I'm happy to welcomea good friend to this blog. Virginia Smith has written several books that I love.
More of the same, I hope. I love all aspects of being a writer—the business end, the marketing, the ongoing skill development, the discipline required, and of course the act of writing. I hope God lets me keep doing this for a long, long time!
I know what you mean. Tell us a little about your family.
My husband of seventeen years is an amazing guy, the most supportive man any woman could hope for. When I left my corporate job to write full-time, he told me, “I have no doubts you will be successful. I know you can do anything you set your mind to.” Isn’t it awesome to have someone who believes in you like that? We live alone, since my kids are both grown and on their own. Family is important to us, and unfortunately ours is a bit spread out, which is why we keep two homes. My daughter and son-in-law live not far from our home in Salt Lake City, and almost all my extended family lives within a 40-mile radius of our home in central Kentucky. We’re a big, loud, boisterous, fun family, and we all love God and each other with all our hearts.
Has your writing changed your reading habits? If so, how?
As happens with every writer, I began to read differently when I started studying the craft. I taught myself how to analyze a novel, to dissect the elements of characterization and setting and plot. I also began to notice active versus passive phrasing, and the ratio of dialogue to narrative, and point of view techniques. Now it’s hard for me to read a novel without noticing those things. These days my definition of a good novel is one that so captivates me in the story that I forget to notice the writer’s technique. A recent one I enjoyed immensely is Brandilyn Collins’ Crimson Eve. I was so into the story I forgot to analyze the writing. And after a while, I didn’t care. I was so compelled to keep reading that I didn’t want to stop and study her technique. That’s a good book! And these days if a book doesn’t grab my interest and keep it, I don’t hesitate to set it aside and find something that does.
Brandilyn's work does that to you. What are you working on right now?
I have so much going on at the moment I hardly know how to answer! I have just finished the first draft of Age before Beauty, the second book in my Sister-to-Sister Series from Revell. I’m in the stage where I’m letting it ‘rest’ before I revise it and turn it in to my editor. And I’ve just received a contract for my eighth novel, a mystery that will be released from Steeple Hill in October of 2008 called A Taste of Murder. I am focusing all my writing efforts at the moment on getting the first draft of that finished because it’s due at the beginning of January. Then of course I am working to promote Bluegrass Peril, which just came out. And I’m also beginning the promotion activities for Stuck in the Middle, the first book in the Sister-to-Sister Series that will be out in February. And then I have another book coming out in March!
How exciting! What outside interests do you have?
My husband and I are avid scuba divers. We try to get down to the Caribbean a couple of times a year, more if we can fit it in. Our favorite diving destination is Cozumel, Mexico. The water clarity there is crystal-clear, and the coral supports an amazing variety of sea life. Recently we went down to Roatan, Honduras, and we had such a great dive we decided that might become our next favorite.
Naturally since we have a house in Salt Lake City we’re snow skiers. There are seven world-class ski resorts within easy driving distance of my home, and my favorite—Brighton Ski Resort—is just 20 minutes away. Wide tree-lined slopes, breathtaking mountain views, very few crowds during the week. I love it.
How do you choose your settings for each book?
Every book is different. All my books so far have been set in central Kentucky, because that’s the place in the world I know best. Sometimes the idea for a story comes from a character, and the setting is Kentucky because I know I can write a Kentucky girl believably--since I am one! But sometimes the idea comes from the setting itself. Bluegrass Peril, for instance, is set on a thoroughbred retirement farm. I got the idea when I visited a place called Old Friends, a real retirement farm for stallions not far from my home. The place, and the director, and the horses themselves, made such an impression on me I decided to set a book there. I used a fictitious farm, of course, so I could have the freedom to arrange things the way I wanted, but the inspiration for the story grew out of the setting of a real place.
If you could spend an evening with one historical person, who would it be and why?
Well, I can’t say Jesus because He’s not merely historical. I spend every day with Him. So I guess I’d say… Margaret Tudor, the sister of Henry VIII. Their other sister got to go to the French court, which was a center of elegant society in that time, while Margaret was sent off to marry the king of Scotland, viewed as a land full of little more than barbarians. She played a pivotal role in British history. But being a political pawn isn’t easy, and she was apparently very unhappy there at first. I visited Stirling Castle in Scotland, and as I walked through the halls I couldn’t help wondering what her life was like. Years later, when Queen Elizabeth I ruled England, it was Margaret’s great grandson, James, who became Elizabeth’s heir since she had no children of her own. Upon Elizabeth’s death, James was the first monarch of both royal lines to rule both countries, truly uniting the two.
Which is way more detail than you care about, but you asked!
Actually, I love historical details. What is the one thing you wish you had known before you started writing novels?
I wish I’d known how to write! Seriously, I didn’t have a clue about so many basics. I didn’t know what point-of-view was, much less that there were rules associated with it. I didn’t know how to draw the reader into an action scene by Showing versus Telling. I didn’t understand how to write believable dialogue. I didn’t know anything! If I had, maybe it wouldn’t have taken me twenty years to finally publish something.
What new lessons is the Lord teaching you right now?
That this life is all about Him, not about me. I realized something not long ago as I was praying and laying out my requests to God. I have been so focused on the things *I* have to do, and on getting His help with them. But that’s backward. My tasks, like writing books, are important, but not because they’re my tasks. They’re important because they’re His tasks that He has delegated to me. Sure, I need His help or I can accomplish nothing worthwhile on my own. But the focus should be on Him, not on me. He’s the one at the center of my universe, and all my activities need to revolve around Him, not the other way around.
Here’s a short blurb for Bluegrass Peril:
When the director of a retirement farm for thoroughbred champions is murdered, Kathy Dorsey teams up with the handsome manager of a neighboring horse farm to find her boss’s killer. The amateur sleuths uncover a trail of clues that lead them into the intricate society of Kentucky's elite thoroughbred breeding industry. They soon find themselves surrounded by the mint julep set – jealous southern belles and intensely competitive horse breeders – in a high-stakes game of danger, money, and that famous southern pride.
Bluegrass Peril was such a fun book to write! My husband really got into the research with me. We went to the Breeder’s Cup, a horse race held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, and we visited a thoroughbred breeder’s farm several times. We spent quite a bit of time at Old Friends (www.oldfriendsequine.org), the real thoroughbred retirement farm on which the fictitious farm in the book is modeled. I did attend one research visit without him, a thoroughbred auction, and I got so caught up in the excitement of the moment I almost bought the cutest little filly! Not a good thing, since some of those horses sell for more than a million dollars. From then on, Ted told me he would go with me to make sure I sit on my hands when the bidding gets hot. He also says Bluegrass Peril is his favorite of my books so far.
Here’s an interesting tidbit: Bluegrass Peril was initially pitched as a sequel to my first mystery, Murder by Mushroom. My editor liked the story but didn’t want a sequel, so she told me to disconnect it from the first. I changed the characters’ names, and a funny thing happened. With new names, they each started taking on their own characteristics and attitudes. So by the time I finished the book, they were all unique individuals apart from the characters in Murder by Mushroom. Still, I’m betting that discerning readers of both books will recognize them.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
My website is www.VirginiaSmith.org. I give away lots of goodies through my website, so be sure to check back often. And here’s a note to tuck away in the back of your mind: in February and March I’ll be giving away a $500 shopping spree to promote the release of Stuck in the Middle, book 1 of the Sister-to-Sister Series. So bookmark my site and check back next month for details.
Lena, thanks so much for inviting me to your blog! It’s always a pleasure to spend time with you.
And I love having you here, Ginny.
Readers, you'll want to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Bluegrass Peril. And be sure and come back to see if you have won a copy. We have a drawing every weekend, but you have two weeks to sign up for the drawing.
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