Today, my guest author is Lisa April Smith. She will also be giving away an e-book to one lucky commenter. To enter please leave a meaningful comment with your e-mail address and which type of e-reading device you use. The giveaway will end on January 27,2013 at 11:59 P.M EST.
About Lisa April Smith
Author Lisa April Smith lives with her husband, He-Who-Wishes-to-Remain-Anonymous, in
Eternal Playland, Florida, a delightful spot just off I-95. Ms. Smith describes Eternal Playland as
"a little piece of level heaven with occasional dampness, where the bugs are plentiful but respectful, and even the smallest strip mall contains at least one pizza place and a nail salon."
Before discovering a passion for writing, Ms. Smith sold plumbing and heating, antiques, taught ballroom dancing, tutored, modeled, designed software and managed projects for IBM.
She returned to college multiple times to study anthropology, sociology and computer science, in which she holds degrees, as well as psychology, archeology, literature, history and art. Combine those widely diverse interests with a love of travel and a gift for writing page-turners and it’s easy to understand one reviewer’s unbridled praise for Exceeding Expectations, “She (Ms. Smith) has a brilliance for conveying characters, and the intellectual capacity to place them in historical settings that sparkle with glamorous detail . . . that make it fun to read . . . ” But it takes much more than lush settings, an eye for detail and a love of history to write a page-turner. Read what another reviewer said about Exceeding Expectations: “Lisa April Smith . . . has woven an intriguingly rich tapestry of delightful well-developed characters into a perfectly balanced plot bursting with riveting mystery, crimes of the petty and the horrible sort, suspenseful twists, and romantic tension complete with love scenes that sizzle and pop.”
Raquel: Welcome, Lisa :
Lisa: Thank you for inviting me, Raquel. Delighted to join you.
Raquel: For anyone who is unfamiliar with Exceeding Expectations, could you give us a short description of the book without giving too much of the story away?
Lisa: Gladly. It’s 1961 and Palm Beach socialite, irresistible rascal and devoted father Jack Morgan encounters genuine danger while staging his suicide to shield his beloved daughters from disgrace. You next, meet his daughter Charlotte, (nicknamed Charlie) an over-indulged 23 year-old struggling to cope with the traumatizing loss of her beloved father, her sister’s resulting mental breakdown and the discovery that she’s suddenly penniless. Fortunately Raul, an admiring young attorney, appears to offer assistance. As terrified as she is about daily survival, Charlie soon realizes that she has to learn what drove her father to kill himself. With Raul’s much needed ego-bolstering, the drive of necessity and unforeseen determination, Charlie finds a practical use for her annoyingly lean 5’ 11” frame. In time, this career finances her hard-wrought independence, her sister’s costly treatment and an emotional eye-opening journey to Paris.
Jumping back in time to romantic pre-WWII Paris, readers meet young Alan Fitzpartick – later known as Jack Morgan – lack-luster artist and expert lover and the bewitching girl who will become the mother of his children. Not even Charlie’s relentless detective work will uncover all Jack’s secrets, but in a fireworks of surprise endings, she discovers all that she needs to know and more: the disturbing truths about her father, her own unique talent, crimes great and small and a diabolical villain.
Raquel: I suspect that there’s a story behind the story. Can you share anything about what inspired Exceeding Expectations?
Lisa: Gladly. My books are generally inspired by media coverage of events and people that I find intriguing. As for Exceeding Expectations, in 1998, Florida television and newspapers were reporting a story of a local Palm Beach socialite (ironically named Fagan) arrested for kidnapping his daughters eighteen years earlier, when they were 2 and 5 years old. The primary reason that it had taken eighteen years to find Fagan was that he had successfully reinvented himself. As William S. Martin, a handsome widower with two young daughters and no apparent means of support, Fagan had met and married a wealthy Palm Beach widow. After their divorce, another affluent woman agreed to wed and maintain his family’s plush lifestyle.
Neighbors, friends and the teachers at the girls’ tony private school all described him as “likeable,” “charming” and “devoted father.” Throughout his arrest and subsequent proceedings, his loyal third wife steadfastly stood by him, as did both daughters. Perhaps what most surprised people who followed the case was that the girls’ mother, a research scientist teaching at the University of Virginia, through the media and her attorney, repeatedly begged her daughters to meet with her and they refused. To my knowledge, that continues to this day.
As I was following the case I found myself thinking that there was an even juicier story behind this headline-grabber and set out to create one. I began with a few core facts. A man with an invented name and history, twice married to wealthy widows, living in Palm Beach, playground of the mega-rich and famous, and involved in a crime. Two adoring daughters unaware of their true identities. Over time my imagination happily supplied the rest. A townhouse off Fifth Avenue. A sprawling estate in VirginiLisa : Romantic Paris in the years prior to WWII. A riveting past for Jack Morgan: skilled lover, lack-luster artist and irresistible rascal. A full-blown range of challenges and hard-wrought triumphs for his traumatized daughter Charlotte (Charlie).
Raquel: Do your books require much research?
Lisa: Absolutely! Some books more than others. I’m a stickler for accuracy. When I find the 2nd or 3rd critical error in a book or movie, that’s it for me. I’m done. Fortunately, I find research fun. I estimate that for every researched detail I use, fifty are waiting to be plucked from my Word files or taking up needed space in my brain. Is it any wonder I have problems remembering names?
Raquel: Which is more important in your books – the characters or the plot?
Lisa: The characters. I painstakingly think about, and make notes on, all major characters before I start the plot. They have physical characteristics, family and back-stories that logically mold their personalities, strengths, flaws and quirks. Characters can grow, but must they must remain true to their nature. For example, in Exceeding Expectations, I saw Jack Morgan as a living, breathing, complex person with weaknesses and strengths – likeable conman and devoted father. I fabricated a childhood that could produce those traits. He’s a man unused to compassion or tenderness. The son of a hard-drinking widower, the youngest of four brothers all reluctantly raised by the sole female in the household, his overworked sister. Yet when he sees a newborn he relates to its vulnerability and can’t abandon it. Plots, on the other hand, materialize as new/fun/intriguing ideas come to me.
Raquel: I understand that there’s a sequel to Exceeding Expectation. What is the title and when will it be available?
Lisa: Now that’s a question I love to answer. The sequel is titled Paradise Misplaced and it recently launched. You can go to my website http://www.Lisa AprilSmith.com for the description and free first chapter.
Raquel: We hear a lot about writer's block. Have you ever had to deal with it and how did you overcome it?
Lisa: I am delighted to say that I’ve never experienced writer’s block. I think the reason for that is my approach to work. When I was at IBM I didn’t ask myself if I was in the mood to tackle something. I looked at the tasks at hand, prioritized them and got to it. If you’re in the process of writing a book, you have many varied ways to be productive. Editing. Plotting. Incorporating my latest epiphany. As soon as I begin working the words flow.
Raquel: When you have some down time, what genres of books do you enjoy reading? Do you have any favorite authors?
Lisa: The genre is far less important to me than the quality of the writing. Favorite authors would have to include: John Updike, John Irving, Edith Wharton, Louis De Bernieres, Edward Rutherford, Pat Conroy, and Susan Isaacs. And that’s just a beginning.
Raquel: What has been your absolute, most favorite, most memorable vacation spot ever and why?
Lisa: If I had to pick only one, it would have to be China. The people were so friendly, so anxious to practice their English and help us. It’s very apparent that they admire America, Americans and democracy. We spent three weeks touring and there’s still so much we haven’t seen. It’s a huge, very diversified country with deserts and snow-capped mountains, sophisticated business-centric cities and rural farmland. And because many parts of China haven’t been affected by industrialization, you can still find examples of things being done the same way they were done hundreds of years ago. That’s fascinating!
Raquel: If you could spend an hour with any author, dead or alive, who would that be and why did you choose him/her?
Lisa: Tough decision. But if I had to choose one it would be Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens). He was a brilliant author, entertaining speaker and daring social commentator. Portraying black characters as brave, loyal, admirable human beings with souls, he took a stand against slavery and social injustice. It wasn’t a popular stance and in so places it was downright dangerous. Clemens’ life was dotted with failures, loss and personal tragedy, but he was known for his wit and engaging disposition. How I would love to sit down with him one lazy afternoon for an unhurried chat.
Raquel: Just as I have enjoyed having you here.
Lisa: Thank you and thank you for inviting me. You’ve been a gracious host.
Exceeding Expectations was named to "Top 12 of 2012" best books of the year by Kari Boardman who blogs at http://www.fromthetbrpile.blogspot.com. Considering the other authors and books named, I consider it an amazing honor. Below, is the rest of list, in no particular order, as she stated.
Dream Lake by Lisa Kleypas,
Phantom Shadows by Dianne Duvall, THE NEW YORK TIMES AND USA TODAY BESTSELLER
Defending Jacob by William Landay
Release Me by Julie Kenner
The Witness by Nora Roberts
Hallowed by Cynthia Hand
Barefoot Season by Susan Mallery
Lover Reborn by J. R. Ward, #1 New York Times bestselling author
Ketchup is a Vegetable : And Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves by Robin O'Bryant
Blank Slate Kate by Heather Wardell
For more about Lisa , her books, and upcoming projects visit her website:
Buy Exceeding Expectations the E-book for only $2.99 at either Buy At Amazon or Buy at Barnes & Noble. It’s also available in