INTERVIEW WITH JULIE SMITH

AUTHOR'S WEBSITE:  http://www.juliesmithauthor.com/

         August 16, 2002

From all the books you have written, do you have a favorite?

My fave is always the book I'm working on; my next fave is the one
currently for sale, in this case, LOUISIANA BIGSHOT; my third fave is always
the new paperback, this year LOUISIANA HOTSHOT.

I seem to have a short attention span.

At what point in time did you realize that writing was "the thing for you"?

When I was seven, there was a talent show at my school. I went crying to my
mom because I had no talent and, casting about for something to make me feel
better, she said desperately, "Well, I think you have a flair for writing."
Now, really. How much talent could a seven-year-old have possibly displayed?
But what can I say? I was just a kid--I believed her.

What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a writer?

Don't? (Couldn't resist) How about don't give up; have faith. Show don't
tell is good . But here's my very favorite: Don't get it right, get it
written.  That always seemed self-explanatory to me, but someone once
thought it meant be satisfied with second-rate work, Not at all, It means
get something on paper--you can always revise, My old city editor used to
say it at deadline when a reporter was still on the phone.

What is the name of your favorite mystery movie?

HOUSE OF GAMES, probably.

What other authors do you enjoy reading?

Nietzsche and Sartre are particular favorites. James Joyce, that kind of
thing. Kidding.  I like authors who can tell a good story in a
straightforward manner. Verbal acrobatics make me want to go lie down.

Do you normally do a lot of research when writing a book?

Hate it, Can't stand it, I was a reporter for 24 years, and I'm over that
noise. I try to write books dependent on characters and a good story rather
than heavy procedure.(She said pretentiously.) But, actually, what I do
research I research thoroughly--to me, it has to be *ABLE* to happen the way
I wrote it, even if it usually doesn't in real life.

What other types of jobs have you had?

Waitress, motel clerk, library page, newspaper reporter, copy editor,
starving free-lancer. I once invented a character who was an ex-reporter
trying to support his mystery-writing habit by free-lancing. Gave him a job
I once had--writing client reports for detectives who could detect real
good, they just couldn't write so good. Grammar problem, I guess. But don't
look for the Paul Mcdonald books--they're out of print.

Do you attend conventions and signings?

Is the Bear a pope? It's part of the job, I'm afraid. Sometimes even one of
the fun parts.

Is there anyone, in particular, who influenced you?

You mean besides Joyce and company? (See above).  Well, maybe not those,
but almost everybody I read, probably--that is, every good storyteller who
isn't a magical realist. You can always tell a writer who reads too much of
that stuff. It works my nerves.

What led you to write mysteries?

Who are you, my shrink? Okay, so I have a criminal mind. Also, I hate
chaos, love order. Only one to get it besides hire a maid--make it up.

Do you read reviews of your books?

Yes, but I only believe the good ones.

How would you like to be remembered?

As a writer, you mean? As a good storyteller with a keen eye. As someone
who was more interested in what makes a criminal than whodunit. As a New
Orleans institution, maybe.
As a person? As someone who never made anybody feel bad. (Except those
creeps who really deserve it.)

What do you believe is the highlight of your writing career so far?

No competition there--winning the Edgar. It's up there as a life experience
too.

Do you write on a fixed schedule or do you wait until thoughts come to you?

Fixed schedule,  more or less. But highly flexible. So maybe not so fixed.
If I waited for thoughts, I'd be at the computer 24 hours a day. (I'm
serious). My best hours are between 9 p.m and 11 p.m. Go figure.

How did you get started in writing?

One day many years ago, my mama jilted a man and he cursed her, intoning
furiously, "May your babies grow up to be writers!" And it came to pass.
(Also, I wrote seven unpublished novels and then one got published.
After that more did, but I got paid about twelve cents for them. Then one
day, after seventeen years, I started making a living at it. Piece of cake.)

How do you come up with plots?

I sit down with a yellow pad and don't get up for a month.  You'd be
surprised how boredom frees the imagination,

Did you take any classes on how to write?

Yes, and I highly recommend it. In fact, I established a novel-in-progress
grant in memory of my creative writing professor. If you have a novel in
progress, run, don't walk to my website,
www.casamysterioso.com, click on the grant, and enter the contest. (Actually
you can't till it opens again in January. But go to the site anyhow. And put
it on your calendar.)

Do you ever get writer's block?

I can't answer that. It might be unlucky.

What are your hobbies and interests?

If reading can be classed as a hobby, I guess that's my main one. Love to
travel. Nuts for movies. As for interests, I'm deeply fascinated by
mythology--would love to go back and get a master's in it (if such a thing
is offered, which I doubt).

How do you spend your free time?

Is that anything like excess cash? I guess to the extent I possess either,
they go to the same thing--traveling.

Do you have a message you would like to give to all the readers out there?

Heavens yes! Hurry on down and get LOUISIANA BIGSHOT right now--hot off the
presses and deeply satisfying In fact, get two or three--you just can't have
too many! You'll thank me for this.  You're gonna love it and cherish and
probably propose to it. And be sure and pick up my back list as well--get
extra copies for all your friends and relatives. Make someone happy today.

Is that the kind of thing you meant? Thanks for the opportunity. It's been
a pleasure--'bye now.

                                  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kidnapped from true home by heartless extraterrestrials and planted in a churchgoing Southern family in a year that need not concern us. Reared (as we say in the South) in Savannah, Georgia, an area of much puzzlement to the young alien; cruelly called "Yankee" by family members who sensed that something was wrong.
Saved by reading. Fun! Outside Savannah, they had it. (Or maybe just outside the church.) Sex! That too. Who knew what else?
Attended the University of Mississippi; echoes of Faulkner and all. Also, happened to be the furthest-away school protective parents would permit that was "coed", if you remember that word. Majored in journalism; found other aliens; made friends.
Took graduation money and bought a bus ticket to New Orleans, maybe the best place on Earth, but still the South. Not ready for that yet. Fabulous job writing features for the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Stayed a year and then...
Lit out for the territory, flowers in hair, arriving in San Francisco the winter before the Summer of Love. Oh, man!
Aliens everywhere! Home at last!
Desperate to be a writer. San Francisco CHRONICLE still in the Dark Ages--no women in the newsroom. Yikes--beauty editor for awhile. Cried every day on the cable car. Finally...
Became the second woman (the first one besides the 30-years' token) to go to cityside and stick. And stick. And stick. Meanwhile scribbling, scrabbling...desperate to be a writer. Fourteen years into it...
Quit to form Invisible Ink, a freelance writing firm, with two other women, one of whom was fellow mystery writer Marcia Muller. It paid the bills till 1982, when DEATH TURNS A TRICK was finally published. (By then, five or six masterworks languishing in trunks.)
After that a new desperation--desperate to make a living writing. Scribble, scrabble, six or eight more books. Credit card debt. Part-time jobs. Anything to support habit.
1991--the world stopped, the phone call came, everything changed. The first Skip Langdon novel, NEW ORLEANS MOURNING, won the Edgar for best novel.
Joined the middle class! Bought new clothes and a laser printer. Whee! Scribble, scribble, no more scrabble.
1996--Got married and moved back to New Orleans. Scribble scribble-- coming soon, LOUISIANA BIGSHOT. The second in the series that began last year with LOUISIANA HOTSHOT. How's that for full circle? Y'all come see me.

Oh, and p.s.--LOUISIANA HOTSHOT being a PI (rather than cop) book, I took the state board's Private Investigator course to learn the ropes, and have now received my PI license. I even have a badge--something, as mama always said, to fall back on.