posted on June 17, 2024 by Donnell Ann Bell

The Story behind the Story

By Donnell Ann Bell

Have you ever heard authors talk about a germ of an idea that led to their writing a novel? It’s crazy how one idea can take hold and a 90,000-word book can result. That’s what happened behind many of my books. Still, when it comes to my romantic suspense novel Buried Agendas, a lone germ wasn’t what got me started. The ideas that flooded this book were more like an epidemic.

I’m married to a chemical engineer, so I lived daily with his adventures and misadventures in this necessary but often environmentally explosive industry. Chemicals make our lives easier, right? But put the wrong compounds or solutions together, you may blow up a lab. Discover too late that the ingredients used were toxic and leached into the soil or ground water, you only wished you’d blown up a lab.

That was germ number one that made me want to write this book, what’s more I thought I had the perfect expert at my disposal. Know what his response was when I started with my list of 20 questions? “Honey, I deal with this stuff all day. The last thing I want to do when I get home is talk about chemicals with my wife.”

On the one hand I sympathized with him. On the other hand, he hadn’t answered my questions, and my list was growing.

How did I handle that?  Went around him of course. We’d lived in Colorado for many years, and I’d met many of his contacts. To write Buried Agendas, I consulted with my husband’s colleagues who turns out were happy to talk with me about chemicals and what they do in their jobs. I spoke with plant managers, chemists, an underground tank specialist, control room operators, and shift supervisors. I was like the proverbial kid in the candy store as my plot gained traction and I began to understand (in a simplistic, nontechnical way) what they were doing and why.

I still needed a cause and effect for my book, however.  In a murder mystery, the cause of death is often explained by poison, drowning, a gunshot wound, etcetera. In Buried Agendas I need to point to a newly created chemical that should never have been created.

This time I needed specifics. So, I called the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 8. From there, I was put in touch with a very knowledgeable woman, who again was happy to talk to me about my scenario. You can imagine my elation (and considerable fright) when she confirmed my plot wasn’t far-fetched at all. Not only did we have a phone call; she also mailed me hundreds of pages of information to corroborate my thinking.

In a way, I’m glad my husband didn’t want to spend long hours discussing chemicals with me. After all, I received a synopsis of his job every evening, which created the germ in the first place. Hunting for specifics with others led to dozens of possibilities and in my opinion created a more intriguing story.

In a way, I’m glad my husband didn’t want to spend long hours discussing chemicals with me. After all, I received a synopsis of his job every evening, which created the germ in the first place. Hunting for specifics with others led to dozens of possibilities and in my opinion created a more intriguing story.

Buried Agendas goes on sale June 16-30th on several digital outlets for the discounted price of $.99 Hope you enjoyed my trip down Memory Lane.

Excerpt of Buried Agendas

“Who’s giving the orders, Buddy?”

“Shut up,” he growled. “They said you’d try to talk your way out of this. I’d better do as they say.” Buddy picked up a rag, then hesitated. “Why’d you do it?”

Her mind rebelling against being gagged, Diana lifted her gaze to his. “Why’d I do what?”

“Come on to me. Say you’d go out with me. Why’d you come here in the first place?”

“I’m a journalist, Buddy. I received a letter from the man you killed stating people were going to die. I came here to help.”

Buddy’s eyes filled with indignation. “I never killed nobody.” Although he said the words with emphasis, he kept his voice low. Still their voices carried throughout the empty chamber.

“Prove it,” Diana said. “Pretend I’m the sheriff. You’ll be talking to him soon anyway. Tell me why I should believe you.”

Shaking, Buddy stood and walked several feet away. “See this ladder.”

Diana’s heart thudded painfully. Metal rungs extended from the floor to the ceiling, connecting to a trap door-type opening. As far as she could tell, the exit appeared to be the only way out of this ghastly mausoleum. 

“The night it rained,” Buddy explained. “Vic tells me to go get Leo. So I do. I bring him here.” Motioning behind her, Buddy added, “That tank behind you, it’s empty, and except for an occasional inspection, no one comes down here.

An empty tank, thank heavens. Diana shook with relief. She’d envisioned horrible chemicals leaking from the vat into her lungs. But if Buddy wasn’t wearing a respirator, perhaps the odors were remnants of when the tank was still in operation . . . . 

Donnell Ann Bell

Donnell Ann Bell

Donnell Ann Bell is an award-winning author who began her nonfiction career in newspapers. After she turned to fiction, her romantic suspense novels became Amazon bestsellers, including The Past Came Hunting, Deadly Recall, Betrayed, and Buried Agendas. In 2019, Donnell released her first mainstream suspense, Black Pearl, A Cold Case Suspense. In 2022, book two of the series was released. Until Dead, A Cold Case Suspense, won Best Thriller in 2023 at the Imaginarium Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. Currently, she's working on book three of the series. Readers can follow Donnell on her blog or sign up for her newsletter at donnellannbell.com.

https://donnellannbell.com

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