Full of wanderlust and a professional sunset watcher, A.K. Smith writes twisty suspense books that will keep you up late. Her debut novel, A Deep Thing was awarded the Readers Favorite Gold Medal. A freelance travel writer (under another name), she loves to experience the world, and discover new settings to feature in her latest novels and articles. If she’s not on the water or in the water, she is looking at the water. She spends her days working remotely online in either Mexico on the Sea of Cortez, or in the desert or forests of Arizona. Beautiful settings provide thousands of story ideas that she can’t wait to get down on paper. She is convinced, her best life is with a beach, a blanket, and a book. Her big loves are her husband, family, friends, and kindness. Her goal is to step foot on every continent on Planet Earth (maybe even the moon) –she’s slowly getting there.
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Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
I’m a freelance travel writer and have written travel books, and travel articles for the last fifteen years. My favorite books to read are full of twisty suspense, and if they have a beach, an island, or an ocean in the setting, I’m in. I guess you write what you love to read, and both of my published books have settings by the ocean, intertwined with unique places to visit. My debut novel, A Deep Thing, was traditionally published by a small press less than five years ago. My new release, Pseudocide, is independently published by my publishing company, Books with Soul® Press. Books With Soul has published over 400 gift books, including children’s books, travel books and inspirational journals.
What is something unique/quirky about you?
I work remotely from the beautiful Sea of Cortez in Mexico and the desert of Arizona. For my first book, A Deep Thing, I dove the beautiful cenotes of the Yucatan, so I could accurately write about them in my novel. My husband and I took 99 vacations in three years, and I wrote a book about how it is possible on a working budget.
Where were you born/grew up at?
I grew up in a small Western Pennsylvania town outside of Pittsburgh. Although, I have lived in over ten states and two countries.
If you knew you’d die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
Wow, that’s a tough question to answer, unless I could be like the main character in my book, Pseudocide and just fake my death and start all over again.
What are you passionate about these days?
Kindness, traveling, and sunsets. If I’m not on the water, in the water, or walking on the beach, I’m probably looking at the water. Now that traveling is back, I am passionate about my quest to step foot on every continent and explore this planet. I’m slowly getting there.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
I love to stream twisty series or movies especially if they have an island or beach in them. I think there should be more series and movies with boats, oceans and unique destinations. That goes for books as well.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Beach lover writer who loves kindness…whoops that’s six.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
I can imagine my first novel, A Deep Thing, would make a great twisty adventure thriller, complete with islands, diving, and a college campus with a secret tunnel underneath. My second novel Pseudocide, I imagine as a young adult series, with gorgeous bay settings, thick green woods, and the shiny lights of Las Vegas.
What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?
To me that is harder than stating my favorite movie. I love books that take me on a journey and surprise me.
I’m a fan of Karen M. McManus, One of is Lying and Lauren Oliver’s, Panic. I love books that put females in the center of every story.
The Handmaids Tale, by Margaret Atwood is right up there with The Help and I loved Janet Fitch’s book, White Oleander, and the classic, To Kill a Mockingbird. I’ve read every Nicholas Sparks book and loved every minute of The Firm and A Time to Kill, by John Grisham
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins and Wool series by Hugh Howey and Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens are some recent favorites. I also love Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Book Selections that focus on women authors and female protagonists.
What book do you think everyone should read?
Well, A Deep Thing or Pseudocide by A.K. Smith would be great to be on everyone’s list, if a writer doesn’t believe their book should be on everyone’s list, no one else will.
How long have you been writing?
I have journaled and created stories since I was a kid. But, in the last ten years, I made it a priority. Making it a priority and acting on it made it happen.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write? I try to create character sketches of my main characters before I write, but as the story develops, some characters creep in and I have to include them.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
I am a researcher. In fact, the more I research the more ideas flow. It’s gathering the research together that develops my story. I read books, watch movies, and google everything!
Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, it is what I love to do, and I hope I can do it the rest of my life as a successful career.
What do you think about the current publishing market?
What I think, is there are so many great books out there, that is often difficult to get your book to stand out.But, if you can find enough fans, and you have a great story something good can happen.
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
Yes, I love to read, and I will read most fiction genres where I can learn something or go somewhere or that opens my mind to. My go to genre is twisty suspense– especially if it has a beach, an island, or an ocean as it’s setting. I also love magical realism and a twist of sci-fi. I love adventure stories with heart, that introduce me to somewhere new.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise?
I love the focus playlist on Spotify. However, sometimes I like to make a playlist for each book.
Why? My books playlist is something I share with my characters, my readers and they help set the mood or setting of the book. They also bring back great memories.
Do you write one book at a time, or do you have several going at a time?
Oh, I have several going at a time and then pick one to focus and finish.
If you could have been the author of any book ever written, which book would you choose?
I read The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks for the first time when I was young, and it was such a great story, that I wished I would have written it. But, I also remember my first Dean Koontz novel, Whispers which made me so tense, that I wondered how I could make someone feel those emotions from words on paper.
Pen or type writer or computer?
Wow, Computer all the way, I can’t imagine pen, I wouldn’t be able to read my own handwriting.
A day in the life of the author?
Writing is a very solitary job. Mix it up, set a schedule to write then get up and move around and then stick to your writing schedule.
Advice they would give new authors?
Don’t give up, keep writing
What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first?
I have tried both outlining and writing with a general idea of plot. I think a rough outline works best for me, however outlines morph into their own path as I write. I believe every new writer should try out both methods, to see what works for them.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I think giving up is a common trap. My advice is to go somewhere quiet, set a 30-minute alarm on your phone and just write. If it’s going well, do another 30 minutes, schedule this in every day and by the end of 6 months you will probably have a rough draft. A common mistake is thinking once you have the rough draft your novel is done. Oh, it’s only just begun, but at least you have something to work with. Don’t give up and don’t let others bring you down. Also, you must work with a good editor.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Wow, if I could time travel, I would tell my young self to start writing a book in high school. Would I listen? Hopefully. Imagine how many books I could have written if I only started when I was younger!
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
If I could write fulltime, I could finish a novel in 3-6 months, but unfortunately life and other priorities get in the way. My two completed books have taken several years. My other suggestion, is to try to keep writing even when you are working on the finished rough draft, spend a little time on the next one, even if it’s just doing the research for an hour a day.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Absolutely does not exist in my mind, not having enough time to write is my only block.
What inspired you to write Pseudocide?
There are numerous stories in history of men and women faking their death and starting over again. As technology progresses, and humans create more and more digital footprints, it will become difficult to accomplish this. We are tracked by our digital footprints.
Because of technology, and for the integrity of the story, my main character had to be young. Digital footprints of an adult are much harder to erase. The first few drafts were written before the pandemic, and as the pandemic of 2020 exploded, I tried to rewrite the manuscript and set it during pandemic times. It didn’t work. In the year of the pandemic, we are all more connected by technology than ever before, even children with online learning. So, the novel starts right before the pandemic.
As I googled ‘how to fake your death’, ‘gun violence” and ‘radical and domestic terrorism’ theories, I was concerned what my digital footprint must look like! My wish is to take my readers on a journey from Sunday’s point of view. I hope this book makes you feel. There are strong social issues such as bullying, racism, sexual assault, domestic abuse, and gun violence, which unfortunately are all too real in today’s world. For anyone who has experienced any of those issues, please know you are not alone. Talk to someone. There are resources in the back of the book to help anyone who needs to talk.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I’m working on a twisty suspense novel, set on a true to life island in the middle of the sea, with a medical school. I will be visiting that island for background and research.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
The definition of Pseudocide is “faking one’s death”. Thoughts of writing Pseudocide began in 2015. I read an article about a man who faked his death, and then got caught. I reasoned, if I were ever going to fake my own death, I would never get caught. Why would one want to fake their death? Typically to start over, to escape something terrible.
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
I used interesting names I like; I always thought the name Sunday was a great name. Sometimes, I use friends or family members names (with their permission) and give that character a trait or two of that person and then mix it in with something completely off-the-wall.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I enjoyed creating the twists. I constantly asked myself, now what else can go wrong?
Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?
Sunday the protagonist is a good person in a bad situation. Regardless of what terrible circumstances life is throwing at her, she has a drive to succeed and change her destiny. Unfortunately, bad things happen to good people, but it’s what you do after, that counts.
How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
My first book, A Deep Thing was easy. The setting is almost like a character. Cenotes are beautiful luminescent deep underground caves; plus, there’s a deeper message to this thriller. It really is–a deep thing.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
A young Miley Cyrus type actress would be perfect.
Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Pseudocide deals with strong social issues teens and adults face every day. I think part of the solution of getting past these issues is understanding and knowing they are out there, not censoring them.
How did you come up with name of this book?
I was fascinated with the word Pseudocide. I want readers to have to think about the word and what it means. Most people do not know what the definition is. I thought about calling the book, Playing Dead or You’re not really dead, are you? But I pictured the cover and just couldn’t change it.
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
I love the ending, but I can’t tell you why or I would be spoiling the conclusion.
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be?
Oh, I would like to spend a day with Hudson. I printed out a picture of him from the internet that captured Hudson, he was sitting in front of me when I wrote his chapters.
And what would you do during that day? Well, if you read the book, you would understand, I would like to go on “Hudson’s Ten Buck Tour” in Las Vegas.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination? My imagination, mixed in with a little reality. I worked at an Alice Paul House Crisis Center in graduate school in Indiana, Pa. Unfortunately, I witnessed abuse and sad stories. But, I also witnessed strong teens and women that become survivors with a story to tell, and a strong ladder to climb. Teens, women, and any person that has been a victim of abuse need to know they are not alone. They are survivors, their story might just help someone else out.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story? My characters definitely jumped off the page, right before my very eyes and there was a little bit of hijacking going on. One character who wasn’t supposed to be the good guy initially, talked me out of making him the bad guy.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
I think teen social issues should be addressed at home and in school. Discussion of issues is healthy and helpful. If Sunday’s story makes the reader feel, or learn one small thing about understanding troublesome situations, then this is a must read. If the readers are surprised at the outcome, then perhaps they opened their mind to the what if’s.
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
Well, my character Sunday could answer that question in a heartbeat, as she has an extraordinary sense of smell. A mix of woods and sea with cinnamon and dryer sheets.
Is there a writer which brain you would love to pick for advice?
Oh, I would go straight to the top and pick J.K. Rowling’s mind. What a fascinating mind to pick.
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