7 Questions With Author Dennis A. Smith
Dennis A. Smith truly is an “accidental writer.” A songwriter with two previous CDs with his old band Lucky Dogg, his first book was an audio and print learning program geared toward the high school – adult learning student, That’s Smart! How to Improve Learning Habits, released in 2010 to critical praise. Since them, he has released an updated and expanded second edition with a third edition in the works.
Dennis then found a book by Viki King called How to Write a Movie in 21 Days: The Inner Movie Method and, in his words, it changed his life. King’s book was a complete crash course in how to unlock one’s imagination to create believable characters and compelling plot lines. Much of what he learned about fiction writing he learned from that book. That said, he comes at his with his own unique style; as a songwriter for many years prior he still finds himself adding original song lyrics to all his books.
Aside from That’s Smart, Dennis has two novels: Black on Black, an urban crime thriller set on the streets of the South Side of Chicago; and this year’s How to Commit Suicide, a novel about two people who discover the need to reinvent their lives by “killing off” the hopeless, negative people they used to be. In between, he wrote a musical, The 9/11 Project, about the experiences of soldiers and veterans of the War on Terror set against the history of the decade after 9/11, which he has since re-written as a stage play suitable for smaller local and college theaters.
His current project is another musical about four friends who are constantly fighting and find out in the end they are stronger together. He hopes to have that out in the near future.
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How does a day in your author life look?
The first thing I do, I put the phone in another room so I can’t hear it ring. Then I put a sign saying “Leave me alone” on my front door. Then I sit down at my desk and start to write out the “movie” playing out in my head. I keep writing until the movie plays out or until I have to otherwise stop for things like food, bathroom, making a living, etc. When I take care of that I come back later and write some more. Then I go to bed so I can do the same thing tomorrow.
What’s your definition of the first draft?
I think of it as a theme that germinates and keeps expanding so rapidly that it’s hard to keep up and write it all down—but I do. When I write I use the method explained by Viki King in her book, How to Write a Movie in 21 Days.
I let myself see my characters go through their lives and interact; think like they would think, talk how they talk, do what they would do. I try to observe what’s happening like a third person then write down what I see them do.
The important part is to get the basic ideas down on paper or in Word before I do any revising or editing—that gets the best results!
Authors vs. Social Media. How do you approach the tools you have at your disposal?
Actually, I’m just a beginner with these tools. I have my friend Tony to help, but we’re both rather inexperienced at this. One thing that we need to be careful is not to trip up on the Terms of Service—our accounts can be shut down if it looks like we’re spamming.
Worse are all the scammers out there, waiting to prey on new, independent authors. Within a day of releasing How to Commit Suicide I was getting emails from people who wanted money to review it—people I never reached out to! Luckily, the good people on Goodreads.com clued me in to what was happening!
That’s what makes working with you an honor—you’ve shown yourself as someone we can trust.
Looking back, what advice would you give yourself at the beginning of your journey?
Don’t be so nervous—it’s going to be fun!
What are the steps you usually take from writing your first draft to publishing?
I usually start writing in longhand. Once I get everything out of my head, I do some preliminary revising, then dictate it into a Word document with Dragon® NaturallySpeaking™—I am horrible at typing! Then after some more basic editing to correct any words Dragon missed I hand it off to my editor. We work together after that, passing notes and revisions back and forth until I feel it’s ready to publish.
Many authors have experienced trolling or cyberbullying upon publishing their manuscripts. Could you share your experience & some useful advice for all authors going through these unfortunate issues?
One of my mottoes is “Only a fool wants to be loved by everyone.” Do your best work, then work to gain a following from that. The people you need in your life will respond positively, or at least with constructive criticism. Ignore everyone else.
What are the 5 immediate tasks you hope to accomplish in the near future?
1) Make my first $1,000,000.☺
2) Produce a backlog of songs for the books I’ve written—I began as a songwriter, and the “movies in my head” that inspire my writing all have soundtracks!
3) Help family members and friends who are struggling.
4) Write a SF (science fiction) novel.
5) Spread the virus of love. ♥
Find Dennis A. Smith here:
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She just wanted to mope over her breakup but the universe had other plans for Zoey Mills.
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