Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
My name is R. Lee Smith and I’m old enough.
Fiona: Where are you from? / Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I grew up rural in Washington State, not too far from Seattle. My parents took in foster children, many of them with disabilities or other special needs, so we didn’t have quite as much freedom to go places as other families. We kind of made our own fun around the house. Both my parents were avid readers. Books were in every room of the house and trips to the library were among our most regular recreational outings. There was never any censorship. If we were old enough to want to read the book, we read it, and the only thing our parents did was try to be there to answer questions.
My father had a few of Lovecraft’s collections, which I read at a very young age, and although the language often went over my head, I was fascinated by the stories. Our library had a small paranormal reference section and before I was twelve, I had read everything in it at least once. Soon after, I discovered this thing called ‘horror fiction’ and I became an instant and lifelong fan. Horror movies, comics, books and video games make up 90% of my entertainment.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I’ve been taking a break from ‘the serious stuff’ to write an extensive fanfic series…yes, I said fanfiction…which ironically is probably the darkest and most intense thing I’ve ever written. I’ve had a lot of fun with it, but it’s coming to an end, and once it’s over, I’ll be starting my next ‘serious’ book.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
As there were numerous and often medically fragile children in our household, going out was never an easy thing. Plans were made well in advance and could be cancelled at any moment. My mother often combined outings (to the library, for instance) with necessary errands (like the Herculean task of grocery shopping on a budget for 6-10 kids), but for the most part, we made our fun at home. We read, because books were everywhere, and I grew a deep love of language. I was not a great student. In fact, I received very poor grades in certain classes for turning what should have been simple fact-based answers into emotional narratives. On the other hand, I was always first-picked to read from the class book out loud, because I read fast and knew all the words. That’s…not really the reputation you want in middle school, but it was my one moment of peer acceptance, so I took it.
Around the same time, my mother took me to my first science fiction convention, where I encountered fanfiction for the first time. The idea that stories didn’t HAVE to end just because the book/movie/TV show did was a totally mind-blowing experience for me. I immediately began writing new adventures for my favorite characters, who began to take more and more of a supporting role as time went by. The idea that I could write my OWN stories wouldn’t occur to me until I was sixteen.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’m not sure I do yet. I still feel like I’m writing for fun. The knowledge that people read my books is a great feeling, but it comes with an awkward undertone of amazement and even discomfort, like I’m the newly-clothed Emperor just waiting for that one kid to point out that I’m not wearing anything at all.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
The first fully original book I ever wrote was probably heavily inspired by The Terminator. I say ‘probably’ because I don’t remember ever consciously working on it with that in mind, but it was all about a secret government project to genetically engineer and ultimately clone super-soldiers, which sharp-eyed readers may recognize as having nothing to do with The Terminator, but the main character had the same relentless, emotionless, machine-like determination, so it probably was. I called it The Darwin Project and even drew some terrible cover art for the 3-ring binder I kept it in. I was proud enough of it to submit it to a publisher. They returned it with a very polite letter saying they only published romances and that I should try again with a publisher that dealt in sci-fi. Emotionally exhausted by the whole experience of submitting my first book to ONE publisher, I decided instead never to submit anything to anyone ever again and from then on, I would only write for fun.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I’m terrible with titles. Not as terrible as I am with blurbs, but pretty bad. Most of my books just get a working title until I think of something better…and sometimes, I never do.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I’m a very visual writer. I tend to ‘see’ the book playing out in my head like a movie. Some of the scenes are much more vivid than others, so I write those first and don’t worry about how or where it fits into the story until later. As a result, my books start out as an extremely loose collection of disconnected scenes until they’re about a hundred pages long. Then there’s this magical moment when the timeline falls into place and I spend a day shuffling scenes around, and from then on, my job is just to fill in the blanks. I don’t usually use outlines and when I do, they’re pretty Spartan affairs—sometimes just a character’s name or a line of dialogue to remind me of the scene I’ve visualized.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Just about everything I see or experience is mentally filed away as potential ‘research’ for some future book. I went into surgery thinking, ‘Remember this smell. Remember this blanket. Remember that sound.’ I strive for realism, so if there’s something my characters do that I know nothing about, I will make an effort to research it, especially when it comes to how a character lives. If my characters are going to eat Wildlands Stew every day, I need to know what it tastes like (and learn that no matter how careful you are with those rocks, ash is going to get into the cooking pouch). So there are a lot of moments in all of my books that are drawn from personal experience to some degree.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Research is the best part of writing a book. If I’m writing in a certain setting, I make every effort to go there, as much as possible, and experience it firsthand. Unfortunately, I probably won’t be flying to Greece to write The Bull of Minos, but I went to southern Utah to help me build the world of Gann.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
If there’s an overarching theme to all of my books, it is how important family is. That a family is not necessarily the people who share your blood, but the ones who carry you, protect you, love and strengthen you. It’s all right to make your own family.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
‘New’ is not the word! My favorite authors are Kipling, Lovecraft and Poe, who use words the way painters use paint or sculptors use marble. They were the first to show me that language isn’t just abstract sounds we use to convey information, but that it can be an art. There are amazing modern writers out there and I find new books every year that blow my mind, but these are the three I always come back to when I need to recharge my batteries.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Do bills count? The only reason I ultimately begun making my books available to buy was because I was broke.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
No, I see writing as fun. And sometimes, I see it as something of a fixation. Some stories will dig into me and itch at the back of my head until I scratch it out onto the page. I don’t think about the fact that people will be reading my book at all while I’m writing it. That fear—er, thought only starts to surface while I’m editing. It’s PUBLISHING that I see as a career.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Nope! There are some things I’d change about the first ones, though, when I was less experienced and far less self-confident. But I’d rather write new ones that obsess over the mistakes I may have made in the old ones.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
At the moment, I’m writing the fanfiction, which is actually teaching me a lot about how to pace a series, as opposed to stand-alone novels. I wrote a series once before, way back when I was first starting on this path, and man, I wish I’d known then what I know now.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I’m open to pretty much any casting on most of my characters, but on one in particular, I stand firm: Keith David is the voice of Azrael, from Land of the Beautiful Dead.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Hearing someone else use a word a certain way does not mean that is how the word is supposed to be used. If you are not 100% sure of a word’s meaning, look it up. I learned that one that hard way.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
The dot on the top of a lowercase letter i is called a ‘tittle’.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, again, since I re-read The Road by Cormac McCarthy last week. Gotta have that unicorn chaser.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
The first one was probably Goodnight Moon or something like that, but the first novel I read was The Hobbit, when I was four. My father started reading it to me and I learned to read from its pages. It is still one of my favorite books.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Over the past few years, I’ve been learning how to paint, with the ultimate goal of finally being able to paint some of the scenes or characters from my books. I’m not there yet, but I’m closer than I was.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
My favorite kind of movies are dumb sci-fi/horror movies, the kind that are unintentionally hilarious because they are so bad. No, not like Sharknado. Those are perfectly aware that people only watch them ironically. More like Ed Wood’s stuff, where everyone who’s involved is doing their part with complete enthusiasm, totally unaware that they are AWFUL. The 80s and 90s were a blessed time for this sort of thing. Charles Band for life!
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Decompose, one assumes, since the only way I’d stop is if I’d died.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
I’ve actually had to think about this in the past because of reasons, and I know exactly what I’d do. I’d sit my sisters down with a notebook and work out an outline for my unfinished books so that they could finish them. If I had any time left in the day, I would watch the Viking Women and the Sea Serpent episode of MST3K, snuggle my dog, and write my eulogy. There will be puns.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
“The book has ended. The story goes on.”
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
You can visit https://rleesmith.wordpress.com/ , where I sporadically blog, or join the R Lee Smith Book Club on Facebook, where I try to pop in every few days and occasionally hold giveaways.
Amazon Authors Page USA https://www.amazon.com/R.-Lee-Smith/e/B005DZ2HI0/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1