There is a light that never goes out: WKU English professor publishes first young adult novel


Michael Crimmins

David Bell, professor and interim director of MFA Program in the English department, speaks at Capitol Arts Theatre in downtown Bowling Green at the launch for his latest book titled “She’s Gone.”

Michael Crimmins, Adminstrative reporter

“She’s Gone,” the newest book by David Bell follows a 17-year-old boy named Hunter Gifford who wakes up the night of homecoming to find his girlfriend Chloe Summers has not been found since the accident. Soon, his community starts to point their fingers at Hunter.

Bell released his first young adult novel on Tuesday, Nov. 1. Bell, a professor and interim director of MFA Program in the English department, first came to WKU 15 years ago in fall 2008. 

To commemorate, and celebrate, the official release of his book, Bell held a roughly hour long talk followed by a short question and answer at the Capitol theater in downtown Bowling Green.

The book launch, titled the last homecoming, was presented by the Warren County Public Library and featured a picture booth, cupcakes, punch and several other Bell books for sale.

He has written 14 suspense novels aimed at adults and has received national acclaim for his works being a finalist for the Edgar Award given by the Mystery Writers of America. His wife, Molly McCaffery, is an author in her own right. 

Growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio, Bell attended St. Xavier high school – the “rich kid school” – he said. While not autobiographical, Bell said he did include some of his own outsider feelings he had in high school when writing about Hunter returning to school. 

“I felt like I was on another planet,” Bell said. “Immediately I was like ‘I want to go home. This is not my place. Get me out of here.’ but I stayed. So some of that weird alienation I felt in high school went into Hunter and his experience of going back to school and feeling like I don’t belong here.” 

Bell said he had this idea for the book from another outline he had written that follows a 20 year old in the same situation.

“I realized most of the interesting parts were when he was in high school,” Bell said. “So I thought if I want to do something a little bit different I could actually try to write that young adult book. It was liberating in a way because nobody knew I was writing the book except [for a few people], so I didn’t really know what was going to happen when I sat down to write the book. The minute I started writing it I realized I’m going to finish this.”

David Bell, professor and interim director of MFA Program in the English department, signs copy of newest book at the launch for “She’s Capitol Arts Theatre in downtown Bowling Green. (Michael Crimmins)

Bell said the original title of the book was “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” based on The Smiths song by the same name that he said he listened to in high school.

“If you listen to the words they say: ‘And if a double-decker bus crashes into us to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die and if a ten-ton truck kills the both of us to die by your side well, the pleasure – the privilege is mine,’” Bell said. “And I thought that’s a great title, and so that’s what I titled it.”

The name was changed to “She’s Gone” through Bell and the publisher’s conversations, Bell said he is happy with the cover and the title.

He said it usually takes roughly nine months to write a novel from scratch, but “publishing slowed” when the pandemic happened.

“The book was finished and ready to be submitted to publishers in March of 2020 so my timing was impeccable,” Bell said. “ But all these many thousands of years later it’s come out.”

Courtney Stevens, interim director of the library and local author introduced Bell.

“I get to introduce you to […] David Bell, the fantastic author,” Stevens said. “USA Today best selling author. We’re so delighted that as a library, as a town we have you as a cherished asset.”

While providing a reading from three excerpts from his book, Bell said the ideas for his books come from all around him even when he fears he’ll run out of new ideas.

“It comes just from stuff I’ve observed, stuff I’ve thought about, songs I’ve listened to, all sorts of things that can contribute to coming up with an idea for a book,” Bell said. “I’m always looking down the road at my next book, and I always think ‘I’m never going to come up with another idea again, there are no more ideas, I’ve used them all up,’” Bell said. “Then when the time comes, at least so far, there’s always been another idea.”

Gayla Warner, chair of the Board of Trustees at the public library, who has read about seven of Bell’s books, said she came to know him through his time spent at the library.

Warner said she always enjoys reading Bell’s books because they keep her guessing and it’s fun for her to see his progress as an author.

“First of all because he’s local and I love local artists,” Warner said. “Second of all, it’s not a chore because he’s a really good writer and he’s gotten better and better.”

Another person who said she loves his books is Ginger Cleary, a friend of the family, who bonded over their love of books and is in a book club with McCaffery. 

“He’s a very good mystery writer,” Cleary said. “He creates mysteries that I would’ve never thought to go there, and it’s just very interesting the way he [ties] things up. I’m always fascinated.”

His love of books, and reading, sprang from his upbringing surrounded by books. His parents were avid readers, Bell said. He said he was always “fascinated” by the fact that “someone made this.”

“My parents read all the time, they took me to the library, so that was a formative experience,” Bell said. “When I went to that high school far across town I really did have great English teachers who encouraged me […] Those things really shaped me a great deal, my parents [and] my educational experience.”

Administration reporter Michael Crimmins can be reached at [email protected].