Interview with Marlene M. Bell, author of the Annalisse Mystery Series

Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming a writer/published author? Any interests or early signs as a child that hinted you would later put pen to paper?

My artwork and imagination as a young girl have driven me to this place in my new career as an author. I sketch and paint in oils and use my sheep and landscape photography as a means to show the world how beautiful Mother Nature truly is. By writing fiction, in essence I’m doing the same thing in the minds of my readers, expressing the beauty of each location in words from my character’s point of view. Annalisse and Alec travel to exotic countries where I do my best to express each scene in visuals, sounds, and sometimes inordinate smells and unpleasant odors from crime scenes. It’s all about keeping the reader riveted and turning pages.

Writing isn’t my first career, but I love painting pictures in all forms!

What inspired you to write the Annalise series? What inspired the main characters we follow?

Review Here

Sheep are familiar to me because we raise them and have for over forty years. I wanted to write a book where the protagonist, Annalisse, has the same love of animals including sheep. She finds herself in interesting upstate New York with a man who also is tied to animals in his profession. Book one was never intended to go farther than a standalone book, however due to the multiple subplots, my editor suggested I divide that book into future installments.

I do enjoy a good mystery. The mystery genre and romantic suspense are books that I read often. Reading helps keep the words flowing on my manuscripts and because of that, I rarely get writer’s block.
You now have four books in your Annalisse Mystery/Crime Series. When you wrote your first book - Stolen Obsession - did you imagine it as a single book, or did you write it knowing you intended to create a series?

Stolen Obsession took eight long years to publish the first version. It went through several title and genre changes along the way. There were so many shifts made during the nine drafts, it took its toll on me. I thought I’d never finish Stolen Obsession and almost put the project aside. That novel began in my mind as a romance, but my editor had different ideas for the version she read. My writing took place in the form of a pantser freewriting the first drafts without an outline to guide me. I quickly learned that I require structure to stay focused on a single main plot.

When working with a continuing series what are the challenges? How many ideas do you plan ahead so you can have a thread that runs clearly from one book to the next?

Review HERE

Women’s fiction poured off the pages of my first two drafts, and that certainly wasn’t my intent. As I mentioned earlier, in order to fix my plotting errors, the promise of a single book didn’t last. If I could start over again, I’d change up the process I used to get to my series. I would’ve written a standalone book first unrelated to a series. Series books are more complicated for a new writer to gain an audience and hold them. Especially if a reader jumps into later books first and can’t find their way to understand character relationships built from past installments.

How does the writing process work for you? Do you schedule a time every day, work madly when inspiration hits or ?

Hands down, the most frustrating challenge to writing a series is knowing how much backstory is enough, and how much is too much for new readers to grasp the character’s past. The right amount of backstory changes with fans who already follow the series. Less is more for them. When more books are added, the trickier it is to drop what happened in the past without leaving new readers with questions. I work with several editors, and they all have differing opinions on exposition in a series, which is as baffling as trying to figure out what each reader likes. My preference is writing all books as standalones, allowing the reader to wonder what happened in first installments, compelling them to start at book one if they like the locales and characters in the series. When I drop plenty of backstory it’s not always popular.

Review HERE

What do you find comes easiest for you as a writer? What is your biggest challenge or one you enjoy the least?

If I plan story ideas too far ahead, by the time I reach the end of the book, it’s not unusual to find my characters in a different spot for the opening of the next one. I outline scene-by-scene for each installment, leaving the ending open just for that reason. I usually have a plan for Annalisse and Alec to end up in a certain place, but as the scene details are filled in during the drafting phase, things can change. The complexities of the Annalisse series are a challenge. It’s not where I want my characters to end up, it’s where the reader feels the most gratification at the end.

How does the writing process work for you? Do you schedule a time every day, work madly when inspiration hits or ?

I write every day including weekends. If I’m not writing, I find time to read other authors’ books. My writing day begins after the sheep are fed and I have plenty of coffee! By 10 a.m. I’m in front of my PC checking email; (I receive about 1000 emails a day,) then it’s off to pull up my latest Word document. I enjoy the editing process so much and make an effort to self-edit, probably more than I should. My first draft is as clean as I can make it for the developmental editor so she knows exactly where I plan to take the story and isn’t distracted by SPAG. I prefer a clean place to begin the new work.

What do you find comes easiest for you as a writer? What is your biggest challenge or one you enjoy the least?

Review HERE

The old saying, “write what you know” is sound advice. It’s easier to write about events or places I’ve actually visited, and if sheep trivia is added to a book, I’m all over it! Readers tend to feel out the places where an author writes in more authority on a subject. They know when the writer is out of their element. I love the research part as long as I stay off the internet. My work is derived from coffee table books and reading from experts who publish their findings in print formats. There’s too much personal opinion allowed on search engines to gain solid facts this way.

The backstory mentioned earlier is my hardest challenge, currently. My least favorite challenge so far is finding solid copyeditors for series writing. Sample edits don’t always tell the story of how an editor does his/her work. I’ve been fooled once in the most important book of the series. Choosing new editors is a process I’d rather not have to do, but an experienced professional suited for the writer’s voice can make or break the entire series.

What's next for you? Do you have any new titles in development? Will there be more books in this series?

Yes, there will be more books in the Annalisse series. The relationship between Annalisse and Alec is anything but simple. They’re still working out difficulties and differences of opinions as they solve mysteries with their detective friend, Bill Drake. Book five is on the backburner however, as I outline a new standalone unrelated to the series. It’s time to jump into a single book with new characters who reside in Texas with troubles of their own. That book is a mystery as well and untitled at this time. I hope to finish the outline soon!

connect with the author: website ~ website ~ twitter ~ facebook ~ instagram ~ goodreads


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Thank you, Shelly. If you like reading about characters who travel to other countries, you might like my books.


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