Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Interview: Haywood Smith

As promised, here is the interview with Haywood Smith, author of Wedding Belles among other things. This is a lovely interview, and she was very thorough in answering my questions. Check out her website here if you're interested to hear more about her.

Your newer books-what your website deems "Hell Hath No Fury" books-are about very realistic women. Do you draw inspiration from the people around you? Are there any notable scenes or plots that are based on true stories?

First, let me stress that there are no new stories, despite what people think. Even though we consider ourselves unique, there are always others who have shared our experiences, plus or minus the technology. That's why archetypal characters exist and are so successful in fiction. We all fall into one of a few basic personality types and life situations. Writing teachers have told me that there are only seventy-nine basic plots, or some such number, and every story is either a version or a derivative of one of those classic plots.

The same goes for characters. Every writer is influenced--consciously and unconsciously--by everything he or she has experienced, read, or seen. So when we create characters, we draw from that reservoir of experience, whether consciously or unconsciously. But the characters I create are always fictional in my mind, whether they're archetypes or stereotypes. Though some people have told me I can use their stories, I learned the hard way that I must get written permission to do so. Someone once said I could use some stories from her divorce, than conveniently "forgot" giving me permission and sued me and won some money. (Fortunately, it was covered by E&O insurance.) So now I am very careful to get written permission if I use anyone's anecdotes. Even when I do, though, the character is always someone I have made up in my mind to satisfy certain needs for the story. My purpose in writing is to entertain and uplift. I never wrote anything with the intention of hurting or depriving anyone, and I never will.

Is there a large difference between writing historical fiction and your newer books? Which do you find more difficult?

Writing an historical novel is a completely different experience from writing humorous contemporary Southern women's fiction, though I use the same production process, the objectives for each are distinct and very different. With the historicals, I focus more on the relationship between hero and heroine and the actual historical characters and events, using more action and adventure. With comedy, I focus on creating a memorable main character, then taking the reader along for the ride while the heroine endures exaggerated trials and tribulations, then ends up better in the end, despite everything. The situations in comedy are often exaggerated for dramatic effect. As far as difficulty, I find each genre has its own demands, and I always end up having to work very hard to produce each book. It's a real challenge writing complex stories that are easy to read.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

The best advice I can give any aspiring writer is to find a writers' group that allows you access to professional, published authors and learn everything you can. If you want to be published, you must be able to learn and grow, detaching from what you write and considering it product. As for the craft of writing, writing is rewriting. And rewriting. And rewriting. I had to rewrite my first novel six times before it finally sold, and another time for my editor. All writers are in a constant state of becoming. We learn and grow and hone our craft with every revision and every book. I never would have succeeded without what I learned from Georgia Romance Writers.

What are your favorite books?

My favorite books are the ones in the Bible, and anything by Thomas Hardy, Pearl Buck, Aristophanes, Philippa Gregory, Taylor Caldwell, Hemingway, Shakespeare... I could go on and on. I like writers from every genre but erotica. But I no longer read "downer" books, because the challenges of my own life have been significant enough; I don't need anything that drags my spirits down, no matter how wonderfully written it is. (Cold Mountain comes to mind.) My imagination is so vivid, I live what I read and write. That's why I write books that offer hope, humor, and encouragement to my readers, even though I deal with deadly serious woman's issues.

Is there anything you can tell us about your new or recently released projects?

I have just finished rewrites for my next book, out January 2013, titled OUT OF WARRANTY. It's a send-up of the heath insurance industry, the medical profession in America, and falling apart physically ten years before Medicare. When my widowed heroine is diagnosed with a rare form of arthritis (same as mine), she spends all her money and then some trying to get well, then decides she needs to remarry for better healtlh insurance. Needless to say, her efforts at fix-ups and e-dates don't pan out, so she ends up marrying a one-legged curmudgeon with the same condition, and they live platonically ever after in her mold-remediated house.

I am currently working on a sequel to my first women's fiction best seller, QUEEN BEE OF MIMOSA BRANCH, titled QUEEN BEE GOES TO COLLEGE.

I'm also working on two non-fiction books, one of my grandmother's wise and funny sayings, and one that's a wheat-oat-milk solids-gluten-rice-soy-free cookbook of recipes I've developed for my strict medical diet.

That's all! I hope you enjoyed the interview-I certainly did! I have another author who has agreed to do an interview, so stay tuned for more information!

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