Friday, April 27, 2012

Author Interview: Lisa April Smith (Exceeding Expectations)

***Stay tuned later today for my review of this wonderful book!***                                                                                                                                                       

                      About Lisa April Smith
Author Lisa April Smith lives with her husband, He-who-wishes-to-remain-anonymous, in Eternal Playland, Florida, a delightful spot just off I-95. Ms. Smith describes Eternal Playland as: "a little piece of level heaven with occasional dampness, where the bugs are plentiful but respectful, and even the smallest strip mall contains at least one pizza place and a nail salon."

Before discovering a passion for writing, Ms. Smith sold plumbing and heating and antiques, taught ballroom dancing, tutored, modeled, designed software and managed projects for IBM and returned to college multiple times to study anthropology, sociology and computer science, in which she holds degrees, as well as psychology, archeology, literature, history and art. Combine those widely diverse interests with a love of travel and a gift for writing page-turners and it’s easy to understand one reviewer’s unbridled praise for Exceeding Expectations, “She (Ms. Smith) has a brilliance for conveying characters, and the intellectual capacity to place them in historical settings that sparkle with glamorous detail . . . that make it fun to read . . . ” But it takes much more than lush settings, an eye for detail and a love of history to write a page-turner. Read what another reviewer said about Exceeding Expectations: “Lisa April Smith . . . has woven an intriguingly rich tapestry of delightful well-developed characters into a perfectly balanced plot bursting with riveting mystery, crimes of the petty and the horrible sort, suspenseful twists, and romantic tension complete with love scenes that sizzle and pop. . . Clearly, this author has, and wishes to share with her readers, what the French call joie de vivre  – not simply the joy of life – but an all-encompassing appreciation for every facet of life.”

For more about Lisa, her books, and upcoming projects visit her website:
Lisa April Smith can be contacted at WriteLisa(at)LisaAprilSmith(dot)com  

Thank you for stopping by, Lisa. I’m looking forward to learning a little about you and your approach to writing.  
A:  Thank you for inviting me, Crystal.
Q. I curious, Lisa, did you always want to be a writer?
A. Reading has always been an integral part of my life. My family all read voraciously. For most of my life prior to getting married, we didn’t own a television. We were the last American family to own one and when it broke my father refused to fix or replace it. He insisted that television was turning our brains to mush because no one was reading. I always knew that I could write because I never received less than “A’s” on essays and term papers. And I do remember, when I was in elementary school, daydreaming about characters and inventing elaborate plots, but at twelve grownup responsibilities forced me to focus on the practical. Fortunately, I found time to read – non-fiction to feed my hungry curiosity and fiction for escape and solace. But it wasn’t until my children were grown that the need to write fiction resurfaced, abruptly, with the impact of a tsunami.   
Q. What can you tell us about Exceeding Expectations, your new book?
A. I wanted the book to be a page-turner suspense, primarily written for women, so naturally I included romance. The factual events that inspired it took place in Palm Beach, which triggered my imagination to incorporate additional lush settings, like an expansive estate in Virginia, an entire 5 story Manhattan townhouse, and Paris. But frankly, I adore the characters. There’s the irresistible rascal Jack Morgan – lackluster artist, gifted lover who prefers women older than himself, and utterly devoted father. His daughter Charlotte (Charlie), a self-deprecating 23 year old who is aware that she’s pampered, over-protected and unprepared to do anything besides marrying a member of her elite social class. Raul Francesco, the flirtatious young lawyer, Cuban expatriate, who enjoys teasing Charlie, when he’s not helping her deal with the fallout of her father’s devastating suicide. But I also provide supporting characters with unique personalities. I don’t want to ruin the surprises that I’ve worked to hard to include by identifying and describing them. Readers will discover them for themselves.  

Q. Do your books require much research? 
A. Absolutely! Some books more than others. I’m a stickler for accuracy. When I find the 2nd or 3rd critical error in a book or movie, that’s it for me. I’m done. Fortunately, I love history and find research fascinating. I estimate that for every researched detail I use, thirty are waiting to be plucked from my Word files or taking up needed space in my brain. Is it any wonder I have problems remembering names? 

Q. When you’re away from your desk, what you enjoy doing to relax?
A. I love travelling outside the US – which we do from time to time, when I can convince my husband to cooperate. However, if you’re talking about everyday activities, I read, watch reruns of “30 Rock,” play golf, tend to my cactus and orchids, visit museums, talk on the phone with my kids, volunteer tutor at an afterschool program and do laundry. While most people consider laundry a tedious chore, I find filling and emptying the washer/drier an excellent mindless break. Ironing? Not so much.   

Q.  Can you tell us some of the places you’ve visited, where would you like to see that you haven’t and name the place you’d most like to return to?
A.  A three part question: 1) We’ve been to Aruba, Guadalupe, St. Martin, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Canada, Italy, France, England, China – loved them all. 2) I’d like to go everywhere but if I had to choose a few favorites it would Spain, Argentina, Holland, Peru, Russia and Israel.  3) If I had to pick only one, I would go back to China – in a heartbeat. We spent three weeks touring and there’s still so much we haven’t seen. It’s a huge, very diversified country with deserts and snow-capped mountains, sophisticated business-centric cities and rural farmland. And because many parts of China haven’t been affected by industrialization you can still find examples of things being done the same way they were done hundreds of years ago. That’s fascinating!     

Q. What is your favorite ethnic food?
A. I have two favorite ethnic foods: Chinese and Italian.

Q. Have you ever fantasized about living in a foreign country and where would that be?
A. When we were in Stesa, a town in northern Italy on the shore of Lake Maggiore it was hard not to fantasize about living there. The view of the snow-capped Alps across the broad water is breathtaking. The weather is so mild throughout the year that palm trees flourish there. Summers are cooled by its proximity to the largest lake in Italy. The people I met were warm and gracious. And when I got the urge to travel, getting around Europe doesn’t require seven hours in a plane. The only negative is the distance to my family, which is the reason my daydream will always remain a daydream. 

Q. What particularly pleases you about writing fiction? 
The creative experience. I’ve always envied painters, sculptors, composers. Imagine applying oil to canvas and fashioning a masterpiece. Imagine hearing wonderful music in your head that hasn’t been heard before. Imagine turning a shapeless lump of clay, or block of stone, into an object that produces emotions in viewers. Writing is an art too. With words as their sole tool, authors weave them into stories and place invented people into invented problematic situations. If the author is truly skillful, she not only entertains, she touches, transports and meaningfully moves readers. That’s a powerful and addicting drug. 

About Exceeding Expectations
            It’s 1961 and Palm Beach socialite, irresistible rascal and devoted father Jack Morgan encounters genuine danger while staging his suicide to shield his beloved daughters from disgrace. Next, meet his daughter Charlotte (Charlie), an over-indulged 23 year-old struggling to cope with the traumatizing loss of her beloved father, her sister’s resulting mental breakdown and the discovery that she’s suddenly penniless. Fortunately Raul, an admiring young attorney, appears to offer assistance. As terrified as she is about daily survival, Charlie soon realizes that she has to learn what drove her father to kill himself. With Raul’s much needed ego-bolstering, the drive of necessity and unforeseen determination, Charlie finds a practical use for her annoyingly lean 5’ 11” frame. In time, this career finances her hard-wrought independence, her sister’s costly treatment and an emotional eye-opening journey to Paris.
            Jumping back in time to romantic pre-WWII Paris, readers meet young Alan Fitzpatrick – aka Jack Morgan – lack-luster artist and expert lover and the bewitching girl who will become the mother of his children. Not even Charlie’s relentless detective work will uncover all Jack’s secrets, but in a fireworks of surprise endings, she discovers all that she needs to know and more:  disturbing truths about her father, her own unique talent, crimes great and small and a diabolical villain.