Interview with Tim Smith

Interview by Nadia Brown

When and why did you begin writing?

I took an interest in writing when I was in high school and wrote a lot of short stories, but I didn’t tackle the long form of book writing until a dozen years ago. My real interest in writing fiction came, strangely enough, from my love of classic movies, especially crime thrillers. When I was younger I’d watch a film noir caper from the forties or fifties and if it was based on a book, I’d look for it at the library. I grew to love that genre and decided to try writing my own.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

It wasn’t until my first novel was published and I began receiving raves for it. Until then I didn’t consider myself a writer, but just a guy who put together a story and got lucky. I think what really did it was when I attended my first book signing and people asked me a lot of questions.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I enjoy reading the pulp fiction style that was popularized by writers like Raymond Chandler, Donald E. Westlake and Mickey Spillane, so I tend to emulate that. I like taking contemporary situations and applying the kind of edgy hard-boiled texture those writers used. I especially enjoy writing the snappy dialogue associated with that genre and injecting some humor. I’ve had readers tell me that my stories put them in mind of Spillane and Robert B. Parker, which I consider a great compliment.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I don’t consciously try to put messages in my stories, but if there is one in Warning Shot, it’s that friendship is something you should value and not take for granted. My hero, former CIA spook Nick Seven, basically puts his freedom on the line to help one of his oldest friends, with no concerns about the consequences. I don’t think I’ve ever begun a story with a particular message in mind, because my goal is to entertain people. If they happen to find something meaningful in one of my plots, it’s accidental.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

I read a quote once – “We are all the heroes of our own stories.” That said, I think part of me becomes part of all of my heroes, or at least some of my core values and beliefs. Any fiction writer who says that their stories aren’t based at least in part on personal experience probably isn’t being truthful – or they’re avoiding a potential lawsuit. Each of my stories, whether they’re erotic thrillers or romantic comedies, contains something that happened to me or someone I know. That’s what keeps them real.

My typical method for developing a concept or plotline usually begins by recalling some real life experience then asking “What if this happened?” I’ve used that to construct the framework for entire books.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

I have a good friend named Carol A. Guy who writes cozy mysteries, and I would consider her to be a mentor. She’s read most of my books and helped me edit a couple of them. She actually helped me get in the door with my current publisher because she liked the book I was peddling at the time and asked them to read it.

What are your current projects?

I recently submitted the third installment in my Vic Fallon private eye series, and I’m finishing the next Nick Seven thriller. I’m also working on a holiday-themed romance for later this year, and an anthology.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I have several authors that I enjoy reading, but my current fave is James W. Hall. He’s a Florida-based author of crime thrillers and I like the unique plots and characters he comes up with. He also manages to convey a lot of details without a lot of words, which is something I have to monitor in my own writing.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

Warning Shot is the third installment in the popular Nick Seven spy series, but the books don’t need to be read in order. Once again he and his live-in, the Barbadian beauty Felicia Hagens, unwittingly get pulled into a complex plot engineered by the CIA. Nick discovers that a friend from his spy days has gotten mixed up in something he shouldn’t have, and they try to stop him before it’s too late. There’s action, interesting characters, great atmosphere, some humor, romance and plenty of steamy sex. What more could you ask for?

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

The biggest challenge I find is coming up with new ways to tell a story, something unique that will grab the reader. There are only so many plots to go around and we’ve all used them in some form. I find that writing the romantic scenes can also be challenging, especially the erotic passages. How many ways can you depict two people making love that hasn’t been done to death?

I’m a stickler for authenticity when it comes to atmosphere, which always poses a challenge. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Florida Keys but I still do extensive research to get the details and ambience right. The last thing I want is for someone who lives in Florida to read one of my books and wonder if I’ve ever been there.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

If you have an idea or concept that you’re passionate about, a story that just has to be told, my advice is to stop putting off writing it and make it a reality. If you want to see it published, don’t stop until you cross the finish line.