Lauren Sevier & A. Smith are long time friends and co-authors from southern Louisiana. Guns & Smoke, their first joint publication, began as a “short” story after having too much wine on girl’s night. Nine years later it is now the first novel in a Dystopian/Western Romance series. The duo has plans to publish several series together in the future. A. Smith spends her time with her two rescue dogs and rescue cat surrounding herself with books and Labyrinth paraphernalia. Lauren Sevier collects antique tea cups and tries to stay sane, though as the mother of a toddler she fails brilliantly most days. She also has a growing collection of crowns and tiaras and likes to act silly on Tiktok. Look for more thrilling novels from The Fools Adventure series in the future!
An Interview With A. Smith
Describe your writing style. Generally speaking, I have a really lyrical and emotionally grounded writing style. It’s more pronounced in my solo works like my debut YA Fantasy novel ‘Songs Of Autumn’, but there’s a definite lyrical quality to the sections I write. I’m a fan of alliteration with purpose and finding almost musical beats in storytelling. I think just like the composition of a great song, story structure is very similar and that probably has something to do with it.
What makes a good story? Relatable characters with flaws and realistic stakes. I read somewhere that a problem a character can walk away from is a book a reader can put down and I don’t think I’ve ever felt any piece of writing advice so acutely before. The characters don’t necessarily have to be likeable, but they should be relatable. What’s more relatable than a person who isn’t perfect struggling with a problem that seems overwhelming or impossible to solve? I think I’ve felt that way in my own life so often that it just makes sense to me that other people will have too.
What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first? What are common traps for aspiring writers? I am notoriously bad at outlining and having any sort of plan whatsoever when writing. Abbie is actually the one of us who keeps me in line and on track. She usually helps keep timelines on track, and points out when a character’s perspective is missing. Or when we need to accomplish actual plot things in a chapter instead of it being all fluff and nonsense. Honestly, our readers should thank her for the fact that the book isn’t just an absolute mess. LOL! No, but really, drafting for me is all about discovery writing, while editing is where I’m able to tame the story into a believable plot and really make it shine. Abbie helps us to stay on track so that we can draft cleaner and have less overhaul to do in the editing process.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want? Personally, a bit of both. Just like in life, writing is all about balance. We’re conscious of reader expectations but still make decisions based on what feels right for the characters and the story. Overall, we want readers to be satisfied but sometimes that means making decisions that aren’t exactly what they expect. It’s that moment of ‘Oh, I didn’t see that coming’ that will help them keep turning pages and keep being invested in the tale we’re weaving. But to completely ignore your audience and the genre expectations is really just asking for poor reviews. So, we try to balance both as best as we can to deliver a novel that’s familiar but new at the same time. Something that peaks your interest but you can’t predict where it’s going to end up.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? Lauren has always told me that I am really good at writing men. As a CIS woman, I think one of the most difficult things about writing male characters is getting into the little nuances of being a male that aren’t inherently female. For example, Jesse was almost a little too polished, which is because I like to write male characters in how I would like to see a man. So including genitalia jokes isn’t something that comes naturally to me like it would a man, but it’s those little things that really make a character feel real to readers.
How long on average does it take you to write a book? Drafting a novel together is actually really quick for Abbie and I. We wrote the first draft of Guns & Smoke (it’s current iteration) in less than a month, and the sequel (which is even longer) we cranked out in 26 days. We’re currently working through the first draft of book #3 in the series so that we can hopefully cut down on time between publications for reader satisfaction.
Do you believe in writer’s block? Ha! I’m going to get some heat for this one. Writer’s block doesn’t exist. I thought it did for a really long time. I thought I was stuck in the throes of it for even longer. What I’ve discovered is that you can suffer from lack of confidence in yourself, or you can have an ‘editing block’ where you stop drafting to edit what you already have, psych yourself out, and end up never finishing. Or you can be struggling with ‘imposter syndrome’. Or you can be suffering from not taking enough breaks and refilling your creative well. But the writing is always there. There’s no block to it other than the obstacles you put in your own way. Once I realized that the thing stopping me wasn’t some concept of a ‘writer’s block’ that I couldn’t escape, it was clear to me how to move forward. I won’t say ‘easy’ because I don’t think it’s easy to get out of your own way. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But, it’s clear what path to take when you realize that the only person stopping you is yourself.
What can we expect from you in the future? So much! Guns & Smoke is the first in a four book series. In addition to those four, we have a couple of sequel series, a prequel series, a few novellas and an anthology set in The Fools Adventure world. We also have plans to write a Victorian-esque fantasy romance as well as a paranormal romance series together. Individually, Lauren is working diligently on the sequel to her YA Fantasy debut, Songs of Autumn, and I’m working on a Fantasy Romance novel with the intention to traditionally publish.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters in Guns & Smoke? There is one side character in Guns & Smoke who pops up out of nowhere. It’s someone who was a big part of one of the main characters’ lives.
Where did you come up with the names in the story? Love this question! So, because this novel is a Dystopian/Western Romance it’s set in a not-so-distant future where the world has been ravaged by the effects of nuclear warfare. It’s the American Southwest and in a lot of ways, society has reverted back to a time much like the chaos of the Wild West from a not-so-distant past. There are themes in this book about history repeating itself and that’s definitely the case with the names of the characters in this book. Bonnie, for example, is literally name after Bonnie Parker of the infamous Outlaw duo Bonnie & Clyde. She explains in the book how she got her name. Jesse is also literally named after a murderous outlaw from the past. Jesse James. Only in his case, his father thought it would be funny to name him after an outlaw from his childhood and his mother lost a bet. Harry, Jesse’s younger brother, is affectionately coined ‘The Kid’ by Bonnie early on in the novel and this completes the main cast of characters, however, there are several other characters who share their fate with having wonderfully outlaw-inspired names throughout the book and the series as a whole.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Really delving into romance. While all of the projects I’ve written before have been centered around a romance, I’ve never embraced the genre until Lauren proposed it to me. Being able to fully dive into these characters in an adult genre really made them pop off of the page and come to life.
What is your favorite part of this book and why? My favorite part of the book are the quiet moments, when Bonnie and Jesse aren’t at each other’s throats and they’re actually being vulnerable with one another. There’s just something about two characters that push past their defenses and come together that really touches my heart. There’s this really great scene between Bonnie and Jesse in chapter ten of Guns & Smoke where they’ve just gone through something really terrible. They open up to one another, which leads them farther into the unknown, but also closer together.
Have you written any other books that are not published? Literally tons. I have a novel that I’ve been working on for fourteen years. I have really terrible depression and anxiety, and I continually get in my head about it. The story has literally changed so many times, and it’s still not ready for the public just yet, but get this: a secret society of witches, New Orleans, and romance. I also have more than a dozen works in various planning stages that I cannot wait to write.
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre? I read almost anything that I can get my hands on! While Fantasy is probably my favorite genre right now, I have always had a soft spot for dystopian literature like Divergent or The Hunger Games. I’m really big into Sarah J Maas right now. I really love her mental health representation, plus Cassian from A Court of Thorns and Roses is basically my one true love.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why? Silence is the death of my writing! I have to have music. Lauren and I both will find one song when we’re writing a particular scene that encapsulates the mood and listen to it over and over again. When there’s silence or I have background noise, I struggle to focus, so I plug in my earbuds and just go!
If you could have been the author of any book ever written, which book would you choose? Harry Potter. Because I’d be set for life!
Pen or type writer or computer? Computer. All the way. I’m no good with dictation software and I think I need the textile feel of the keys on the keyboard to get into a good writing rhythm. There are times when I long-hand scenes that I need to sit with and really nurse the words to make them sound exactly right, but that’s when I can take my time with a section. I write a LOT slower than I type, so for initial drafting and not refining or re-writing, it’s always the computer for me.
Tell us about a favorite character from a book. I feel like people are sick of this answer from me, but Kaz Brekker from the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo is currently my favorite character. He’s almost like the rebirth of the anti-hero in modern fiction and I’m living for it. I have a soft spot for misanthropes and anti-heroes in literature, I seriously fall way too hard in love with them. The amount of character development Bardugo was able to write into his character is still something that astounds me to this day.
What advice would you give new authors? I feel like I give this advice so much, but I feel like it is the one thing that has really helped me: read. Read every single thing that you can get your hands on. You have to study the craft of writing, which doesn’t mean just reading non-fiction craft books. It’s important to read what is big in the market and find the things that you enjoy in those novels and figure out how you can incorporate that feeling into your own work.
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