If your latest book Twilight of Memory was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role? No question about it, Matt Damon. Both as young Henry and as an older Henry, he would be perfect.
If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!) you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind? No, not in another genre. I would just like to write the world’s best historical fiction! Ah, well. (You have made an excellent start there!!)
Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music...?? Not really, but I am not very productive in the morning hours, so that’s when I take care of errands, housework, etc. As empty nesters my husband and I are free to set our own schedules (most of the time), so for me, it’s A.M. ‘whatever’, and afternoon is devoted to research and writing, etc.
*What is the worse book you have ever read? What made it unreadable for you? Not just one book, but almost every book written by the wildly successful Danielle Steel. My husband and I once owned a book store, the Book Nook, which was the home of the best easy chairs and ugliest lamp in the world. The lamp should have been in a bordello! Think “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” style. I felt I needed to read as many of the best sellers as possible. I could not read Danielle’s work without rolling my eyes, groaning, and constantly asking, “Why is she repeating that. We got it the first time!” She repeats, repeats, and repeats backstory as if we readers cannot retain the info for more than a few pages. That being said, I absolutely loved her Granny Dan and The Ring! Whenever her name comes up I jump to recommend those two.
*Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job? At this point in my life I would love to be the female Rick Steves! Short of that, a travel writer for us ‘older’ folks. I did have another profession; I was an educator, (history, reading, English) for 35 years.
*If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose? I love script, but I know it is hard to read, so I would be reasonable and go with one of the common, more readable fonts…Georgia, Calibri, etc. (Wonderful choices. I love Georgia and Plantagenet Cherokee and almost always use one or the other!)
Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be? A love letter from Thomas Jefferson to Sally Hemmings or visa versa. But of more interest to me on a personal level would be a journal written by my 3rd great-grandmother as she packed up her Tennessee Walking Horses and headed south after the death of her husband in the war of 1812. She was the founder of our family in a new state. We’ve been quite prolific! Equally as desirable would be a journal written by my husband’s great-grandmother as she left Italy in 1906 and came to America with her husband and three children. Theirs’ became the ‘great American success story’, much more than my family’s story, but both would be wonderful.
Historical fiction authors have to contend with real characters invading our stories. Are there any ‘real’ characters you have been tempted to prematurely kill off or ignore because you just don’t like them or they spoil the plot? No, not a one, but once I am finished with my fictional characters I have no problem polishing them off, often rather quickly, if needed.Are you prepared to go away from the known facts for the sake of the story and if so how do you get around this? I will not go away from the facts when they are fundamental to the story. For instance, In ”Twilight of Memory,” I would not change any fact as relating to the battles the 10th Mountain Division fought in Italy. With painstaking research guiding me, I wanted to stay as true to the facts as possible. Only my fictional characters, when not part of an actual historical moment, can wander around.
Do you find that the lines between fact and fiction sometimes become blurred? In the past the lines have been easily delineated, but in my ongoing effort, I find that fact and fiction sometime fight each other and I have to make some concession to move the story forward. But going back to your previous question, I suppose I am contradicting myself. I find in this new work that I am bending the facts somewhat, but that’s okay because this work is based on family history…I can change, bend, eliminate, etc my family history to fit the big picture, but again, never actual history.
Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters? I fell in love with the subject of my recently published “Something to Prove, A Biography of Ann Lowe, America’s Forgotten Designer.” Ann, the granddaughter and great-granddaughter of former slaves, was born in a small Southern town during the days of Jim Crow…laws that severely restricted African American citizens’ rights. One would NOT expect Ann to become the design darling of America’s highest realm of society, but she achieved it. She even designed the gown Jacqueline Bouvier wore when she married John F. Kennedy. Ann defied all odds, but died banckrupt and today is known only by a few.
In “Twilight of Memory,” I loved Henry for his gentleness and Daisy for her unflappable belief in her love for Henry, even when it seemed improbable. In a children’s book that I have written, “The Lovely Alligator”, I love the old man trying to find a lovely alligator for his granddaughters. He should be every child’s grandfather.
What do you enjoy reading for pleasure? Oh my, dare I say it? Historical fiction! Almost any time period, but I do generally read by time periods for several weeks or months at a time. At the moment WWI and WWII, both on the home fronts and in the battles, are at the top of my reading list. For several years I devoured everything Plantagenet and Tudor. Before that, early American history.
What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading your latest book? For Twilight, drink a robust Italian wine or one of the newer Colorado wines. For my work in progress, it might take something stronger!
Last but not least... favourite historical author? Oh gosh, I think it depends on the time period I’m reading at the moment. I’ve been reading Allison Weir and Susan Higginbotham for as long as I can remember. I’ve actually given my granddaughter the same Allison Weir novel three times, forgetting that it is the same one I’d previously given her. Then, of course, the early works of James Michener. I read John Jakes’ novels the moment each one was published. What a great early American history without a text book. I must admit that after one, either number 4 or 5, there was a great long wait. I was most impatient and upset. Then I learned that he had serious health problems during that period!
Back to the question, for today, I’m enjoying M.K. Tod because she paints great pictures and is easy to read and I love WWI and WWII. And I love everything by Susan Vreeland. For young adult/middle grades historical fiction, no one surpasses Ann Rinaldi.
Still, with all that said, the best historical fiction I’ve read in the past two-three years has to be Alyson Richman’s The Lost Wife. Oh, my. Her descriptions and story drew me in and held me. I spoke so highly of the book that a neighbour asked to borrow it. Two weeks later she sheepishly brought me a new copy. Why? (I wanted my original copy because it was underlined in so many beautiful places.) She explained that she was reading and cooking at the same time and spilled shrimp juice on my copy. Ack! Do you know how awful old shrimp juice can smell!
(Sorry, Julia, I laughed out loud. Does that make me a very bad person??)
Thank you for a wonderful talk, Julia. I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did.
Julia Faye Dockery Smith, a native of Alabama, attended local public schools in Tuscaloosa. She began her writing career in the 7th grade at Tuscaloosa Jr. High when she won a writing contest. On stage to accept her reward, $25.00, she was asked if she wanted to say anything. She replied, "Someday I will write a book."
She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Montevallo, receiving a degree in education with an English major. She received her master's degree in education with an emphasis on reading from Colorado State University.
After beginning her teaching career in Florida, she married a journalist and took several years' hiatus to raise three children. She returned to the classroom in Colorado and completed her 34 years of teaching in Georgia classrooms.
She and her husband, Jim, currently live in Florida with two of their three children and all five of their grandchildren. Their third child lives in Texas. Faye and Jim enjoy travelling, writing, research, and most of all family.
Julia's books are all available here
Julia's books are all available here
© Diana Milne July 2016 © Julia Faye Smith September 2016