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Interview with Susy Smith, Author of Ascendant

Q. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer? 

I think I decided I wanted to write when I was about 16. I’ve loved reading since my 5th grade teacher read Where the Red Fern Grows, and, A Wrinkle in Time, aloud that year. I devoured books after that; Little House on the Prairie Series, the Black Stallion Series; I could go on and on. But I didn’t try to write any stories until I was 16. They were atrocious, of course, but it planted the idea that I could write. After that, I wrote an attempted novel when I was 19, better than the first, but still awful. I wrote on and off after that. Marriage, kids, and helping my husband build our business consumed much of my time. After my last kid was in high school, I went back to school and received my Bachelor’s in English (part of me thought I needed that degree to write).

Q. Why did you decide on this story to tell?

I’m not sure I decided to tell this. (lol). The series starts with book one, Asylum, on 40 acres in Osage County, Oklahoma, my grandparents’ land. They kept cattle and my grandpa helped other ranchers when they needed it. Most of my summers, every year since I can remember, were spent there. It sat right in the middle of an oil field, those pumpjacks popped constantly. My Dad and Grandpa built a section of ponds and sold catfish. So, my story is based there, where I spent so much of my time.

The story itself was conceived right after 9-11. The world around us has changed so rapidly, we’ve become so dependent on things that could be ripped away from us so easily. My writing is not political in the sense that it chooses one side or the other. I’m just pondering, questioning, what would happen if the economy crashed? Book two, Ascendant, carries the story forward, but can be read as a stand-alone

Q. What would you say is the most interesting quirk of your book?

I think the “quirkiest” character in my book would be Catrin, Cat, for short. Lacy (MC) finds her at a train station. Her husband had just been ripped away from her and tossed into a boxcar, destination, Fort Sill. The president has declared martial law due to the “big crash,” and is rounding up all citizens and placing them in work camps.

 

Lacy rescues her and takes her to the farm. In her mid-fifties, she takes control, bossing everyone around with cryptic, nonsensical metaphors. I think my favorite one is when she compares Jace (MC) as having no more sense than a snake in a snowstorm.

Where do you get your ideas for your book?

As cliché as it sounds, the kernel of this story came from a dream I had. A girl was hiding in my grandma’s house, afraid of something. I woke up, wondering what she was so afraid of, and the story just morphed from there.

What do you think makes a good story?

I love a good love story and no matter what I write, dystopian, fantasy, suspense, whatever, it will always be rooted in love. I think every motivation a person has comes from a love of something. It might be love of self (narcissist anyone?), a love for someone else (person, pet, etc.), even a hatred for someone. Hate and Love are just two sides of the same coin.

As a child, did you want to be a writer?

I don’t think the idea hit me when I was a child. I knew I loved books, though. My Nanny would take me to the bookstore whenever I stayed with her. She loved to read as well, and often commented that she would’ve liked to write a book.

What part of the book was the most fun to write?

The most amusing parts of the book for me to write were the interactions between Lacy and Jace, especially in the first book. Lacy has a smart mouth, and Jace? Well, he’s the only one who can stand toe-to-toe with her.

The second book is more intense than the first, but I’d have to say building the relationship (or bromance if you’d prefer) between Lacy’s brother AJ, who is trying to rescue her, and Bryan, (once enemy turned friend), who is helping him. They snipe back and forth at each other, mostly all in good, albeit cynical, fun.

What is the most valuable lesson from your book for readers?

In the first book, Asylum, the note from the author gives the reader information about sexual assault and a hotline (RAINN) if they’ve suffered in the way Lacy did. Being informed, thinking for yourself, is the point I raise.

In the second book, Ascendant, the note from the author gives the reader information about human trafficking and hotlines for both Can You See Me, and Oklahoma’s hotline as well.

I never want to write something that doesn’t mean anything, doesn’t offer the reader a chance to think about subjects that they might not have thought about otherwise. Like I said, I’m not a political, soapbox writer. I am, however, a writer who likes to raise questions.

What is your favorite excerpt from your book?

That’s a hard question to answer. I loved developing the character, AJ, Lacy’s brother, so here’s an excerpt from him.

“The romanticized notion that detective work was sexy withered up and died like the brown, creepy long-legged spiders in AJ’s closet back home. In no known universe could waiting below ground in a gritty, smelly parking garage be considered a lit job. Not to mention lying in the sand for hours and getting stung by a scorpion.

AJ’s mind was absolute in this decision. He’d stick with being a cowboy. And now that his dad bought a farm, he could add farmer to his list of jobs that might entice a woman to love him.

Quicker than a blink, he flicked the notion of love out of his head. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe in it, he just didn’t think he’d ever meet a woman he’d want to settle down with. The kind of woman who’d consume his entire being. Heart, soul, mind, body. The certainty she didn’t exist made it easier to ‘love ‘em and leave ‘em.’ That’s how he liked things.

And if he kept up the behavior that fit the dogma, maybe he’d believe it.”

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Nikki Scott

Nikki Scott

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