18 September 2015 - GREG SMITH - Guest Author





GREG SMITH

- Guest Author -

G'day folks,

Welcome to my interview with an author who was born in Australia but now lives in the USA.  Welcome, Greg ...


TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.

Originally, I’m an Aussie from Sydney, Australia (the Land Down Under) but have been living in the Pacific Northwest, USA since 1999 after meeting a beautiful lady on the Internet back in late 1997. I am now a fully-fledged US citizen and proud of my dual status. As far as my interest in writing, that stems from my early years (millennia ago) in primary school when I always rated top marks for my composition writing in English class. But I was also avidly interested in art and that took precedence over my writing as I pursued a career in graphic design.


WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?

It wasn’t until late in my life and career that I began getting the itch to write — that amounted to a break of over 50 years since putting pen to paper! But one day I mentioned to my wife an idea for an erotic thriller story and, to my surprise, she liked it and prompted me to try writing it. I took 6 months to ‘pen’ it and found an independent publisher who wanted to publish the book. Soon afterwards however, the business closed so after months of research I took my manuscript to CreateSpace and self-published the book under a new cover. KILLING SOFTLY is currently available on Amazon.com.


 WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?

I have just completed the fourth draft of my third book, YOU CAN RUN, which in actual fact is the sequel to my second, THE PITS. After releasing KILLING SOFTLY I undertook an online course in creative writing to better understand the ‘proper’ process and improve my style, etc.

I’m not sure if I follow the standard process adopted by most writers. Once I have a clear idea of how a story starts and finish I tackle all the necessary research needed to better understand my subject and associated fields, etc. For THE PITS this meant several intense months or online research plus plying my son for insider details of being a US Marine. Once I have all that info at hand I begin writing. I essentially stick to my original story idea but as I write I allow my characters to determine any deviations they wish to take. Quite often some of their decisions surprise me. On one occasion I recall mentioning to my wife that I was caught by surprise when a murder suddenly happened — I hadn’t expected it. She thought I was crazy. “You’re the one writing the book, for heaven’s sake, how could YOU be surprised by your own story?” Well, I look upon my writing as a collaboration between myself and my characters; we work together to bring a story idea to life for the sake of our readers.




WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?

Two things:  first of all I simply love researching for my book. I’ve always had a great fascination of history, people, technology, etc., all of which usually comes into play in my writing to some degree; second, I enjoy being surprised by twists and unsuspected actions employed by my characters during their effort to carry the story. I’ve had to rein them in at times; to keep them on track. Eventually we all find ourselves meeting somewhere close to the last chapter so that we can mutually agree on a suitable ending—but not always!


WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?

Whether a writer chooses to follow the traditional publishing path or, as so many do these days, to self-publish, the hardest part of writing is the realization that if you expect your work to become noticed, to be even part way successful—all that responsibility falls on the writer’s shoulders. I belong to numerous writers’ forums and the constant question that seems to always be the topic of conversation is “what do I have to do to market or promote my book well?” or words to that effect. It is something that demands a writer’s attention and time yet, at the same time, drags you away from your real love and aspiration — to write the next book!


WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?

In an earlier question I alluded to my pursuing a career as a graphic designer. I now have 30 + years experience in that field and, interestingly enough, the majority of that time was spent working in the publishing and printing industries. I’ve lost count of the number of books for which I’ve designed covers and laid out. There was a short spell, right out of high school, when I worked in a boat-building yard for 2-3 years. Strange as it may seem to some, I look back on those years as some of the best in my life. The company was small, employing some dozen workers at its peak, but through all that I remained the sole true blue Aussie among a fantastic team of Germans, an Hungarian, a Canadian, a Swede, and Austrians.


WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?

That has yet to come. Hopefully it will prove to be my major project, which has been in the works for the last few years, and which I plan to tackle once my current book is released.


WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?

Right now I’m in the process of finalizing my third book, preparing it for my editor. It is titled, YOU CAN RUN, as is the sequel to its predecessor, THE PITS. I already have an idea for the third book in this developing series.


WHAT INSPIRES YOU?

Anything can inspire me. Take THE PITS for example. The idea for the story came to mind after reading an article on the ASPCA web site. As for the idea rattling round in my head for the next book, inspiration for that came from world news events from the passed year or so. As for my major project still in the works—an historical fiction novel—inspiration for that came from my love of a specific historical character and the desire to retell his story in a factual way. I’m guessing that future books may even be born from over hearing a few words from another person’s conversation. I believe that for any caught in the artistic world, whether it be music, painting, writing, sculpting, etc, inspiration cane come from anywhere and everywhere.


WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?

My particular love is for mystery thrillers, adventure, and historical fiction. The Pits has been regarded by several reviewers as being an adventure/thriller crossover. I guess these will remain my fields of work.




DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?

Hmmm, that’s a hard one, but I guess I would base the answer on my own experience. The first thing I undertook to do was sign up for a series of online creative writing courses conducted by a reputable published author. Her assignments and remarks have been invaluable as I progress with my writing these days. And don’t forget all the fabulous group forums involving writers of all levels. These are a veritable gold mine of information, pointers, and advice—and contacts. Newbies will find themselves welcomed with open arms and nurtured by others who remember their own early days.


DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?

Fortunately and unfortunately I have never, as yet, suffered from that affliction. I say unfortunately because I have never wanted for ideas for a story but only lacked the time to put them all down on paper.


DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?

Being a full time employed graphic designer, I have always struggled with that aspect of writing. All too often I have allowed work and life in general to spill over into those times I have scheduled for writing. I blame myself for not being disciplined enough but now that I am months away from retiring I hope to rectify that problem and set aside mornings as my preferred time to write. 


WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?

Typing THE END after having made all the revisions and suggested changes by my editor. Next would be the joy of seeing the first copy come off the press and then have it posted on the Internet.


WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?

To date, Jack Whyte is my favorite author. I regard his Camulod Chronicles series to be the most interesting and enthralling historical fiction works I have ever read. I’m fascinated by the way he is able to interweave authentic history with inspiring legend. This is my all time favorite genre, and Jack is its master!


WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?

So far I would have to regard that as being the comment I received from one of the judges for a writing festival. Please indulge me as I share it with you:

THE PITS begins in Afghanistan where the scene is expertly set by the author. It is clear that the author has researched Marine life and the reader feels immediately at home in the world he has created. The heat, the dust, the constant danger are all excellently wrought and by the time the street battle commences in which Kramer and Shadow are both injured, the reader is well invested in both characters and rooting for their safety. This sets up the rest of the novel perfectly. A strong story with an intriguing premise, there is plenty here to keep a reader gripped throughout. Overall, there is much to be admired in this novel. The plot is well thought-out and intricately woven. The characters are strong and relatable – I particularly liked the character of Kramer’s mother. The author did a great job of bringing her to life. In fact, the chapter where Kramer visits his mother and father on the farm feature some of the best writing in the book and some great dialogue. Dialogue is a particular talent of this author’s, with interactions being natural and snappy throughout.

July, 2014  WILDsound Writing Festival –

critique committee www.wildsound.ca



WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?

To be totally honest, I have as yet to receive one.




OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?

My wife and I love traditional target archery. We prefer to use bows that are devoid of all the “bells and whistles” others choose to load onto their bows. My hope one day is to have my own traditional English longbow. We also love kayaking, camping, traveling, meeting people and making new friends. Oh, of course we both love experiencing new and interesting eating places. As parents and grandparents, it goes without saying that we love our kids....not forgetting our pets who are aging far too fast!


DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?

Every writer, regardless of their experience, should have their material professionally edited. It’s an essential part of maintaining the high standard of integrity that serious readers expect of books they choose to read and of the writers they choose to follow.


WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?

Writing-wise, I plan to keep developing my series based upon the characters of Captain Kramer, USMC and his closest friend, Sgt. Shadow (Anatolian Shepherd dog) while people continue to have an interest. And I intend to complete my historical fiction novel, which I have recently decided to make into a two-book publication.


DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?

Not specifically, per se, expect that Captain Kramer and I share a deep love for the welfare of all animals. But having said that, recently my mind has been toying with another story that would prove totally different to anything I have or intend to write, and which would be based upon some of my own real-life experiences. I can see the main character of that book sharing a lot in common with myself.


DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?

You can lump me together with the vast majority of writers in that question. Reading through the postings on the forums I belong to I constantly come across the frustration of my fellow writers in having to deal with the inconsistencies, unfairness, and ruthlessness of the publishing industry. Personally, I feel that writers do not receive enough viable support when it comes to promoting and marketing their work. I exclude those who have become “best sellers” as they have been fortunate enough to break through the glass ceiling. I would hazard a guess when I say that a huge percentage of us do not possess the financial means to take advantage of all the offers ‘out there’ to promote our work. I have as yet to hear of an organization that is prepared to step forward and invest in those writers they deem to have a product worthy of their FULL support. I will be the first to accept the fact that I might be wrong in this and welcome any writer to set me straight.




DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?

Yes, once. Then I had a cup of coffee, was berated by my wife, and returned to my keyboard.


 HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER.

I can only speak for myself in this. I would regard myself being successful should I ever have a loyal following of devoted readers who persist in asking me to write the next book.

WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?

I would like my readers to feel they have truly experienced most of what they read. By that I mean, fear, trepidation, relief, surprise, shock, horror. They should come away realizing that I have a very deep interest and understanding of the subject and the characters I have created and brought to life for the readers’ sake.


HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?

A great deal. Putting on my other hat and speaking as a graphic designer, whomever designs the cover must have a grasp of the story before she or he can even begin to come up with a concept for the cover. This requires reading at least a good synopsis of the book and may even involve several roughs before designer and writer can agree on the cover.


WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?

To be retired and to be become a “successful” writer. To share both with my wife.




DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.

Personable, caring, romantic, devoted, imaginative.


WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?

A lot — mostly people who don’t or can’t be bothered in using the brain they have been given before they open their mouths to tear down other people and their dreams and hopes. But worse of all are those who are inhumane to animals — those people I can never, and will never forgive.



WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?

STRONG MEN ARMED by Robert Leckie. As a historically accurate and meticulous depiction of US Marines fighting and dying in the Pacific during WWII, and based upon the author’s personal experiences and efforts to cull the facts from monumental heaps of military records, I found this book an intriguing read.


 WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?

That is a question only my Final Editor can answer when He deems to end my life as a writer.


 WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?

Hmmm, another toughie. RIGHT NOW to be fully retired, along with my wife, would make me the happiest. We both have reached that stage in our lives where we feel we have earned the opportunity to take off and explore the world beyond our work cubicles; to have the freedom to share as much time as we like with our kids and grandkids; to be able to find those diminishing places where you can sit beneath the night sky and actually marvel at the Milky Way.


 WHERE CAN WE READ YOUR WORK? MAYBE SOME GOOD REVIEWS.

If readers are interested to learn more about myself and see samples of my work, they are welcome to check out these links:







http://tinyurl.com/netku3a (Barnes and Noble.com)


The Pits by Greg Smith is definitely an Action/Crime Fiction crossover novel. Starting in the midst of governmental-sanctioned war and moving through the war on crime, it can be nothing but such a knockout combination. Even though Smith deals with seriously horrific happenings, he has found a good balance. Scenery that could turn the stomachs of most, is treated with tact and heart-felt respect, but still manages to get the message across to readers. I have to say that for me, as an animal lover and rights activist, it is an added bonus that the author is donating a large percentage of proceeds from the sales to aid the battle against dog fighting. If the book were horrid, this might sooth my aching mind a bit, but luckily, the novel is a wonderful accomplishment.

The main characters, Captain Kramer and Corporal Shadow are a great match. The connection between these two is clearly strong and dominates the tale by lending a feeling of complete integrity to the piece. Readers will find that events and periods are painted vividly and succinctly. Like a well-oiled machine, Smith’s work trudges on through the worst of times, yet maintains the best of attitudes. As I said, Smith paints clear and precise images of events and times, but not individuals. In many tales, allowing the landscape to overshadow the characters would leave the storyline lacking connectivity and the personal imagery would be sorely missed. However, Smith’s work is not ‘most stories’. The fact that individuals are not completely in focus adds more focus to the story and its events. Again, the author has managed the balancing act with nary a word out of place.

The plot is well thought out and transitions smoothly from each locale and happening. The violence of war and blood-sport are difficult for some readers, myself included, to get past, but this story is worth it and the scenes are treated with care and precision. Some coarse and vulgar language is included in the book, but only when fitting the tale’s direction. Well written, The Pits places its focus where needed the most- on the story.

C. M. Truxler, 3 December, 2013 — 5 STARS
Book Reviewer     http://en.gravatar.com/cmtruxler


THE PITS begins in Afghanistan where the scene is expertly set by the author. It is clear that the author has researched Marine life and the reader feels immediately at home in the world he has created. The heat, the dust, the constant danger are all excellently wrought and by the time the street battle commences in which Kramer and Shadow are both injured, the reader is well invested in both characters and rooting for their safety. This sets up the rest of the novel perfectly. A strong story with an intriguing premise, there is plenty here to keep a reader gripped throughout. Overall, there is much to be admired in this novel. The plot is well thought-out and intricately woven. The characters are strong and relatable – I particularly liked the character of Kramer’s mother. The author did a great job of bringing her to life. In fact, the chapter where Kramer visits his mother and father on the farm feature some of the best writing in the book and some great dialogue. Dialogue is a particular talent of this author’s, with interactions being natural and snappy throughout.

July, 2014  WILDsound Writing Festival –
critique committee www.wildsound.ca


An Intense, Moving, and Memorable Story

I've read my fair share of crime novels, military histories, and dramatic literature in general, and I have largely moved away from those genres in exchange for more fictional fare. However, once in a while, I dip my toes back into more realistic novels, and The Pits was my latest choice. Right off the bat, I would have to give it HIGH praise, as it masterfully combined powerful storytelling, great plot development, action-packed chapters, intense dialogue, dramatic and suspenseful moments, and the love between a man and his dog, all without ever being cheesy or contrived. Certain sections of this novel are truly raw, brutal depictions of battle and dogfights occasionally crop up, which were intense to read, but they instantly created a stronger emotional connection to the characters. It's strange to refer to an animal as a key character, but Shadow is written as though he's human, and the relationship between Shadow and Kramer is just like a "buddy cop" adventure, except one of the partners doesn't speak. The dark moments throughout the book were coupled by terse, choppy writing at times to create the sense of danger and tension, a tool often used in crime stories, but effectively and subtly used here as well. I think Smith has a lot of potential, and a whole lot more to give than a single novel. Although the ending certainly wasn't definitive, I wouldn't be surprised if more books were on the way. He has the mind to create great stories and a talent for choosing the right words to tell them.

Veritas Vincit on July 31, 2014 — 4 STARS


Action-packed and testosterone-filled read

There was a ton of action and the main character is a lean, mean Marine who's a softie when it comes to animals - especially dogs. He treats his pets like people and shares the spotlight with his canine pal. Shadow, his "found" dog, shares top billing with Capt. Cramer throughout the story and they share hero status as well.

The war and the fight scenes with the dogs are graphic as are the scenes where the characters fight. The dog fights are especially graphic, detailed and realistic, which might cause some more squeamish readers to skim those sections. The graphic content is integral to the plot and not gratuitous at all.

This is a true action book, complete with a great action hero main character and a shadowy villain who seems to have eyes and ears everywhere.

The story builds to a nice climax filled with lots of fighting, shooting and chasing the bad guys - even jumping onto a moving boat from a wall above the water.

If you love a good action/adventure book where the hero has a righteous cause, you'll love The Pits by Greg Smith and you'll be excited to know that the ending hints at a second book.

Robin Surface on July 30, 2014 — 4 STARS




 Clancy's comment: Well done, Greg. Thanks for taking the time to be interviewed. Your books sound like they are full of action. Good luck! Keep going. I've left you an image below that might make you a tad homesick.

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