For the next three days, we'll be hearing from novelist James Scott Bell. He is the author of several thrillers, as well as a columnist for Writer's Digest.
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Q: What was your first job?
JSB: Other than kid stuff, my first real job was an usher in a movie theater. Remember ushers? I got to use that big flashlight and everything, show people to seats. I miss that about movie theaters. Maybe that's why I prefer to rent DVDs these days.
Q: What is the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?
JSB: My grandfather used to recite me this poem:
A wise old owl sat in an oak.
The more he heard, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
Now wasn't he a wise old bird?
I used to laugh, then I got old enough to realize the wisdom of it. When I seek first to understand, then to be understood, I find a lot more progress is made.
Q: Are you an "entertainer" or a "minister"?
JSB: Are those my only two options?
Q: Do you hate it when people ask whether you are an "entertainer" or a "minister"?
JSB: Not at all. But I don't think it's either/or. As a novelist, my first responsibility is to tell a ripping good story. That's entertainment. But I am not interested in stopping there. I want a spiritual theme to weave through the story, naturally and powerfully. In that sense, I see myself as bit of a teacher. When I can accomplish both things--great story, powerful message--then I'm close to what I want to be as a writer. But the one thing I never want to be is "preachy." A novelist tells stories. A preacher preaches.
Q: Who are your literary influences?
JSB: I've been influenced by so many writers. When I was in high school and college, I read a lot of Hemingway and William Saroyan. Later, when I started to write legal thrillers, Grisham and Steve Martini were influential. For pure writing ability, I often look to the old pulp and paperback writers, guys like John D. MacDonald, who could plot like the dickens but also had a bit of unobtrusive poetry in their prose.
Q: Who are your spiritual influences?
JSB: The names that keep coming up for me are C.S. Lewis, R. A. Torrey and A. W. Tozer. I guess I just like guys with initials for first names. But these three minister to me every time I read them. Lewis was the great intellect and apologist, and so much fun to read. Torrey was one of the great Bible teachers and defenders of orthodox Christianity. And Tozer always cut to the heart of the spiritual life. When I read Tozer, I'm inspired to seek a deeper walk with God.
Q: What is the best thing anyone has ever said about one of your books?
JSB: I had one reader tell me he had struggled with Christianity until he read some of my books. Soon after this he gave his life to Christ. I can't think of anything better than that.
The one comment I get more than any other is "I couldn't put your book down!" That pleases the writer in me, because that's the effect I'm going for. I want people up all night reading my books, and I get that comment too!
Q: What is the worst thing anyone has ever said about one of your books?
JSB: My novel The Darwin Conspiracy was once called "A well-written bunch of poop." I guess I can take half of that as a compliment.
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Come back tomorrow for the second part of our Q&A. In the meantime, you can keep up with Mr. Bell at his official website (where he offers tips for writers). He also blogs regularly at his blog, Suspend Your Disbelief, as well as the tag-team author blog Charis Connection.
James Scott Bell, Pt 2
James Scott Bell, Pt 3
More Christian Suspense Novelists:
Q&A: CRESTON MAPES (Full Tilt)
Q&A: BRANDILYN COLLINS (Web of Lies)
Q&A: RANDY SINGER (Self Incrimination)