The very lovely Greg Smith – Author and Graphic Designer.
A career graphic designer, Greg Smith now turns his hand to the art of wordsmith in his upcoming novel, THE ARCHER OF COED CADW. Combining his artist’s imagination with his passion for history, Smith paints in words a roiling tale spanning centuries—from medieval England’s Marches to the Australian Outback. Originally from Sydney, Australia, Smith now resides with his wife, two border collies and two cats in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States.
His interests are traditional longbow (target) archery, kayaking, traveling, movies, camping, meeting new people, seeing new places, writing, drawing, and watching his grand kids grow up!
The Interview – Greg Smith
Describe yourself in five words?
A true blue Aussie, entertaining.
Who do people say you look like?
Too much like my father, physically and in temperament. If you don’t know my father, that means I’m a terrific bloke to get to know. If you do know him, then I guess that could mean something good and/or not so good.
If a star could play you in the story of your life who would you hire?
I’d like to say Hugh Jackman, but he’s way taller than I am. So I think I’ll go for Anthony Hopkins.
What genre would your life story be? And do you have a snappy title for your life story?
Considering some of the things I’ve delved in to, I’d go for psychic thriller. As for a title – THE FACE IN THE MIRROR.
What fact about yourself would really surprise people?
That’s a toss up between having grown up in Papua New Guinea and rubbing shoulders with some of the local natives, or that I used to be a member of a white witch coven.
What are you addicted to?
Movies, chocolate, and traveling. Not necessarily in that order.
What assumptions do people make about you that are wrong? And what assumptions are bang on right?
My friends regard me as having a quirky sense of humor [right], that I have an abundantly creative mind [right, again], that I can sing [wrong!], that I can dance [wrong!], that I’m a great artist (illustrator) [I have a lot of trouble with that tag].
How do you work through self-doubts and fear?
That’s a hard question. Years ago I was diagnosed with severe depression, even had suicidal thoughts. Since then I’ve become a lot more nonchalant about life in general and try not to let most things weigh me down. If something does nag at me I generally try a self-diagnostic session to understand why I should feel that way, then do something about it. Something positive, that is. Face the issue head on.
What scares you the most?
Big dippers, spiders, sitting for exams, and sharks! And writer’s block.
What makes you happiest?
Making people laugh, seeing and being around other happy people, catching up with my family (who are back in Australia), spending time with my stepson, Capt. Jason Fincher, USMC and his family. And spending time with my wife, traveling and sharing new adventures with her.
What’s your greatest character strength?
Being a good listener to those who desperately need an ear and/or shoulder.
What’s your weakest character trait?
Eating junk food while my wife’s away on business trips. We’re both trying to diet, and I hate myself for it (sometimes).
What are you most proud of in your personal life?
Having the greatest daughter ever, who has developed into one of the best moms and artists I know, and having love me and believe in me. And being able to go that extra unexpected mile for anyone I ever work for.
What do you hope your obituary will say about you?
That I was a great friend and husband and father. That I was able to help a lot of people improve themselves and their lives. That I left positive footprints for my future family to follow.
What other jobs have you had in your life?
Oh, I used to work in a boat yard and helped build the largest catamaran in the Southern Hemisphere; I worked in a major Australia bank, in the overseas department then the advertising department; I’ve been a one-man art dept for a few printers; the art director of the special projects division for a major Australian publisher; was the chief artist for the Anglican Church in Australia, educational publishing division; I produced a short film on catamaran racing in Australia which was shown on national TV then bought by Rothmans for cinema advertising; I worked as the set designer, assistant set builder, graphic designer, follow-spot operator, and cameraman for FAMS, Sydney’s best amateur theatrical company. And I worked as the graphic designer for producing marketing material for the Henson Organization (The Muppets, Baby Muppets, Fraggle Rock and The Dark Crystal) for the Pacific and South East Asian Region. I might have forgotten one or two other jobs. Sorry.
If you could study any subject at university what would you pick?
Psychic powers and/or space travel.
If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
Either Ireland or England. My roots are there. And I love history.
How much sleep do you need to be your best?
I try to get at least 8 hours sleep a night. 10 at the most, 6 at the minimum. I did, however, work on a job with such a tight deadline that I worked non-stop for 4 days without sleep. I met the deadline. But I needed to take 2 days off to recuperate!
If you could have a dinner party and invite anyone dead or alive, who would you ask?
That’s not a fair question . The list would be far too long. But let me throw a few names out there, anyway. Aldous Huxley, Aristotle, Isaac Asimov, George Orwell, Arthur C. Clarke, Dan Brown, Edgar Allan Poe, Danielle Steele, J. K. Rowling, H. G. Wells, Denzel Washington, Anthony Hopkins, Jesus, Julius Caesar, Spartacus (the real one), Alicia Silverstone, Ben Affleck, Bruce Willis, Frederick Remington, Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Moses, Barack Obama, Lincoln, Anne Frank, Winston Churchill, Cleopatra, Diane Sawyer, George Stephanopolis, Robin Roberts, Sam Champion, Billy the Kid, Dutch Shultz, Jesse James …. and many more. I said it wasn’t a fair question!
What’s your favorite meal?
An authentic Aussie meat pie. It’s the first thing I go for every time I visit my family.
What color represents your personality the most?
How do you feel about social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter? Are they a good thing?
If they are used responsibly, intelligently, and for the good of others, then I believe they are a good thing. Unfortunately, though, like so many potentially advantageous creations, there are those who deem to use this media for perverted reasons. The nature of the beast, I guess. The Internet has innocently unleashed The Beast and it’s too late now to control it.
If you could do any job in the world what would you do?
Right now, that would have to be to write to my heart’s content.
What are you most passionate about? What gets you fired up?
Man’s inhumanity to the innocent – animals, especially. That’s what prompted me to write THE PITS.
What makes you angry?
Are you a city slicker or a country lover?
I can be both fairly easily, much to the chagrin of my wife.
What would you love to produce in your life?
Either a work of art, or a book that would be kept and remembered for many years.
What’s the reason for your life? Have you figured out your reason for being here yet?
To help others help themselves? I’m not entirely certain. I guess I’m still working on that one.
How many friends does a person need?
As many as he/she can cope with … but at least one REAL TRUE friend!
What does love mean to you?
Everything. Without it, I don’t think I could consider myself a worthwhile human being.
When you get free time on the internet or you go to the library – what do you want to read about?
I usually find myself engrossed in almost anything historical – ancient preferably, but quite a lot of modern history, too.
Do you find the time to read?
Not as much as I would like, or used to, now that I’m writing. I’m not disciplined enough to make the time, I suppose.
Last book you purchased? Tell us about it.
Patricia Cornwell’s RED MIST. I have almost every book she’s ever written. This book is like all the others in that her method of character development intrigues me. She’s a master at interweaving layered plots and resolving story lines. Once I start one of her books it’s nearly impossible for me to put it down.
Who do you admire?
My wife. She’s very adept at assessing a person, recognising his/her inner strengths and turning those into building blocks to help the person make him/herself the best person/worker possible. And she’s so gracious and understanding throughout the whole process. She’s been working on me for the past 15 years! I’ll have to let you know how that works out.
Why do you write?
Because I have so many stories I want to share with everyone.
Have you always enjoyed writing?
Yes. As far back as primary school, I was always regarded by my teachers (English and History, mainly) to be great at writing, whether factual or fiction. I’ve carried the urge with me all these years, only recently putting my artwork aside to try my hand a writing more seriously.
What motivates you to write?
When an idea for a story becomes so strong that it screams for me to turn it into words.
What writing are you most proud of?
My latest book, THE PITS. At this moment I am revising the manuscript, having recently received it back from my editor. I’m trying to have it ready for release this year.
Greg’s book cover.
What books did you love growing up?
Robin Hood, King Arthur, science fiction, true war stories.
Is writing a gift or a curse?
Both. Just like my artwork. Quite often it can tend to rule my life on a daily basis, yet the satisfaction it delivers seems to quench my thirst, if only for a short period. Until the next urge or compulsion strikes again.
Location and life experiences can really influence writing, tell us where you grew up and where you now live?
The first 5 years of my life were spent growing up in Lae, Papua New Guinea (check Google Earth). The family then returned to Sydney, Australia. In 1998, I met a fantastic woman on the Internet and, after e-mailing for sometime, I eventually made the trip to America so we could meet face to face. In 1999, we married in Sydney. I now reside with her in the Pacific Northwest, USA, a region I only dreamt of ever being able to live in.
How did you develop your writing?
I’d always been told I could write. But once I had made up my mind to attempt it seriously, I chose to undertake several writing courses. Needless to say, I learned a lot. Hopefully I will get only better as I progress. And I’m always open to critiquing of my work. My editor has been marvelous in holding my hand through THE PITS.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Everywhere. Being an artist all my life, my mind has never wanted for ideas. Writing has proved no different other than being expressed in words. But I also find inspiration in the news, stories from history. As I said, everywhere.
What is hardest – getting published, writing or marketing?
Marketing, by far. The actual writing process can be tough at times, but you can tackle it day by day. Publishing has become extremely easy nowadays if you decide to fore-go the traditional path. But marketing is a whole different monster to manage. Social media is a vital aspect and tool if any writer has hope of succeeding. But it takes a LOT of your time, when you feel you should or could be doing something more productive. There are so many individuals and groups available now who can assist or even manage totally the marketing for a writer. But they nearly always manage to overlook one important fact, and that is that almost every writer doesn’t have the financial means to afford the great marketing services being offered.
What marketing works for you?
Social networking, although I really need to be more disciplined at putting aside a certain amount of time each day to spend working at it.
Do you find it hard to share your work?
Not really. I find it fairly easy to share it. What a writer sometimes struggles with is being able to accept the critiquing that will inevitably ensue. To a great extent, writers need to grow a thick skin, and the ability to always glean the gold from the dirt.
Is your family supportive? Do your friends support you?
Definitely. Although, they were caught quite unprepared for my erotic thriller.
Do you plan to publish more books?
Again, definitely. The problem is that I can’t write as fast as I would like. Then there’s the editing, etc to wade through. It all takes time. But I certainly plan to publish more books. Right now, even as I get close to publishing THE PITS, I am working on a larger novel. This is an historical fiction story, and one I hope will far surpass THE PITS in quality.
What else do you do to make money, other than write? It is rare today for writers to be full time…
I’m a graphic designer. And I also do commissioned portraits (mainly of animals). Your readers are welcome to visit my other site devoted to that part of my work.
How do you write – lap top, pen, paper, in bed, at a desk?
At home I work on my i Mac. If I’m accompanying my wife on one of her business trips, I take along my laptop. Occasionally I’ll make notes on a pad if a computer isn’t handy. Never in bed, though. That is off limits to any kind of work, as far as I’m concerned.
Where do you get support from? Do you have friends in the industry?
I belong to an ever growing number of online groups for writers and authors. There is a distinction between the two, you know. These groups are there for each of us to support and assist others through the same ups and downs we all experience. And it works.
Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge and thank for their support?
My wife. If ever there was anyone who is always there for me, egging me on, making sure I put in time at the keyboard, etc, it’s her. Even to the point that she’s read both SHADES OF GRAY and my own erotic thriller and, in her opinion, regards mine more entertaining. Bless her heart!
Every writer has their own idea of what a successful career in writing is, what does success in writing look like to you?
I’m not necessarily in it for the money. Although a little along the way certainly wouldn’t be shunned. But, for me, becoming a successful writer would mean having a devoted following of readers who wait for me to publish the next book. What more could a writer ask for?
It is vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing, tell us about your marketing campaign?
Right now, I’m joining those online groups with members who have an interest in the welfare of animals, primarily dogs. Groups include those specifically open to dog owners and lovers (we have 2 dogs of our own), readers who have a preference for thriller and mystery stories, and other similar groups. I’ve created a few video book trailers which I have uploaded to YouTube and onto my web site and I’m posting links to these on these group sites, as well as Twitter, Facebook (I have 2 accounts), Google+, Linkedin, and the numerous writers forums of which I am also a member. I try to post regular blogs, updates, etc. Then there’s interviews such as yours that I search for. It’s early days yet, and I plan to step up the campaign the closer I get to releasing my book.
Tell us about your new book? What’s it about and why did you write it?
The initial idea came to me one day as I was reading accounts of dog cruelty on the ASPCA site. That led me to look into the bloody sport of dog-fighting, which in turn took me on a course of deeper research into the subject. Somewhere along the line the concept evolved into a premise for a story. I began to jot down ideas, then one day I began writing.
During his deployment to Afghanistan, Capt. Kramer, USMC saves a young pup that is immediately taken in by Kramer’s company and called Shadow, and given the rank of Corporal. From that day, Kramer and his best new friend are inseparable.
Returning home, the two Marines meet a group of college students and become embroiled in their campaign against the local street gangs and crime organizations involved in the bloody sport of dogfighting.
As a consequence, Kramer and Shadow find themselves working alongside the FBI, ATF, DEA, and ASPCA in an operation targeting a major crime boss and his nation-wide empire. It’s a critical moment — the crime boss is about to seal an arrangement with a notorious South American cartel that will see his empire increased a hundred fold.
The deal goes down during a huge dogfight event hosted by the crime boss, and Kramer and Shadow go undercover. But there’s a spy in the law enforcement ranks and the two Marines don’t know it until it’s too late. Or is it?
I’m hoping that my book will be read by as many dog lovers as possible and that somehow it might spark a stronger movement against dog-fighting here in America and eventually overseas.
When you are not writing, how do you like to relax?
Kayaking, drives in the country with my wife and dogs, visiting with friends, going to the movies.
Do you have any tips on how writers can relax?
What works for me is to just step away from the keyboard and wrap my mind around something totally apart from the subject of my writing. Doesn’t always work. I could be at the movies, for instance, when something on the screen or something overheard will trigger a thought concerning an aspect of my story. Then I have to try and remember that thought or idea until I get home and back to my keyboard.
How often do you write? And when do you write?
I’m working from home at the moment, so when I’m not busy working on a job for someone I can work on my book. But I try to write a bit in the morning, then again in the afternoon and into the early evening. The important thing is to try to write at least a few pages every day.
Do you have an organized process or tips for writing well? Do you have a writing schedule?
No, I don’t have a writing schedule, but I know I should. My writing instructors have all mentioned how important that is if you expect to be successful. Self discipline is easy for some, not so easy for most. I’m one of the latter. My graphic design work can quite often interfere. It’s times like that that I become extremely frustrated with myself for allowing my work to control my writing. That’s the good and bad aspects of working at home, I guess. But when I am writing I remain focused on my writing, analyzing each sentence as I put it down, rereading every paragraph before plowing on too far. Even going back over each chapter as I finish it, reading it aloud for it to sound right, and making any necessary revisions there and then. That’s my daily process.
Sometimes it’s so hard to keep at it – What keeps you going?
I try to work on my book every day, even if it turns out to be only a few paragraphs. That way I can look back at the end of the day and know that I, at least, did something. That I didn’t allow a day to pass without some kind of input to my book. Once I begin writing, I find I never lose track of the basic storyline. That’s not to say that it fails to evolve as I go, if anything, I can be surprised when suddenly a murder happens that even I didn’t see coming. I’ve wondered if that’s the other side of my brain taking over for a second.
Have you met any people in the industry who have really helped you?
Yes, my editor, Paulette K. Kinnes. And Remy Benoit, reviewer. Both have been instrumental in helping me with THE PITS. Should it become as successful as I hope, then these two ladies will be the cornerstone of that success.
What do you hope people will take away from your writing? How will your words make them feel?
I can only speak for THE PITS, at this stage. I hope the book will engender a stronger awareness among everyone of the plight of innocent dogs being used to prolong the existence of dog-fighting at the expense of their own lives. I hope my words will anger people to the point that they will begin their own neighborhood watch groups, looking any indications of dog-fighting activities in their own areas. That they won’t hesitate to report such events to local authorities. I want people to step up for the rights of those who haven’t a voice of their own … the innocent animals.
How do you think people perceive writers?
That’s a tricky question. I’m not sure, to be honest. My wife, for instance, regards me as one who is specially gifted, that she wished she could write or draw. My family and friends feel the same, only not so one-eyed. I referred earlier to the distinction between a writer and an author. As one of my writer friends put it recently, if you’re at a party and mention that you are a writer, people will generally say “Is that so? That’s nice.” But if you say that you’re an author then people immediately want to know what books you’ve had published, and the details of each. So, let me ask you, what does that say about how people regard writers?
What’s your next project?
I’m into the final draft of my historical fiction novel, THE ARCHER OF COED CADW. I’ve been writing it, on and off, for nearly 4 years. The first year was spent researching the subject.
The day James Alderton buries his parents he inherits a mysterious heirloom that has been passed down by the women of his mother’s lineage for centuries—a small treasure chest containing a handful of relics and a diary.
James’s mother also leaves him a letter and documents outlining his intriguing genealogy. She also leaves him with a mission—complete the extensive investigation she has started into the history and authenticity of the relics and diary, then decide if the world is ready for his findings which she believes James will find to be true.
The young Alderton sets out from Sydney, Australia with his best friend, Gavin Wanganeen, an Australian aborigine, for London, England in search of answers concerning not only James’s strange inheritance but the truth behind the supposed ‘accidental’ death of his parents.
What he and Gavin uncover will astound them, cause an international uproar, and virtually rewrite history.
However, there are those who wish to keep their discovery secret from the world; and others who want his inheritance for themselves—at any cost!
How do you feel about self-publishing?
I had to ask that of myself not so long ago. When I began working on THE PITS it was my intention of having it published traditionally. I was quite surprised when my editor advised me against that, and to self-publish, instead. Even now, with the major emphasis by writers to self-publish because it means they keep full control of their book and that it can be released so much quicker, there is still a certain status to be had if a traditional house picks up your book. While a vast number of people continue to think they can write and flood the market with inferior material, there will always be a stigma given to self-publishing. I think that, with sufficient time, people will begin to lay that stigma aside but it’s the responsibility of any aspiring writer to produce the best possible product for the readers out there. If that means meeting the cost of involving a professional editor, then so be it. But for every unprofessional self-published book that is produced, it makes the task of becoming truly recognized and successful by serious writers that much harder. Personally, I’m glad that it is easy to self-publish these days. But I don’t let that impede my responsibility of producing the best book I can for my readers.
An excerpt from THE PITS.
The Humvees arrived at the town’s central marketplace and instantly found themselves mobbed by hysterical townsfolk. The Marines dismounted and immediately secured the area as the corpsman pushed his way through the tumult towards the blast site. Captain Kramer, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, Regimental Combat Team 6 held his ground against the terrified and angry locals wailing in his face, some even tugging at his uniform for attention.
He needed to assess the situation. Apart from his Humvees, no other vehicles occupied the square. His troops had rapidly secured the perimeter and a couple now assisted the corpsman. A gritty cloud of smoke and dust shrouded the entire area but drifted away over the rooftops, aided by a breeze that had mercifully sprung up.
Sure enough, a car bomb. A huge scorched crater marked where the car had been parked outside a building. The remains of the vehicle lay in a smoldering, mangled heap halfway across the square with the Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians sifting through it. Rubble, pieces of metal, the dead, dying, and the injured lay strewn about the whole marketplace. Kramer’s boot bumped something as he stepped forward, and his eyes snapped to his feet. A bloody hand lay palm up. An innocent child’s hand.
His demeanor hardened, and the mob fell back as if it sensed the deadliness building up inside the warrior. Reports flooded in to him as his troops called in with updates. Without hesitation, the radio tech who kept close by Captain Kramer as he prowled the devastated marketplace flashed the news to base headquarters. Among the townsfolk still milling about, a few local officials, including the police chief, worked with the Marines to clear the area of unnecessary personnel.
Close by, a handful of weeping men loaded a civilian pickup truck with bodies, each wrapped in blood-soaked cloth. A group of distraught women mixed with them, wailing and grasping at each bundle being handled. Overwrought by their gruesome task, they were totally oblivious of the poor bewildered individual sitting quietly among their shuffling feet.
A runty tan pup sat sorrowfully beside one particular body. Occasionally it raised a paw and tentatively touched the bloody cloth. Kramer observed transfixed as the pup peered at the people, then at the small bundle of cloth, then at the people again. Then the pup nuzzled the bundle as if trying to awaken the person wrapped inside.
A grief-stricken man knelt and reverently lifted the tiny body. Judging by his age, he’s likely the father. As he stood, the pup whimpered as if to say, hey, wait a moment. The wailing increased as hands passed the body up to a blood-streaked villager standing in the back of the pickup. Just as he turned to place the bundle with the others, a gust of wind flipped up a flap of the cloth, revealing a tiny hand. Instinctively, Kramer felt that it belonged to a very young girl.
With the last victim onboard, the pickup started up and pulled away. The men and women mourners followed close behind trying to comfort each other as best as they could. The procession gradually left the square, disappearing from view as a waiting throng swarmed after it as it passed into a nearby street.
A strange silence fell over the square. It seemed as if the few remaining locals and all the Marines had their attention riveted on the lonely pup still sitting in the road. It hadn’t left that spot in all this time. Now it sat there staring after the pickup and those following it.
Captain Kramer crossed the street and gently lifted the pup. An expression of pure unadulterated love met his eyes. A light sparkled behind those dark brown eyes that he couldn’t describe. He just felt it.
The pup didn’t squirm or attempt to get away. It merely fixed its eyes on him as if it knew that this person would care for it, keep it safe, and maybe even feed it occasionally. As the six-foot-six Kramer cradled the puny creature in his arms, he was oblivious to the gazes directed his way from all around the square.
Connect with Greg:
Check out Greg’s stunning art:
** Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful work with us Greg and I really enjoyed your answers. I wish you all the best with your writing. I love your art. Amazing. Please drop by again and keep in touch with your creative news.