Do you remember that time I featured Mike Russell on the blog? And do you remember how strange his stories were? Well, if you liked that, stick around because I’ve got another author here with some really imaginative, boundary-pushing stories that have stemmed from personal struggles. Richard Bell turned to writing as therapy to deal will his wife’s illness. He wrote characters who were in a worse situation than him, and then collected them all in a book. Here, we get an insight into his writing process, and some really good advice.
About the author
Bell was born in Chicago, is married, and currently resides over the border in Wisconsin. While some kids had to be funny so other kids would like them, Bell had to be funny so his parents would like him. Several years after he began writing, Bell sent some of his stories to a local magazine and was rewarded with a monthly column. He continued writing as he was working temp jobs in between unemployment for 11 years and life was no bed of roses. In 2011 he published the first electronic version. After that came additions and revisions, finally being finished in 2017. Life Seemed Good, But…. is not a book to be rushed through, but pondered and enjoyed and will have you laughing like a kid again.
Describe your ideal writing atmosphere.
I seem to write best under pressure, at work, when I’m supposed to be doing other things. And sometimes late at night when all the world is asleep. Also I do not get inspiration from drugs or alcohol. I come by my strangeness honestly. I do like a little background music, classical or prog-rock, and coffee or hot chocolate.
How long have you been writing and what inspired you to start?
I began in 2004, at work, while my wife was in the hospital with leukemia. In addition, we had all been told that our jobs would be ending soon. So the stress was very great and for some odd reason I wrote a little story and started laughing like crazy. Of course it was the stress laughing but I did not realize it at the time. I continued creating stories with characters who were worse off than I was to make myself feel better by comparison.
Describe your writing style.
You could call my style organic and realistic. I create an impossible situation and then try to work through it logically.
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison
What kind of story that hasn’t been written yet do you want to read?
I will have to ponder that for a few years.
Name any authors or books that have had an impact on your writing.
First was Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. whom I discovered at a young age. I also like James Thurber, Oscar Wilde, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Describe the moment you truly felt like an author.
In 2008 a magazine started printing my stories in a monthly column. I was able to take that magazine and show people my picture and say, “Aha! See this?”
What book by another author do you wish you’d written?
The Harry Potter series but without so many adverbs.
What is the best thing about writing/being a writer?
I like all the things I’ve learned through doing research for the book since I’ve built in a lot of hidden trivia. I am not at all a snob about it.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Get a good night’s sleep, eat a hearty breakfast, and be attuned to the inner world in your mind. Read voraciously. Carry a notepad and pen. Acquire good English skills so you appear polished, and edit your own work until it says exactly what you want it to.
Tell the story behind your latest book, why did you write it?
I started writing as therapy to deal with my wife almost dying. Laughter became a safety valve because it is better to laugh than cry. Turns out I did both. She survived and to give back I decided to donate to research to help others. Also my stories may help people in a similar situation.
The book is dedicated to everyone who has cared for a loved one with a serious illness. Only by creating characters that were worse off than myself was I able to bounce back, overcome my depression, and devote the time and energy needed to caring for a sick spouse. Fourteen years later she is still in remission.
Most inspiring quote?
Over my desk is: Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand. – Thomas Carlyle
Which author (living or dead) would you like to have dinner with?
I’d like to have a dinner with Mark Twain, I think it would be interesting and I’d learn a lot if he didn’t freak out about being brought back from the dead, running down the road screaming. Also I’d like to meet John Cleese to thank him for being an influence on me as well.
If you could bring any fictional character to life, who would you choose?
I would bring to life Superman and have him destroy my enemies and help me take over the world. No wait, I already tried that in my book and it didn’t go so well.
How do you beat writers block?
I stop writing and get involved in other areas of life and wait patiently. Unless it can be proven that llamas are stealing my thoughts. Then I try to hunt them down.
Give yourself some writing advice.
Hey, quit spending so much time playing on the computer and start thinking again!
What are your plans for the future? What writing projects are you currently working on?
At some point I may write a book that explains my previous book by showing all the interconnections, the hidden trivia, and the parts that came from my life. I am continuing with my magazine column which for the past year had featured Scooter and Biff, two young boys with wild imaginations. I will continue to donate some of my earnings to cancer research, to an actual research facility (Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science) that uses all the money without skimming for administrative costs.
A series of very short original stories involving strange characters, talking animals and vegetables, and his adventures with aluminum foil and lasers. Imagine a cross between Aesop’s fables and the Brothers Grimm with a touch of dark humor, bad puns and the art of anti-climax. The stories start out innocently enough and begin to build upon one another in unpredictable ways while mirroring the pattern of life seemed good, but something always went wrong.
Buy Life Seemed Good But…
Connect with the author
Add the book on Goodreads: Life Seemed Good But…