Adventures on the High Seas
Author Ted Bell plans a sequel to his popular book, Nick of Time
Photo courtesy St. Martin's Press
Kid Reporter Demarian Williams recently interviewed author Ted Bell about his book Nick of Time. Bell’s publications are action-filled spy thrillers. His work includes Hawke, Assassin, and Pirate from the popular Alex Hawke series.
Scholastic News: What made you become a writer? Who inspired you?
Ted Bell: I was inspired by all the books I read as a child—The Hardy Boys, Captain Blood, and books like that. Also, [the] Tom Swift [books], all the adventure stories, Treasure Island, Kidnapped. And so I started writing short stories when I was about 7 or 8 years old.
SN: What other books are you working on right now?
Bell: I’m working on a sequel to Nick of Time. Have you read Nick of Time, Demarian?
SN: Yes, sir.
Bell: Did you like it?
SN: I loved it.
Bell: Well I’m glad to hear that. In the sequel, it’s going be called The Revolutionary Spy, and Nick is going to learn how to fly his father’s old World War I airplane, and he’s going be making nighttime bombing runs on the Germans that invaded his island. And he’s also going to go back to the Revolutionary War and help General Washington. So I’m working on the sequel to Nick of Time, and I’m working on the next Alex Hawke book, which is my spy thriller. And that’s going be about a problem in England.
SN: In your opinion, what’s the best book you’ve ever written?
Bell: I have to say maybe Nick of Time. I think that’s still my favorite. I don’t know if it’s the best one. That’s like asking someone to pick his favorite child. It was the first one I wrote. I think it’s still maybe my favorite. I just got the first of the real hardcover, illustrated books this morning, and it’s just great to hold it in your hand and look at it.
SN: Where do you get your ideas for books?
Bell: If I knew that, I would patent the formula and sell it. It’s just imagination, you know? It probably comes from spending your whole life reading books.
SN: How do you plan your books? What do you write?
Bell: I live in Florida, and I live on a small lagoon. I sit and look out at the water all day—that’s what my desk is. So I sit and write on my Apple, and I also have a laptop, a Powerbook, that I carry with me when I travel, so I’m writing no matter where I am.
SN: When you write a book, do you make it up as you go along or do you plot it out first?
Bell: I completely do it as I go along. A lot of writers tell me that it would be much easier to do an outline, but I don’t think it would be much fun. I like to sit down every day and not know where the book is going. I have no idea where the book is going to go or how it’s going to end as I’m writing it. About two thirds of the way through, I start to figure out how it’s going to end.
SN: Are some of your books based on real people you know?
Bell: Probably a mix, a blend of people, not specific characters—more personality traits of people I’ve met during my life.
SN: In your opinion, what does a good book need?
Bell: It needs a good story, first and foremost. It needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. A good story is the most central ingredient. It needs characters that you can believe in and be involved with and care about. Care about the characters and what happens to them; that’s the two most important things, I think.
SN: What do you think it takes to be an author?
Bell: I think it takes a lot of desire because I think a lot of people who’ve never written books don’t know quite how hard it is to stick with, to put in the amount of time and just make the commitment to just sit there every day and do it while everybody else is out having fun.
SN: What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?
Bell: Read books, as many books as you can, and about as many different subjects as you can—fiction and nonfiction. That’s how you learn to write—by reading.
SN: Did you get some of your ideas for Nick of Time from recent books?
Bell: Not from recent books but certainly from all the books I read as a kid. I felt like there really weren’t any books around like Treasure Island or Kidnapped, books that I had liked when I was 9. How old are you, Demarian?
Bell: So when I was your age, I was reading Treasure Island. But there aren’t any books like that around anymore—except available as classics—and they’re kind of hard to read because they were written so long ago. So I decided to write a modern adventure story like Treasure Island but write it for modern-day kids like yourself.
SN: Was the action setting of your book based on actual events?
Bell: They are definitely. The invasion of the Channel Islands by the Germans in 1940 that Nick is so worried about actually happened. And the Germans attacked the Channel Islands, and they captured the island and held them for the entire World War II. And, of course, the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, where Nick is trying to help prevent an ambush of the royal navy so Lord Nelson can get to Trafalgar, is one of the most famous sea battles of history. It’s where the English finally defeated Napoleon on the sea.
SN: How long did it take you to write Nick of Time?
Bell: Typically, a book takes me about a year to write. I was living in England when I started writing. My daughter was 8 years old then, and she kind of ran out of things to read ’cause it was always raining, so that was when I started looking around and just realized there weren’t any books like Nick of Time available for her. So I said, well, I’ll write one myself. That kind of was the idea. So I started it living in England, and I continued writing it once I moved back to America.
Be sure to check out Demarian Williams' review of Ted Bell’s Nick of Time!
Demarian Williams is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.