A Crime Writers Interview: Donnell Ann Bell

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For authors who had book releases scheduled during this period of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, it has been challenging, since their in-person book launch events and signings have all been cancelled. So we’ve reached out to a few of them to offer online interviews. For you all, our readers, we wanted to help you find some new authors…just in case your to-be-read list is getting low. 🙂

We are pleased to introduce you to Donnell Ann Bell.

Donnell has written several bestselling romantic suspense novels and is now introducing the first installment of her new police procedural series, Black Pearl, A Cold Case Suspense (Kass’s review below).

Here is Donnell’s bio:

Crime Writers Interview: Donnell Bell

Award-winning author Donnell Ann Bell knows statistically that crime and accidents happen within a two-mile radius of home. With that in mind, she leaves the international capers to others, and concentrates on stories that might happen in her neck of the woods.

Writing around the theme of “suspense too close to home,” Donnell’s single-title novels—The Past Came Hunting, Deadly Recall, Betrayed and Buried Agendas—have all been Amazon bestsellers. Before turning to fiction, she was an editor for the Colorado Springs Business Journal and Pikes Peak Parent Newsmagazine.

Black Pearl, A Cold Case Suspense, is a 2020 Colorado Book Award finalist for best Thriller. To learn more about Donnell, check out her website.

Kass Lamb (on behalf of the whole misterio gang): We always like to start with a somewhat open-ended, “tell us about yourself” question. What two or three things do you feel people need to know in order to understand who you are?

Donnell Ann Bell: I am literally and figuratively a small-town girl. What is interesting about putting myself in that mindset, is that I thought Farmington, New Mexico was huge while growing up there, and I still consider it home. My parents abandoned me (well, not really; I was in college) and moved to Denver. There, I got a glimpse of what “big” is. Still, it’s all relative, isn’t it? I’ve heard people in New York and Boston refer to Denver as a Cowtown. Funny, I’ve always thought that title went to Fort Worth.

Kass: Why crime fiction? What is the appeal of mysteries for you, rather than say romance or science fiction?

Donnell: What a great question, and one I ask myself regularly when I become embroiled in what-if scenarios and research. I love intricate puzzles. I love pitting a worthy antagonist up against a worthy protagonist, and I love writing about justice in a world that doesn’t always play fair.

My first four books are romantic suspense, and I love romantic suspense, but I’ve never been able to write a straight romance. In defense of romance, it’s a hard genre. Keeping a conflict going without making it seem cliché or a huge misunderstanding is a testament to the many bestselling authors who make up that genre.

Kass: I absolutely agree. I have written some romantic suspense as well and the romance part is much tougher for me to write than the mystery. What type, i.e. subgenre, of mysteries do you write?

Donnell: I write a cross between romantic suspense, suspense, police procedural mystery and thriller. My readers have never quite put me in a box, thank goodness.

Kass: What was your favorite book/author as a child? Why was it your favorite?

Donnell: Oooh, hard question. Three books come to mind. The Velveteen Rabbit, Charlotte’s Web,  Lord of the Flies, any Nancy Drew or Hardy book mystery. Okay, that’s more than three. 🙂 I loved emotional reads and books that made me look outward.

Kass: Where are you in your writing career? Tell us a little about your stories.

Donnell: I have numerous books in a “drawer.” But five published books and I’m working on number six. I’ve been writing for years, but in between writing, I’ve volunteered and coordinated contests, which was a win/win for me because I saw firsthand the amount of talent that never reaches the bookstore or the Internet.

I write around the theme Too Close to Home. Tying in with my small-town mentality, I guess, I like to write about places I’ve been to and leave the international exploits to people such as Daniel Silva, who is my favorite author.

Kass: What do you find to be the most fun and/or the most difficult part of the writing process—first draft, editing, researching?

Donnell: Thought-provoking questions. Research is the most challenging, I think. I can create a plot, and have an idea about the characters, but I have to know that the plot can work first. So, I spend weeks and months researching. I received a huge compliment from retired profiler and FBI agent Peter M. Klismet, who has read my books and said when it comes to research, I’m tenacious. He knows; I have him on speed dial. 😉

Kass: What’s the oddest and/or most difficult thing you ever had to research?

Crime Writers Interview:  Donnell Bell
The road to Montrose, Colorado, where much of Black Pearl is set.

Donnell: Well, I’ve researched some fairly odd topics. I’ll tell you about one book that never quite made it out of my drawer. I was researching cyanide and arsenic and wanted to do something different when framing my protagonist. She had a peach orchard behind her property and was a woodworking expert. I decided to have cyanide found on her wood press.

I interviewed mining engineers in Cripple Creek, my longtime pharmacist, and finally went to the El Paso County (Colorado Springs) Sheriff’s office. I sat down with a lieutenant and sergeant who kind of gave me this squinty-eyed look. Finally, the lieutenant said, “Where does your story take place?”

“El Paso, Texas,” I replied.

At that he frowned and said, “Why don’t you just go across the border and get some?”  He pointed out that criminals are not very smart and are not very complicated.  

That lieutenant, by the way, became my impetus for another character for my debut novel, The Past Came Hunting, so I consider that one of the most fortuitous meetings of my career.

Kass: In your latest story, what was your favorite (or hardest to write) scene?

Donnell: The ending. As I said I wrote romantic suspense for my first four books. In romance, you always have a happily-ever-after ending. But now I’m writing a series. I did tie up all the loose threads and made my ending downright cheery, but I also needed something to encourage the reader to read Book 2.

Debra Dixon is my publisher and editor, and she had me read a novel that I considered Noir—every character was SO damaged, and I didn’t care for it very much (although the plot was spellbinding). But it was the best teaching moment ever, because I saw how the author set up her book for book two. You cannot go wrong with reading outside your comfort zone.

Kass: In your latest story, what changed the most from the first draft to the last?

Donnell: Again, the ending. Also, I layered a bit more. My story revolves around Tahitian pearls, and I added more depth to the story surrounding them.

Kass: And last of all, what question do you wish interviewers would ask you that they usually don’t? What is your answer to that question?

Donnell: What would you do if you had all the money in the world?

First, I’d make sure children never went to school hungry, and I’d give all the teachers, who make sure they don’t, unlimited access to funds and a huge pay raise besides for all their selflessness. I’d also give money to cancer research, Alzheimers, ALS and all the devastating diseases that take loved ones away from us before their time.

After that, I’d keep on writing.

Kass: Oh please, please do keep writing. I love your books. I’ve read The Past Came Hunting and Black Pearl, and am very much looking forward to Book 2 of your Cold Case series.

Crime Writers Interview: Donnell Bell -- Black Pearl book cover

A cold case heats up when a 9-1-1 call puts police at a Denver murder scene, pointing investigators to the abduction of a Colorado teenager fourteen years earlier. A calling card—a single black pearl—is found on the newest victim. Is the murder a copycat? Or has a twisted serial killer, thought dead or in prison, returned to strike again?

Soon, the hunt for a multi-state killer is on and brings together an unexpected team: a Denver Major Crimes police lieutenant; an FBI special agent who investigated the previous murders; a rookie FBI agent with a specialty in psychology; and the only living victim of the Black Pearl Killer, who is now a cop.

Go to https://donnellannbell.com/books for more info and buy links.

Here is Kass’s review:

In this well-paced police procedural, the author brings together a somewhat unlikely task force to look into the fourteen-year-old cold case of an abducted and murdered teenager.

A hardened Denver police detective investigates a fresh case that might be related, while the FBI agent who worked the original case goes to Montrose, Colorado, where the earlier abduction occurred. With him is the girl’s best friend who got away from the abductor, only now she is grown and a seasoned police officer.

Not only is the case fascinating, but the characters are three-dimensional and carefully crafted. I can’t wait to read their next adventure. I give Black Pearl five fingerprints!

You can reach Donnell at:

Website:  www.donnellannbell.com ~~ Facebook:  https://bit.ly/3552VOV ~~ Instagram:  www.instagram.com/donnellannbellauthor/ ~~ Twitter:  @donnellannbell

We hope you’ve enjoyed our Crime Writers Interview with Donnell Bell. Any questions for her? And how about you, readers … have you tried any new authors lately that you really liked?

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  • Reply
    K.B. Owen
    April 28, 2020 at 3:41 pm

    Wow, five thumbprints! It sounds like an awesome read, Donnell! I hear ya on research – it’s so important to get right, and it can be incredibly time consuming. Thanks so much for coming to visit us today. Good luck on your book launch as well as your next project!


    • Reply
      Donnell Bell
      April 29, 2020 at 11:54 am

      Thank you, Kathy! My problem is I know enough to be dangerous, and I second guess myself at every turn. Thank you for the warm welcome!

  • Reply
    Micki Browning
    April 28, 2020 at 3:46 pm

    What a great interview! Kudos to both Kass and Donnell. I can’t wait to read this book! As a former Durango resident, I am very familiar with both Farmington, NM and Montrose, CO! Congrats on being a finalist for the Colorado Book Award!

    • Reply
      Donnell Bell
      April 29, 2020 at 11:56 am

      Thank you so much, Micki! I am so appreciative for all of your support on and off Guppies! Looking forward to LCC next year — we’ve got to be able to go, right?

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      April 29, 2020 at 1:27 pm

      You will not be disappointed, Micki. It is quite the ride.

  • Reply
    Donnell Ann Bell
    April 28, 2020 at 3:54 pm

    Kassandra, thank you so much for such interesting questions and for such a lovely review. Five fingerprints! That’s a keeper!

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      April 29, 2020 at 1:28 pm

      The fingerprints are well deserved. Thank you so much, Donnell, for joining us today.

  • Reply
    April 28, 2020 at 3:55 pm

    Donnell, great to meet you in a different venue. (At least, I assume that’s you on crimescenewriter. How many mystery writers can there be named Donnell?) Suspense is my favorite sub-genre of crime fiction so I look forward to giving one of your books a whirl. Thanks for visiting us.

    • Reply
      April 29, 2020 at 11:58 am

      Vinnie, you’re absolutely right. I co-own and moderate Crimescenewriter. Such generous folks on that list! I hope you will give my books a whirl! Thank you for having me.

  • Reply
    Annette Dashofy
    April 28, 2020 at 6:23 pm

    I’m such a huge fan of Donnell’s! For anyone who hasn’t read any of her work, do yourself a favor and check it out. You won’t be disappointed!

    As for endings being a challenge, Donnell, I recall you and I going back and forth revising the big climatic scene for one of your books early on. Which one was that?

    • Reply
      April 29, 2020 at 11:59 am

      Annette, thank you! You have been such a godsend in my life. I think we’re part of the Mutual Admiration Society. No, the scene we brainstormed didn’t make it into the book. But scenes are like characters. I tuck them away to use later! 🙂 Thank you as always.

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      April 29, 2020 at 1:31 pm

      I’m a huge fan now too, Annette. I’m going to work my way through her stand-alones while waiting for the next Cold Case installment.

  • Reply
    Barbara Monajem (@BarbaraMonajem)
    April 28, 2020 at 9:15 pm

    Great interview. I love that the one victim who escaped is now a cop. It makes the suspense even more powerful.

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      April 29, 2020 at 1:30 pm

      She’s a very interesting character, Barbara. All the characters are well developed, but she is my favorite. And yes, it does heighten the suspense. For her, it’s personal!

  • Reply
    April 29, 2020 at 12:01 pm

    Kass, loved your interview questions. Thank you for your amazing review. As a psychologist I hope my plot worked for you! I have such respect for the work you do. As Mr. Rogers says, Won’t you be my neigbor? Donnell says, Won’t you be my resource? … Okay. or one of them

  • Reply
    April 29, 2020 at 12:02 pm

    Thank you, Barbara, I hope you will join me soon on my blog and Help from My Friends Friday to promote your December 2019 release!

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