Can you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Hello to all of your readers. My name is J.E. Smythe and I’m the author of four books; “A Few Good Friends,” Zora’s First Day,” Through Grandma’s Eyes,” and “Secrets in the Woods (An Emilia Long Mystery).” I’m also the co-founder of Lady Esquire Group, LLC which is a self-assisted publishing company. We also help authors, especially new authors, market and promote their book(s). In my spare time, I’m also an Attorney living and working in Charlotte, North Carolina.
What motivated you to become an author?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing, it just was all done in my head. I had all these people running around in my head that were so entertaining to me. But I didn’t think anyone else would find them entertaining or understand their stories. It wasn’t until I completed law school and started thinking about what was next. I didn’t want to stop being an Attorney, I just wanted to do more. So often our gifts and talents go unused because we think it’s impossible to do everything at the same time. But to me it didn’t stand to reason that God would bless us with a gift or gifts and not intend for us to use it. Once that became clear to me, I then had to get over my fear that people wouldn’t like what I write. When I got over those two things, it just became about me wanting to share the lives and the stories of all the people in my head that have been entertaining me for so many years.
Please give our readers a brief description of each of your books.
My first book is “A Few Good Friends.” It is a story based around the lives of four best friends. They each tell their story in their own words and readers become witnesses to the true power of friendship. This book deals with some true-life issues. You have the career woman who is trying to figure out if she could have it all. Then you have the very smart doctor who falls so in love that she allows her man’s lies to become her truth and hangs on to those lies just to hang on to the man. Then there’s the wealthy socialite who is so consumed with appearances that she doesn’t see her blessings because it doesn’t reflect the appearance she wants to portray.
Finally, there’s the woman who finds herself in an abusive marriage but doesn’t realize or acknowledge that she is being abuse because it had become so much a part of her life. This book takes the reader through all the emotions of friendship, the joy and the pain.
My second book is called “Zora’s First Day” and it’s a book written for young people. It is about learning to accept change. Zora is a young girl who has spent most of her school years in catholic school. She’s had the same teachers and the same friends and the same daily routine. Then her life gets turned upside down when she learns that she will start the new school year in public school. The reader gets to follow Zora through her day as she meets new teachers, makes new friends, and new enemies. “Zora’s First Day” teaches us that life changes constantly, but it’s not always a bad thing.
My third book is called “Through Grandma’s Eyes.” It’s a story about family and it’s centered around a young girl who thinks she has life figured out. It’s not until she lands on her grandmother’s doorstep that the quickly finds out that she stills has a bit more learning to do. Part of the story is in present day and follows the granddaughter around as she gets herself into some unnecessary trouble while she follows her dream of becoming a dancer. The other part of the book starts in the 1960s, when the grandmother was around the same age as the granddaughter, and then the story follows the grandmother through her life. This book is an emotional rollercoaster but leaves the ready understanding the strength of the human spirit.
My newest book is called “Secrets in the Woods (An Emilia Long Mystery).” I am so excited about this one because it’s my first mystery and I am a huge fan of mysteries. This book is the first in a series of Emilia Long Mysteries. Emilia Long is an investigative reporter from New York. In this book, she sets out to find her birth mother. The search leads her to a small town in North Carolina and right in the middle of an unsolved murder that took place before she was born. Emilia quickly realizes that she must solve the murder before she can discover what happened to her mother. It is everything that lovers of cozy/sleuth mysteries have come to adore about the genre. It has a little danger, a little humor, and a lot of who-done-it.
It’s so common for readers to believe that authors pull material from their own lives. You've published a few books that feature strong female characters. Can you talk about how much material you harvested from personal life experiences?
Before I was a writer I was an avid reader and the books that appealed to me the most were the ones I could relate to. I’m of the belief that in order for a book to be believable, it must have some hint of truth. So yes, I pull from the world around me. Whether it’s my life or the lives of others, I observe and write what I think readers can connect to.
Does your cultural background have any influence on your writing style? If so, how?
Absolutely. I was born in Liberia and came to the United States when I was five years old. But I grew up in a Liberian household and with Liberian values. Africans, as a whole, are all about family. I grew up knowing how important the family structure is. I was also raised by a single mother and in a family with very strong and capable women. I think that was my blessing as a writer. My writing is always family driven and my main characters are always strong fearless women with real issues. This is what I know. A secret in my writing is that at least one character, main or minor, is named after a special woman in my life, someone that has positively impacted my life. It’s my way of showing them off to the world.
You write books for both adults and teens, correct? How is writing a book for young adults different than writing a book for adults? Which do you prefer?
Yes, that is correct. I don’t really have a preference. I enjoy writing both equally. There is a different mindset when it comes to writing for teens. I have to know what all the kids are in to and all the new cool words they’re saying. Since I haven’t been a teen in sometime, it’s a challenge. But it’s a fun challenge.
In your book "A Few Good Friends" the character Joanna is a successful marketing executive. Did writing for that particular character help you with creating marketing strategies for yourself as an author? If so, what marketing strategies do you find most helpful? Any resources you would recommend to other authors?
When I wrote “A Few Good Friends” I was really green to the publishing world. I didn’t have a clue what a marketing plan should look like for an author. I learned how to create a marketing plan through trial and error and by asking a lot of questions. What I had to learn was the importance of building your author brand. It’s important to have readers connect to you the author so that they look forward to your next book. When I wrote my first book I just thought that all I had to do was to sell it. I was wrong. It’s about building your career as an author and a big part of that is your band. I would suggest that authors start getting their face out there. If you haven’t already been to book festivals, plan on going to several. I made of list of all the book festivals around the country and picked which ones I would be able to attend. It’s costly, so set your budget. I also made a list of as many book clubs as possible and started emailing them. Organize yourself and just start doing the work.
Did you come across any specific challenges during the publishing process? What is one piece of advice you would offer aspiring authors?
The challenge I came across was just not knowing the publishing process. I had to take a crash course in all the moving parts of publishing. As an Attorney I knew about making sure I got the copyrights to my book, but that was all I knew. I didn’t know about ISBNs, I didn’t know the difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing. I had to learn all of that. My advice to aspiring authors would be to do your homework. The publishing industry has changed so much that you now have so many options when it comes to publishing. Figure out what works best for you. Know the business of writing not just the process.
Last question, well challenge actually. If you had to promote your book "A Few Good Friends" in a tweet (140 characters), what would you say to persuade someone to buy it?
Celebrate the ups, downs, and all the in between of friendship. A true to life no holds barred story of sisterhood. #Iammysisterskeeper
Connect with the author:
J.E. Smythe can best be reached online at www.writeleg.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org for inquiries. She can also be found on social media at these links:
FB: / jesmythe1
All books are available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book retailers.
About the author:
Author J.E. Smythe, was born in Liberia, West Africa, raised in Providence, Rhode Island, and Gaithersburg, Maryland. J.E. is an attorney who attended Allen University and received her Law Degree from Massachusetts School of Law. While working as an attorney, J.E. just could not let her passion to write die. She decided to take her legal writing skills and write her debut fiction novel “A Few Good Friends.” J.E. currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina where she is working on her next novel. She is a proud member of Zeta phi Beta Sorority, Inc.