Getting to Know You
How does a plain Jane Doe (or Janet Smith) become an author, and why? For me, it began with a love for books. As a child, growing up in St. Peter, MN, one of my biggest victories was the day Mr. Carlson, the owner of the local dimestore, clued me in. I loved to read, especially at night, but there was a problem. My bedroom was directly above my parents', and there was vent in the floor of my room, enabling my parents to see when I had the light on. Mr. Carlson told me to pull a rug over the vent when I wanted to read. It worked great, until one day when I forgot to pull the rug back in the morning and I got "found out."
So, my love for books caused me to want to spin some of my own yarns. When I write historicals, I love to take real people (usually little-known people) as the basis for the story. In contemporaries, nothing is more rewarding than to take a real-life event and let your imagination run wild. And so, stories are born, first in my head, then on paper. I hope you have as much fun reading them as I did writing them.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
I was temporarily "hooked" on regency romances and decided to try my hand at writing one. I said, oh so nonchalantly, to my husband, Ivan, "I really need some kind of a buried or hidden treasure in Britain." He replied, "Why not use our family jewels?" "Sure," I scoffed. "If you have family jewels, how come I never saw them?" Then he told me the family lore about his great- grandmother, Caroline Keith, whose family came from Dunnottar Castle in Scotland. King Charles II had taken the regalia (crown, sword, scepter and orb) there to keep Oliver Cromwell from melting it down, as he had already done with the English regalia.
Undaunted, I set out to prove him wrong. Wouldn't you know it; he was right! By the time I finished with the research, I knew I had so much more than a regency romance. And thus was born DUNNOTTAR, my first historical novel. Incidentally, MARYLEBONE, the sequel, is
set in the regency era, as that is when the rest of the story actually unfolded.
ABOUT MY COVERS
An old National Geographic had a beautiful photograph of Dunnottar Castle, which I had always hoped to use for the cover of DUNNOTTAR, should it ever get published. When I called to ask them about it, they quickly agreed, but the price they wanted was far more than a starving author--or a well-fed one--could afford. So, Ivan suggested I contact my long-time friend, Bonny Crow, a very talented artist right in our own town, Grand Forks, ND. Bonny became excited about the project immediately, and the result was her very dramatic watercolor rendition of the castle.She had chosen to paint just a portion of the castle, which actually consisted of several buildings. On our first book signing, Bonny went with me. Imagine our surprise when a woman came up and handed us a photo of Dunnottar Castle, saying she had just visited there a week earlier. The most amazing thing was the actual photo she gave us was the same identical scene Bonny had painted: the partial castle site. And the woman had never seen the cover before.
Bonny has done each of my covers, and we have formed an (unofficial) partnership. One of the most frequent comments I hear, besides that readers are enjoying the books, is "And they look so good!" Thank you, Bonny. Yes, you can judge a book by its cover.
PAYING MY DUES
Like most writers, I went through the regular routes, sending manuscripts out, getting rejections, getting promises--which eventually fizzled out, sending mss. back out, finding an agent, losing an agent, losing a few mss. along the way, spending a fortune on postage, writing for magazines, newspapers, etc. and then one day....
"FirstPublish. This is Nick." It was a new company. I had seen an ad for them in a magazine. I discussed the story of DUNNOTTAR with him, as well as the sequel, MARYLEBONE. "Send them in," he said.
That was in March, 2000. On Apr. 27th, I received a phone call from Nick, the CEO of FirstPublish. "We have decided to accept your books for publication." I was too stunned to ask any questions. Fortunately, he called back later in the day to discuss the details. Thus began a wonderful relationship with FirstPublish (backed by Xerox, UPS and CP Bourgh of Germany). They have been wonderful to work with, and they have grown by leaps and bounds. They are located in Orlando, FL. If you get down that way, stop in and see them. Just tell them "Janet Elaine Smith sent me." That should get you in the door!
ABOUT THE BOOKS:
Dunnottar Castle, Scotland, the domain of the Clan Keith, close consorts of the royal family for many generations. The whole country is at war with itself: Scotland against England. William Keith, the patriarch, is the wealthiest man in Scotland, but he desires to be known only as the kindest; John, his younger brother, is eager to fight for his country, even if his motives are a little questionable; and Robert, William's oldest son, is off to battle, but his mother's only hope is that he finds a wife in the process. Even the most seemingly righteous families have some deep, dark hidden secrets. The Keith clan is no exception, some of them so deep and dark even the other Keiths don't know they exist. But they are privy to secrets of King Charles II himself.
Watch for MARYLEBONE, the sequel to DUNNOTTAR, in June, 2001.
IN ST. PATRICK'S CUSTODY
Grace Johnson, elderly New York City
widow, "ran away from home, and at my
age!" she says. Patrick O'Mally, retired
New York cop, comes to her rescue by
taking her to the homeless shelter where
he volunteers. Grace quickly becomes their
most valuable employee.
The fun begins when a priest from St. Patrick's Cathedral recruits them to help solve a mystery: the statue of St. Patrick has disappeared! They are led on a merry chase by a young girl, and along the way they just happen to solve the one murder case that has bugged Patrick for years, as well as get caught in the middle of an attempted poisoning. IN ST. PATRICK'S CUSTODY is a warm, delightful tale with lots of fun and wacky characters. Watch for RECIPE FOR MURDER, the next in the "Patrick and Grace Mystery" series, which will take you to a small town in Nebraska.
HOUSE CALL TO THE PAST
Maria Hallett has been captivated by
the dashing pirate, Black Sam
Bellamy, but he leaves her--alone and
pregnant in 1713. The baby nearly dies
at birth, but Maria Hallett's father,
John, goes across a field to entice
modern OB-GYN doctor, Angus
McPherson, to come to her rescue.
Dr. Angus saves the baby's life, using modern means, but is shocked to learn he has made the ultimate HOUSE CALL TO THE PAST. When Maria is accused of witchcraft, he opts to stay with her in the past, offering to marry her to save her from a lifetime in prison. Maria agrees, but vows she will never love anyone but Black Sam.
Cn Dr. Angus win her love? And can he protect her from Black Sam, if he returns? A page-turning challenge ensues, proving that hopefully good once again triumphs over evil. Watch for the sequel, PORT CALL TO THE FUTURE, to learn the other half of the story: what really happened to Black Sam Bellamy?
EVEN IN SMALL TOWN, USA
It came as a surprise, even to the people involved, that a town like Grand Forks, ND all of a sudden had six published and selling authors. As they e-mailed and phoned one another, a plan began to materialize. It began when Ivan and I were eating at one of our favorite restaurants and the manager, a good friend, was lamenting their poor business on Monday nights. At Ivan's suggestion, we put into play a "Meet the Author's Night." With some good advertising done by the restaurant, they figured we had at least 90 people who showed up just because we were there. The result has been lots more similar events--in coffee houses, at arts & craft fairs, and we are even invited to be a part of the University of ND Writers' Conference in March, a first for "local yokels."
FUN, FACTS AND FLOODS
(Available direct from Janet E. Smith)
Before FirstPublish and the publication of my novels, I sold four self-published books, for which I still receive frequent requests. So, I am making them available to you, my faithful and friendly fans. They can be ordered from Janet Elaine Smith, P.O. Box 126, East Grand Forks, MN 56721 for $15. (+$3. postage). They are listed below.
GETTING DOWN AND DIRTY WITH YOUR FAMILY. A primer on the how-tos of starting your genealogical search. Lots of the ordinary--and unusual--tips on how to find the heroes, and the rascals, in your family tree. (I have taught genealogy, using these techniques, for over 10 yrs.)
WHEN YOUR FUNNYBONE ITCHES. True stories I have encountered while doing genealogical searches, both my own and those of others. These are the stories that put the flesh and blood on those skeletons in your closet. Guaranteed to make you smile, then laugh out loud.
THE HALLETT HISTORY. Following the family of Andrew Hallett from 1630-the present. Andrew came to America as an indentured servant, although wealthy. He came on the Mayflower; he didn't care that it wa the ship's sixth trip! The Halletts missed the boat the first five times, and many of them have been missing the boat ever since! Many family charts included.
THE FLOOD OF THE MILENNIUM. In 1997, the entire world heard about the plight of Grand Forks, ND, when the entire city was evacuated as the Red River overflowed its banks in the worst flood since Noah's time. This is a report, filled with sorrow, tragedy and even humor, written by Janet Smith, who was a social worker, an evacuee, and a scared resident during this time of great trial. It will make you appreciate the strength of the people who survived, and some (especially the elderly) who didn't.
ON LINE FUN!
Click on the WordThunder link above for an article, "Hanging Your Skeletons Out to Dry," an interview and an award or on "Aspiring Authors" for an article on marketing or on "Heritage Quest for the methods I used to research Dunnottar.
THE MYSTERY IS SOLVED! DUNNOTTAR closed as King
Charles II disappeared with the Scottish regalia. Now, almost 150 years later, young James Keith is obsessed with finding it. Miss Caroline Kent, however, is equally intent on uncovering her mysterious Scotsman's secrets. And the secrets revealed about the royal family; why, they beat the Enquirer any day!
DUNNOTTAR has been on several "Best seller" lists. No, not the New York Times--yet! I can only hope MARYLEBONE will be as exciting for you as it was for me.
For a sample chapter, go to yahoogroups.com, search for "Post- A Page" then search for "Marylebone." Hopefully that first chapter will entice you to read further.
.CHRISTMAS IN JULY?
Has the summer heat got you steamed? Can't catch your breath from the humidity? Grab a chair, a cool glass of iced tea, put your feet up and wander off to the fierce winds blowing in off Lake Superior in Duluth, MN.
A CHRISTMAS DREAM is guaranteed to cool you off on the outside, while warming your heart on the inside. Susan Quincey is the original "Mrs. Scrooge," but her boss is determined to win her over through her own Tiny Tim (Jeremy, her son).
The story comes complete with Christmas miracles (which are good any time of the year), a lopsided reindeer named Buford, a Christmas present Santa will never forget, and an author's note at the end that tells how the story started at a McDonald's in Grand Forks, ND.
Again, the first chapter is available at yahoogroups/Post-A-Page. Enjoy, and stay cool!
ON THE ROAD
WITH PATRICK & GRACE.
IN ST. PATRICK'S CUSTODY,
the first Patrick & Grace Mystery,
has been very well-received. Thank
you! Set at a homeless shelter in
New York City, you'll meet the
slightly "wacky" characters you
are sure to fall in love with.
Here's a peek at what lies ahead of them.
RECIPE FOR MURDER (due out Sept. 01), it follows Walter Schmidt to his hometown in Nebraska, where he is found hanging in the apple shed. Patrick & Grace, of course, are right in the thick of things before long.
OLD HABITS DIE HARD. Back at the homeless shelter in NYC, Mother Superior has disappeared Patrick & Grace find clues at each spot: a nuns habit with a note that reads "Old Habits Die Hard."
MALLED TO DEATH. Patrick & Grace attend a PI convention at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, MN. They leap into action when a fellow PI turns up dead, and the leading suspect is a tiger on the loose.
FRAMED. Back at the homeless shelter in NYC, Grandma Bellazoni (from Book 1) has been given a painting--which she despises. But, it holds a clue to a fortune, and could cost her her life.
MAMIED IN THE BATTLEFIELD. An old soldier at the homeless shelter leads Patrick & Grace on a merry chase to Gettysburg, PA, where the past of Mamie Eisenhower holds the clue to a deadly mystery.
WE'RE MOVIN' ON UP... Just like the Jeffersons, FirstPublish, in one short year, has grown from one employee (when I came on board) to a whole slew of new people added almost daily. Now they have their very own building. No, I'm not an employee; what I earn depends on how many books sell. But I'm mighty proud to be a part of them! Congratulations!.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS.
As a writer, I often get asked questions about my writing and my books. If you have a question for me, pop it in the guestbook, or e-mail me at jehsmith@ yahoo.com; then watch here for your answer.
WHERE DO YOU GET THE IDEAS FOR YOUR BOOKS?
From life; from human nature. I love to take real people and real events (either from today or from history), then imagine what brought them to that point in their lives.
HOW DO YOU DO YOUR HISTORICAL RESEARCH?
Go to the link here for Heritage Quest. An article detailing the research I did for DUNNOTTAR will be there shortly.
YOU WRITE IN SEVERAL DIFFERENT GENRES? WHY?
I think life is multi-dimensional. I like to read different genres, so writing them just comes natural.
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