We're back with author C. M. B. Bell to talk a little more about his writing career, including his experience working on his most recent project, the Revezia Electrum trilogy: Silver Genesis, Metallic Mission, and Golden Restitution!
Hey C. M. B.! Great to have you back.
I’ve been privileged to talk with you behind-the-scenes about your progress on Revezia and all your other projects, so it’s cool to see your concepts finally taking flight.
It hasn't always been easy though. In our last interview, you told us how you initially started out writing poetry but your fiction never seemed to take off.
Yes. There were stories and character concepts that were in my mind for a long time.
What was the breakthrough point?
I finally got to use some of those concepts when I started writing novels five years ago, beginning with Shamakani from the first Revezia book.
You started writing Terminal Rescue five years ago? Already? That’s crazy.
I’ve noticed your stories trend more toward unusual story lengths like novelettes, novellas, novels, cell phone novels, etc. Any particular reason?
I enjoy experimenting with different forms and lengths of fiction. There's talent in writing complete shorter stories. That constraint is a fun challenge for me, like when I serialized two books on Talehunt (Telestic Estoc and Revezia: Sika Uvira Chronicle--both of which you can get for free or donation on NoiseTrade). Novels are certainly fine, but I know not everyone has the same attention span. I'm surprised there isn't more demand for shorter books.
Couldn't agree more.
In what other ways do you innovate with your stories?
Writing characters I've never seen before or satirizing cliches, tropes, or storylines that I believe need to be critiqued.
It’s something very important to you.
So many stories are so safe to me. Whether I'm talking about books, movies, TV, comics, etc., there's a status quo that I want to challenge.
I've also been known to incorporate elements of lesser-known historical parallels or references in my stories in abstract ways. That and challenging social ills today. For example, I make some references to the Congolese Genocide committed by Leopold II in Novus Pride, the follies of hereditary monarchy in one subplot of Quarterback in Daffodil Heights, and the exploitation of resources in Sika Uvira Chronicle.
Speaking of your various writing projects: the Electrum trilogy. What was your biggest challenge working on it?
Finding time in between work and other projects.
I was posting stories on Talehunt to playtest some characters.
While working two jobs! I still don’t know how you do it.
You mentioned how you incorporate a lot of historical references in your stories. Is that one way your writing has changed since your previous project? Any other ways you’d say your writing has grown or improved?
It's improved in terms of character interactions and utilizing atypical storytelling elements inspired from what I've learned through various non-fictions books.
What were some of those books?
Feeling Good is a psychological book that I read earlier this year when I dealt with a lot of weather-related stress when the winter was quite insane. And I'd say multiple books by the Senegalese historian Cheikh Anta Diop. It was phenomenal learning about African history. I learned more about that continent's history than all my years in school (elementary through university).
Studying history is always important (and fascinating), but I know that was particularly near and dear to you. And it has certainly given you some great inspiration for characters, themes, and settings!
So was the process of working on the Revezia Electrum Trilogy any different compared to your last project?
It was different because I worked on a short series in a small period of time. That and making sure it connects with the rest of the Revezia universe. [The character] Sethunya was a big one, since she's been around since Tales From the Mage Colony.
For my readers who aren't as familiar with your previous work, can you tell us more about who Sethunya is and her role in Tales From the Mage Colony?
Sethunya is a healer who was falsely accused of stealing minerals from her homeland that a company was harvesting using questionable means. She was separated from her ill brother, had her powers stripped away, and was put in the Mage Colony. She eventually gets exonerated by the royals in her nation. I won't go into too much detail about her whole story, but she eventually becomes an independent contractor in Sika Uvira and eventually meets and teams up with Kasamba Baraka. Interesting fact: Sethunya means "bloom" or "flower" in the Tswana language, which is one of the main languages of Botswana and also spoken in South Africa.
Hmmm. I wonder where that inspiration came from!
Is there anything that scares you as a writer?
Failing, having my fiction projects facing apathy from readers, and feeling like I would need to retcon so many things.
Big fears! A lot of which I share, including that part about having to retcon things.
I’m curious, are you more afraid of having to retcon to maintain story continuity or more due to the subject matter (or its portrayal) of your stories?
I'd write my older books a lot differently if I wrote them this year. I certainly liked what I wrote, but I would've done things differently especially with where I am psychologically and philosophically.
Totally know that feeling. I think that's a concern lots of authors have to wrestle with: that as our writing grows, we do too.
Any particular story elements that scare you in other stories?
For more serious elements, I would say stories that have hopeless scenarios. For something lesser when it comes to actions, it would be seeing protagonist-centered morality or seeing characters getting eaten (more so if it's a hero being a predator).
That's awfully specific, but it sure is scary!
It's creeped me out for the longest time.
I would also say realistic war elements would be frightening, but I've rarely seen war written as a horrible thing with the exception of Grave of the Fireflies; Now and Then, Here and There; and Mother of Mine.
I’m sure that was one reason you wrote about how our culture glorifies violence.
Okay, on to a lighter topic! Where do you see your writing a year from now? What about five years from now?
Writing more books in the Hollanduscosm and Revezia next year, which I would like to try. I hope to complete at least one of those series five years from now and get myself more established as an author.
We talked about the creation of the Hollanduscosm last year, as I recall. You've certainly added to that universe a ton since then!
What aspect of writing would you like to improve on?
I would like to better promote future books.
Wow! But you already make promotion seem so effortless! Well, maybe I can help you out... I'm dying to get a hint about the next project you'll be working on...
It involves going back to the Hollanduscosm. Stay tuned.
What a tease!
Okay, last question! Fill in the blank: _____ would be one of the best stories ever if...
One that I can think of would be Voices of a Distant Star. That is a good short film from Makoto Shinkai before he got famous with his later films such as Your Name or The Garden of Words. The animation is aged, and I wished it could be longer while giving more personality to the main characters. That and the cell phones already look outdated even though it takes place decades in the future.
Cell phones are such a bane to near-future stories! (Laughs)
Always fun talking with you, C. M. B. Thanks for chatting with us, and good luck with that upcoming project in the Hollanduscosm!
Connect with C. M. B. Bell on his official writer blog C.M. B. Bell's Writing Universe or on TaleHunt @Tocsinchronicle.
C. M. B. is a true Renaissance man and has a list of artistic interests that puts me to shame. Check out his music and poetry at Ospreyshire's Realm, his indie and foreign film reviews on Iridium Eye, or his photography and filmography at Autumn Peal Media.
The full Revezia Electrum trilogy, including Silver Genesis, Metallic Mission, and Golden Restitution, is available for purchase on iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, or Angus & Robertson.
Or check out most of C. M. B. Bell's other works on Books2Read.
Still want more? C. M. B. Bell interviewed me as well! Check it out and give him some much-deserved love!