Mar 1, 2014

Author Spotlight: Jeri Smith-Ready

We are very excited to have Jeri Smith-Ready as our featured author for Author Spotlight March!  Jessica and I are very big fans of her Shade trilogy.  If you haven't read the Shade series, what's wrong with you?  Just kidding, we will be giving away the entire Shade trilogy signed (open internationally) just look for the giveaway at the bottom of this post!  Plus Jeri has been kind enough to giveaway a signed ARC (US Only) of her first contemporary novel This Side of Salvation.  Which I just finished reading yesterday, and I absolutely loved it!  So without further ado here's Jeri Smith-Ready!

Thanks for inviting me to be Step Into Fiction’s Spotlight author for March!

Hello, everyone! I’m Jeri Smith-Ready, author of YA books such as the Shade series and the upcoming This Side of Salvation, a contemporary novel about a boy whose parents disappear the night they believe the Rapture’s going to happen. (I’m giving away an ARC of this April 1 release with this post!) I’ve written numerous books for adults.

Which do you prefer writing, adult books or young adult books?

I love both equally. It all depends on the story and whose eyes it's best told through. This Side of Salvation, for instance, was inspired by a story I heard on NPR about the children of people who believed in that shyster preacher Harold Camping's prediction that the Rapture would occur on May 21, 2011. These kids' parents made them give up everything—school, friends, sports, etc.—to prepare for the end of the world. I thought, what would that do to a young person—at an age when you believe most strongly in the future—to be told that the world was ending, and moreover, that it was something to look forward to?

So right from the beginning, that book had to be YA.

What was the first book you remember reading?

I think it was a picture book called Little Ballerina by Dorothy Grider. Then I read stacks and stacks of Peanuts comic books. They used a lot of big words I didn't understand, but I loved Charlie Brown and the gang. I would make up alternative storylines for the Peanuts characters in my head (what we would now call "fan fiction") and act them out, playing all the parts. This was before real-life kids my age moved into the neighborhood.

If you could live in any world from any series, which would you choose and why?

Charles de Lint's Newford series. Most urban fantasy worlds are fun to visit, but I wouldn't want to live in them, because they're so dark and dangerous. But many of the spirits in the Newford books are benevolent, and you get the sense when reading these novels that the world is an inherently good place. There's a beautiful connection to and respect for nature as well.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that This Side of Salvation is your first contemporary novel? How different was it writing it? Or is it the same writing process as a paranormal novel?

It was my first contemporary, but definitely not my last. The process was really no different from writing a paranormal. While I didn't have to create rules of magic or build a paranormal world, I did have to create a religious cult, which is in many ways a lot stranger than ghosts and vampires.

The most important thing to me is to make the characters believable. In a realistic novel, the bar of believability is set higher. I had to make David's parents and Sophia Visser (the preacher they follow) sympathetic and understandable on some level. We might not approve of their choices, but I hope that readers can at least see where they're coming from and the pain that brought them to make those choices.

Being a writer is like being a lawyer. We don't have to agree with or even like all of our characters. But it's our duty to represent them to the best of our ability.

From reading your young adult books, I must say that I don't think any author I've read has written teenage dialogue as accurate as you. I always feel like I am in the room with my teenage cousins when reading. How do you prepare to write dialogue scenes?

Thank you! I never try to make the characters sound "teen" or "boy" or whatever else they're "supposed" to sound like. I just try to make each character sound his or her own unique self.

Like anything else in writing, it doesn't magically appear on command. It happens because I spend months and months with these people in my imagination. During the first draft, I write the dialogue I hear in my head. By the time I'm revising a book, I know the characters better and can "hear" when their dialogue isn't right for them, then adjust it accordingly. After several drafts, you could give me any random sentence or word and I could tell you whether it's something one of the characters would say or not.

Characters, just like real people, speak differently depending who they're with. For instance, in "Shattered," the degree to which Zachary uses slang and the Scots language varies from none at all (around his mother) to some (around his dad and when alone with his best mate) to LOTS (around large groups of Scottish friends). Linguists call this practice "code switching" when it refers to language, or simply "register" when it refers to manner of speaking (more or less formal, for instance). We all do it to some degree, whether we’re aware of it or not. At least, I hope we speak more nicely in front of our mothers than our friends!

Is there a particular genre that you've never written that you're interested in writing?

I would love to write a romantic comedy, either adult or YA. Those are some of my favorite books to read. The closest I came was Wicked Game, the first in my WVMP Radio series. I was so, so happy while I was writing it.

Heck, I'd just like to write a book where no one dies. Maybe I should Kickstarter one of those. What do you think, readers?

What are your top 10 most played songs on your mp3 player?

In no particular order:

1. Default by Django Django
2. Digital Witness by St. Vincent
3. Lead Me Home by Jamie N. Collins, from The Walking Dead soundtrack
4. Something Good by alt-J
5. Pompeii by Bastille
6. Tonight You're Perfect by New Politics
7. Hell and Back by The Airborne Toxic Event, off the Dallas Buyer's Club soundtrack 8. Team by Lorde
9. Hard to Remember by We Were Promised Jetpacks
10. Let Her Go by Passenger

It's the zombie apocalypse and you can only grab one book from your book shelf, which book do you grab and why?

The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks, of course!

If you weren't a writer, what other profession do you think you would be?

Is "mental patient" a profession? Because that's what I'd be if it weren't for writing. As crazy as this business is, I'd be miserable doing anything else. I know, because I've done everything else!

Is there anything you've ever written in any of your books that you regret?

The first thing that comes to mind is Aura kneeling in front of Logan's coffin in SHADE and thinking Sorry, God, but this open casket thing is really retarded or something along those lines. Even years ago, I wavered over the use of the word "retarded," but my editor and critique partners didn't flag it as inappropriate, probably because they thought, as I did, that her internal monologue's ugly words reflected her grief and anger over Logan's death.

So if offered the chance to change it now, for a new printing or edition, would I use a different word? Probably not.

Skittles or M&M's - Skittles

Ebook or Physical Book - Both

Long hair or short hair - Short now, after 20 years of long hair. No regrets.

80s or 90s - 90s

Winter or Summer – Sorry, gotta go with winter. No yard work!

Author Bio: Award-winning author Jeri Smith-Ready lives in Maryland with her husband and two cats. Her plans to save the earth were ruined when she realized she was more of a “problem maker” than a problem solver. To stay out of trouble, she keeps her Drama Drive strictly fictional. Her friends and family appreciate that.

When not writing, Jeri she can usually be found—well, thinking about writing, or on Twitter. Like her characters, she loves music, movies, and staying up very, very late.

Other Links for Jeri:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. The Devouring by Simon Holt was uber creepy.

    Elizabeth Richards would be fabulous to see :)

  2. It's a YA book, the Darkest Powers trilogy by Kelley Armstrong. It's not technically in the horror genre but it is about Necromancy/raising ghost, and i read it when i was young and i was pretty creep out but nevertheless couldn't put it down!

    And yeah, i would like to see Kelley Armstrong featured in your blog :) She is an author whose books that i'm definitely following!

  3. I don't think I've read that many creepy books, the creepiest I read was probably The Thirteenth Tale/

  4. I just finished The Madman's Daughter and that was pretty creepy!

    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

  5. One of my best contemporaries was The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg and I would be happy if she featured on the website! :D

  6. On the Fence by Kasie West.
    So, I'd love to see her here!

  7. I loved "Hopeless" and "Slammed" by Colleen Hoover. She'd be a great author to spotlight, too.

  8. I loved JSR's "Shade" Series. Thanks for spotlighting her this month. I cannot wait for "This Side of Salvation" to be released.

  9. The best YA contemporary is 'Fangirl' by Rainbow Rowell. I'd love to see her or Stephanie Perkins featured!

  10. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher - powerful read!
    Thanks for the chance :)

  11. I really don't read contemporary, but I liked 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson.

  12. Christina R. in the rafflecopter

    My favorite is Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins because they're so emotional and real and funny. You should definitely spotlight Stephanie :)

    Thank you:)

  13. I haven't read a ton of contemporary books, to be honest, but I did really enjoy Katie McGarry's Pushing The Limits. :)

    As for authors, I love, love, love Rachel Vincent, Leah Clifford, and Alexander Gordon Smith. :D

  14. So many to chose from! Love Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Jelicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins and on and on.. :) Would love to see any of these authors spotlighted!

  15. I can never remember the latest contemporary that I've read when asked this question, I had to go to my Goodreads account and look. There was Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. The Fault in Our Stars. I started crying so early in that book I was sure I'd never get to the end. Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma was a really powerful contemporary. Oh and Just One Day and Just One Year. I thought both of the novels were equally good, but I liked Just One Day just a tiny bit more. As a series though, I loved them! And anything Stephanie Perkins writes. Grocrery list, honey do list, whatever, I'd read anything by her. If you haven't had her on before (sorry I'm new to your site. Following Jeri over here) I'd love for you to interview her. I'll have to go through your archives and see who you have had to answer that question. I'm turning my fingers off now. Sorry....


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