Writing as Adria Townsend and J. S. Laurenz

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bella Andre, Bella Riley and Lucy Kevin at the Dime Store

Here's the interview with Bella Andre, Bella Riley and Lucy Kevin that I promised to post a while back.  Three pen names--one prolific author!  She was so much fun to talk to.  I'll be sweeping up the cutting-room floor here at the dime store soon to post some of the Q&A that didn't make it into the article. 

From the Albany Times Union, published August 14, 2011

Every summer, California girl Nyree Belleville trades the west coast for Piseco Lake in the Adirondacks. The romantic setting is the perfect getaway for a prolific romance writer who has published 18 books so far. It also proves the perfect backdrop for a new series. The first of her Adirondack trilogy, Home Sweet Home (Hatchette/Forever, 386 pages, $5.99) will be released September 27th under the name Bella Riley as both a mass market paperback and ebook. Bella Riley is just one of her pennames. The Times Union caught up with Nyree Belleville, aka, Bella Andre, Bella Riley and Lucy Kevin by phone.

Q: You were born and raised in California and live in Sonoma. How did you discover the Adirondacks?

A: My husband’s grandparents were from Linden, New Jersey and they built their Adirondack camp on Piseco in 1940, a few minutes outside of Speculator. He’d been going there every year of his life. Fifteen years ago, I started going with him. Five years ago we bought an hundred-year-old cabin across the lake.

Q: Do you plan to take a break at the lake?

A: I don’t take breaks, not recently. I work full, full time in California. I’m trying to look at my schedule though and load up more now; it would be nice if I could actually spend some time on the beach there.

Q: Can you tell us about your trilogy?

A: The Bella Riley books about the Adirondacks are set with the seasons on a lake I made up called Emerald Lake. The first has the fall festival on the lake. The next centers around maple tapping in the spring, and the third is about Christmas. In my mind I’ve created a perfect Adirondack town. I want to make readers feel how beautiful it is there, the blue water and the mountains. I don’t mention the bugs. I don’t want to ruin the fantasy. I always think, I’d better get my tan before we go. The bugs think I’m so delicious. I’m always wearing long sleeves, long pants and a hat. 

Q: You’re interested in not just the local landscape but local history as well. You say you get inspiration from the Adirondack book section in the Lake Pleasant library in Speculator, and from letters a lakeside neighbor has shared with you dating back to the 1920s. Does history make it into your novels?

A: The Shelburne Museum in Vermont has an old carousel that came from Speculator. When I saw it, I said, ‘that is going in my book.’ The plot in Home Sweet Home revolves around that carousel and land development.

Q: You’ve written very popular erotica under the name Bella Andre. Are your Bella Riley books different?

A: They are heart-warming, small-town romances. There are still love scenes in them, but I’ve revised them to tone them down and not use explicit language.

Q: Will there be any crossover of your audience who reads your Bella Andre books?

A: It helps I’m using the same first name. Bella is still Bella. Grand Central [a division of Hatchette Book Group] is designing the cover flaps to make it clear that Bella Riley writes as Bella Andre. As a rule people who read sexy stuff read everything.

Q: What was your first book?

A: I started in 2003, and wrote Ecstasy (published by Ellora’s Cave). It was a ridiculous amount of fun.

Q: You were a singer, a songwriter, you played with Crosby, Stills and Nash, you’ve been published with Simon & Schuster, Random House, and Hatchette Books, but you’re having your greatest success now as an independent author.

A: I was definitely bummed when my contract with Random House was not picked up again, but it was the best thing that ever happened, because I got into self-publishing. It’s ridiculously rewarding. I don’t say when a door closed, a window opened—it’s like the whole wall flew off!

Q: You have a total of 10 ebooks available online. How many have you sold so far?

A: 170,000 copies.

Q: You’ve cultivated your audience over the years and have a close relationship with your fans. 

A: We understand each other pretty well. They know the kind of book I like to write and I write the kind they want to read.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I’m about to launch the first of my 8-book Sullivan family series totally on my own. I’ve gained the skill set I need in the last year. Traditionally getting an 8-book deal would be difficult, the publishers would want to see how the first few do, etc. At the end of the day, the ebook revolution is fantastic and has created a lot of opportunity. But it all comes down to the story. It’s wonderful to make a good living. It’s really exciting to tell and share these stories.

Q: You’re extremely prolific and plan to have three more books out by the end of the year. What are your writing habits?

A: I do a lot of revision. My style of writing is not something I recommend. It’s fairly painful. The first draft comes very quickly [about a week sometimes]. I see a book take shape and see what it’s about. Unfortunately when I realize what it’s about I have to throw out a lot. Like the ending to the book I’m working on now. That’s 30 or 40 pages. It takes a long time to do those two or three final passes. I probably change every sentence four or five times.

Q: What’s it like having such a busy writing career and being the mother of two small children? 

A: My kids get who Mommy is. Mommy works a lot. My desk is in the playroom. I don’t write when they’re around. It’s impossible. But there are so many peripheral things that go on and I can do that kind of stuff once they’re back from school. My husband has picked up the slack and gone above and beyond. I have a really awesome husband.

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