Fiction Fest: Q&A with Braden Bell, author of ‘Penumbras’

Braden BellBraden Bell’s “Penumbras” hit the market on July 9, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to shine the Fiction Fest spotlight on the man behind the book!

Bell grew up in Utah, but presently lives in Tennessee where he teaches middle school at the same school his kids attend. Poor kids.

All kidding aside — okay maybe not entirely aside — we recently invited Bell to field a few questions in our Fiction Fest hot seat, an invitation he readily accepted.

Don’t forget you can get a copy of “Penumbras” right now in bookstores and online at, and

How did “The Kindling” and “Penumbras” come to life?

One night during a sky-splitting spring thunderstorm, my kids came home from a church activity and told me about a man they had seen driving home. He had a black cape and was walking across people‚Äôs yards in the storm. Wondering about who he was and what he was doing collided with another idea I’d been playing with about a secret group of wizards in a modern world. Those two strands of thought came together and I stayed up all night long writing some of the fight scenes in “The Kindling.”

Will there be another installment in the “Middle School Magic” series?

Yes! Well, let me qualify that. I have written a draft and sent it in to the acquisitions editor. I am hopeful Cedar Fort will publish it. “Penumbras” ended on a cliffhanger and I felt like that was only acceptable if I planned to write a third book to tie all the loose ends together.

What inspires you to write?Penumbras 2x3

I am not sure. Ideas just pop into my head. Lots and lots of ideas!

What role, if any, does music play in your writing routine?

Music plays a large role in my books. Oddly enough, I don’t have it as part of my writing routine. It gets me distracted because I end up concentrating on the music.

What’s the most joy writing has brought to you?

There is great joy in writing something that feels exciting or beautiful or poignant–something that I feel captures human experience in some way. There is also great joy in hearing from readers who say that something I wrote touched or helped them in some way. My teenage daughter just sent me a text the other day after reading the manuscript for the third book. She said, “that was SOOOOO good.” That brought me a lot of joy since you don’t often get rave reviews from teenagers who live in your home.

What one thing do you do that embarrasses your kids the most?

The mere fact of my existence seems to embarrass them a great deal. Actually, I teach at the middle school they attend. This is a time in my kids’s life when they are embarrassed about lots of things. Having your dad as a teacher at this awkward time in life is pretty rough! Especially if he knows you are embarrassed of him and decides to play with your head a little.

What is “must see” TV in your home?

Honestly, we don’t watch much TV. I spend most non-working hours writing. “Downton Abbey” is probably the only thing we watch faithfully.

What is the single main reason you write?

The ideas just come. I have to get them on paper! And I hope that maybe, at some point, something I write might cheer or encourage or touch someone. Even if I just make someone laugh at some point–that would be worth it.

What genre, besides your own, would you most like to give a shot at writing?

I love middle grade. Since I teach that age, it’s where I spend the bulk of my life. I’m also interested in YA. I have two works in progress that I think are really cool–and quite unique. Once the third book in this series is done and polished, I’m excited to finish them.

What advice would you like to offer aspiring novelists?

Read, read, read. Write, write, write! And then find someone who is both smart and honest enough to tell you how you can improve–and listen, listen, listen!