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Author Interview: James D. Bell

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Katie Specht is talking with James D. Bell, author of BeeBop: The Honeybee Wannabee Hero.

FQ: Previously, you have published two legal thrillers for adults. The story of BeeBop is quite a departure from your prior published works. What motivated you to write a story for children this time?

BELL: Thank you for having me. It is an honor to be interviewed by Feathered Quill.

We started thinking about children’s books when my wife and I attended a book signing at a small, independent bookstore. The owner told us she needed more kids’ books. I thought about the stories I used to tell my children every night. One was about BeeBop. Joanne loved the idea and gently and frequently persuaded me to write the story.

FQ: How was the writing process different when writing a children’s book versus your adult legal thrillers?

BELL: The process is similar, but scenes are “toned down” for the youthful audience. The young reader wants action, intrigue, adventure, and mystery, but the story needs to unfold quickly. We need to put easily identifiable good life lessons in children’s stories. That may not be a bad idea for adult stories.

FQ: Now that you have written one book for children, do you foresee yourself writing any more children’s books in the future? Perhaps another adventure with BeeBop?

BELL: There will be more stories. Joanne is planning to have me write a BeeBop follow up. I’m thinking about The Adventures of Sherlock Hound.

FQ: I see from your author biography that in addition to your legal interests, you also give talks to civic groups and churches. In this very divided and stressed-out world, have you found people to be eager to hear your message? And do you think you might consider penning an inspirational book related to your talks?

Author James D. Bell

BELL: I considered my law practice to be a ministry. People brought their biggest life problems to me to help them find solutions. Frequently, I felt the legal problem was a symptom of a spiritual problem. If so, I asked if I could share Scripture that seemed to fit the issue. 100% of the time the answer was yes. Then, after reading the Scripture, the person would say, That’s me! Tell me more!” People are hungry for the truth found in Jesus Christ.

One subject I speak about is the overwhelming evidence that Jesus lived, that he is the Christ, that he died for our sins and rose again, conquering death. I call the program, The Verdict. The audience is the jury. Evidence is presented. We ask for a verdict. The audience wins every time. Turning that program into a short book is a future project.

FQ: The cast of BeeBop: The Honeybee Wannabee Hero is rather unique. It is not too often that the main character of a children’s book is a bee. Can you share how you decided that your characters would be bees as opposed to any other type of animal?

BELL: I used to call my daughter BeeBop and included her in stories. In one story she was a bee who saved the day. The book was built around that nighttime story from long ago.

FQ: The story of BeeBop is enhanced by some adorable illustrations, which are not always found in a chapter book. What made you decide to include illustrations in your story, and how did you go about finding your illustrator? Did you have in-depth discussions about each illustration and what you envisioned, or did you give a brief overview and let the illustrator's imagination take over?

BELL: Joanne had the idea to add illustrations. We did art contests and invited art classes to submit ideas. Ultimately, she found Wacky World in Florida and we worked with them. They are true professionals. We picked scenes together and met frequently. They did a fabulous job.

FQ: The extra materials included at the back of the book, the parent and teacher’s guide, the test, and the vocabulary list were a nice touch. What prompted you to include them?

BELL: Once again, that was Joanne’s idea. The truth is, she should be considered the author. All I did was write the words that pleased her. She wanted fun facts about bees, and a parent/teachers guide at the back. We added a vocabulary, because I used a few words I hoped would expand a young reader’s linguistic toolbox.

FQ: You have practiced criminal law since opening your law firm in 1977 as well as presided as a judge for seven of those years. Having worked in the world of law from both of those perspectives, would you say there is one career you prefer over the other and why?

BELL: I love them both. As a lawyer, I helped people at critical times in their lives. I made sure that both the person and the Constitution were respected. As a judge, I was charged with giving everyone an impartial forum for the fair resolution of disputes. What an honor it has been to serve in both capacities.

FQ: The premise of BeeBop: The Honeybee WannaBee Hero presents a valuable anti-bullying lesson for kids. What was the impetus for focusing on this issue?

BELL: Everyone has experienced bullying, particularly when we were young and in school. I hope BeeBop allows the victim of bullying to see that with determination, character, and perseverance, you can overcome bullying. I hope that the bully who reads the story might see his own injustice and recognize that his victim could instead be his best friend.

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