G is for guest and today I’m pleased to welcome Lisa April Smith, author of Exceeding Expectations, to my notebook. Today, she’s sharing a little about her writing process.
My Approach to Writing
by Lisa April Smith
I’m often asked at book events, “Are you ever stymied by writer’s block?” And I am delighted to reply that I’ve never experienced writer’s block. I think the reason for that has to do with my concept of work. When I was at IBM I didn’t ask myself if I was in the mood to do something. I looked at the tasks at hand, prioritized them and got to it. In the process of constructing a book, I have many varied ways to be productive. Editing. Plotting. Incorporating my latest epiphany. Creating a calendar so that I know how old characters are during the time frame of the story. I maintain a separate file that has the physical appearance, ethnicity and traits of every significant character.
Except when we’re traveling, five to six days a week, I’m at my desk about 7:00 am and quit between 1:00 and 2:00. But whether I’m at my desk or not, I’m never entirely off. If I’m on a plane, or driving, or watching reruns of 30 Rock, or shopping for groceries, my brain involuntarily generates ways for improving the book. Some people call it drive, discipline or dedication. Personally, I think it’s a sign of a compulsive disorder.
I chose suspense/mystery as my genre for one critical reason: to keep my readers involved and turning the pages far into the night. While they are being alternately charmed, dazzled, entranced, amused, aroused, outraged and entertained by my characters, they’re busy looking for clues and guessing what surprises await them. And that’s a challenge. Try to estimate the number of book, movie and television plots that average American adults have encountered by the time they’re thirty or forty. It has to number in the tens of thousands. That makes for a jaded audience. That’s why I work so hard at avoiding clichés: phrases, characters and plots.
Given my choice of genres, it might surprise people to learn that I start with characters and then develop my plot – one that will test my protagonists in fresh ways, while remaining true to their personalities. For example, in Exceeding Expectations, I saw Jack Morgan as a living, breathing, complex person with diametrically opposing attributes. Conman and devoted father. Appealing rascal who would never knowingly hurt someone. Jack has no problem bending the law, particularly when he can rationalize that by doing so, he is protecting his daughters. So I fabricated a childhood that could produce those traits. The son of an uneducated, hard-drinking widower, the youngest of four brothers all reluctantly raised by the sole female in the household, his overworked older sister. As a man, he is so unused to compassion or tenderness in others, that when experiencing these emotions for the first time – seeing a helpless newborn about to be abandoned – it changes him forever.
I love weaving words into stories; placing invented people into invented problematic situations. When I am skillful, I not only entertain, I touch, transport and meaningfully move my readers. And that’s a powerful and addicting drug.
Author Lisa April Smith lives with her husband, He-who-wishes-to-remain-anonymous, in Eternal Playland, Florida, a delightful spot just off I-95. Ms. Smith describes Eternal Playland as: “a little piece of level heaven with occasional dampness, where the bugs are plentiful but respectful, and even the smallest strip mall contains at least one pizza place and a nail salon.”
Before discovering a passion for writing, Ms. Smith sold plumbing and heating, antiques, taught ballroom dancing, tutored, modeled, designed software and managed projects for IBM and returned to college multiple times to study anthropology, sociology and computer science, in which she holds degrees, as well as psychology, archeology, literature, history and art. Combine those widely diverse interests with a love of travel and a gift for writing page-turners and it’s easy to understand one reviewer’s unbridled praise for Exceeding Expectations, “She (Ms. Smith) has a brilliance for conveying characters, and the intellectual capacity to place them in historical settings that sparkle with glamorous detail. . . that make it fun to read . . . ” But it takes much more than lush settings, an eye for detail and a love of history to write a page-turner. Read what another reviewer said about Exceeding Expectations: “Lisa April Smith . . . has woven an intriguingly rich tapestry of delightful well-developed characters into a perfectly balanced plot bursting with riveting mystery, crimes of the petty and the horrible sort, suspenseful twists, and romantic tension complete with love scenes that sizzle and pop.”
For more about the author, her books, and upcoming projects visit her website: http://www.LisaAprilSmith.com.
About Exceeding Expectations
It’s 1961 and Palm Beach socialite, irresistible rascal and devoted father Jack Morgan encounters genuine danger while staging his suicide to shield his beloved daughters from disgrace. Next, meet his daughter Charlotte (Charlie), an over-indulged 23 year-old struggling to cope with the traumatizing loss of her beloved father, her sister’s resulting mental breakdown and the discovery that she’s suddenly penniless. Fortunately Raul, an admiring young attorney, appears to offer assistance. As terrified as she is about daily survival, Charlie soon realizes that she has to learn what drove her father to kill himself. With Raul’s much needed ego-bolstering, the drive of necessity and unforeseen determination, Charlie finds a practical use for her annoyingly lean 5’ 11” frame. In time, this career finances her hard-wrought independence, her sister’s costly treatment and an emotional eye-opening journey to Paris.
Jumping back in time to romantic pre-WWII Paris readers meet young Alan Fitzpatrick – aka Jack Morgan – lack-luster artist, expert lover, irresistible rascal, and the bewitching girl who will become the mother of his children. Not even Charlie’s relentless detective work will uncover all Jack’s secrets, but in a fireworks of surprise endings, she discovers all that she needs to know and more: disturbing truths about her father, her own unique talent, crimes great and small, and a diabolical villain.