As the end of 2018 nears, I look back fondly on the new authors I’ve met and all the books I’ve showcased on my blog. Here’s another. I’m especially excited for today’s author, another speculative fiction author like me. Here’s your formal introduction to Angela Yuriko Smith, the author of more than 20 books.
Name: Angela Yuriko Smith
Latest Release: Bitter Suites
Genre: Tech Noir
- Has writing always been a passion of yours?
Always. I was blessed to be a super lonely, awkward child and, because of it, a voracious reader. Early on I remember reading a DC comic book called The Suicide Squad and there was a villain named The Writer, a.k.a. Grant Morrison. His super power was writing, and he wore a laptop strapped to his chest. Whatever he wrote on this laptop became reality – essentially he wrote his own future. That affected me deeply as a castoff. I craved some kind of power, protection and outlet. I took The Writer’s superpowers literally and believed that I could use words to change my own future. I was not disappointed.
- At what age did you begin to write seriously?
I wrote my first story in second grade. I don’t remember all the details, but the gist of it was a man was driven to kill himself because he kept hearing babies cry. He couldn’t sleep and went mad. They decide to tear down the house at the end of the story and they find the walls were full of baby skulls. At some point, a serial killer of babies had lived there and he would drop his evidence into the walls to hide it. As unpopular as I was, I started getting invited to slumber parties so I could tell ghost stories. We would play what I called the Ghost Story Game and I’d make up a story on the spot about any given topic. I was still unpopular during the day because I was “the weird girl,” but at least I had a social life.
- What is your favorite genre to write and does that differ from the genre you like to read?
Yes. I tend to write darker fiction. I love killing people on paper. While I used to read almost only horror, I find I don’t enjoy it as much now. I feel like a backseat driver wanting the characters to go a different direction. In my mind I’m narrating what should happen and it’s not my story. I’m not saying my way is better than another author’s way—just different. Neil Gaiman is the exception to that. Everything I read by him goes exactly the way I think it should. I do read a lot of nonfiction now. Usually I’m researching something.
- Where does your inspiration to write come from?
Everywhere. Life experience, bits of news, social media, my dogs, an overheard conversation… everything becomes fodder for fiction. That’s why it’s so much fun to write. For years I worked in newspapers and wrote only nonfiction. I wrote my first fiction book, End of Mae, on a dare. As I put that story together I realized that fiction and nonfiction are the same thing. Fiction is just mixed up bits of the truth an author has played with. It’s still true, just in fragments. I retired from newspapers a few years ago and have written primarily fiction since.
- How does the generation you belong to impact your writing style, or does it?
I wasn’t an active participant in my generation until I ran away from home in the 80s. I missed all the 70s pop culture, thankfully, and dove right into things in the middle of the new wave movement. We were emotionally distant, rebellious in a detached way and not very demonstrative. The precursor to the whole goth thing, we tried to be indifferent about being doomed. I think I’ve maintained that attitude in much of my work, especially in the last few years since I came out with my first tech noir story, Vanilla Rice (Where the Stars Rise, Laksa Media, winner of Alberta Book Publishing’s Speculative Fiction Book of the Year). That story began the universe I’ve been setting all my latest books in.
6.What does your writing schedule look like in a typical week?
When I worked a full time job I squeezed writing in anywhere I could and spent many late nights tapping away. Now I am lucky to have a full four days a week minimum to write. I wake up and drink my coffee while I answer emails and wake up, and then I can get right into my latest project. Around noon I try to step away from the computer and give my eyes a rest. I’ll take the dogs to the park, putter around the house doing laundry and have lunch. Then I go back to writing until about five. I stay focused by munching popcorn while I work. Now that I have a dedicated writing schedule, I try not to let my writing time bleed over into the rest of my schedule, but it often does. When I’m living in two worlds, it’s really hard to just put one away until my next work time.
- Are you a pantser or a plotter?
Definitely a pantser with a rough map drawn on the back of a napkin to guide me. I like to set my fingers on the keys and see where a story takes me. I usually have a general idea of where I want to go and who I want to take me there, but the characters constantly surprise me. In Bitter Suites, my latest book, the character of Azrael was only meant to show up in the first chapter as the desk girl. She winds up being in almost every chapter since and plays an essential role to the entire story arc. Another character, the “popped guy,” doesn’t even have a name and he’s also wound up being a major element in the story. As if it was planned, there turns out to be a very good reason why he is never named. I’m not clever enough to make this stuff up… I rely on the characters to write their own story. They never let me down.
- Can you name an event in your life that has made the biggest impact on where you are today?
Running away from home at 16 had a major impact on my writing. My dad and I had a fight at some point and he told me I couldn’t be a writer because I hadn’t lived yet. I realized he was correct. I left home shortly after that and never came back other than a few, short stays. That decision defined me. There were other reasons for me to leave home, but the drive to experience everything kept me going. I hitchhiked from the west coast to the east coast, from the southernmost tip of America on up to live in Montreal for a few years. I circled around in the west and Midwest for a year or so as well. Along the way I saw a lot of terrible things and a lot of terrible things happened to me. I came very close to death a few times, was stabbed, held at gunpoint and wound up with frostbite—those were the best of the bad times. My mission to experience kept me from being crushed. I had the mindset of an adventurer on a quest and any tears I cried soon evaporated as I made notes on emotions, reactions and details of setting. Not only do I still tap into those experiences all the time, but I continue to experience everything I can to use for writing. When I die, someone please have a Ouija board handy. I will keep writing, even if I have to dictate.
- Do you think writers have better luck going the traditional or the self-publishing route?
If you have the patience and luck to go traditional, I think that’s wonderful. It’s very hard for new authors to get noticed, the traditional publishing machine moves very slow, and authors are still responsible for the bulk of their own promotion. I’ve had one book published traditionally but I have self published the rest. It wasn’t a positive experience for me personally. The problem with self publishing is the lack of professionalism. Just because we can pop out a book in a weekend and publish by Monday doesn’t mean we should. The best story in the world won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on if it’s plagued by typos, badly formatted, confusing and wearing a bad cover. All the time I come across authors that don’t think they need honest beta readers, editors, cover designers, formatters… writing the thing is easy. Like babies, getting your book into the world is the painful part. Then, like babies, you are responsible for every aspect of their future success.
- What are you working on right now?
I always have a mix of projects in different genre. I’m putting together another collection of short stories, finishing a poetry collection to be titled Altars and Oubliettes, and gathering material for a nonfiction on ghost hunting. The project I’m most passionate about at the moment would be Suite and Sour, the sequel to Bitter Suites which I published last June. That story is obsessing me, and I can’t rest until I finish it.
- What do you find are the most effective means of promotion?
Write anywhere and anywhen you can. I have been publishing on my own blog nearly everyday for the past eight years. I contribute to columns and other blogs, stay engaged on social media (without getting caught in the vortex) and do freelance for a few local magazines and newspapers. Write for free. Write for trade. Write for money. Write for a good cause. The best thing an author can do is keep producing words and share them everywhere.
- What advice do you have for someone just beginning his or her journey into writing?
Network with other writers. The author community tends to be encouraging. We are writers because we love to read, so we love other writers. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be afraid to give back. If someone helps you, share their book. Leave a review. Finally, understand that writing is work. No one spits out a few words and gets hailed as a genius. Stick with it. Overnight successes have usually been working at this for a few years. No one talks about that.
- What piece of fiction has made the biggest impact in your writing career and why?
Those Alfred Hitchcock anthologies were my favorites. The stories were all by different authors—Bradbury, Doyle, and Twain—among them. The story that made the most impression on my was Shadow, Shadow, on the Wall by Theodore Sturgeon which appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Monster Museum. That story had so much influence on my younger days, I hunted it down for years. I collect those old Hitchcock collections when I find them. The other major influence I had was the Sandman graphic novels by Neil Gaiman. The words were perfect. I fell in love with the Endless, and they taught me how to be an adult.
- What final thoughts would you leave potential readers with?
Readers are the most important part of my writing, and I adore every one. Books were the original virtual realities and I do my best to create amazing, unique realities for my readers. When they respond, we are in an intimate relationship that is like none other.
- What is your favorite story you’ve written/read? Tell us about it.
Of course, I love my own stories, and I think all of Gaiman’s stories are perfect. All of them are favorites. The story that has resonated with me the most would be Shadow, Shadow, on the Wall by Theodore Sturgeon from Alfred Hitchcock’s Monster Museum I mentioned a few questions ago. The story is about a lonely, misfit boy with an abusive mother. His only company are the shadows he creates on his wall. They come to life, of course, but the entire story the reader thinks they are part of his imagination… until the end when they solve his worst problem. As a misfit child, I identified with the boy and wished many times for my own shadows to come take away my own problems.
- What three things must you have on hand to write?
A computer with a good keyboard. I like backlit, chiclet style keys. Plenty of good coffee and microwave popcorn are also nice.
- Where do you see yourself/your writing in 5 years?
With Bitter Suites I feel like I have really found myself as a writer. I’ve settled solidly in my niche and have a good understanding of my strengths and worked hard to obliterate my weaknesses. In five years I’d like to see myself still developing but with a nice fat bookshelf of my books and a Stoker. I’ll be happy to have just one Stoker award on my shelf someday, even if I have to purchase it used off eBay.
- Everyone has a dream mate. What’s yours look like? Do you ever expect to find him/her?
I am married to him, and I did actually dream about him twice years before we met. In the dream, we had a long conversation and I knew this person was my other half. Just before I woke up each time he says, “Whatever the distance, however long it takes, we will be together.” He is Australian and I’m American. A few months into our relationship he said those same words to me in real life. I knew I’d heard them somewhere before, but it wasn’t until the next day I remembered them from my dreams. We’ve been married for eight years now, and best friends for longer than that. He’s coming out with his first book in 2019.
- If you could be anything other than what you are, what occupation would you choose?
It would be hard to pick between firefighter or mortician, but probably firefighter.
- Name two things you’d like to do before you die.
Write a book that sells as well as the Bible and discover how to live forever.
About the Author:
Angela Yuriko Smith’s work has been published in several print and online publications, including the “Horror Writers Association’s Poetry Showcase” vols. 2-4, “Christmas Lites” vols. 1-6 and the “Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy” anthology.
She has nearly 20 books of speculative fiction and poetry for adults, YAs and children. Her first collection of poetry, “In Favor of Pain,” was nominated for an 2017 Elgin Award.
Find her online at AngelaYSmith.com.
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