Thursday, May 11, 2017 | By: The Write Way Cafe

An Interview with Bentley Wells

The Write Way Café welcomes Bentley Wells, who shares his love of writing mysteries as well as non-fiction.

When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book?
     When I was in high school, which was years ago.

What was your path to getting this book written and published? What type of research did you do?
     I wrote the first draft years ago. I worked on the second and third drafts in between other projects (I write nonfiction, too). Then I went to websites of publishers that publish mysteries. I made sure I sent in whatever these publishers requested. Many required the first few chapters. Eventually, a publisher asked for the entire manuscript. Then another. I had at least three publishers interested in the novel at different times. Two of the three no longer exist. I accepted the contract from Black Opal Books, which is on MWA’s approved publishers list.
     Regarding research, although I lived in Columbus for several months when I was in my teens, I had to research the city. I wanted to make sure I remembered certain areas, for instance. I had to research police procedures even though years ago I had read a lot of printed matter about how investigations should be conducted. Then I had to research witchcraft, which is discussed by one of the characters in the novel. I conducted searches online, but I learned the most about investigations and witchcraft from books.

Where did the idea for your story come from?
     The idea for the novel actually came from a short story I wrote years ago. I had completed the first draft of the short story, but I had not polished it. One day I found it and started reading. I realized that I liked following two detectives as they investigated crimes. Of course, the plot in the short story is not the same as the plot in The Paradise Coven. In fact, the detectives are different. For instance, in the short story the detectives are older and have different names. They are completely different from the detectives in the novel. On the other hand, the leading suspect in the short story is similar to the leading suspect in The Paradise Coven. Of course, readers learn more about this suspect in the novel.

Why did you pick the setting you did?
     Primarily because I am familiar with the area. As I mentioned, I lived there for several months when I was younger. Not only that, I have been there several times over the years. I like the area.

Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people? Do they reflect aspects of yourself? 
     The main characters are imaginary. I don’t know anyone who’s a detective. However, certain experiences that a few characters have are based on what I have read or observed over the years.

Did you face any blocks while writing the book, and if so, how did you handle them? If not, what's your secret?
     I became frustrated whenever something didn’t seem to work (like a character saying something or doing something that didn’t seem normal for the character). This is one of the reasons I worked so long on the novel. I handled such problems by reading the novel again and again. I wanted to make sure the characters seemed real, authentic. I wanted to make sure the plot worked. I also asked a lot of “What if . . . ?” questions. I did this for what the characters said and did, for instance. I also did this for the plot. This question and the answer helped more than once to overcome any blocks I had.

What have been surprises you've encountered while writing the book and after?
     Realizing how difficult writing fiction can be, especially when one hasn’t attempted it in years. I wrote short stories years ago. A few of these were published in literary magazines.

What did you learn? For instance, what did you learn about yourself, your process, the writing world; about murderers and homicide detectives?
     I learned that if I stuck to it I could tell an interesting story―at least, I think it’s interesting. I learned that writing fiction, especially a novel, is not easy. On the other hand, I have to admit that once I got into writing the novel, the story, in places, seemed to write itself by the characters’ actions and dialogue. Perhaps this is because of the novel being a so-called police procedural, I don’t know.

Tell us about your writing space and how or why it works for you.
     I have an office that has books, including a dictionary and thesaurus, and a computer and printer. This particular place has worked for me for years. It works because (1) it is away from the rest of the house and (2) I’m used to it.

What are some of your favorite books and why?
     I read a lot of nonfiction, especially history, and fiction. Regarding the latter, I enjoy reading mysteries. For instance, I’ve read several by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, John D. MacDonald, Stuart Woods, Linwood Barclay, and numerous other writers over the years. Whether I have any favorite mysteries, well, I certainly liked The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity by Cain. People may have seen the films based on these novels, but they should read the books. Cain’s characters have flaws, just like actual people, and his plots move along at a fast pace, which I appreciate. I also enjoy reading fiction by Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John O’Hara, and Erskine Caldwell, to mention a few. These writers have written excellent examples of modern fiction. O’Hara, for instance, captured small-town Pennsylvania during the 1900s. Read, for instance, his Appointment in Samarra. Caldwell captured the south, especially Georgia, during the same period. Of course, many of his characters were from the lower rungs of the economic ladder.

What are you working on now?
     I’m working on another mystery set in a small town in Oklahoma (I lived in this state during the 1980s). It concerns a young man who returns home after learning that his father has been murdered. He investigates and eventually learns who killed his father and why. He also learns about his father, too.

Would you like to try your hand at writing a different genre? Which one and why?
     As mentioned, I write nonfiction primarily because I enjoy it. Nonfiction encourages me to conduct research, which I enjoy. Research helps me learn about subjects I don’t know much about and it helps me stay abreast of subjects I know something about.

If you were not a writer, what would your dream job be?
     Teaching in a college or university, which I did for more than thirty years.

What aspect of writing gives you the most trouble?
     I would say developing the story. This could be because of my asking “What if . . . ?” all the time. In other words, as a result of asking this when I’m writing fiction, I tend to make changes. These changes may apply to what a character says or does, as mentioned earlier. Such changes slow the actual writing. But I wouldn’t do it any other way because I believe the changes improve the story.

For more information about Bentley Wells and The Paradise Coven, readers may go to Black Opal Books (, Amazon (, Barnes and Noble (, and Goodreads (


HiDee said...

I love learning about new-to-me authors. Interesting interview! Thank you for joining us today, Bentley!

Lynn said...

Your books sounds intriguing!

Mark R Hunter said...

Congrats on the publication!