A Year to Remember - An Interview with Shelly Bell

A Year to Remember
My Guest today is Shelly Bell, author of A Year to Remember, a contemporary chicklit novel about food addiction and finding love. I hope you enjoy our discussion about how she came to write this story.

After reading your bio and the excerpt, it's apparent that you're tapping into personal experience with this story's theme. I also expect that the food issues you raise will resonate with a lot of readers. Was this something you were compelled to write?

I was working on another story when the idea for A Year to Remember came to me. I let my husband take my children into the movie theater while I stayed behind in the lobby and scribbled out my outline. I put aside my WIP and sat down to write A Year to Remember. It only took three months to write.

I did tap into my own experiences with compulsive overeating. After dieting for thirty years, I finally gave up. I acknowledged my addiction and powerlessness over food. A Twelve-Step recovery program gave me my life back. Once I stopped compulsively overeating, I discovered I had a lot of spare time on my hands. I searched for a creative outlet, but nothing seemed right until I began writing. I realized I wanted to educate others that compulsive overeating can be an addiction. It won’t be cured by dieting, exercising, or losing weight. Instead of writing a book about a girl losing weight to get her “man,” I wanted to write one that showed you could still have an addiction to food even when you got him. Until you deal with that addiction, you’ll never be truly happy.

I know everything is fodder to a writer. Are there any scenes in this that were based on something you actually experienced?

My younger brother got married before me and I was jealous. At his rehearsal dinner, I admitted it. When I turned twenty-nine, I went on a year- long search to find a husband. Just like the protagonist of my book, Sara, I tried online dating, speed dating, and dating services. Luckily, I still had a couple of close, single friends and we shared our horrific dating experiences. The men that Sara meets are a mixture of different men my friends and I dated.

Where is A Year to Remember set? Have you been there?

A Year to Remember is set mainly in Metro-Detroit, where I live. I have a deep affection for Detroit despite its bad press. I wanted to give it a positive spin. Otherwise, the book could have easily been set in the suburbs of Chicago, which also has a large Jewish population.

In the book, Sara travels to New Jersey, New York and Israel. I’ve been to all three places. My husband is originally from New Jersey and his family lives there.

Where do you start when writing a story? Character? Theme? Plot?

I always start with the characters and what makes them tick. Maybe it’s my background in social work and psychology, but I tend to diagnose all my major characters with a psychological disorder. That really helps me to flesh out their wants and needs, their motives, and their internal conflict. To me, the characters drive the story and set the themes for the book. Once I know the major players of the story, I do a general outline of the plot. Of course, that can change depending on what a character reveals to me in a scene.

What do you think your readers will appreciate about your story?

I hope that readers will identify with Sara. I’ve tried to give an honest portrayal of food addiction and have heard back from a couple of readers who realized when reading it that they have the disease. I believe it’s sometimes easier to get a message to people through entertainment. My goal was to bring strength and hope to those still suffering and educate the public on the disease. It was a bonus that the book makes people laugh too.

Also, I know many young women worry about meeting their soul mate. It’s my experience that you’ll meet him when you least expect it!

If you could recommend your book to the fans of another author, who would that author be?

The writing style in A Year to Remember is similar to Jennifer Weiner’s books. It was unintentional, although I’m a huge fan. Her books also deal with intense issues, while entertaining the readers with humor.

What is one thing about you that most people don't know?

Um…I can get my feet behind my head.

Who's your favorite author to read and why?

My favorite author is Sherrilyn Kenyon. She’s an incredible writer and her personal story is inspiring. I had the opportunity to hear her speak last summer and I’m looking forward to hearing her again at the Chicago RWA conference this spring. I’m addicted to her Dark-Hunter series. In addition to her amazing world building, she delves into her characters’ darkest emotions. The combination pulls me in to her story every time.

You grew up in Michigan, left for sunny Florida, and then returned home. What brought you back to snow country?

Right before I graduated from law school, I ended a very toxic relationship. I didn’t have any real connection to Florida at that time. All my family and friends lived in Michigan. While I studied for the Florida bar, my father’s business was involved in a lawsuit and I did research for his attorneys. It occurred to me I had a job waiting for me back home for my father’s company. Although I had originally envisioned working in family law, I fell in love with business and employment law in school. So after I took the Florida bar, I packed up and moved back to Michigan. I’ve worked as In-House Counsel for my family’s business since 1997. My brother and cousin also work there in different capacities. I’m the fourth generation of my family to work in the scrap metal business.

I’m currently running a sweepstakes on my website to win a Coach purse and on Fresh Fiction to win a Spa Tower and my book. No purchase necessary for either sweepstakes.

Buy Links

http://ow.ly/93MzC     Amazon

http://ow.ly/93MBE    Barnes and Noble

http://ow.ly/93MEv     Soul Mate Publishing


Shelly Bell started reading at three years old. In elementary school, the librarian gave her books to test out for the school library. As a teenager, she spent her allowance each week on romance novels, enjoying both young adult category romance, young adult paranormal and single title books, and adult romance.

She received her Bachelors of Arts in Social Work and a Certificate in Women Studies from Michigan State University in 1990, where she interned at both the Michigan State Sexual Assault Crisis Center as a counselor and the Michigan Women’s Historical Museum as a docent.

Wanting to leave the cold Michigan winters behind, she moved to Florida to attend law school at Nova Southeastern University, Shepard Broad Law Center where she received her Juris Doctor degree. Practicing law since 1997, she specializes in corporate, environmental and employment law as In-House Legal Counsel for a scrap metal company in Detroit. On the side, she dabbles in horseracing and crematory law.

Married to Jason in 2003, they have two children and reside in the metro-Detroit area, where she reads on her Kindle each night when her family falls asleep.

A recovering compulsive overeater, she wrote A Year to Remember to share her strength and hope with compulsive overeaters and food addicts everywhere. A member of Romance Writers of America, she writes both women’s fiction and paranormal romance.

When her younger brother marries on her twenty-ninth birthday, food addict Sara Friedman drunkenly vows to three hundred wedding guests to find and marry her soul mate within the year. After her humiliating toast becomes a YouTube sensation, she permits a national morning show to chronicle her search. With the help of best friend Missy, she plunges head first into the shallow end of the dating pool.

Her journey leads her to question the true meaning of soul mates, as she decides between fulfilling her vow to marry before her thirtieth birthday and following her heart’s desire. But before she can make the biggest decision of her life, Sara must begin to take her first steps towards recovery from her addiction to food.


Plunged into darkness as the door closed behind me, I couldn’t find the light switch. I hit my knee against a chair and groaned from the pain.

The door opened and someone entered the room. I assumed it was Missy coming to rescue me once again.

“I can’t find the light switch, Missy. Do you know where it is?”

Without warning, someone yanked me tightly against his warm, solid body. I heard his slight intake of breath and then he kissed me.

I know I should have fought against it, but whoever he was, he kissed sinfully well. At first, his soft lips whispered lightly against my own, seeking permission. When not only didn’t I stop him, but made a little moan of approval, his tongue caressed my lips until I opened my mouth. Only then did he allow his tongue to touch mine, first tentatively exploring the hidden depths of my mouth, and then hard and passionately, as though he’d never get enough of me.

He tasted like a heavenly combination of whiskey and cake. His tongue teased mine in sweet caresses, heating my blood to a fevered pitch.

Desperately needing to learn the identity of my mystery man, I lifted my hand to touch his face. He grabbed it away, nibbling on each fingertip then gently brushed his fingers across my cheek. I licked my lips in preparation of more kisses, but instead of kissing me, he spun me around in circles, confusing my sense of balance. As the world tilted on its axis and I tried to regain my bearings, he silently left the room.

For a few minutes, I stood rooted to the spot, attempting to recover from the encounter and craving more from my mystery kisser. Blushing from my response to him, I knew although I never saw his face, I would have made love to him if he asked. Before him, no one in twenty-nine years made my body burn that way.

Suddenly, I remembered the room’s two floor lamps. I floundered around the room until I smacked into one. After finding our coats, I left the synagogue with Missy.

Ending the evening of my twenty-ninth birthday with a kiss from my mysterious suitor should have thrilled me. Instead, I wondered why he (as drunk as I was, I was pretty sure I would have noticed if it was a woman) didn’t unmask his identity.

Was he married?


Fifteen or eighty-five years old?

Or even worse, embarrassed to be discovered kissing me?


  1. Hey Shelly, Great interview. Best of luck with A Year to Remember. It's on my tbr list.

  2. I just bought this book and am loving it!

  3. Very interesting interview. Best of luck with your book and future projects.

  4. Now why would you ever need to put your feet behind your head??? Oh..... ;)

    You know I loved your book, and I admire your willingness to open your heart and soul to your readers.It's going to pay off big: I just know it!

    All the best to you, beautiful, incredible Shelly Bell.

  5. You gals are the best! As to why I need to put my feet behind my head...why not?

  6. Great excerpt. It definitely intrigues me. Wishing you much success!

  7. Good interview, and a fine excerpt, Shelly!