Wednesday, June 12, 2013

An interview with author, Greg Smith!

 Introducing this weeks guest, author Greg Smith! Q&A in the comments section!
Where are you from?
“I come from the land Down Under, where women glow and men chunder...” (Sydney, Australia). I was born in Sydney, grew up in Papua New Guinea, moved to Sydney when I was 5, then emigrated to America in 1999 where I currently live in the Pacific Northwest.
What inspired you to write your first book?
My very first book was born of a dare. My wife and one or two friends dared me to write an erotic thriller. Within 3 months I had written KILLING SOFTLY which was immediately picked up by a publisher. But it also opened the door to something I’ve always dreamed of doing — to write.
Do you write full-time or part-time? How do you balance your writing life with your family/work life?
Right now I write part-time (while job hunting—I’m a graphic designer by trade), and I struggle like the majority of aspiring writers with balancing that passion with family/work life. I’m fortunate to have my studio to which I hibernate when writing, but with that comes the guilt that I’m neglecting others; my wife, pets and friends. Thankfully my wife understands and supports my new venture—others, they insist of me coming out to play. So I generally write from morning to lunch, then sometimes in the evening.  
What jobs have you held that influence your stories?
It’s not so much jobs that I’ve had but the people they have introduced me to that influence my stories (many of which are yet to be told). Many of the characters in my stories are drawn from people I’ve met, or the blending of two or more people to create one character. But I have to say that being an artist and illustrator I am blessed (or cursed) with a wild imagination. 

Do you have a specific writing style?
As an aspiring writing I have yet to identify or determine if I have a specific writing style, or voice, as it’s sometimes referred to. Right now I just write as I feel the story should be written, how the characters direct me to portray them. I would be most interested, and would welcome readers to let me know how they would describe my style.

How did you come up with the title?
Hmmm, good question. Here again, my career as a graphic designer probably comes to my aid. Over the years of working on projects for numerous clients I have had to write some of the copy for various projects and I guess being able to do that has helped me devise titles for my stories. But having said that, the title that sprang to mind for my soon-to-be-released book surprised even myself. THE PITS couldn’t be a better title for my newest book—it incorporates the underlying theme to the story while giving expression to the protagonist’s outlook on his chosen career and his new encounter with the wiles of men. 
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
THE PITS has a definite message that should be felt by everyone that reads it. The story was inspired by an article I read in a newsletter put out by the ASPCA. It affected me so much that I sensed an underlying message that screamed to be told. It wasn’t long before I conjured up a storyline—a man and his dog pit themselves against the insidious blood sport of dog fighting. 

How much of the book is realistic?
Quite a lot of it, in fact. If there’s one specific part of writing that I really enjoy it’s the research that I devote to my stories. THE PITS has a great deal of realism and fact interwoven in the story, the same can be said for my current project THE ARCHER OF COED CADW which is a historical fiction novel—to date I have spent a year or more researching the history of the era in which the story is set.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
None of the stories I have written or am currently writing carry any personal experiences of either myself or anyone else I know. However, I do have another storyline in mind which would entail a very large part of my personal experiences at a time I was a very active member of a coven of ‘white witches.’

Really? That is very interesting! What books have most influenced your life most?
Hmmm, another good question and one that I really haven’t given a lot o thought to. But looking back over some of the books I’ve read I would have to mention SARUM by Edward Rutherfurd, THE POWER OF ONE by Bryce Courtenay, among others—but most importantly, the books of the New Testament.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Ah, now that’s a hard question. If I had the opportunity (for real) I think I would choose either Patricia Cornwell or Stephen R. Lawhead.

What book are you reading now?
Right now—when I have or make the time—I’m reading THE SKYSTONE, Part One of The Camulod Chronicles by Jack Whyte...historical fiction of the forging of Arthur’s Britain.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

What are your current projects?
As mentioned previously, THE ARCHER OF COED CADW, an historical fiction that spans the times from Medieval England to the present day. It will have two stories running concurrently. I’ve been working on it off and on for 4 years to date. 

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Growing up I had an auntie Mitch who, recognizing my talent, persistently encouraged me to draw and use my imagination. If there was any one person I could say fully supported me at an age that forged who or what I am today, I would have say it was her.

Do you see writing as a career?
That would be another dream fulfilled if it came to pass, and as I retirement approaching fast (next year, in fact) I would dearly love to think I could eventually write full-time.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Probably not. It has survived 6 rewrites and one editorial purge and improved from the process. It is currently undergoing its final editing and polishing before being published and I would like to believe the final product will be the best it can be for the reader.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
My interest in writing was born in primary school when I was the ripe old age of 10. My English teacher would set us homework that quite often entail us having to write stories, real or imaginary. This aspect of my schooling carried into high school where I consistently scored top marks for everything I wrote.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?
The day James Alderton buries his parents he inherits a mysterious heirloom that has been passed down by the women of his mother's lineage for centuries—a small treasure chest containing a handful of relics and a diary.
      James’s mother also leaves him a letter and documents outlining his intriguing genealogy. She also leaves him with a mission—complete the extensive investigation she has started into the history and authenticity of the relics and diary, then decide if the world is ready for his findings that she believes James will find to be true.
      The young Alderton sets out from Sydney, Australia with his best friend, Gavin Allawa, an Australian aborigine, for London, England in search of answers concerning not only James's strange inheritance but the truth behind the supposed 'accidental' death of his parents. 
      What he and Gavin uncover will astound them, cause an international uproar, and virtually rewrite history. 
      However, there are those who wish to keep their discovery secret from the world; and others who want his inheritance for themselves—at any cost!

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I’m new to this field and find almost every aspect of writing somewhat of a challenge. Discipline in my writing schedule would have to be one of the hardest challenges for me at the moment. The process of looking for a full-time job takes up quite a lot of each day and can prove to be extremely distracting at times when I’d rather be writing, so I have to discipline myself to set aside specific amounts of time each day to my projects.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
That’s not a fair question only for the fact that I have more than one favorite author. But I guess Patricia Cornwell springs to mind. What I particularly love about her work is how she develops her characters, maintains the integrity of the storyline despite the myriad of twists and turns, and how she manipulates suspenseful situations. Once I begin reading one of her books I find it extremely hard to put down.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Oh, how I would love so much to be able to travel to research my stories, especially my current project which is set in Australia and England. Thankfully I was born and grew up in Australia, and have visited England twice, so I have a bounty of images and memories to draw on. I am most thankful for living in the age of the Internet, a limitless source of information for any writer. But if you’re also referring to that aspect of writing that I’m guessing the majority of writers wish they could avoid—marketing—then, no, I haven’t had to travel a lot with regards my books. Yet.

Who designed the covers?
At the moment, I design my own covers. I have 20+ years experience in both the publishing and printing industries and feel I have the expertise to do justice to my own material in that regard.  What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Time. Time is my nemesis when it comes to writing. But when I retire I see myself winning that battle.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I already had a good sense of man’s inhumanity to man, but THE PITS opened my eyes to the worse possible characters who take advantage of innocent animals who neither have the power or voice to fight back at being exploited in one of the most debasing and horrible ways ever inflicted on anyone or any animal. Dog fighting is one aspect of society that needs to be stamped out, but never will while there are those walking around willing to make a living off the deaths and maiming of others. 

Do you have any advice for other writers?
At this early stage in what I hope could be a career, I cannot assume to advise any other writer other than to make sure you devote a part of every day to writing—whether it be just jotting down notes and ideas, or working on a certain project. And don’t be afraid to ask questions of other writers—you’ll be surprised by how helpful they will be to support you in your own writing.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I regard myself as an apprentice Wordsmith. I have chosen to try my hand at a relatively new trade and ask that if you choose to read any of my work that you will visit my web site and leave comments, or email me. It is from your valuable insightful feedback that I will grow better and improve.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
Research for fairly easy because of the Internet, the only challenge there was sifting through all the information and determining the more pertinent facts for my story. Next came devising the plot and developing the characters—getting into their minds, seeing the story from each of their views, then pulling all that together into a cohesive, believable and interesting story. I belong to various online writers’ groups and forums and it’s interesting to hear that I’m not the only one whose characters take on a life of their own and quite often dictate the flow of the story. The challenge is to remind them who’s really in control.
What do you think about e-publishing versus technical publishing?
From my background in printing and publishing I can appreciate the changes both industries are undergoing, and have been for quite some time now. I regard that both aspects of publishing have a valid reason for being. More and more of the public, the writer’s market, is constantly on the move and looking to technology to quench their thirst for immediacy in everything to do with their living style. Writers have to embrace the growing demand for e-books; it’s something that will never go away but grow stronger. When it comes to marketing your own work, a writer has to cast as wide a net as possible to catch as big an audience as possible and to do that any marketing strategy has to take into account all the current avenues available for publishing. Regardless of what genre you may be writing, your market is open to both publishing forms—e-publishing and technical. A writer should utilize both. The real question that I see facing a writer is whether to self-publish or publish through a traditional house. This is where I turn to members of my online groups for their input.
Do you have an agent or publisher? How did you go about finding one?
Following on from the previous question, with regards to THE PITS my first thought was to publish traditionally; to find myself an agent or publisher. My background in publishing forged that idea originally out of dedication, I guess, but as I involved myself online with other writers my plan was brought into question. Now I’m looking to self-publish THE PITS for one main reason—immediacy. I turn 65 this year and suddenly I don’t want to sit around waiting for my book to reach the public, a process that could well take any number of years. My decision to self-publish was helped by the fact that I never intended to make a living from the sales of my work; my main concern was to have it readily available for readers and as quick as possible. Maybe when it comes to my historical fiction novel I’ll consider an agent or publisher, only for the concept of the story being more to their taste.
If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
England or Ireland. My roots are there. I love history and legends and both can be found in glorious abundance in those countries. My apologies to any Aussies reading this interview.
I agree with you! I'd love to live in England or Ireland. If you could have any super power, what would it be?
There was an occasion when Superman was able to use his speed to travel back in time—to fly so fast that he reversed Time. To be able to fly anywhere, any time and fast—that would be bloody awesome! 
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