Shakey Smith has been a writing colleague and friend for a few years, so I am absolutely delighted to introduce her to you in this interview. I reviewed her debut novel here. Enjoy the interview, read the excerpt and don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered for the giveaway. Shakey’s particular writing genre is quite hard to peg. Show Me The Way is a very unusual romance novel, written in a literary style and would greatly appeal to readers of women’s fiction.
Dooley: Welcome to my blog, Shakey. Congratulations on your new release, Show Me The Way, from WAMM Publishing. What’s the book about?
Smith: It’s about Clyde Dupee, a hobo/ cat burglar who falls in love with a small town beauty queen named Tharon McGee. Somehow Clyde wins Tharon’s heart but the story isn’t about love. It’s about trust. Tharon soon discovers what Clyde’s family has known for years: loving Clyde is like stepping in front of a bus. How many times can a sane person step in front of a runaway bus?
Dooley: I love the cover of your book. Who is the cover artist?
Smith: I’m so proud. The artist is my oldest daughter Hannah. She has a degree in graphic design. The bike is mine but it is more of a garden ornament than a means of transportation. The road is just south of my house. It was a first time effort for Hannah but she really enjoyed doing it and would like to do more covers. Know anyone who needs a graphic designer?
Dooley: How did you get the name Shakey?
Smith: It was my college nickname. I’m shy. It goes beyond painfully shy. In college I spent most of my time in the stacks reading Pepita Jimenez, but on the rare occasions that I climbed out of the library for a little socialization and a couple of beers I became …shaky. I don’t do well in social situations thus the nickname. Someone misspelled it on a card and the spelling stuck
Dooley: Are you one of those writers who gets bullied by your characters or are you the type to keep them firmly in line?
Smith: My characters bully me all over the page. Minor characters demand to be major characters. Major characters aren’t happy appearing in just one novel. They nag until I find another gig for them. Characters are nothing. You should see how my students bully me. Those are some big kids!
Dooley: What was your favorite book when you were a teenager?
Smith: Like I said, I’m shy. As a kid I learned to read so early and I spent so much time at it that characters and settings were as real to me as my own house and street. I swear that Podkayne, Douglas Spaulding, Heidi, True Son, Gordon Ash and Bilbo Baggins lived just down the street from me. My bike wasn’t a Huffy, it was the Galactic Derelict. The scraggly trees on Walnut Creek were Conrad Richter’s virgin Ohio forest. My Uncle Pearl’s shelter belt was Mirkwood. In high school I discovered PG Wodehouse; he serves up some of the funniest lines I have ever read. I read more Shakespeare than a kid probably should. Ditto for John Donne, Andrew marvel and Ginsberg. I picked up some of my feel for family dynamics from Graham Greene. Somerset Maugham, Joseph Heller, Garcia Lorca, James Thurber and Dylan Thomas took me into my twenties. Willie Ashenden is still my guiding star.
Dooley: What was the last book you read? What is the next book you have lined up to read?
Smith: Blue Galaxy was the last fiction that I read. I hadn’t read science fiction since I was a teen. It’s fun to travel to the future. I’d forgotten how much. Right now I am reading a book on the first North Americans—very dry but my WIP takes place in the USA during the Pleistocene so I am studying the period. I am also reading “Death Comes for the Archbishop” by Willa Cather. I picked it up in what we call “the English Closet”–it’s a textbook storage room next door to my classroom. Everything in it is forgotten and dusty—all kinds of old classroom technology and outdated textbooks.
I like Cather and I like the southwest but it’s an old book; written for another generation. The descriptions go on forever. I take notes. Then I google image for the places Cather describes to see how the actual location matches up to her description. How’s that for nerdy?
Dooley: How would you describe your writing?
Smith: I live in Stafford County Kansas. It covers 975 square but empty miles; there are four towns. The entire county population is 4,440 atypical souls. I live in the county seat with almost one quarter of the population. As you may have surmised, it’s not a real happening place. Except for harvest and the occasional tornado we are short on plot. Luckily, there is a lot of voice: everyone has a story and everyone is a character in someone else’s story. That pretty much describes my writing, too.
Dooley: Could we read a short excerpt from ‘Show Me the Way?’
Smith: Clyde and his father, Cy, are reunited in a hospital room eleven years after Clyde left home:
Cy Dupee sat in a rocker watching his son sleep. It occurred to him that the person he had been thinking of all these years as ‘the boy’ was, in fact, a middle-aged man. The rising sun, slanting through the drawn blinds, accentuated the reddish stubble on Clyde’s chin and jaw. There was more than a touch of gray in the red. His face was lined; his eyes dark-circled and sunken. For the fifteenth time that morning Cy touched his son’s hand and then held it in his own.
Clyde’s eyes fluttered open, as deep and blue as his father’s. “Did the baby die?”
“Yes. We named her Minta.”
“And Jenn died. I saw that. Galen and Jack are dead, aren’t they?” Clyde bit his lip.
“I thought I saw them. Down on the creek road. In Jack’s Firebird.”
“It was a dream, Son.” Clyde patted at his hand.
“The baby was perfect. How could she die?” Clyde’s voice broke.
“Go to sleep. Dream about Galen and Jack.” Cy touched his son’s eyes.
Clyde closed his eyes. “I was sitting on the fender of Galen’s Firebird. Jack was singing like Mick Jagger. It was so real,” he mumbled.
“Go to sleep.”
“She was so beautiful.”
“She was. Don’t think about her. Go visit with Galen and Jack.”
Clyde breathed heavily. Cy released his hand.
Dooley: Are all your stories set in Kansas?
Smith: They are. It’s not because I’ve never been anywhere else. After I became a widow I decided to focus on my writing. It was all mired down in literacy and going nowhere. I did a mental inventory, trying to figure out what type of writing and which authors I liked best. Turns out they were Twain, Rolvaag, Cather, Richter, Du Maurier, Harper Lee—all were tied to a certain place. After that it was easy—I decided that I would be a regionalist when I grew up; a western regionalist to be exact.
Smith: These photos were taken on a digital camera. I am very much a novice on this damn thing but I do like the black and white button. It reminds me of the first pix I took as a kid—cosmos and zinnias in my grandmother’s garden, taken with my mom’s old brownie. Color film was expensive; Grandma never told me it existed. We’d pick the pictures up at the drugstore, split an Almond Joy and walk home, talking about my photos. The zinnia is one of my favorites. It was cream colored to begin with. The rosebud has some color—a very soft blush.
Dooley: Best of luck with your release. What’s next for Shakey Smith?
Smith: I have another novel coming out soon. It is titled “Six Hearts; Seven Stories.” Clyde and Tharon are characters in it, but minor ones. The main story is about Clyde’s younger cousin, Alexander Dupee, his dentist wife, his cowgirl ex-mistress and her true love, Alexander’s own first cousin. I also have a short story submitted—I have a lot of stuff actually, parked on my hard drive. I like to write but hate to submit. It’s something that must be done though. It’s like that Grateful Dead song—“… your cards aren’t worth a dime unless you lay them down.”
Dooley: Well, you’re holding an excellent hand, Shakey. Wishing you many, many sales.
Shakey has kindly agreed to give away a copy of Show Me The Way to a commentator. To enter the giveaway just answer this question: what place in the world do you love to read or write about?