Alex Bell was born in 1986. She always wanted to be a writer but had several different back-up plans to ensure she didn’t end up in the poor house first. For some years these ranged from dolphin trainer to animal shelter vet but then, at fifteen, she had an epiphany involving John and Robert Kennedy and decided to become a lawyer instead.
To that end she eagerly started a Law degree. Whilst at university, she wrote a grand total of six complete novels (admittedly there was not much of a social life during this time). The second book got her an agent with Carolyn Whitaker of London Independent Books but, unfortunately, not a publisher. The third book, written during her first summer holidays off from university, found a home with Gollancz. The Ninth Circle came out in April 2008 with possibly the most beautiful cover ever created. Since then she has published novels and short stories for both adults and young adults.
After deciding to use her Law degree for good, instead of for evil, she also works as an advisor for the Citizens Advice Bureau. Most of her spare time consists of catering to the whims of her Siamese cat.
Why did you want to write Frozen Charlotte?
I’ve always been a fan of horror stories and I loved the Point Horror series when I was a teenager so the thought of writing a YA horror book of my own really appealed to me. When I found out about the Frozen Charlotte dolls I thought they were so creepy and interesting that I was really excited to write about them.
Scariest experience you’ve ever had?
Staying the night in this weird old hacienda in Mexico. It was right out in the middle of nowhere and we were the only guests. The family who owned it didn’t speak any English and none of us spoke Spanish so we were trying to communicate everything with gestures. We stayed in this outhouse building that used to be a stable – and my family all loved it but there was something about the hacienda that really bothered me. Even thinking about it now creeps me out. It’s the only time in my life that I’ve had a really bad feeling about a place, as if something awful happened there years ago. It probably didn’t help that there were bug exoskeletons on the beds because they hadn’t had anyone to stay in so long – and also that someone had decided that the décor in the living area of the building would be improved by adding a wax model of a monk in a glass case. Horrifyingly, this wax monk was also holding a puppet version of himself. I mean, why?!
The best and worst thing about being a writer?
The best thing about being a writer is that moment when you first receive a bound proof of your novel, and it really looks and feels like a book for the first time rather than just a pile of paper. Also getting emails from readers who write to say they enjoyed the book. It’s so rewarding to know that other people have read your story and enjoyed it. That’s the whole point or writing books, after all!
I think the worst thing is probably those writer’s block periods when you feel stuck for new ideas. Sometimes you just have to fight through them.
What’s the most surreal moment on your publishing journey (so far)?
I think probably the first publishing party I ever went to when I was about 20-years-old. It was at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and I was really excited because someone had said that Michael Palin was going to be there. I’m a big Monty Python fan – and The Life of Brian is one of my favourite films – so I was pretty worked up about this and hoping to catch a glimpse of him. When I mentioned to one of the other guests that Michael Palin was rumoured to be there, they said ‘Yes, he’s right behind you.’ I turned around and there he was – in the flesh. It was awesome.
So do you believe in ghosts? (If yes, have you ever seen one?)
I’m definitely open to the possibility of ghosts, although I wouldn’t say that I either believe or disbelieve in them. I’ve never seen one but my grandfather says he’s seen a ghost on two separate occasions and I’ve always been fascinated to hear him tell me about that.
Would you last a night in a haunted house?
No way. I wouldn’t even last the night at the Haunted Mansion in Disney World. I am a total scaredy-cat about that kind of thing.
Scariest book you’ve ever read?
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.
Trick or Treat?
Can the treat be wine? If so, then treat!
Favourite horror movie?
I have a soft spot for The Haunting (the Liam Neeson version) which is based on Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. Most people seem to think it’s terrible but it’s my guilty pleasure.
And finally, what is the question you wish people would ask and never do?
Ooh, good question! I don’t think I’ve ever been asked which fictional characters I’d invite to a dinner party. I could spend hours deliberating on this, and the answer would probably change every day but, this time, the guest list would comprise of the following:
- Harry Flashman – from George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman series
- Severus Snape – from Harry Potter
- Lady Julia Grey – from Deanna Raybourn’s mystery novels
- Ignatius J. Reilly – from John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces
- Sydney Carton – from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities
And it would be the best dinner party in the whole world, ever!
Luna: Can I come?
We’re waiting for you to come and play. Dunvegan School for Girls has been closed for many years. Converted into a family home, the teachers and students are long gone. But they left something behind…Sophie arrives at the old schoolhouse to spend the summer with her cousins. Brooding Cameron with his scarred hand, strange Lilias with a fear of bones and Piper, who seems just a bit too good to be true. And then there’s her other cousin. The girl with a room full of antique dolls. The girl that shouldn’t be there. The girl that died.
Make sure to check out www.talesofyesterday.co.uk tomorrow
to find out more about DARK ROOM!