My crazed reading endeavor continues! I’m making my way through the rest of list and loving every minute of it. Studying for finals has thrown a wrench in my plans, but I’ve still found the time to post this great interview with Jennifer E. Smith!
C: One of the things that I like best about “The Comeback Season” is that it is written is the present tense … was it a conscious decision to write “The Comeback Season” in this tense? If so, why did you choose to do so?
JS: I thought there was something about that story in particular – the intensity of it – that really lent itself to present tense. I like the immediacy it brings to the characters, almost like a close up on film. My second book, You Are Here, was written in past tense, but I’m back to present with the one I’m working on now, so I suppose it’s really less a decision than a gut reaction as to what might best serve the story itself.
C: Colgate, your alma mater, is a school that I toured when I was looking at colleges. Did you base the town that Emma and Peter live in, in “You Are Here,” on Hamilton, NY (the town where Colgate is located)? Are other places or characters in your novels based on your real life?
JS: Real life always has a tendency to creep into fiction, whether you mean for it to happen or not. When I first started writing You Are Here, I knew that Emma’s parents were going to be professors, and so I figured I’d set it at Colgate, though I never actually say so in the book. I don’t think any of my characters have ever been based on someone I know in any kind of major way (though I do borrow lines from time to time!), but with settings, if you already know a place well, it gives you a nice foundation. The area in North Carolina where Emma and Peter end up in You Are Here is more or less where my parents live now, and Ryan’s town in The Comeback Season is loosely based on the suburb of Chicago where I grew up.
C: What do you think you’ve gained, as an author, by working in the publishing industry? Did you enter the publishing industry knowing that you wanted to be an author? Is being an author something that you always knew you wanted to do?
JS: I’ve wanted to be an author since I was in fourth grade, but growing up, I never thought of it as a real job for some reason. It was somehow too far-fetched, like being an astronaut or a cowboy. It was a dream job, and how many people get to do their dream job? Publishing, on the other hand, seemed like a pretty good deal. Like most writers, I’ve always been a huge reader, and the idea that you could help make books happen – that you could start with a pile of pages and end up with this hard rectangular object – was enough to make me want to work in the industry. I always say that being an editor has made me a better writer, and being a writer has made me a better editor. And it’s true. Other than occasionally wishing there were more hours in the day, I think I’ve really benefited from doing both. I read a huge volume of submissions as an editor, and it’s interesting to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. And at the same time, I’m fortunate enough to edit so many wonderful authors whose work I admire greatly, and who set a standard that constantly makes me want to challenge myself in my own writing.
C: What five books are on your list of books that you couldn’t live without?
JS: "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, "Where the Red Fern Grows" by Wilson Rawls, "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy, "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, and Harry Potter (any and all!) by JK Rowling.
C: What author are you most looking forward to meeting and/or seeing at the Fifth Annual TBF?
JS: There’s such a great line-up, and I’m a big fan of so many of these authors. I’m looking forward to seeing Martin Wilson again – another YA author who works on the adult side of publishing – and I’ve never met Lisa Schroeder, though we’ve been in touch over the past couple of years, so it will be great to finally meet her. It looks like a wonderful group, and I’m thrilled to be included!
Thanks so much for the great answers, Jen! Only 16 more days until we get to meet you live and in person at TBF 2010! We’re counting down …