Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 5 months ago

WB_S2E8 Entering Adulthood....

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

WRITERS' BLOCK Ron Block talks with debut author Dianna Rostad about her debut novel, You Belong Here Now, and also with Jennifer E. Smith about her first novel for adults, the highly anticipated The Unsinkable Greta James.

It's more exciting to write about a musician than it is to write about a writer. Hi. Well, true, but you know, so much of this is you know, Regretta is certainly not me. I'm don't know how to play the guitar and I'm definitely not cool enough to be a rock star. But a lot of how she views her music, her career, her passion, a lot of how she sees the world through her her art and feels really fiercely proud of it, you know, comes from a really personal place for me. And so, yeah, I think when I sat down and started to write the book, I wanted to write about what it is to live a creative life and the challenges of that and the joys of it and everything in between. Welcome to the friends and Fiction Writers Block podcast For New York Times Best Selling Authors, one rock star Librarian and endless stories. Join Mary K Andrews, Kristin Harmel, Christy Woodson Harvey and Patty Callahan Henry, along with Ron Block. As novelists. We are for longtime friends with seventy books between us, and I am Ron Block. Please join us for fascinating author interviews and inside or talk about publishing. And writing. If you love books and are curious about the writing world, you are in the right place. Welcome to a new episode of the friends and Fiction Writers Block podcast. Today's episode is titled Entering Adulthood and we're going to explore what it's like to publish in the adult fiction genre, both with a first time author and a beloved way a author writing for grownups for the first time. It's going to be a fascinating conversation. I am Ron Block. First Up, we're talking with Diana rosted, author of the recent release you belong here now, which has had huge acclaim from the likes of Meguee Clayton, The New York Journal of Books, a Star Review From Library Journal and, very notably, William Kent Krueger, who says Rostad's big hearted debut is full of surprises and warm with wisdom about what it means to be family. Having read the book, I couldn't agree more. It's perfect description. That's some great praise, though, Diana. Welcome to the PODCAST. Thank you, Ron. It's great to be here. Hello everyone out there listening, listening in listening land. Okay, let me tell everybody a bit about Diana and then we will dive right into this. DIANA IS OUR USA Today best selling author. She was born and raised in the Pacific northwest. Her parents and extended family come from the ranches of Montana and the farms of Arkansas. Diana raised three kind human beings and when they began to test their wings, she took to writing with a passion, completing southern Methodist Universities Writers Path Program in two thousand and nine. Say That three times. Let's start by having you tell us DNA, welcome again. Give us an overview of what the book is about. Sure, just really quickly, because I don't like spoilers. MMM, no, I know, I hate them. The book is set in one thousand nine, hundred and twenty five Montana and the story begins when these three break kids leave the train station of New York headed West on this this orphan train, and you know, just stop after stop these children aren't picked. You know, Charles is really big for his age. She's covered and bruises and he's kind of scary looking. And you've got Patrick, who is an orphan from the Spanish flu and he's got this, you know, Irish lilt and every time he opens his mouth nobody wants anything to do with them because at that time people are very prejudiced against the Irish. She thought they were lazy. And then there's Opal. She's a little, tiny girl and she's no bigger than a bucket and she can't carry one and she won't talk, and so nobody chooses her either. And so these kids, you know, there's sort of the last ones on the train and you know, mysteriously, and I won't say how, they end up on a cattle ranch in Montana with Nara, who's just I mean she's thirty four years old, she's Briss she's hardened, she's had to scrub away every bit of her femininity to rise up in a maldominated world because, you see, she wants to run her father's really large cattle operation and she's the last of his kids. But he doesn't think that anybody's going to let into a woman and so he just wants her to get married and have children and she doesn't want to him to do that. So when she sees these kids on the ranch, she just I mean she blows that. She's like, I don't want to they do with them. And so what she does do, though, is she works them without mercy. She's really cruel. She hopes they'll run off, but they don't. I. They buck up and they actually show a lot of spirit, and so, despite herself, Nara begins to take to these kids. Until one night a band of wild horses are set free. They were rounded up...

...for slaughter and Charles, that oldest boy is always in trouble, is jail for the crime and they discover something really dark in his past from house kitchen, and so the family has to decide whether they can save this boy. See it now. I want to read it all over again. That was a great description. Thank you, and I always, I always have such envy for people books that I really really take into I wish I could start them over again, not knowing about them, because they're just so, so beautiful. Now, the characters in this book, they're just so rich and they're so well developed and we are like so drawn to them, to three kids, but also, strangely, to Nara, who really stands out. She is as you described her so well, but she really commands the reader's attention. You want to hear from her and what she's thinking all the time and you want to know everything right away. Yeah, what was the inspiration for Nara. First of all, well, Nara, she started out as my maternal grandmother's namesake and I loved my grandmother New Nera. It was really perfect for this character and I wanted to pay on the obviously to my grandmother. But you know, this character quickly morphed into my eldest headstrong daughter, who was she was risk and she would confront you on your Bloni and she was all about the rules and she was a natural horn leader. And so you know my daughter Jessica and her lifetime went into hr and that she studied it in college and then she ended up going and that's how much she loved the rules. So she want to go into HR, so human human resources, for those of you don't understand that acronym. But yeah, so in the book, you know narrow is all about the rules, and then you know Charles only has one role and that's don't get caught. And so these two characters just butt heads until they kind of come to this realization that, you know, Justin Justice isn't created by this, which is Charles preferred method, and it certainly isn't created by rules in law, which is narrow's preferred method, but it's it's more in love. Love Creates Justice in our world. So yeah, that's wonderful. And the setting for the book, I believe, has to do with a lot of your own background, your family background, and kind of told from that point of view. Can you tell us a little bit about that, because it's again like the characters, it's just so rich and and and vivid. It had to have come from someplace wonderful. Yeah, you know, a lot of the little scenes in the book, like being under the train, you know, as it goes over talk. That's something that, you know, I did in my youth on a little train bridge going over the Akama River. We'd climb under there and just wait for the train to go across and I and it was just like everything, you know, was screaming at once in the whole universe, you know, and and and your toe nails would rattle off, you know, and so I had to put that experience in the book and also, you know, falling off the horse and, you know, getting the wind knocked out of you and just so many there's so many little cameos from my own childhood and here and and obviously the book is set on my family's, you know, time in early twenty century Montana ranching. You know the way my grandfather would or went't talk, the when my father talked, and you know, just a little cuss words my grandmother would say, like Shitfires and I think Mama Mama starts as papa shorts in the book and that's something that my grandmother always threatened to do. When somebody was being homra she'd say, well, just start their shorts. She was really cute. But I mean that mean all the songs in there, that pop of scenes, our songs at my grandfather saying and you know the way he talked and just there's a lot of cute cameos in there from family. I have family read it and I got what you got to figure out who you are in the book and they can usually do it. So but you know, there's all happy with it. They were. Yeah, and you know my dad was a huge influence. I didn't know where to set this book. You know, I had this storyline, I had these characters, you know, because their backgrounds I was very familiar with. When I first heard about the orphan train and these kids, I had already, you know, worked with kids in south central Los Angeles after the riots, and it was a very similar thing. You know, I go pick these kids up after they proll, get them cleaned up, get them some clothes and get them a job. And that's kind of what, you know, they're kind of doing as they go out on this train. They you know, they cut their hair, they clean them up, they give them another set of clothing in a cardboards suit case and they put them on a train to go go west to either, you know, get some sort of work program, which was one part of the program, and then there was the other part of the program, which was true adoption. So I think the children's aid society was really very progressive in their thinking in creating two very distinct programs. If you were over fifteen, you were believed to be taken off for work, and so the contract really focused on that and protecting, you know, this young person. And if they were fifteen and under or fourteen and under, they were to be in every way treated as a member of a family, and so they were protected,...

...and so it was just really interesting. But, you know, my background working with these these kids from the Youth Authority in California really prepared me for you know what these kids were looking for and how great they were too. You know, right when the kids would come to me in the Youth Authority, they were always hopeful. And when I was researching all these pictures of these kids standing on train platforms and, you know, their faces and trains, these kids looked hopeful. You know that. I I think they felt like they could go on and no matter what. You know, they've been living on the streets without shoes and, you know, sleeping and you know together and little balls of kids with arms and legs to get out. I mean they had, they had some real trials in their youth and so but despite that they get on these trains and they're just so hopeful. So it was inspiring to me with my background, and obviously my father's a huge help. My Aunt's they would they got me songs of folk song rails from my grandfather. You know, these these pictures that my father brought to Christmas one year with all of these, you know, amazing photos of people in boots and sitting on porches and everybody's an overalls and it was just it was just so I mean I could really picture my whole thing going on right there in Montana. So it was just it really just broke open a whole wide world. Right your background with children and things really comes through because you can you've really set it up so that these kids really even though they're having a hard time, they know they need to be protected and just the whole all those relationships between them and the family that takes them in are just just very poignant. Thank you. Let's go back a little bit and tell us where the original idea what drove you to even begin this adventure to write the book? I was sweating an online article on CNN about the orphan train and I was like, well, what is this? I've never heard of Norphan trade. You know. Was I not listening in ass and teachers out there will say, yes, she was not listening in class stuff, yes, and they're nodding. So I was just a stand it and I and I began to research it just straight away and again, I really connected with, you know, the stories and backgrounds of these kids living on the streets there in games. It reminded me so much of the kids on my case load and so I really felt like I was the right person to tell their story. Wow, I love it. I love it so, but the book was not just something you sat down and wrote overnight. You had quite a path to publication. Can you talk about that a little bit and how long and some of the details of it? Oh, sure, you know, obviously, back in two thousand and seven I, you know, came up with this idea and I started laying the you know, all the names that all the characters. What were their backgrounds and why were they there? What was going to happen in the wild? Horses and all that and so but you know, I also had this other project with this Lord Byron Fellow and I was so obsessed with him and it was a good nine years of research and, you know, forty books of information, many, many trips to the UK and France and Scotland and you know to really kind of pursue Lord Byron. And I did write a gorgeous, beautiful book. But by the time I got it written, you know, the literary industry have proclaimed biographical fiction is dead, and they do this from time to time, and so I said, you know what, I've got this other idea and Christinia Baker klient's book has gone crazy and she's doing so well and I said, you know what, I'm going to write this book because I know I've got a good cop to base it on. And so I have met my agent, Marley Russoff, and pitched her my Byron novel and she loved it. She thought it was audacious, but she did have conflict, and so I quickly said, you know what, I've gotten in touch with her, I'm going to do this, this orphan train book, and I will get it back to her. And you know, it took me a couple of about a year and a half, and then I called her with and I pitched it to her and I have managed to get it submitted to about for executive editors of big publishers, you know, the big five ice. So I let her know that in my voicemail and so she said, okay, I want to see this and in two days time she offered to represent me. So she's got quite an interest in Montana. You just never know where you know you're going to find somebody and why, and while you're why, you'll really connect up with them. You know right, right, where right, and I love hearing those stories too, because they they could almost be novels themselves sometimes about people get connected. Once you finally got the deal and you the book was set to be published. What was that like leading up to the publication date? Well, you know, it's of course very bewildering because you don't know anything about it. You've you've figured out how to write, you've figured out how to pitch it, you've figured out how to sell it and now you have to produce it with a publisher. And it's like, you know, I like it to you know, the wizard of Oz and I just have,...

...always, just wanted to go to New York and pull back the curtain. You know, I'm say, what's going on out there. And because you don't, you don't get a lot of information. They they'll ask you for this and that, new go back and forth and you don't know the process yet. And so you really it's a huge learning curb and you know, you just have to be very curious, ask a lot of questions and hold on for the ride. It's yes, it is a ride, isn't it? So what about all the accolade you've been getting? You've got some really good support and raves about the book. How did that feel? It felt wonderful, especially, you know, William Kent Krueger. He wrote me just absolutely beautiful email. I almost sell out of my chair because he is one of my very favorite authors and we sort of people our books very similarly, and so I knew he would take to this book and so I tried very hard to get it in front of him and I did manage to get it in front of them and sure enough he loved it. And so I was really so grateful to him and always, always will be very grateful to him and to Meg White Clayton and, you know, Erica Roebuck and all of the other folks and Wayne and die Randall who you know took it up and read it from and Kathleen Grissom. Yeah, it's very great kind of them where I'm always, yeah, going to be grateful for that. That's good. Now, of course, the pressures on for what's coming next. What are you working on? Well, that's the thing. I'm having to pivot to that and you know, I've held on and I've not began that next book. I mean up I've started it and fits and I'm writing my notes and I've got some outline and I've done some research, but I haven't started it yet because I've been so focused on lifting this first book up and making sure that it does well, because you only have one time to go out and debut. And actually it was something Catholic gristroom said to me last summer, last, I think last May, or I think I last May. It's on my youtube channel. I interviewed her and and you know, she said go out on that road trip, you know, that bookstore a road trip and shake hands and really meet people and make, you know, some good, you know, acquaintances and just figure out what the industry is about all about, because the bookstore is really where the rubber it's the road, you know. Yes, yes, it is. She was very right and I'm so glad I did that. I put tenzero miles on my car last summer. Yeah, and then I went out for a fall tour and I had my first barns and noble book talk in Zula, Montana, and you know, lots of festivals in the fall and so it's been really kind of a blur. And and now I will really really love to get settled down and just get into my little writing space and start that next you know, beautiful story, but I want to make sure that it's even better than the one before, that I've learned this and that. I am sure that you have learned a lot, awful lot along the way and you'll be able to apply it and book. Of course, the debut is always so wonderful, but that, they always say, the follow up is where you really have to dig in. So I know you'll do it. I know you'll do that. So I want to go back a little bit. What wereth of values around reading and books growing up for you? Yeah, you know, I always love to read. I can't say that was terribly encouraged. But you know this book back here, Black Beauty, I bought that because it was on the floor of my, you know, childhood bedroom and when I saw it in an old bookstore I grabbed it up and I recognized it immediately. Yeah, and and so I did read a lot of Jack London. He was a big fixture in the Pacific Northwest, obviously, and James and the giant peach. I just remember, you know, sitting in the library as maybe a third grader and pulling, you know, James in the grant peach off the shelf and just sitting right there on the floor, leaning back against the shelf and opening it up and it was just a whole wonderful world and and I you know, it probably is not something I was encouraged a lot, but I just absolutely loved it. And Yeah, so and I've always been a great reader in my adulthood and so writing just came naturally from that. I think. Good. Do you have any you've mentioned some of the people that have influenced your work, but are there any others that you kind of revisit and trying to take influence from? Yeah, you know, I in terms of authors. You know, I like to take from a lot of authors, like the things they do, the devices they'll use. I don't really I'm not really inspired by anything they've done specifically like to their characters and story, but more like how they did it. You know, I'm like wow, that was a really good way to do x, you know, and not that I'll ever remember it, but but you know, you do try to really keep with a solid, strong plot line. That's really important to me that you know my books are pacy and they're enjoyable...

...and that people just can't put them down in the middle kind of thing, that there's this natural bill and you know, great kind of Ekg if you will. Oh, that's a great term. I love that. The kg it could your book really did read like that. It's like boo, Boo boop. All the different highlights that came through any books recently that you've read that you've raved about two people. Oh my gosh, lightning strike was amazing by Lam Kent Krueger. I'm reading. I'm reading the Diamond Die Right now by Kate Quinn. Oh my gosh, I can't wait to talk about that on social media. And also sisters of night and thought by Erica Roebuck. Fabulous. You just you feel like you're right there. And you know, resistance France or French Resistance, I don't know what they call it. I'm not a great World War II historian, but I love to lead the stories, and so those are great that I'm really enjoying. That's that's quite a list of you and I could be reading buddies. So you mentioned social media. Where can people find you online and find out more about you and keep track of what's coming down the road for you? You know I'm on facebook. I've got a website. By website is full of information. I I love book clubs and so I've created a book club KN'T, which I typically get away. It has recipes and has a nice color history behind the book and it also has the Nice questions and a cute little bag and a few other things and so on my website you'll find a place to contact me to join our club. You'll find all my youtube interviews with trainwriter descendants and the history, just a lot of good resources for clubs and obviously way to contact me in general. But if you want to know what's going on, you know hit my website or you know, follow me on facebook. Great, great, well, Diana, and it's been amazing to meet you and here the fascinating backstory of this book. I really did love the book and I devoured is. It was just it's so well written and I can't wait to read something else from you. You're on your way and congratulations on the book. Well, thank you so much for on it. I fully enjoyed having this conversation with you. Next up, it's my pleasure to introduce Jennifer East Smith. Many of you may know her from her very popular Ya books. She's about to break out huge though, in fiction for adults with the unsinkable Gretta James which is highly, and I mean highly anticipated and pubs on March first. In fact, circus gave it a starred review, which is a quite quite an honor. They said it's a well told story with evocative prose that bears bearees and bears bea rs the ragged emotions that accompany a journey to healing. That says a lot about the book. So I am thrilled to have you as a guest, Jennifer. Welcome. Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here. Yeah, as you know, I have read the book in the past and I really I just it's a book I absolutely adored. I know that people are going to just eat this one up and they're going to they're gonna preorder it like crazy. Well, thank you. You're opinion me the lot. So it's it's such a nice come think. But let me tell everybody a little bit about our guest today. Jennifer e Smith is the author of nine books for young adults, including the statistical probability of love at first sight and Hello, goodbye and everything in between, both of which have been adapted for film and we're going to talk about that. She earned a master's degree in creative writing from the University of St Andrew's in Scotland and her work has been translated into thirty three languages, yes, thirty three. She currently lives in Los Angeles. Jennifer, it's so wonderful to see you again. I know we've done an event before, but I was so excited to have you here on the podcasting to get to talk to you again more in depth about Gretta. Well, thank you. I honestly I haven't been able to stop talking about it and I'm trying to get people to pre order it and put it on their tbr our list and it's just insane sometimes you. I'm going to make you my publicist on thank you. Well, we won't tell careen that I appreciate everything. Thank you. Know, it's great. It's great. So tell everybody what the book is about. Give them give us an overview. Yeah, so it's about the story of a successful indie musician who is reeling from the sudden death of her mother and winds up on a weeklong cruise to Alaska with her dad, who has never exactly been supportive of her life choices, on what was supposed to be her parents forty anniversary trip. So you know, there's also a romance with the charmingly nerdy professor and there's a lot of Alaskan scenery, but first and foremost it's really the love story about Greta and her music and and her struggle to find her voice again. That's, yes, very well put, and there's a lot in between all that. So think you got you got the whole story there. But it is the first entry into adult fiction. So can you talk about the transition? Yeah, I mean I've been wanting to write a novel for adults for a long time. I feel...

...very privileged to have written young adult for as many years as I have and and I'm not I'm not done doing that either. It's just a joy to write for teens, who are so honest. They will tell you if they love your book, they will tell you if they don't, but when they embrace something they embrace it with just such wholehearted enthusiasm and passion. So I've loved doing all of that. But also I was doing it for over a decade and in that decade I got older and it is it has been very cathartic to explorer and spend time with a character who's closer to my own age and who's thinking about a lot of the things that I'm thinking about. So it just was a nice you know, it was. In some ways it was a it was an easy transition. I don't think. You know, there's sometimes a misconception when you're writing young adult that you're you know, you're aging things down or you're making it simpler, but you're not. My writing was by writing. It's really just a matter of point of view. But right. So in some ways it made it easy, but I also think because of because of the age thing, because of writing a character closer to my age, there's an extra depth to Gretta and to this book that I found really, really gratifying in the writing. Yeah, I can see that too. I think it's true experience in your writing for this the age that you are now is a lot because as a younger person you really connect with all these emotions of being a teenager. But you have life experience now, then lets you tell a different story. Yes, yes, yeah, and it was broad it's a it's a broader store. You know, my young adult novels were mostly romance and I I'm I love writing that so this is why there is the charmingly nerdy professor in this book. But it was also nice to write a story where that was really the third story. I mean, I I always say this book is three love stories in one and it's first, as I said, about Gretta and her music and secdondly it's about Gretta and her dad and and really third is the kind of Classic Romance. So it was also fun to just just have a book that felt like it was, you know, three and one in a way. So think for everybody, yes, that's perfect. I wish. Yeah, I wish I had said that. It's so I got you're on, I said. I said, I guess we can do this what a team would do. Grata is is highly emotional and she kind of works her emotions out through her music and there's an early scene where that becomes evident that kind of changes her path a little bit. But what made you decide to use music as the way to tell her story? I mean, honestly, it's more exciting to write about a musician than it is to write about a writer. Well, true, you know, so much of this is is in you know, Gretta is certainly not me. I'm don't know how to play the guitar and I'm definitely not cool enough to be a rock star, but I but a lot of how she views her, her music, her career, her passion, a lot of how she sees the world through her her art and feels really fiercely proud of it, is is, you know, comes from a really personal place for me. And so yeah, I think I just when I when I sat down and started to write the book, I wanted to write about what it is to live a creative life and and the challenges of that and the and the joys of it and everything in between, and I genuinely did think, you know, first I don't want to make it a writer, because they just sit at their desks and right and and what better way to kind of explore it is through through a musician, and there's something so kind of outward facing about that kind of art that I thought would be I also just like the of dropping this very cool Indie rock star on a cruise ship with her dad just seeing what happens. It's just there's something really in congruous about it and it was. It was a fun, fun set up. It really it really was a fun set up. The idea of putting there them both on a cruise ship just kind of blew my mind a little bit because it's a it's almost like a perfect setting, because everything can happen within that confine. But why did you want two things? I want to know the kind of research I went into it. Like you really wrote about music as though you were on the inside. You mean, it was very real to read about it like you were an insider. Same with the cruise ship. Did you have to tell I did a cur I did go on the cruise so I had actually been on a cruise to Alaska with my family. I was lucky enough to go on one when I was in high school, and Alaska just always lose large. There's something about it. It's unlike anywhere else in the world, honestly, and I thought, you know, you know, for me a it's always nice, if you're going to write a book and have to go to a research trip, to set it somewhere kind of fun to visit, but I want to go. This is not the only reason I did that, but but you know, the crew, the cruise ship element of it was that. I mean, it's a joke with me and my agent that I have now written a book that takes place on an airplane, but it takes place a train, a road trip story, and now a cruise ship, and her joke is that I'm done. A next ry to love story that takes place on a scooter U but or spaceship. Spaceship something I gotta I'm running out of vehicles loads of transportation.

But I like this kind of story because I'm very obsessed with like novels and stories and narratives that are bound by by time and by space. So like you take two people who either either don't get along, in case of Greta and her dad, or chew people who, as also the case of Greta and our dad, who kind of don't know they need each other at the moment, they need each other, and put them together in a confined space and say, you know, let's just see what happens. So that's really where that came from. And I thought, because I'd been on the cruise as a kid, that I could kind of bluff my way through it, you know, via memory and old photos and youtube videos of other people's family vacations. And I kind of quickly, as I was writing, I realized I was going to need to do one myself. So I actually went a few years ago and I did a little writing retreat on a cruise to Alaska and it, you know, completely as well. Allowed me to really capture, you know, the setting because it's it is so unique, it's kind of other worldly and I think you know many of the stops that they make on the cruise. Most of the stops are things that I did and so to be able to write about them and kind of a realistic way. And then the music. You know, I'm, like I said, I don't play the guitar. I might even be toned F it's debatable if anyone's heart really saying you do not want to, but I'm obviously a big music fan and I honestly it was the most funny orch you could do. I just spend hours and hours watching, you know, concert videos and set lists from from festivals and shows and I literally, when I started writing this book, just googled like Badass female guitarists and started there you go. Yeah, and I you know, it was just it was just really fun to dive in and I tried to read lots of interviews and articles about what what like. You know what that life is and and what's interesting about is it could not in some ways be more different than you know, on the surface then being writer, but then at the heart of it it's, you know, every artist has to deal with the same kinds of worries and uncertainties and and the fact that you're in this this strange and wonderful profession with no guarantees, right, right, and your next project, worrying mainly about what your next project going to be. Yeah, exactly, I mean it's yeah, there's no they're sort of, you know, it's either their industries and careers with with no safety net. And too, I wanted to like, I think you're always, even when you're doing well in these kinds of jobs, are always sort of worried about the bottom dropping out, and what I wanted to do was was was drop in on an artist who who had just had that happened and was kind of dealing with the fallout and had to find our way back. Wow. Okay, so where did the original idea come from for the book? Like it had to like what was the spark? The spark was was was a little bit more general than most of my books. Most of my books start with like. You know, if this had been a typical when I books, I probably would have started with the cruise ship. Could say I'm going to take two different people and put them on a cruise ship and then I'm going to figure out what happens to them. But actually this one really started with with like me, wanted to answer a question, which was what is it to live a creative life, especially when you you've grown up in a very practical way, which is which is a bit, you know, personal in some ways. I my you know, in the book, great as mom is, was hurt, was her greatest cheerleader before she died, and her dad is sort of the really practical one who always has doubts. And I always say my parents are kind of a little bit of both there. I grew up in a very practical place for a very practical family, and they are definitely my biggest cheerleaders. They will go to the bookstores and like move my books up to the front tables and they read all the reviews. But then they also they you know, they they definitely wanted me the be doing something with like. I mean, they probably would have been a lot very excited if I'd been a lawyer or something. So it's, you know, I think it's just that that sense of when you grow up that way, with that sense of practicality and worry, it's hard to take those leaps that better required to take to be an artist. And so the book really started with just wanting to explore something that, you know, felt kind of personal to me. Yeah, it's kind of a glimpse, because anybody who's in the spotlight was, whether it's a famous writer or a musician, we don't understand necessarily their background and their family and where they come from, and you give a great glimpse of that in the book. And they're they're their history and where they are now. And it's a you. It is true, because you like every you know, like every rock star has like like, you know, had the mom and a dad, and every rock star has like has to like go to Thanksgiving somewhere and you go st like there there's like you. You See. You know, I think I'm also very interested in just the ideas of like the juxtapositions of fame and reality, and it's you know, people like like who live that kind of...

...life have a real range between like the mundane and the kind of surreal in their lives. And again I just had the idea of like a rock star, kind of like do you know when you're with your parents, no matter what age you are, and you sort of feel like a fourteen year old again, and it's just her and her dad, who's disapproving of her and not impressed by the things she's done and and you know, and it's he's not a bad guy, they just law have lost their translator. It was our mom and a lot of his his love manifest as worried and it's just the idea of the two of them at the buffet on a cruise ship with such a fun concept to me. Well, and also thrown in the mix is, I called him, like the Greek chorus, all the friends of for mom and dad that go along. They kind of like keep everything going, but they're lovely. Are they based on anybody in particular? They're not really there. I mean I think probably in some ways it's in the way that you you don't plan to base anybody on anybody, but they're probably a an amalgamation of all my parents friends and all my friends parents over the years. But yeah, I love the idea that like, especially with the absence of Kredis mom, that you know she's there, there is a cruise. was just to be three couples and you know that she's got these other people kind of looking out for her and it's you know, it's just, yeah, there's like a lot of there's a lot of love and also absurdity with with all the friends. So in the actual writing of the book, did you have to kind of pull yourself back a little bit from what you were normally used to, because it's it is like new territory for you. So it had to be a little scary. Yeah, I think it was less pulling back, honestly, and more having to go deeper and try and kind of push, push a little bit further in terms of like the big emotions, in terms of the big moments and and but you know, the writing of it, I wrote, I wrote the first like maybe sixty or seventy pages and then had and then realized I needed to go take this cruise and so kind of, you know, set it down for a while and then when I came back I had another book do. And so where is most of my books? It's kind of sit down. This is the book I'm writing. For a while, this one was a little bit of fits and starts and then actually I was, I was very close to finishing the first draft of it. On it was the second draft, but I was getting closer. Right right when covid happened, and I don't even remember at the beginning of it all all the news was about cruise ships and I was like, Oh my God, I just sent years writing a book on a crew ship. No one's ever going to go on one again, no one's ever gonna want to read about it. This is a disaster. But in fact, I actually think what I've been hearing from from early readers on the book is that, you know, it's, if there's a fourthful of story to this book, it's Alaska and and it's a it's, you know, meant to be sort of transportive, and I think it's actually, you know, kind of a nice thing in a time when travels not quite as easy as it used to be. Yep, vacation in a book, yeah, Alasta, but it's true. You're right. Obviously you can tell that you you have a love for Alaska, because that comes through with all their excursions and the things that they do and and they're just little settings to kind of like have them work through some other issues. I could talk about this weeks, no spoilers, but I I just I can't get over the ending. The ending is both unexpected and hugely satisfying. And there's there's kind of two spots there. But like we're did you always know that or how did those come to be? No, I'm not. Yeah, I won't give anything away. I'm not a I'm not a plotter, so I just kind of write my way into books and see what happens and it's fun to think back now, you know, especially the kind of one big moment that I won't give away, that that I know you love and then everybody is kind of loves and makes everydy cry. I didn't I didn't know I was going to do that until I was in the scene and so it's there. So many you know, I I've in my know I've written think this is my tenth novel, and in between there's been a couple times where I've thought, you know, this is really an efficient way of writing to just go in and try to figure out if you go along and it's you know, maybe I should try to plot a book and every time I've done it I've felt very boxed in. It's felt very paint by number to me. That so it doesn't leave room for these kinds of surprises. So I think, I think there's a level where your subconscious is working on a lot of these problems as you're writing and and it kind of you you. Like certain moments in the book it feels like you're walking, walking, walking, and then you kind of step off a cliff and you're hoping that you're subconscious will catch you and that your brain has been working out these these things without you even quite knowing, and it is kind of amazing to me, even if for all this time it's such a leap of faith, because it you know it's certainly there are times when it doesn't happen and you're stumped and you have to walk away from it or you write the bad version and you come back later. But some of my favorite moments in my books are things that that I just was kind of driving towards without knowing what I was driving towards, and then they appeared in the moment. So if it always feels like a gift when that happens right. It's a gift to the reader, to I'm telling you. Well, you know how to think about that. So I want to know a...

...little bit more about your background. I read a little bit that says that you you know it just so doesn't sound like you just walked through a door at a publishing house with a best sell or in your hand. Took it, took some workd you went talking about that a little bit and cut of your path. Yeah, absolutely, because I'm a you know, I think sometimes it can look like that from the outside and for some people that is their path, and I have that is not been what it is for me yet. I've had this really lovely, wonderful career that I'm really proud of. But I think, you know, it's in a way kind of what I was trying to write about with Gretta, because you know, she's before she she kind of in her s, before she has, you know, a big break, and it's you know, you have to have a lot of rejection and you have to the lot there's there's just a lot that happens before you get there, at least there was for me. So I mean I wrote, I wrote my I wrote two novels that didn't get published before my first one did, and after I wrote the first one and I had an agent at the time, but it didn't sell. And I look back now with a kind of breathlessness like and just an immense gratitude for my younger self that I still sat down and kept at it, because when I think now of like being in my you know, early to mid s and writing a whole novel that got roundly rejected and then sitting down, you know, I was obviously I was working a full time maybe that I was. I was working a full time job, I was getting up in the mornings to write, writing on the weekends I worked in publishing, so I was kind of soaking it all up and and trying to learn everything. But working and publishing means reading and it doesn't certainly isn't get didn't to anything, and it also means like you're got homework every night years, you're reading manuscripts. So there wasn't a lot of time to write and so you kind of like carve out this precious time. I have this like memory of like like literally, you know, having an apartment with roommates in New York City. My roommates all kind of hungover on a Sunday watching TV and I'm in my room like writing this thing that you didn't know if anything would ever come of it. And then it didn't, and then I opened up another document, started writing, wrote another three hundred some pages. Then that got round, they rejected and again, when I look back now and think how wild it is that younger me did that for a third time with no encouragement, in fact of a lot of discouragement, and did it again, I just feel like it's so easily couldn't not like it so easily might have not happened, and I'm kind of still in in on of like the fact that I did that, and thank God I did, because you know, so the third one. But then even then, the third one got published and you know, it sold like no copies. And then the second one, which was my fourth novel, that written by my second want to get published. Same thing. And it wasn't until my third published novel, the Statistical Probability of love at first sight, that that it really broke out and and kind of change the course of my life and my career. But then I will say that even then it's up and it's just it's an up and down business and I've had other books that have, you know, had a massively high expectations that have done just okay. I've had books that have had no publisher expectations that, you know, went on, through word of mouth to sell really well, and I've had everything between. And I think you know, my goal in this has always been longevity, because I love what I do. I feel so lucky to get to do this. So I and you just want to kind of keep hustling and you realize, I think, both between working and publishing, because I was an editor for many years and writing this many books, you realize how much of this is luck and timing and chance and face and, like you know, certain point you just try to control what you can control, which is to write the best book possible and right. So that's just what I've always tried to do and in a weird way, you, you like can't take it personally what happens, both like within the industry and outside of it in terms of like perception to the book and with Gretta. I'm I keep saying, and I mean it really deeply, that I'm more proud of this book than anything I've ever written and it's a really nice feeling going into a publication because I don't know if people love it, I don't know if people will buy it, but I have never felt so good about something that I put out into the world and it makes you feel kind of Zen about it because it's sort of like this is now, you know, this is what I've done what I can and now we'll see what happens. Oh well, if I'm at the bookstore, if you people to be by it. But I just got goosebumps hearing that. That's so authentic of you and just so a heart felt I can tell, and I just I wish everybody gets their hands out. Gretta, thank you. I hope so. I hope so. Let's switch just a little bit. I know we're running out of time, but let's talk movies. Yeah, yes, very exciting. You have a couple in the works? I do. I have two movies based on two of my way books, the statistical probability of love, it for sight and Hello, goodbye and everything in between, which both the movies filmed about a year ago, and I don't yet, I can't say where they'll be out and I don't yet know when they'll be out, but I can say that I love them both so much and it is feel...

...was like just the luckiest thing in the world to be so wholeheartedly in love with these films. They are wonderful. I cannot wait for people to see them. And this is another thing where it a lot of it's lost right and a lot of its chance and timing. And I look at, you know, statistical probability. You know, during the time that that book came out and with a lot of excitement, it's the movie right's got optioned and that was it the movie, or it's got optioned almost ten years to the week that the movie started filming. Wow, so it's again. It's long. It's a long game, this whole thing. And you know that was in development with other actors and producers and writers and it kind of had a really long road and for such a long time. I just would wish for it to happen and hope for it to happen and then, and then, if you know, then it you know, came into the hands of some producers and an amazing writer and amazing director, amusing actors, and it just felt like, you know, it happened at the moment I was supposed to happen, with the team that it was supposed to happen with, and it's the version of it that I always hoped it would be and I just couldn't be more excited for them to be out. Oh, I know, I can't wait to see them. They're wonderful, they really are. I know I'm biased, but I just I love them both so much. So I can't wait for people see them. But but like a really great why? A novel, the books are the movies that have been made from them are just so revered by teenagers. They love them so out there. A yeah, yeah, the reaction to all those. Yes, I don't think these will disappoint. Now they've be'n sure any any interest in grata, because I'd like to put it out there. I'm available to play Congress. I mean I could see it. I could deinitely see it. There's been a bit of interest and we're talking to people and and and figuring that all out too. It's the one thing I've learned about Hollywood is just that it's you know, it's about being patient and waiting for the right you know now, now that I've had these two really wonderful experiences and I've seen, you know, what an adaptation of one of my stories can be. I really am always looking for just the exact right team and route. You know, you want it to be great good. I have I have a whole list of writers that want to talk to you about this process. But at any time, I mean it's optioning is one thing, but then it may never get made. So it's kind of like you get excited, but yeah, now, but yeah, it's a real up and down thing. And again I just I just honestly feel really, really fortunate and and that, you know, I have a couple others in development to and we're having talks about Grada and it's it's it's all really fun. But I think it goes back to, like you know, you can get really wrapped up in it, but but all of it starts with the book and that's the thing we can control and you have to kind of look at you kind of have to look at all that that as like icing on the cake, and sometimes there's a lot more racing than cake, but like the cake is the thing. It's true, it's true. It's all, it all starts with the source material. You're absolutely right. Yeah, so what's next for you? Do you have? What are you working on? I'm working on another novel for adults to follow up Greta, yes, which I'm very excited about. Right now I'm in kind of, you know, Greta mode with publication so close, but I I'm really excited about the next one too, and and I'm not sure when that will be out. I only, you know, fifty pages into it, but I'm very excited about it and it's nice to write another, you know, story for for about again, people sort of close to my own age, and a family story and another emotional story. And then I'm working on I have my first picture book come out in the fall. It's called that. Yeah, it's called the creature of habits, about a little creature who lives on the island of habit and does the same thing every day and then this other little creature sales up and, like Knox's, whole world off balance. And that's been so much fun. Talk about different age groups. That the we're like to you know, school visits with with, you know, kindergartners and first graders who, when it's time for the QA, their question is like to like turtles, like Greens. So I just I'm working on a sequel for that too, because we're doing oh good. I know. I know kids that in the libraries have loved that. It's been it's been a really it's been a really fun it's you know what this is part of it is. I did write why novels for a very long time and again really loved it and just but in the past couple of years I wrote the picture book, The adult novel and I've write a couple of scripts as well, and it's it's been really fun to just do new you know, you have to have new challenges for yourself and keep things interesting. That's been fund great. So, my God, you've got so much going on, but where can people connect with you and find out more about what's going on? Online I'm on Instagram at Jennifer e Smith and twitter at Jenny Smith, and I have a website that's just Jennifer e smithcom. It's a very easy name to remember. And Yeah, my I always love to hear from people. Great Good. I can't thank you enough for joining us today. I know that people are going to be over the moon about Gretta and everything else...

...you have going on. So congratulations on everything and I hope this launch is the best yet. Thank you, Ronn, and thank you so much. Your enthusiasm for this book has maybe so happy and I just I feel like you have met you and I appreciate you having me saying here, but it's the work. The work speaks for itself, so I want everybody to do that. We will will have pre order links on our bookshop, dot org shop, so they'll be there too. Thank you so much and thank you to everyone listening. It's so hard warming to know that you're out there and, on behalf of Mary K, Patti, Christie and kristen, thank you for being a part of the friends and fiction family. Be sure to invite a friend to join you. Remember you can always find all the books by every friends and fiction writers, block podcast guest past and present in the friends and fiction bookshop dot org shop. All sales place their help to fund friends in fiction, and a portion of each and every sale goes straight into the pockets of indie booksellers nationwide. Since its inception, bookshop dot org has raised more than sixteen million for indie bookstores. Shop small, shop local, from the convenience of your screen with bookshop Dotorg and tell them friends and fiction sent you. Thank you for tuning in to the friends and fiction writers block podcast. Please be sure to subscribe, rate and review on your favorite podcast platform. Tune in every Friday for another episode, and you can also join us every week on facebook or youtube. Where are live? Friends and fiction show airs at seven PM Eastern Standard Time. We are so glad you're here.

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