Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Q+A with Jefferson Smith (Strange Places)

Please welcome today's paranormal guest author Jefferson Smith.  Jefferson is the author of Strange Places.

EJ:  When did you begin writing?

  I first received critical acclaim for a recurring fantasy adventure serial I wrote throughout the sixth grade. My teacher and principal both loved it. I submitted my first story to the short-fiction market while in the tenth grade, thus securing my first official rejection. But to be honest, I started writing at about the same time I learned to print and I've been doing it ever since. My career as a special effects and animation consultant in Hollywood got in the way for a couple of decades, but I finally found my way back to telling my OWN stories about seven years ago.

As a long time explorer of the arts (writing, painting, animation, composing, etc.) I went back to school to do an unusual PhD program: I studied creativity theory for a doctorate in Computer Science, developing a technique for making humans more creative when they use multimedia software tools. As part of that research, I wrote a musical score for a strange world, and then I wrote a novel to go with it. The result is Strange Places, my first published work of fiction, which is also the first installment of a series called Finding Tayna. I'm now hard at work on the second book, due out at the end of this year, and the musical soundtrack CD will be out this spring. Meanwhile, I write regularly about these strangely intersecting topics (writing tips, software tools for writers, and creativity theory) on my blog: The Creativity Hacker.

EJ:  What brought you to the paranormal genre?

  Believe it or not, like all good science geeks, I started out as a stubborn sci-fi nut. But over the years, I came to realize that what fascinated me most about those stories wasn't the actual fictional science part - it was the fabulous mental landscapes and imaginative story worlds that those authors were creating. More recently, as I've watched the acceleration of technology and its rapid proliferation throughout society, I've come to realize that science fiction, as I know it, is dead. Who needs fantastical predictions about the future of science when your nearest Best Buy or even Wal-Mart will have new eye-popping techno widgetry available tomorrow afternoon? We've become jaded to new technology, and the sciences have become so specialized that the only people capable of projecting those topics more than 5 minutes into the future are the specialist researchers themselves, who are usually horrible story tellers.

If you examine most of what science fiction is now doing, it's really just fantasy, dressed up in technological battle gear. I guess what I'm saying is that I didn't exactly come to fantasy consciously so much as I was brought here and abandoned by science fiction. But now that I'm here, I realize that I have always been here and science fiction was just an illusion from my youth.

EJ:  If you could be any paranormal or have any one supernatural talent, what would it be? Why?

No question. I would want to be able to see into the souls of others and find the one thing to say that would make them fall down laughing. Not only would this be a fabulous power for a writer like myself to have (since I work hard to make my writing funny as well as thought provoking and fantastical) but it would actually be a great super power, too. No evil genius can fight you if they're too busy clutching their sides, gasping for breath, and rolling around on the floor in hysterics. Better yet, nobody can stay mad at a person who can make them laugh, so I'd be converting all the bad guys into friends every time we clashed, and it's just a short walk between making them friends and turning them into good guys. So yeah, that would be my power of choice.

EJ:  Tell us why readers will enjoy your new release.

Imagine that you had lived your entire life in a gloomy orphanage run by cruel nuns only to discover in your teen years that you might not even be an orphan at all. You'd freak, right? "You mean I've been washing your laundry and scrubbing your floors all this time, and somewhere I might have parents who actually love me? I am so out of here!"

Well, that's exactly what happens for Tayna, my razor witted maybe-orphan. But leaving that orphanage proves to be just the beginning of her troubles. Not only does she know nothing about the world outside the walls, but she quickly learns that her family (if they really exist) are not even in our world at all, but in another, mythological world - one she'd never even heard of before that day. So how is she supposed to find them there?

So you've got this funny but lonely teen, searching for where she belongs, and kicking butt along the way. If she only knew how much her fans loved her, she probably wouldn't be so miserable, but then again, I wouldn't have a book, either. (Note to self: don't tell Tayna how many people out here love her. It would get weird.)

EJ:  If your book(s) were being made into a movie, who would you cast for the leading roles? Why?

  I think Ellen Page would have made a great Tayna five years ago, but she's probably too old now to play a believable teen, so I'd want to use someone new and unknown. There are so many great young actresses out there and I really like working with people who are just getting started in their arts careers.

Peter Dinklage would be fabulous for my villain, the creepy Lord Angiron.

I wish I could have put Heath Ledger in to play the quirky and mysterious Duck Man. He has so many sides to him. I mean, who else could play a guy who wanders around town in hip-waders and a pink trench coat, saying inappropriate things to children in one minute, but who seems to have your back and acts like a trusted but quirky ally in the next? Since I can't have Heath, I think my second choice might be Jason Segal.

The real question, in my mind, is who would play Abeni - the mountain-muscled, dark-skinned Djin adventurer with the kettle-drum laugh? I can't think of a single actor I have ever scene on film who would be right for the part, so I'm going to make one up. Take Arnold Schwarzenegger's body, stuff him inside Denzel Washington for looks and charm, and then cram Woopie Goldberg down inside that skin to handle the comedy and the laughing. Yeah, that would be sweet. I shall call him Denzoopie Schwarzenberg.

Strange Places (Finding Tayna #1) by Jefferson Smith

Raised as a modern-day kitchen slave in an orphanage run by child-loathing nuns, and now stalked by disturbing strangers, thirteen year old Tayna gambles everything on a desperate journey of self-discovery that will lead her to the far corners of two strange and unfamiliar worlds: one filled with shopping malls and televisions, the other with Brownies, Djin and magic.

Thank you Jefferson for joining us here today at From the Shadows!

To learn more about Jefferson Smith and his books, please visit his website.


  1. Hi gang. No follow-ups posted here yet, but I thought I'd let you know that I'm watching for 'em, in between imaginary confrontations with several of my more spirited characters who feel they aren't getting enough of my attention. :-)

  2. Great artilce! Love to read about writing path of other authors. It's really hard to make your readers trully enjoy the story while keeping it to your own way of writing. I know that many authors begin to write college essays for money, i'm working as a freelance writer myself in order to develop skills i needed for writing. Can you give some advice about writing in paranormal genre?

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