Hey guys! If you have been following me on Instagram you know I was lucky enough to be an advanced reader of this wonderful novella!
The second book in the series is wonderfully written and an excellent follow up to Becoming Mrs. Smith.
I am lucky enough to have had some time to get the author, Tanya Williams, to answer some questions readers might have.
1 When did you know you wanted to be an author?
A) My first memory of writing a story was when I was about five years old. I was playing at the edge of an alfalfa field in rural Alberta and I was scrunched down low following the song of the grasshoppers. As I crawled along one grasshopper would stop before another one further ahead would begin. I wasn’t allowed to go past the edge of the low cut grass into the field so my view was limited to peering through the blades of tall grass and imagining what the life of a grasshopper might be like. Thus, my first story about the life of a grasshopper began and was only ever told to those oh so evasive grasshoppers.
Though I have written for my own entertainment from that day on, most of my stories remained in my head and were seldom shared with others. I began a book titled, Prairie Sky, after my son was born almost nineteen years ago. After sharing the story with a local author in a writing course, her exuberance for my writing did the opposite of what I am sure she intended. Instead of taking her praise and pushing on with the story, I let fear get in my way and a few months later, my book was packed away and I returned to writing stories in my head.
It wasn’t until many years later when my life needed a dramatic reboot that I began to consider writing as a career again. I wrote Breathe (an inspirational, photographic title) using my husband’s photographs and presented it to him as a birthday gift. I quietly shared the book with those around me, many of whom had no idea that I had a passion to write. Eventually I became more comfortable with the role of being an author and once I stepped onto the track of pursuing my writing dreams, I am happy to say I haven’t glanced back over my shoulder once. I definitely took the scenic route to living my dream of becoming an author but I learned so much during my fourteen year journey that I couldn’t trade in the experience as it brought me to where I am today.
2. Do you have a day job? If so, what is it?
A) I previously owned and operated a specialty triathlon retail store and though it was sad to say goodbye to the many wonderful people we met over our fourteen years in business, I was thrilled to be closing the store to focus on my own writing career. I have been writing full time for the past two years.
3. How do you balance work, family, and writing?
A) Balance is actually crucial to the success of my daily life. There are times when balance is thrown off due to an outside project or a deadline but in the end I always come back to center. For me, center is having time each day to meditate, make healthy food choices, exercise, and write. I spend the early morning hours focusing on exercise and meditation. I build healthy food choices into my weekly plan by sitting down once a week to plan meals and organize groceries (thank heaven for online grocery ordering). Then I spend about five hours a day writing or researching. I spend the afternoon hours, before I prepare dinner, focusing on book related marketing items and other business related tasks.
To be fair, there are those glorious weeks where my work in progress is with my editor. Those are the days when I am footloose and fancy free and am able to spend more time visiting with family and friends, traveling, or just hanging out in a forest or by the ocean. I am my own task master and I am seldom a procrastinator. I always have the ability to move my schedule around to ensure the things that are important to me are included in my daily life.
4. What advice would you give young girls about pursuing their dreams?
A) Believe in yourself first. Nobody else can believe in you unless you believe in yourself. You are exactly the right person to do what you are passionate about. If it burns within you, that dream needs to be explored. Understand that just being you means “you are enough” to do whatever it is you are passionate about and you will not only reach your goals, you will exceed them. Trust me when I tell you, there is no dream too big. You are worthy of them all, because you are you!
5. What do you wish someone told you before you got published?
A) The publishing process takes longer than you think. Writing may often feel like a solitary endeavor but as a writer you work with editors, cover designers, beta readers, advanced readers, marketers and more. They all have a hand in creating a successful release of a new title. Allowing them the time to do what they are best at is a crucial aspect of planning the publication of a book.
6. When can readers expect a follow up to this wonderful series?
A) Stealing Mr. Smith is available now for pre-order and is releasing on September 25, 2018. The final title in the series, A Man Called Smith, has an eta of Summer 2019.
7. Becoming Mrs. Smith and Stealing Mr. Smith are both intertwined so carefully with the use of date and historical details, how did you know this was how you wanted it to be?
A) Well, the truth is the story actually began with what will be the third and final book in the series. A Man Called Smith was well underway and was going to be a stand alone title when two female characters from the story decided to wake me up for weeks on end at around three o’clock in the morning, pleading their case for wanting a story all their own. When I decided to explore the potential of allowing both female characters to be the protagonist in their own story, that is when the intertwining began.
Having the backstory of all the characters in mind, was what enabled me to connect the stories yet keep them separate as well. I wanted a reader to be able to start the story with any of the three titles and still grow their understanding of all individuals involved. I use a spreadsheet of dates, ages, characters, significant events etc that help guide the story. Whenever I come up with or discover a new addition to the story, I have to go back through the spreadsheet and verify the character’s ages, locations, and more to ensure the fluidity of their lives exist.
8. Stealing Mr. Smith was a lot more sexual than its predecessor, there is also a lot more drinking. As a reader, I appreciated the new edginess! What inspired that?
A) In a word, Bernice. Bernice’s character is essentially the polar opposite of Violet’s. She is edgy. She is determined. She is a survivalist. Everything about Bernice is what fueled her actions in the story. She is unapologetic and demands to be heard. Setting the stage with Bernice’s character was crucial for A Man Called Smith. I wanted readers to give Bernice the benefit of the doubt as the story unfolds, while at the same time have a growing disdain for her.
9. Readers of the first book were devastated when Violet dies. Were you worried about replacing her with Bernice?
A) Absolutely! I took two very big risks in writing this as a series. First, having Violet die was a risk in that readers fell in love with her character. Even though I knew her fatal outcome, it was a gut wrenching scene to write and I sobbed my way through it as I wrote. Second, having Bernice replace Violet, I worried I might lose readers who loved Violet so thoroughly. The characters however, dictate how the story plays out. I did everything I could to give readers a reason to empathize with Bernice for as long as possible. I wanted readers to understand where Bernice came from and what she had to endure long before John enters the story again. I purposely distanced John’s entry into the story to allow a reader to connect with Bernice’s experience first. The words that ruled the creation of Bernice’s story were, “everyone is the hero of their own story”. Even if I do not like the way a character behaves, they are permitted to be the hero in their own story.
10. I adore how Bernice goes from wanting the most extravagant life, to wanting whatever John can offer her. When you began writing, was this where you intended Bernice to grow as a character?
A) In a rough way of thinking, yes, I knew Bernice would go from desiring everything to settling for something less than extravagant. I wasn’t clear on how she was going to navigate that particular path until I was well into the writing of the relationship with John. Bernice has a way of shifting her objectives to soothe her own ego and thus in the end, I don’t actually think she thinks she has settled for less by choosing John, at least not at this moment anyway. Her desire for the better things in life though are not entirely out of the story just yet….A Man Called Smith just might bring in a few reminders of how Bernice believes she does in fact deserve more.
11. Children’s Home is a real place and I love that you included a donation link after the book. What prompted you to introduce that exact one and how would you like your readers to be involved?
A) Thank you for asking this question. Children’s Home has a unique and interesting history. When I stumbled upon the information, I fell in love with their humble beginnings and my admiration for the organization grew as I researched and connected with the current administrators at the Sioux Falls location. Their website has been updated since I began my research but I originally watched every video they offered online of current and past residents talking about how Children’s Home changed their lives. I reached out to them and began a dialogue of historical questions and insights. I had a vision of what Children’s Home looked like in my imagination and when I received an old photograph of the granite block building, it was an almost perfect match with what was in my mind’s eye.
The orphanage and foster care system has changed dramatically over the years. Today, one of the important elements of Children’s Home is to support families experiencing challenging times. They do this through counselling, education, home relocation, and more. One of the stories that stuck with me was of a young woman who had been removed from an unhealthy home life as a girl. She spoke about her fond memories at Children’s Home and then went on to say that one of her greatest achievements in life is being a mother to her two young children and knowing that the pattern of abuse stopped with her. That story alone was enough for me to shed a spotlight on an organization that works daily in the support and comfort of those who are often unable to speak up for themselves.
Children’s Home relies heavily on donations to operate. Donations of household goods, clothing, books, toys, as well as financial donations are all welcomed. In addition to their year round donation collection, author Tom Roberts writes a Christmas story with proceeds being donated to Children’s Home. You can find the details at the Children’s Home website. Since I already know that readers love books, I thought supporting Children’s Home through the purchase of Tom Roberts’ children’s stories was a natural fit.
Follow Tanya on Instagram @tanya_williams_author and be sure to grab your copy of Stealing Mr. Smith on sale September 25th!