Guest Author Interview – Hugh O. Smith

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Title: Candyland

Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Suspense

Synopsis: Writer Shaun Harmon should be the happiest man alive. His novels are best-sellers, Hollywood just made one of his books a hit movie, and he and his daughter recently left the Bronx and moved into a huge home in the New Jersey suburb of Willows.

But, all of Shaun’s success comes at a price. His wife dies, just as he achieves his dreams. The words that used to come so easily to him, won’t come anymore and the affluent new town he’s moved to is not quite what it seems. Soon, Shaun finds that the town harbors dark secrets, secrets that it would do anything to hide—even kill.

Hugh O. Smith, Author

CH: Today’s Guest Author is Hugh O. Smith. He has written for as long as he can remember and enjoys writing across diverse genres. Welcome to my blog, Hugh.

CH: Can you sum up your book in 20 words or less?

HOS: Candyland is about a writer who achieves success, only to find that wealth can corrupt, as much as poverty can.

CH: Your book deals with a writer at the peak of his dreams and life happens. How did you come up with the premise for this book? Is it partially your life?

HOS: Partially. Shaun and I have a lot in common. We’re both authors, we’re both from the Bronx and we both moved to a New Jersey suburb only to find out that there is a lot going on behind the scenes that most people will never know about. The difference is Shaun moved into a very wealthy suburb and mine isn’t.

CH: Was it hard creating believable situations and issues or did you take them from real life and elaborate?

HOS: No, it wasn’t too hard to create the situations. As authors, these crazy things run through our heads 24/7. The hard part is writing them down well and making them entertaining and enthralling for the reader. As far as real life, I’ll just say that the situations in real life weren’t as…intense as in Candyland, thank goodness.

CH: Since this book is a mystery/thriller with lots of suspense, did you run into any challenges while writing this book?

HOS: Oh yes. I love writing about suspense and relationships at the same time. The relationship part, I think I am okay with, but the suspense part comes harder for me. I want to write stories that make the reader gasp out loud, or write situations they never saw coming and to do that is a challenge for me.

CH: Did you have to do any special research to write this book?

HOS: Not too much. I had to look up certain towns in New Jersey to get a better idea of their history and how they evolved over time, but that was about it.

CH: What is different and exciting that you bring to your readers through your writing style?

HOS: I really love to write about people, who are good people, but sometimes don’t do the right thing. I think most people are good people with good intentions, or at least we try hard to be, but we don’t always do the right thing, or make the best choice. We make mistakes, I know I sure do, and my characters do, as well, but I want to make the reader still root for them and still like them, despite their imperfections.

Also, I bring an appreciation of plus-size women that you don’t see too much in books. At least I don’t. I don’t hit the reader over the head with it, but I make sure you know what most of my female characters look like. Look around, not too many real women you see every day are a ‘perfect’ size 2, so why should they be ‘perfect’ in books? They shouldn’t and they won’t be in my books, I guarantee you that!

CH: Which character was your favorite to write?

HOS: I had two, Shaun and Jake. Female characters are easier to write because women can be an open book. Women are not afraid to tell you what they think and what’s on their minds. Men, on the other hand are more challenging to write, because as men, we sometimes are reluctant to express much (to say the least), so to have a man say or do something in a book, you must really think about it, because if you don’t it might not ring true. So, Shaun was challenging because he’s essentially a good man, but because he’s in pain because of the loss of his wife, he sometimes makes bad choices. He sleeps with women, hoping to recapture even a second of what he had with his wife, not realizing that it’s not fair to the women he’s with. He’s also at a point in his life where his dreams have come true, but they weren’t only his dreams, they were his wife’s, as well and without her there, he can’t fully enjoy the journey. To make you like Shaun, while you might not like the things he does or the decisions he makes was fun to write. Jake was also fun because he’s a bad guy, but for a different reason—he lost someone he loves. That happened a long time ago, but he just can’t get past it, and that rage and loss turns him into a monster.

CH: Which character was hardest to develop?

HOS: Chloe, Shaun’s love interest, is a woman with a past. I still feel like I don’t know her full story, and I think there might be books in the future that explore more about her. She also lost someone she loved at a time in her life when she was young and vulnerable. I don’t want to give away too much about Candyland,  but people Chloe loved and trusted helped to make that loss possible. Also, Chloe is caught between two worlds, but truly belongs to neither. It will be interesting to see where she goes in the future.

CH: Is this book part of a series or a stand alone?

HOS: All my books can stand alone, but most of them take place in the fictional town of Willows, NJ, a town that looks perfect from the outside but has many, many secrets. So, if you read my other books like Soccer Mom and Willows you might see characters or places you’ve known from Candyland.

CH: Your book has a lot of ups and downs and potholes and high rises, so do you prefer writing a book with a lot of twists and turns?

HOS: I really do, but that part is challenging for me. I guess for some people it’s easy, but man, I agonize over that part of the process. The romantic parts are much easier (and much more fun).

CH: Is there a message in the novel that you want the readers to grasp?

HOS: Candyland explores themes about race and class and the rich taking advantage of the poor, but those themes are part of the plot and I insert no message at all. I’m not one of those writers that inserts a lesson in his books, I won’t hit you over the head with one philosophy or another. I leave it to the readers to glean their own message. If all you get is an entertaining read, then I’m 100% fine with that.

CH: What kind of feedback are you getting from readers of this book?

HOS: The thing I get most is questions about how I came up with the story and is it based on anything real. It isn’t based on actual real-life events that I experienced, just my imagination taking over and building on the drama that occurs just below the surface of a town.

CH: Can you tell us a little about your writing journey?

HOS: Sure. I’m Jamaican, I came to the US when I was younger, but during my childhood there, I noticed that Jamaican people are born storytellers. I loved that my cousins and I could see a movie, then the next day we would tell each other the story of the movie and each person had a totally different perspective on it. My father was a big reader and he introduced me to many different types of books and I loved to read, so as I got older I tried my hand at writing and here I am.

CH: Are there any authors that provide inspiration for your writing?

HOS: So many! I love fiction, so Walter Mosley, Lee Child, Attica Locke, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Mat Johnson, Marlon James (another Jamaican author), Barbara Neely, Larry McMurtry, Alex Haley, and Elmore Leonard, just to name a few.

CH: What is your next writing project?

HOS: I’m working on a few things, I have a project about three-quarters done about a group of women that come together for a passion party and things go horribly wrong. Readers have been asking me to write a sequel to my book Green Eyes and Good Hair and that should be out early in 2018. I’m thinking about making chapters available on my website for free.  Also, I’m writing a paranormal series about a plus-size woman, who discovers that she is really a witch. That one is challenging, but really fun to write.

CH: How to Find Hugh O. Smith:

CH: Can you tell my audience where this book is sold?

HOS: Sure, you can find it on Amazon along with my other books.

CH: Any closing remarks?

HOS: Thank you so much for interviewing me, Cheryl. It really was a pleasure. I really love to interact with readers, so please feel free to communicate with me at my website, on Facebook or Twitter. I’d love to hear from you!

CH: Thank you so much, Hugh O. Smith, for taking time out of your very busy writing schedule to join me and my blog followers.  It has been a real pleasure discussing your book with my audience.  And readers, if you’re like me and would enjoy this book.  I suggest you pick up a copy at your earliest convenience. 

Note: Photos/Clip art are compliments of the Internet, Hugh O. Smith and Cheryl Holloway.

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