By day, Heather Bell Adams is Senior Counsel for First-Citizens Bank & Trust Company. By night, she manages to find the time to pen beautiful short stories and novels. In fact, her debut novel Maranatha Road has received amazing reviews and recognition.
Her short fiction, which has won the James Still Fiction Prize and Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Award, appears in The Thomas Wolfe Review, Pembroke Magazine, Pisgah Review, The Petigru Review, Broad River Review, Deep South Magazine, and elsewhere.
We had the pleasure of learning more about Heather, her book and upcoming projects.
LM: Can you tell us about your legal career and how you’ve been able to manage your “law life” while writing?
HBA: For close to twenty years, I was a litigator in private practice. I focused on financial services and antitrust cases, including class action defense. That work involved quite a bit of travel. I wrote parts of Maranatha Road in a hotel in Kansas City, at the Toronto airport, at a restaurant in Philadelphia—you get the idea. Of course, I only turned to my creative writing after I’d thoroughly prepared for the next day’s deposition!
A couple of years ago, I transitioned to an in-house role managing litigation for First-Citizens Bank & Trust Company. Since this job doesn’t require as much travel, I have a little more flexibility in my schedule. I do most of my writing after work and on the weekends. Thankfully, my husband, Geoff (also a lawyer), and our son, Davis, are very supportive.
LM: For those who may not be familiar with Maranatha Road, can you tell us what the book is about?
HBA: Maranatha Road is the story of Sadie Caswell, whose beloved son dies shortly before his wedding, and Tinley Greene, the young stranger who shows up claiming she’s pregnant with his child. The novel is set in the fictional town of Garnet, North Carolina, which is loosely based on my hometown of Hendersonville. Garnet is the type of small, southern town where nothing stays secret for long.
LM: Are there any personal experiences that inspired you to write the book?
Not directly. However, my mother passed away from leukemia when I was in high school so perhaps it’s understandable that my first novel tackles the concept of grief.
LM: What do you enjoy most about writing and the process of putting literary pieces together?
HBA: The psychology of the characters fascinates me, especially when I’m trying to put myself in someone else’s shoes. Even when characters make questionable choices, it’s rewarding—and entertaining—to explore what hidden reasons might be driving them.
My favorite part of the process comes after I complete a first draft and have mostly discovered what the story is about. Then I can really dig into revising, especially deepening the characters, polishing the language, and weaving thematic threads and imagery across the pages.
LM: Are there any lessons you’ve learned as an attorney that you carry with you when writing?
HBA: Great question! After years of legal writing, which requires a certain degree of economy, I tend to keep things moving in my fiction as well. Writing briefs requires distilling complex arguments into their most essential points to stay within the prescribed word limits and avoid annoying the judge. When it comes to fiction, I think (hope) that same careful restraint keeps the reader’s attention from drifting.
LM: What is the significance of the book’s title?
HBA: The word “maranatha,” loosely translated from Aramaic, means hope is coming. For much of the story, the main characters are grief-stricken and searching for redemption. To hint at that redemption, my agent, publisher, and I selected an optimistic title. Like Sadie and Tinley, I’m a firm believer that there’s light to be found even in dark times.
LM: Who are some of your favorite authors?
HBA: I greatly admire the work of Ron Rash, Amy Greene, Elizabeth Strout, Kim Church, Wiley Cash, Tayari Jones, Silas House, Leesa Cross-Smith, Taylor Brown, and Colum McCann.
LM: Where can our readers purchase the book and keep up with upcoming events?
Maranatha Road is available from your local independent bookseller and online retailers. I love connecting with readers at http://www.heatherbelladams.com, on Facebook (Heather Bell Adams), Instagram (Heather Bell Adams), or Twitter (@heatherbelladam).
LM: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?
HBA: I’m thrilled that my second novel, The Good Luck Stone, will be published by Haywire Books in summer 2020. In The Good Luck Stone, a matriarch of Savannah society named Audrey Thorpe suddenly disappears when a secret she’s kept since World War II begins to unravel. The story is set mostly in 2010 interspersed with Audrey’s recollections of 1941-42 when, as war arrived in the Philippines, she wrestled with a life-changing decision.