around, walk somewhere green and beautiful, admire the night sky. Celebrate life at every opportunity.
If you could have a fantasy tea with an author from the past, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Georgette Heyer. I’ve read all of her novels at least three times. She was a historical novelist and mystery writer. Her books are very well researched and wonderfully humorous. She is one of my greatest inspirations. I do extensive research for each of my books, especially as each one involves going back in time in some way at some point. So I’d ask Ms Heyer, ‘Could you please tell me about your sources for historical research?’ There was no Google back in her time in the last century. I might pick up tips!
What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?
People, surprisingly. My editor, fellow authors, the people at Books Go Social who help me promote my books, my beta readers, my new friends among them. Also the Cornish language community (Parts of the books are set in Cornwall, and all of the main characters are Cornish, you see) that I’ve come into contact with thorough learning Cornish) All of these have … well, swept me off my feet!
The encouragement, support, and appreciation have been absolutely heart-warming. Tim Brown told me it would happen, but I had to experience it for myself. So many wonderful people are assisting me in various ways. The appreciative emails and reviews that I receive move me so intently that I often have to go and repair my makeup!
I had thought that producing novels would be about writing editing marketing and sales. But it has turned out to be quite different. It has turned out to be about love. Because I go with the flow, I love creating the books, honing and polishing them. I love that, through my books, I can change someone’s day, afternoon, moment for the better, make them laugh, smile, feel enthusiastic, engaged, moved, hopeful. All from something that came out of my mind, my experience. It’s a joy and a privilege. I love the people who support me, I love my readers. I love my life. I am living the dream. And it wouldn’t be the dream it is without all of those individuals.
Do you journal write? Has this helped with your published writings? If so, how?
Yes, I’ve kept a journal for many years. It’s a stream of consciousness process. Often ideas and whole chapters even whole books flow out in the process of writing it. Anyone who has even the tiniest of creative seed within them, I’d say do it.
Years ago a doctor, actually it was, encouraged me to read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s a life-changing book. One of the key recommendations she makes is to write your ‘morning papers’ stream-of-consciousness style. If there are any readers who’d say, ‘I’d love to do what you do’ or ‘I’d love to be an artist but ….’ this book is for you!
What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?
Frozen II. I loved Frozen I. It’s magical, it’s funny, light has dazzlingly beautiful graphics and, most importantly, a happy ending!
If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do?
It would be my main character, Amanda Cadabra. We have a lot in common, and I’d have great fun doing levitation spells in her furniture restorer’s workshop. I’d relish spending time with her grandparents, her grumpy cat. I’d like to meet Inspector Trelawney, and his boss, former Chief Inspector Hogarth. How fascinating it would be to find out what the quaint English village of Sunken Madley looks and feels like, as I walked around it, as Amanda. It’s based on a real location you see, one I have often visited in what we like to think of as ‘the real world’!
A giraffe knocks on your door and is wearing a bowler hat. What does he say and why is he there?
‘Good afternoon, ma’am, I have what some may consider a tall story to relate. I think you may be interested in weaving it into one of your future books.’
Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?
I do. I subscribe to the philosophy of the Law of Attraction: you get what you think about, what you focus upon. I have adopted the view that this world is filled with kindness and love, and I always look for and expect the best. As a result, everywhere I go, every interaction I have is a delight. Even when others say what a bad experience they have had with that person or place, mine are always good.
Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?
A natural inclination towards happiness and hopefulness. It has helped me to realise that everything is always working out for me, even when it seems like it’s not.
What are you currently working on?
Amanda Cadabra 5, preparing for my Cornish grade 1 exam and maintaining a weekly ‘letter to readers blog on my website. I find it’s the best way to keep in touch, even if it means the books come a little more leisurely rate.
Tell us about your most recent book.
The most recent is Amanda Cadabra and The Rise of Sunken Madley, Book 4 in the series.
Finally, may I say thank you, Camilla, for interviewing me. It’s a marvellous opportunity. And what well-thought-out questions! Much appreciated.
It was wonderful to have you on MTA, Holly! I’m a go with the flow person and love Julia Cameron’s work. It’s wonderful to meet a fellow author with such similarities. Wishing you all the best, in every way! – Camilla
‘Had me on the edge of my seat holding my breath as well as smiling and chuckling out loud.’
Asthmatic furniture restorer and covert witch Amanda Cadabra is a survivor. After all, her family’s bus went over a Cornish cliff. Now the presentable but irritating Inspector Trelawney is dogging her footsteps as he investigates the unexplained deaths. But that’s the least of her problems. Amanda has just got a furniture restoration job at the old English Manor of Sunken Madley with its murky past.
Armed only with a wand and Tempest, her grumpy reincarnated cat, she’s going in. A body, ghosts, hidden tunnels, chills and unexplained lights; can Amanda solve the mystery in time and save the village from the scandal of murder?
Where to find the book(s):
Links: Universal Book Link to all major online retailers for Book 1 of the series:
Book 1 trailer:
Book 4 trailer:
Connect with Holly
Social Media links
Instagram: @ hollybellac
Link to chapter 1 of Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth(Book 1 in the series)
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