Interview with Rachel Smith

Hi guys! I’m here today with another interview! I discovered the Records of the Ohanzee series through NetGalley, and I really loved it. I have reviewed both books here and here.

Rachel was kind enough to answer my questions, and I’m sharing her amazing answers here on the blog. Go check out her books, they are amazing!

My questions will be in bold, and her answers in italics.

Rachel R. Smith

How did you get the idea for your series Records of the Ohanzee?

The story and characters from Records of the Ohanzee have been rolling around in my head for so long that I’ve honestly forgotten what first sparked the idea. Most likely, it was a combination of many influences. I used to do a lot of driving between college and home, and it was during that time I remember seeing the first scenes in my head. Ironically, those initial scenes are of characters that won’t come into the story until the third story arc! But, if you’re paying close attention, there are already references to them in the first book.

For sure, there are songs, quotes, and places that remind me of certain scenes or characters. Sometimes I come across them after I’ve finished writing a scene, while others spark a mood or vision that inspires me. I’ve shared a bit about songs that inspire me or remind me of certain characters on my blog (http://recordsoftheohanzee.com/2015/09/04/that-song-reminds-me-of/) and about places I’ve visited that have inspired settings (http://recordsoftheohanzee.com/2015/12/09/beware-of-the-spirit-that-guards-the-book-in-the-cave/ )

What are your writing habits? (Where/when do you write, do you listen to music?)

Let me start out by saying, I am not a morning person. I work best in the late afternoons and very late at night. I’ll usually run errands and do chores before lunch, while my imagination is still dozing, then settle in to write around 1pm. I’ll write all afternoon and into the evening, then break for dinner and time with my husband. When I’m deeply involved with a manuscript, I’ll usually pick back up after he goes to bed and write until 2-3am. I’ve tried writing in many different places to see what works for me. Oddly, I’ve found that I work best sitting on the couch in the living room with the TV on. My favorite situation is to write while hubby plays video games. Video game soundtracks can be amazingly beautiful, and I find them fantastic for getting me focused.

Do you like travelling, and if so, what are your favourite places?

I love to travel! When I worked as a materials scientist, I traveled a lot for my job. Sometimes I would have to go on trips with only a few hours’ notice, so I always kept a bag packed with the essentials that I could just toss some clothes into and go. While very little of it was foreign travel, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit 28 of the 50 states, including Hawaii (it really is just as beautiful as everyone says).

My favorite place that I’ve been is Japan. I was sent to Kyoto to attend a conference for work in 2007. I’ve had a fascination with Japan and Japanese culture for many, many years, so going there was a dream come true. My mom warned me before leaving that my expectations were too high, and to be prepared to be disappointed because reality rarely is as good as you think. I’m happy to say that my mom was wrong in this case. And I had the opportunity to show her just how wrong she was when we returned to Kyoto for vacation together a few years later. More than anything I love to visit the various shrines and temples, because each of those places has such a long, rich history associated with it. Since Kyoto is the historical capital, and is one of the best-preserved cities in Japan, it really is my ideal place to travel to. I hope to go back again soon, but, no matter how many times I visit, it will never be often enough.

What is your favourite book?

I couldn’t possibly pick just one! I’m a big fan of the fantasy genre, and I tend to read series over one-shot books. I like to get invested in plots and characters, so the longer the series, the better. I’m a huge fan of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan, and I’ve read each of those books multiple times.

My book shelves are also literally overflowing with manga. A few of my favorite series are: Skip Beat!, W Juliet, Kindaichi Case Files, and Full Metal Alchemist.

For single books, two of my favorites are Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden and The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo.

I also enjoy mysteries and cozy mysteries, especially those by Agatha Christie and the Her Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen.

For YA books, a few more recent ones that I’ve read are: The Winner’s Curse Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski (patiently waiting for book 3), the Malediction Trilogy by Danielle L. Jensen (also patiently waiting for book 3), and The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Inspiration can come from anything and everything. There’s a saying that I often see online that goes something like: “Be careful, or I’ll put you in my novel.” It really is true! While the characters and events of a story are completely a product of my imagination, there are bits and pieces of reality woven in for many of them. For instance, Nerissa’s mentor, Tao, was inspired by my high school chemistry teacher—a woman who was a very influential mentor to me, and a person I still admire today.

The concept for storing information within a crystal was inspired by concepts and technologies that exist in reality. Crystal data storage is a cutting-edge technology that has been in development for many years. While it isn’t refined yet, and definitely isn’t commercially available today, it has the potential to store more information, for a far longer time, than our current technologies. So, while much of how the crystals are used and interacted within the Records of the Ohanzee is complete fantasy, the concept of storing information inside the crystals is only a few steps outside of reality. I’m actually planning to write an in-depth blog post about the facts and fantasy behind crystal data storage in my books, so check back in a few weeks if you’re interested in learning more!

What is the best part of writing a book?

My favorite part of writing is being able to work little hints and symbols into the layers of the story. It’s not something that I can do a lot because it can become obvious and is distracting if it interrupts the natural flow of the story. But, every now and then, an opportunity presents itself to slip a double meaning into dialogue or a hint of things to come. Then I chuckle to myself maniacally and keep writing. There are at least three specific instances of this in book 2: one that comes out by the end of the book, one that won’t come to light until book 3, and one that will be revealed in book 4. (Insert maniacal laughter here…)

Could you share advice for aspiring writers and authors?

I would say that you need to know writing a book is only the first step in the process. Once your book is published, you will have to spend a lot of time and effort building a network and spreading the word. It’s not an easy task, especially if you are naturally a more introverted type of person. But, no one can read your book if they don’t know it exists. It takes time, but if you keep at it, little by little, you’ll see results.

Likewise, to readers and book bloggers, know that your efforts are deeply appreciated by the authors whose books you read. Every time you share your thoughts and opinions on a book, you’re helping that author to spread the word too. So when you find a book or author that you like, the biggest thing you can do to help support them is to write a review, recommend their books to a friend, tweet a link to their blog or book, or like/follow their Goodreads/Facebook/Blog/etc. You may not realize it, but doing so can make a huge difference. For sure, you’ll make an author smile.

It was really lovely to talk with her, and I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did!

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