Francestown native pens first novel

  • R.W. Bell, who grew up in Francestown, recently released his first novel, “Trace Element” and will be doing a virtual event with the Toadstool Bookshops on Saturday, Feb. 20. Courtesy photo

  • 'Trace Element' by R.W. Bell. Courtesy photo—

  • R.W. Bell at the The ArcelorMittal Orbit in London, which plays a crucial role in his debut novel, “Trace Element.” Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/19/2021 12:05:34 PM

When R.W. Bell was creating the main character for his first novel “Trace Element,” he decided to use a combination of two very important people in his life. Ethan Cross is named after his 5-year-old son and based on a projection of what Bell thinks his oldest child might be like when he gets to his mid-20s.

Cross’ personality? That is a mirror image of Bell’s wife Candice, who Bell describes as someone with a “fact-based professionalism, sarcastic sense of humor, and aversion to public recognition,” and “the most brilliant person I know.”

On Saturday, the Toadstool Bookshops will host a virtual event with Bell, who grew up in Francestown, where he will discuss his new book “Trace Element” at 7 p.m.

Set 25 years in the future, Cross is an extreme introvert and totally data driven. He’s working to uncover the future history of events that are happening in present day.

Cross must know the truth about EV3’s ARCELOR, and if London could in fact hold the solution to the world’s energy needs in 2045. Is this the true reason behind Brexit? Has Parliament hidden a scientific breakthrough from the rest of the world? Cross travels across Europe in search of the facts that will help answer what may have been hiding in plain sight all along.

“What if there were a world-changing technology already here?” Bell said of his plot line.

The spark to write something actually started in 2012 when he was living in London for a few months.

“I always thought it would be cool to keep a travelogue,” Bell said. But wondered if anyone would really want to read it.

Soon the idea grew into that of a novel and one that was hard to ignore.

It was around the time that Ethan was an infant that Bell really started to pull together all those ideas that had been swirling around in his head. He had written bits and pieces of it, but nothing that was truly the start of what turned into his debut novel. It was a co-worker who offered a bit of advice that sent Bell down the path to writing “Trace Element,” which is the first in a three-part series: write about your skill set.

He has three advanced degrees in aerospace engineering has spent nearly two decades in the defense industry at BAE Systems in Hudson, now serving as engineering director of the secure enterprise communications product line, and holds high level clearance. So it only made sense for “Trace Element” to take a deep dive into a top secret world filled with unscrupulous motives and hidden truths.

“I wondered if I put all those skills into writing a story, how would that come out?” Bell said.

Inspired by his love of science fiction, Bell now had a path to follow, but it had to have a balance between technical and intrigue. And it needed to have a concrete ending.

He had written some poems, but “nothing that was a holistic story like this,” Bell said.

So given his propensity for planning, Bell opted to get everything in order before sitting down to write.

“I knew the story before I started,” Bell said.

He wrote the first chapter, but instead of slowly unfolding the story, Bell decided to then write the last chapter. Then the second chapter and the second to last chapter until he got to chapter 13, the middle of his novel.

“That’s the only part I didn’t know – how they would stitch together,” Bell said.

Every location in the book is a place Bell has visited – London, Athens, Monaco and the French Rivera. The ArcelorMittal Orbit in London, designed by sculptor Anish Kapoor as a legacy installation for the London Olympics, is where a crucial moment in the story takes place. It was a return trip to London where the final chapter came together.

His editor classified it as speculative fiction, “which that’s what I was aiming for,” Bell said. Bell purposely set up “Trace Element” with a broader plot line so the story could continue. He’s already written the second book in the series “The Coral Sea” and is anticipating a release in February of 2022.

“Trace Elements” was released on Jan. 20 (1/20/2021), a choice he made due to the fact it’s a palindrome. Bell had the book published through Atmosphere Press and it is available at a wide variety of online locations, as well as bookstores like the Toadstool. And for Bell, having it in the bookstore he grew up going to is something he could have only dreamed of.

Bell graduated from ConVal in 1999, and is likely more known to those in the area as Ryan. But Bell, who now lives in Hollis with his wife and two children, wanted something a little different for his pen name, so decided to shorten it to his first and middle initial (William).

The link for Saturday’s Zoom event can be found at For more information, call the Toadstool Bookshop in Nashua at (603) 673-1734.

For more information about Bell, ‘Trace Element’ and his future writings, visit

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