Another Author of the Month at MyShelf.Com
Author of the Month
Janet Elaine Smith [March 2004]
Chosen by Lynda Lukow, MyShelf.Com
Janet Elaine Smith is not only a reviewer and editor for MyShelf; she is also a multi-talented author. The Flood of the Millennium, her twelfth book to be published, has just hit the shelves. She's a wonderful woman whose humor can liven a dull day for MyShelf's staff. I've had the privilege of reviewing several of her works, and now it is my pleasure to interview Janet Elaine Smith.
Lynda: Having lived
through the Grand Forks flood of 1997, did you find writing The Flood
of the Millennium to be cathartic?
Lynda: Having lived through the Grand Forks flood of 1997, did you find writing The Flood of the Millennium to be cathartic?
Janet: Not really, as I wrote it during and immediately after the flood. I had piles of yellow legal pads on which I had recorded people’s stories. It is just now being published, however—just in time for some major reminiscence events in Grand Forks on the 7th anniversary of the flood. They will take place on April 17th, the actual date of the main evacuation; my signing of The Flood of the Millennium at the local Barnes & Noble store will be the first event of the day.
Lynda: Have things at home returned to a semblance of normalcy?
Janet: In some ways yes, in other ways, no. Both Grand Forks (ND) and East Grand Forks (MN) have done a lot of rebuilding—including new dikes! In that respect, things are far better than they ever were before the flood. But there are constant reminders of what used to be, too. Like driving past the golf course, which was full of beautiful trees and small rolling hills; the entire thing is now piles of dirt to protect the residents of the city. Or the fact that almost everybody still refers to everything as either “before the flood” or “after the flood.” All in all, people have a very different attitude. We appreciate the small things—and most of all each other. It is now one of the best places in the country to live—if we could just figure out how to get rid of our 40 below zero winter temperatures!
Lynda: Would you care to give readers a peek into a "normal" day in Janet Elaine Smith's life?
Janet: (Laughing) Would you please define “normal”? I have never been accused of being “normal,” but I hear it is highly overrated!
My husband and I operate a charitable organization that has a phone HELP line, so I keep busy much of the day with that. It is definitely a challenge, but it provides some great fodder for my books. Like In St. Patrick’s Custody, the first book in my Patrick and Grace Mysteries. It was just a natural to plop Grace down in the middle of a homeless shelter! What a variety of characters that made possible!
I get up about 6:30 every morning and have coffee, then fix breakfast, then I check my e-mail and write for a bit on my books or work on whatever editing job I am doing. I tend to the Mission business, then I work on my writing a bit more. I write for 9 magazines (both print and online), so I am never at a loss for something to do. Around noon I check my e-mails again, write a bit more (always between answering the phone for the HELP line), then I go try to find solutions for the people who have called, back to my writing. In the evening I often attend a chat, but I insist on working on my writing at least an hour every night. One thing that is “normal” for my husband and me is that I have given up cooking dinner. We go out to eat. I don’t want to spend my evening washing dishes! I guess it is my “vice.” (My only one, of course!)
Lynda: You write mystery and romance novels; magazine articles and reviews; plus you edit other authors' works. I understand "Flood" will be your only non-fiction, but I also hear you're considering entering the children's/young adult market. Do you have a favorite genre?
Janet: I already have one young adult book out: My Dear Phebe. It has been widely used by a lot of teachers nationwide. It is a historical, set in the Civil War, and it deals with the way kids feel about war and all of the “junk” that is happening in our world today. I had nothing to do with this, but the timing was fantastic for its release. It came out just a couple of weeks after the terrible 9/11 ordeal. The first copies were donated to the schools in the Ground Zero area in New York City.
I thought The Flood of the Millennium would be my only non-fiction book, but another one that I wrote several years ago seems to have resurfaced. A publisher in California wants to publish a tongue-in-cheek memoir entitled Tales of a Misplaced Lutheran. It is my life growing up, and how our Lutheran family became Baptists—and it was all because of a Norwegian delicacy called “lutefisk” and “lefse.”
I hope to do a young adult historical adventure series some day, geared towards boys. One of the most delightful things that has happened in recent years is the fact that Harry Potter got kids reading—both boys and girls. The boys adventure series would be based on real historical characters I have found in my genealogical researches. Many of my stories—Dunnottar, Marylebone, Par for the Course, House Call to the Past and My Dear Phebe—are based on real people out of the past that I have found in my genealogy research. There is nothing more fascinating than “real” people.
Lynda: As if you plate isn't full enough, you also host a mystery chat.
Janet: I just started that. Tina, who has just set up the Fiction Promotions website (which is great, by the way) asked me if I would check out the site. I did, and was very impressed with what she was doing. I am not sure exactly how it came about, but some way or another I ended up hosting the chat at www.mysteryreads.com every Mon. night at 9 ET. It is only 3 weeks old, and we are already booked up all the way into June. We have some new authors and some pretty famous ones lined up. We will be doing a few other things besides just author chats, too. We have been contacted by some big NY agents and publicists, asking us to book some of their clients. I’m not sure just how they have heard about it, but it is very flattering. And we do have a lot of fun. There is usually a door prize at the end of the chat, too.
Lynda: I understand several of your characters have garnered their own websites. Patrick and Grace can be seen at http://crumbycapers.tripod.com and a fan has started a website for Monday Knight, the first in the Women of the Week series. Do you have a personal favorite?
Janet: Oh, yes, Monday Knight has her own website, too. It is at http://mondayknight0.tripod.com and there are all sorts of adventures that have happened. to her. There is even a game for kids on the site the “fan” set up for her. I still find it hard to imagine that I have “fans.” Well, at least my characters do. LOL!
I am working on Tuesday Nolan now, the second in the Women of the Week series. She is great fun, and I just can’t believe the twists and turns she is taking me on.
I think, in a way, whichever book and character I am working on at the time is my favorite. No, that’s not quite true. My favorite characters have to be Patrick and Grace from the mysteries. They are such nuts! One of my famous reviews about them says, “Patrick and Grace get into more trouble than a couple of two-year-olds, but they have more fun than a barrel of monkeys getting out of it.” Patrick O’Malley is an elderly retired New York City retired cop and Grace Johnson is a recent widow who “ran away—and at my age!” she says.
A lot of people, mostly elderly women, ask me if I patterned Grace after them. The truth is that Grace is not really anybody else, yet she is somehow a little bit of everybody.
One of the neatest things happened with the Patrick and Grace Mysteries. Since it deals a lot with homelessness, I have heard from readers from all parts of the country who have gone to their local homeless shelters after reading it and have started volunteering. If I had tried that, it would never have worked! But I think it is wonderful!
Lynda: What's in the works for 2004?
Janet: Well, the Flood of the Millennium just came out. Dakota Printer, an inspirational historical romance should be out shortly. As I mentioned before, I am working on Tuesday Nolan. The one after that I am really excited about. PageFree Publishing (my main publisher) has been after me to do one of my books in Spanish. I have one that is all written: Pampas. It is set in Argentina, which makes it a perfect candidate for that. I have to transcribe it onto the computer and translate it, but it will be released simultaneously in two volumes: one in English and one in Spanish.
After that, the third Patrick and Grace Mystery—Old Habits Die Hard—has to be finished up.
I had planned on that being it for this year, but people are already asking me what my new Christmas book will be. I have an idea in my head, so I hope it will be possible to get that one out, too.
Oh, and another thing that is in the works (although a long ways from being a certainty at this point in time) is that my first Christmas book, A Christmas Dream, is under consideration as a possible Hallmark Hall of Fame made-for-TV movie! I have my fingers, toes, eyes and anything else that I can still manage crossed for that one!
Lynda: How exciting! I loved that book, so I'll keep my fingers crossed, too. What is the most rewarding part of being a writer?
Janet: It has to be when you hear from readers who tell you that their life has been made a little bit better because of something you wrote. Like with the homeless issue. Or a woman in CA who read A Christmas Dream and said I had helped her get over the loss of her husband in Desert Storm and move on to a happy life with her son. That book was dedicated to the people who gave their lives in Desert Storm.
I guess the other thing about it is when you find out that something you tried to do actually work. Nina Osier, who is a fellow writer, does wonderful book reviews. In her review on amazon.com she had this to say about In St. Patrick’s Custody: “It's also (dare I say this, or will I scare someone away?) a curiously inspirational tale. While the author never preaches, and never allows her characters to do so, either, their faith in the Higher Power watching over their lives comes through loud and clear.”
Lynda: Any advice for budding authors?
Janet: Believe in what you do. If what you write is what you feel comfortable with, that will shine through in your writing. Don’t let anybody tell you it can’t be done. I tried getting Dunnottar published through the traditional route for almost 25 years. I got the best rejection letters in the world. Thank God for Print-on-demand publishing. My world changed almost overnight. It gives authors the chance to prove that they know what they are doing. If you believe in yourself, others will follow behind.
That and have fun! Writing is the most exciting thing in the world to do. You can create new worlds, change history, be anything you want to be.
Lynda: Thank you, Janet. It's been a pleasure. I wish you continued success in all your endeavors.
Flood of the Millennium: The
Real Story: The Survivors
Review to come....
2004's Honorary List