Featured Interview With Author Jane M. Bell
Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
I grew up just south of Modesto, California, and graduated from Ceres High School in 1986. Following High School, I continued my studies at Modesto Junior College while developing an interest in psychology when I began working in a locked mental facility. In 1988 I began a 20 year career with the Army Reserves where I served as an Armorer, Drill Sergeant, and Combat Medic Instructor.
After earning my AA from Modesto Junior College, I went on to study at Sonoma State University where I earned my BA in Psychology with distinction, and did Post-Graduate studies in Neurobiology. During my post graduate days I worked at the San Francisco VA Medical Center at Ft Miley in a schizophrenia research lab.
Following my graduate work, I went on to work in the medical field as an Obstetrics Technician at a local hospital.
Today I make my home just outside of Modesto, California with my two sons, daughter two dogs and cat. In my spare time to volunteer as a docent at Columbia State Historic Park in the Sierra foothills east of Modesto, and play on the "Columbia Gold Diggers" Granny Basketball team.
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
My fascination with books began at a young age. I remember my grandma reading "The Secret Garden" by Frances Eliza Hodgson Burnett, and "Five Little Peppers and How They Grew" by Margaret Sidney. My third grade teacher introduced me to the work of Ruth Chew. Her "The Trouble with Magic" and other titles were my first memories of reading. She introduced me to the world of witches and wizards long before J. K. Rowling made them cool.
I suppose it was inevitable that I finally became a writer. Growing up, I was surrounded by the constant tap tap tap ding of my grandmother's manual typewriter as she constantly worked on a myriad of writing projects. The majority of her work were short stories for children's publications. She also penned a series of mysteries for the third graders of Stanislaus County. Where they learned more about the history of different towns in the area.
When I was about 7, my grandmother and her best friend began writing a gothic romance novel together. I tagged along to the mountains, beach or wherever they went to work on their book for several years. I remember it taking several years for them to complete. They submitted their work to a Writer's Digest competition and won second place. They never actually published their work, but they certainly had fun working together on it all those years.
I never really thought about becoming a writer, although many have suggested I write a book about gardening (maybe someday). That all changed about 9 years ago.
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
My favorite book of all time is "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte, with her sister's "Wuthering Heights" coming in a close second. I love the descriptive style of Margaret Atwood especially in "Alias Grace." I also like Dan Brown's thrillers, and Suzanne Collins's "The Hunger Games."
I'd have to say my favorite genres are mystery, suspense thrillers. I like them even better if there are historical element to them. I like stories that teach while they entertain.
Of course my grandma is my biggest hero and source of inspiration for writing. I'd like to think that my writing style is a blend of a Margaret Atwood's descriptive style and Dan Brown's suspense thriller.
Tell us a little about your latest book?
About 9 years ago I sat down on my couch and began reading an article about the Vatican Bank. As I read, I kept thinking to myself "this would make a great novel!" That started me on a deep dive into the research. 5-6 books, plus numerous articles later, resulted in my debut novel Money Changers and False Profits: A Suspense Thriller.
This book presented a few challenges. There were a lot of people necessary to bring this story to life. My beta reader's suggestion of a character map has been appreciate by many readers since. Perhaps the biggest challenge with this book are the 4 villains who's story lines were unique yet intertwined.
But honestly what's not to like about this story? It has The Vatican, her bank and money, scandal, corruption, collusion, murder and money laundering with the American and Italian Mafia, and Propaganda Due (P2) Masonic organization.
As I began writing I adopted two rules:
Rule One. I borrowed from Margaret Atwood when she discussed her writing process for "The Handmaid's Tale." Nothing would go into the book that didn't actually happen at some point in history.
Rule Two was while this book is about corruption in the Vatican and Catholic Church, it was important for me to be respectful of the Catholic faith. It was never my intent to bash the faith in any way shape or form.
One of my friends was impressed with my ability to showcase the beauty of the Catholic faith while exposing the dark side of the church, especially for someone who wasn't a practicing Catholic. I was baptized Catholic, but raised Protestant. I admit there is still a lot I don't know about the Catholic faith, however I now know more about The Church than many seasoned Catholics.
Most of the characters in this novel are based on actual people involved in the scandal and those who tried to stop it. My hero Francis Clavering and his wife are based off an actual New York City detective and his wife, with bits of my grandparent's story thrown in. My grandfather was a former Stanislaus County Sheriff and my Grandmother was a former journalist for the "Turlock Journal" before having children and becoming a homemaker. It was a fun way for me to honor their memories. I only wish they were still here to see it.
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