1. Why don’t we start by telling the folks a little about you?
Hmm, OK. My name isn’t really A.F.E. Smith, at least during the daytime. I work as an editor for a distance learning institution, on the subjects of maths, computing and technology. (I’ve always been both a writer and a mathematician. Go figure.) I have a husband and two young children. My hair is red, but only when I remember to dye it; my eyes are blue. And I have a very minor chocolate obsession.
2. When and why did you start writing?
I started writing pretty much as soon as I started reading. I still have the very first ‘book’ I ever wrote, when I was six years old, about a rabbit with superpowers. And that’s far too long ago to remember why, but I think it simply always seemed natural to me that if I enjoyed reading stories so much, I should write down some of my own.
3. Who is your favorite author and why?
That’s probably the hardest question you could have asked me! I love so many authors. Narrowing it down to ‘authors whose entire oeuvre is sitting on my bookshelves’, that gives us a shortlist of Terry Pratchett, Juliet Marillier and Diana Wynne Jones. And I’m going to have to go with Diana Wynne Jones, because I’ve loved her the longest. She wrote so many wonderful children’s books, and a few for adults besides. I think what I like most about her books is that you never get the same thing twice. I really have no idea how she managed to come up with so many amazing plots in her lifetime, but if I could steal any author’s creative talents, I’d steal hers.
4. Do you feel that this person inspired your writing? Do you feel that your writing is modeled after him/her?
Yes, I think DWJ inspired my writing – insofar as she was one of the authors I loved most as a child, and any author who is loved by a child who writes can be said to have inspired him or her to do so. I think if I were to write a children’s book, it would owe more to her than I might realise. But I don’t think my adult writing is modelled after her, because I tend to a little more darkness than she did – though, of course, her Tough Guide to Fantasyland is a great reference when it comes to being aware of fantasy tropes.
5. What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?
Nothing profound. I hope to find some readers who really enjoy reading my books. If I can provide an escape for a miserable teenager or a few hours of pure entertainment for a busy mother, I will have done for others what other authors’ books have done for me. That’s all I require.
6. Traditional or self-publishing and why?
I am traditionally published … semi-traditionally published. My publishers are Harper Voyager, who are truly massive in fantasy publishing, but my contract is digital first (the ebook comes out six months before the paperback), which isn’t a traditional way of doing things.
Why did I go for traditional publishing? Because I am a terrible self-doubter and if Voyager hadn’t given me validation that my book was good enough, I would still be rewriting it now. And also … when I was a child and dreaming of being an author, my dream was always of a big publisher rather than going it alone. So even though the publishing landscape is changing, and many people do very well for themselves as self-publishers, my heart was still in the traditional route.
7. Tell us about your most recent book and why we should love or hate your characters.
Darkhaven is a fantasy murder mystery. The main characters are a brother and sister, Myrren and Ayla Nightshade, who belong to a ruling family of shapeshifters. Their father is murdered, all the evidence points to Ayla being the culprit, and the book follows both of them as they work from different angles to try and figure out who really did it.
You should love my characters because they’re real, I think. They certainly have flaws. Ayla in particular seems to have divided reviewers; some of them really like her, some … not so much. And from my perspective, that means she’s rounded and real and alive enough to have sparked a reaction in people. Characters aren’t meant to be perfect. Sometimes they should drive you up the wall.
8. If your book had a soundtrack, what is the first 5 songs you would include?
I’m useless at soundtracks. I write in complete silence, because although I love music, I find it a terrible distraction. So I’m possibly the only writer in the known universe who hasn’t put together a playlist for their books. Off the top of my head, it would be a weird mixture of prog rock and 90s indie, with a bit of classical music and/or film score for variety.
I don’t think there’s much chance I’ll ever get a job as a soundtrack composer.
9. Aside from writing or reading, what is your favorite pastime?
You mean people do things other than read and write? 😉
I like playing board games. Computer games and role-playing games have never been my thing, but old-fashioned board games are brilliant. And cards – I love me some cards. Oh, and Yahtzee! I could spend a whole afternoon playing Yahtzee.
10. What is the one thing you want to do, or the one place you want to go, that you would put at #1 on your bucket list?
I’d really love to visit Australia and New Zealand. But I think it will be a while before I dare to take my children on such a long trip.
11. Finally, what else would you like readers to know?
When I said my chocolate obsession was minor, I lied. Basically I live for sweet snacks and so if you ever want to do anything nice for me, send me chocolate.
Oh, and also, I have a mailing list if you want to keep up with what I’m doing: http://www.afesmith.com/mailing-list. Everyone who is on the list in January will be entered into a prize draw to win a signed paperback copy of Darkhaven and some other stuff too.
Links to book: