Required Reading

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Books I have authored.

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Monday, October 31, 2011

An Interview & GiveAway with C.V. Smith Author of Nettie Parker's Backyard

 1.)   Why did you write this book?  What initiated this particular burst of creativity?
I have been a teacher and para-educator for over 30 years, most of which were spent in classrooms where students were just beginning to think for themselves and about themselves.  The book is written for ages 9-13, the time when youth questions everything.  Adolescence is starting and many children feel insecure about themselves, their relationships with peers, or even their own families and homelife.  These insecurities manifest themselves in various behaviors; some children withdraw into themselves, while some overcompensate for their fears by bullying others.  I have witnessed that when bullying begins, even if innocently meant with only an off-handed word or two, prejudice often follows not far behind.  I wrote this novel hoping to illustrate to children that bullying and intolerance toward race, religion, or the physically challenged have no place in our world.  Certainly, with tools such as the internet, facebook, twitter, etc., the world is becoming smaller in many ways, and so the ill-effects of prejudice are felt even more strongly today than in the past.  I believe that my book
inspires readers to see that what matters is the "core" of each person, and that acceptance of others and their differences truly means enriching themselves.  I further believe that more must be done to inhibit bullying; not doing so only enables the passing of prejudice from one generation to the next.

The idea for Nettie Parker's Backyard came to me in a very vivid dream, and whereas most of my dreams go unremembered, this one was definitely unique.  Its powerful detail and message ended with a revelation that has affected my own personal beliefs, further compelling me to write the book.

2.) Does your story line develop organically or is it a gestalt before you begin?
I didn’t realize it at the time, but my dream was actually the ending of the book, not the beginning, so I had to construct the entire beginning and middle to fit the conclusion of my mysterious climax.

3.) What was the most difficult part about writing a book? 
I didn’t seem to have any trouble actually writing the story; words just seemed to keep pouring out of me from within.  But since I chose to make this historical fiction, and to have a little mystery and magic going on at the same time to keep my readers’ attention span (ages 9-13), I had to do a great deal of research and planning so that clues were placed at just the right time so as not to give away the surprise ending, but also so that they would all fit in properly to be tied up in a neat little package at the end.  I wanted to show a connection between African-American slavery and prejudice to that of what happened during WWII and the Holocaust.  Those two subjects required a massive amount of data gathering.  Also, my main character and heroine of the story, Nettie, is from the small sea island of St. Helena off the coast of South Carolina.  The Gullah heritage she claims has always intrigued me, and thus I decided to have Nettie come from this culture.  Of course, this meant my investigation into the Gullah language, foods, island life, etc.

4.) Do you have a favorite character in the book and if so why? 
Nettie, of course, is my favorite character because all of her attributes are so noble:  she’s kind, loving, caring, a real ‘team player’, always trying to help others and thinking of others before she thinks about herself.  She’s the kind of person we all strive to be, and one who has so many friends, she can’t count them!  She, herself, has experienced the bitter taste of prejudice and hatred, and has become all the better a person because of it.  She has a great heart, and even though her little ‘supernatural’ signs point her in the right direction, she always does the right thing in every situation.

5.) What do you like the most about writing? 
Writing is a great cathartic exercise.  I find that if I’m upset or concerned about something, writing about it serves the same purpose as if I were to verbally consult a friend with my problem.  Most of us need to be creative in some way; since I can’t sing, dance, paint or sculpt, this is what I do.

6.)  Where do your new story ideas come from? 
Unfortunately, I never seem to be able to come up with great new story lines.  I’ll see a wonderful movie and wonder why I hadn’t thought of writing it first!  That’s why my dream was such an unusual and unexpected happening, and why I knew I had to record it on paper!  I often say that the book came to me, not the other way around.

7.) What advice has helped the most in your writing? 
The best advice came from my son who, himself, is very adept at writing.  He told me never to accept anything I had written until at least 24 hours had passed; that way, you can review what you have written previously with an honest and true assessment of your work.

8.) This seems to be your first book, do you have something new in the works? 
Actually, as I have been an educator for over 30 years in middle school, I have witnessed and taken part in many intervention sessions for ‘kids in crisis’.  I have written an anthology of rap, poetry and prose for these children.  It’s not quite ready for publication yet, but I cover a multitude of topics that deeply concern adolescents such as drugs, gangs, prejudice, hatred and death.

9.) Who is your favorite author and why? 
I have 2 favorite authors: the first is Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Poisonwood Bible.  She must feel as I do about adjectives: they are the only way an author can paint a picture of what he/she wants their reader to see.  Her careful and deliberate use of specific adjectives is so magnificent to me, that I feel as though I am right there in Africa along with her characters.  My other favorite author is Arundhati Roy, author of The God of Small Things.  The book begins with what seems to be scores of unrelated points of light, but they are far from being unrelated, as the reader finds out in the end when they are all tied up very conveniently into a magnificent package.  This is what I similarly tried to do in Nettie Parker’s Backyard.  I’m not sure I did it as eloquently as she did, but my ending does solve the little mystery running throughout the plot, and ties up all the loose ends that the ‘supernatural’ clues leave behind.

10.) What advice would you give for the want to be writer? 
Make yourself well-read by reading many different authors and many different types of writing.  Through osmosis, you will learn what is good and what is not, and your own style will emerge.  Let your writing rest for 24 hours and then assess, correct and improve upon it if you can.  Lastly, keep at it!  You must have tons of discipline!  Sometimes a break is necessary and may actually be the best thing that could occur, as you may get a new idea in the interim and be much happier than having continued on with your former line of thought.

All Treat and No Tricks! 
Five Books Will Be Given Away, One Hard Copy and Four E-Books
Entries will be accepted October 31 to November 6, 2011

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