Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Don't Wander Past This Great Read

Today, I interview Naomi Smith, author of "The Wanderers." Naomi has developed a niche of sorts writing about the afterlife. She talks about this and the writing process:

Tell us a little about yourself.
I began writing seriously rather late in life, when as a 29 year old mother of four, I sat at the kitchen table and penciled novel after novel in exercise books while my children watched Captain Kangaroo. I was 42 when my first novel, a romantic mystery, was published.
Tell us about your new book, "The Wanderers".
The story begins with several Americans in various parts of Europe who die on the same night. A gymnast falls during a practice session, a professor on sabbatical with her husband has a heart attack, a couple of teenagers wipe out on their motorcycle on the Autobahn, and two patients at a cancer clinic in Switzerland happen to die that night too. A bummer of a way to start a novel? Not at all. Eight Americans awaken in a hospital-like place where (most of them) soon realize they are in a world between heaven and hell. They become a band of 'wanderers' who travel about to explore this new world; in the process each discovers what kind of person he or she has become because of choices made while on earth.
Both of your books of fiction deal with the afterlife. The essay on your website is also one you wrote after your parent's death. What do you find so appealing about that topic?
I love telling a story about people in life altering circumstances. How much more life altering can you get than death? Seriously, the prospect of what comes after death has always fascinated me and as a life long reader of the theological writings of the eighteenth century scientist, philosopher, and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, I've had access to the marvelous things he wrote about the spiritual world.
Tell us about the process you go through of developing your characters.
I know a lot about them before I start to write, but I learn much more as I write. Sometimes they develop quite differently than I'd planned, surprising me as much as the reader.
How did you find your agent/publisher?
I've had a couple of agents, one of whom was a lovely person, but neither sold any of my novels. I queried my publisher, Chrysalis Books of The Swedenborg Foundation, saying that while I knew they didn't publish fiction, the novel I'd finished was a natural for them as my suppositions about the afterlife were based on Swedenborg's theological writings. I gave them a synopsis, three chapters, and they asked to see the whole manuscript, and some months later they accepted my novel, "The Arrivals".
What single thing that you've done as a writer, has most helped your career? Joining an extremely talented group called "The Writers". It got me out of a stalled mystery writing period and into trying essays and articles. A good may of these were published and in turn helped my writing as a whole.
Some people think all writers have quirky habits - they have to have the right pen or sitting in a certain spot to write. Is this true for you?
Not really. I like to work in the morning, but if I can't, I'll do afternoon duty.
How long does it take you to complete a book?
About a year, but there are usually quite a few drafts after that. I think I've finished, but I haven't.
If you had a piece of advice for a new fiction writer, what would it be?
Mostly the usual - try to write every day. And as I mentioned, a good writers' group can be invaluable. If, however, you are writing novels and getting discouraged about rejections, give another, shorter form (short stories, essays, pieces for the neighborhood newspaper) a try. Everyone needs affirmation and seeing your name in print will do just that.
Give us your website address and where else can we find your books?
My website is: http://www.naomigladishsmith.com/ and you can get my books online from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and of course The Swedenborg Foundation at Swedenborg.com., and from your local bookstore (though it may have to order them).


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