Author Interview – Greg Smith
This interview is with Greg Smith, a graphic designer turned novelist who has written two quite different novels in different genres. Greg is an Australian who has spent most of his life living in the US, but not quite enough to stop him signing off G’Day. Here are Greg Smith’s answers to my questions.
How long have you been writing for and what made you start writing?
I’ve been writing seriously for several years now albeit sporadically, but it’s been something in the back of my mind to try way long before that. And to answer your question as to what, or in my case who, made me start writing … I can thank my wife for that.
One day I mentioned an idea for a story and she quipped, “That would make a great book, I dare you to do it.” And that’s how this whole thing started.
Do you write for a living, or do you also do other work?
When I began writing I was working full time as a graphic designer and for years it was very difficult to balance my time between the two, plus family life, etc. But this isn’t something new and I’m sure that most writers reading this have been or are still are fighting that fight. But my circumstances changed a few months ago when my job at the time disappeared from beneath me. Since then I’ve had a lot more time each day to devote to my writing while I carry out my search for work.
Were you always good at telling stories, or has it come to you as an adult?
My talent for story telling can be traced all the way back to my early school days in Sydney, Australia (deep down I’m still an Aussie despite being an American Citizen)—even my English teachers in primary school commented on my ability to conjure up interesting stories. I guess it stayed with me all these years and my friends can attest to my talent for story telling because I always catch them out believing a new yarn all the time.
Were you good at English in school?
Yes, I guess you could say that I was. I never failed to get straight As in English and my favorite part of the subject was whenever we were set to write a story, fiction or nonfiction, for homework.
What do you read for enjoyment?
My favorite genre is historical fiction—it always has been. English was my favorite subject, and History was my second. When it comes to other genres to read I went through a science fiction phase that lasted for years, now I concentrate on thrillers, mystery, crime, conspiratorial, adventure, international intrigue, and war … all fiction, with a spattering of military history.
What advice would you give someone who wants to be a writer?
Hmmm, that’s a hard one, but I guess I would base the answer on my own experience. The first thing I undertook to do was sign up for a series of online writing courses conducted by a reputable author. Her assignments and remarks have been invaluable as I progress with my writing these days. And don’t forget all the fabulous group forums involving writers of all levels, these are a veritable gold mine of information, hints, and advice—and contacts. Newbies will find themselves welcomed with open arms and nurtured by others who remember their own early days.
What is the most useful advice you’ve been given?
I think it was Stephen King who said “If you want to be a good and successful writer then you must read, read, and read.” If you have a particular genre that you wish to concentrate your writing on, then you need to read as many books by other authors of that genre to gain a sense of language, etc used. This will prove invaluable while you struggle to find your own “voice.”
What is the strangest advice you’ve been given?
I can’t answer this question honestly because I can’t recall receiving any strange advice, and believe me, I’ve asked hundreds of questions of other writers since I picked up my quill.
How do you deal with the stranger reviews?
My second book, The Pits, has received over 30 reviews to date and of all those 4-5 star reviews there is only one that my wife and I would deem strange. The reviewer, I feel, got lost in an historical analogy to the point that you need to reread the comment several times before any sense can be made of it. Despite that I still chose to include it with the others because it was my decision to ask the person for a review and I believe the effort put into it deserves to shown to others.
Who do you write for?
Ahh, a great question. One thing I’ve learned from my writing courses and other writers is that a writer needs to establish her/his target audience, especially when it comes to promoting and marketing her/his book. I would like to think that my writing is able to reach out to those interested in a good thriller/adventure story with interesting twists.
As for age groups that’s another issue all together. Interestingly, very early in my writing I was told by a teacher that my style of writing was more at a college level and that if I expected to entertain or capture the interest of the majority of people I should write to a lower educational level as used in magazines such as Woman’s Day, People, etc. I write the way that is comfortable for me to write.
I am developing my own writing “voice” and if that should be regarded by some as being a trifle highbrow then so be it. I sincerely believe that readers know what they like; I hope a good number will look on my work favorably and want to become fans of mine.
What sort of things do you write?
To date I have 2 published books; the first (encouraged by my wife) is an erotic thriller, the second has been denoted by several reviewers as a crime/thriller/adventure crossover. Currently I am writing the sequel to the second book, and I have ideas enough to turn it into a series. Then, off to the side, I have an historical fiction novel that I plan to get finished one day. The last I hope will define me as a serious author.
Do you do much research? If so what is your favorite source?
Research is the favorite part of my writing process. Each book I’ve undertaken has involved research, some more than others depending on the storyline. My stories are a mixture of fiction and fact and it’s the fact component that I mean to be real and as accurate as possible. The Internet is my main stay when it comes to research as it is almost limitless in what it can deliver if one is patient enough to keep digging. I also rely on other books from time to time when I know of any that have touched on something similar to my own trend of thought.
What do you have in the drawer? (i.e. what have you written but not yet published)
That would be my historical fiction novel that I’ve been working on for several years albeit sporadically. It has involved over 2 years of research to date, even so far as my contacting the curator of the renowned London Museum and other historical specialists. Funnily enough, I was thinking about this book only this morning during my morning walk, wondering how I might go about developing the story and I think I’ve decided to make it a Two Book publication.
Describe your writing process, what, where, when and how please?
Being artistic, I have never been at a loss for story ideas. My latest book, The Pits, was born from an article I happen to read on the ASPCA website about dogfighting. A day or two later I came up with an idea of a story that involved a US Marine who, while deployed to Afghanistan, rescues a pup off the streets of a village following a car bomb attack. The two subsequently become best friends and when they rotate back to America find themselves caught up in an FBI operation to bring down a crime boss whose empire derives a lot of its money from the blood sport of dogfighting.
I immediately fell into research mode, gathering as much factual material as I could that dealt with dogfighting, the life of Marines on deployment (my son was the source for a lot of detail here as he was a Captain in the Corps—he is now a Major—and has been deployed several times in his 20 year career). Apart from the info he supplied, the Internet was my main research tool, even to delving into the mode of operating by the FBI.
Once I had the research done I structured an outline of the story, the characters, the timeline of events — then I began to write. Now, I happen to be one of those authors who allow my characters to determine the flow of the story. Quite often they will also make changes in its story’s direction and there have been numerous occasions when even I, the writer, has been caught by surprise by a sudden murder or twist.
After several drafts and rewrites in which I tighten up the story, I do a bit of self-editing and proof reading before handing the manuscript over to a professional editor. There is invariably a bit of rewriting to do after that before the book is ready for publication.
What is your best method or website for promoting your books?
Promoting and marketing of her/his book is the hardest and most arduous part of writing for an author, especially if the choice is to self-publish. One thing every writer MUST have is her/his own website for promotion. Then link that to your own Facebook page. LinkedIn is another popular network to join, but the best for writers is Goodreads.com that is proven to be one of the best for attracting avid readers. Also, don’t forget Twitter, Pinterest … the important thing is to utilize social networking as much as you can. And REVIEWS … collect as many as you possibly can as these can govern the amount of reader interest your work will attract.
What question do you wish I’d asked you?
Probably which is the best choice for a writer — to self-publish or traditional publishing. Again, there are myriad opinions on the Internet for and against this topic — all equally valid. Ultimately it falls to the individual to make that decision and a lot can depend on whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction. Either direction involves a great deal of work for the writer.
Where can we read your words?
Links to blog, website, book sales etc.
If readers are interested to learn more about myself and see samples of my work, they are welcome to check out these links:
The Pits: A Crime Novel (Amazon UK)
http://tinyurl.com/netku3a (Barnes and Noble.com)
Links to some reviews
Greg Smith kindly sent me some reviews of his books, so far there are 22 reviews between the Amazon US & UK sites, which are linked above. There are another 10 reviews of The Pits on Goodreads, where he scores an average of 4.5 stars from 14 ratings (impressive for Goodreads).
Here are a couple of quotes from what the Wildsound Writing Festival had to say about his work
“A strong story with an intriguing premise, there is plenty here to keep a reader gripped throughout. Overall, there is much to be admired in this novel. The plot is well thought-out and intricately woven. The characters are strong and relatable”
“Dialogue is a particular talent of this author’s, with interactions being natural and snappy throughout.”
You can follow Greg Smith on twitter.
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