Oct 17, 2013

Author Interview: Lisa April Smith - Exceeding Expectations

Lisa April Smith - Exceeding Expectations

• Pub Date: November 29, 2011
• Publisher: Windgate Press
• Format: Paperback/Ebook, 290 pages
• Age Range: Adult

It's 1961 and Palm Beach socialite, irresistible rascal and devoted father Jack Morgan is staging his suicide to shield his beloved daughters from the disgrace of his impending arrest. Next, meet his 5' 11" daughter Charlotte (Charlie), an over-indulged 23 year-old with a BA in art history, struggling to cope with the traumatizing loss of her beloved father, her sister's resulting mental breakdown and the discovery that she's now penniless.

Fortunately Raul, a flirtatious young attorney, appears with much needed ego-boosting and practical advice. As terrified as Charlie is about finding a way to support herself and her sister, she realizes that she has to learn what drove her father to kill himself.

Uncovering that mystery leads to romantic pre-WWII Paris, where handsome lack-luster artist Alan Fitzpatrick (aka Jack Morgan) stops entertaining attractive, wealthy women when he falls in love with a bewitching Jewish girl. Under Nazis occupation, their plan to take their daughters and escape to the US goes tragically awry. In a series of stunning surprises, Charlie uncovers disturbing truths about her father, her own unique latent talent, crimes great and small and a diabolical villain.

Interview with Lisa April Smith

Q. Thank you for stopping by, Lisa. I know readers are looking forward to learn a little about you.
A: Thank you for inviting me, Mickey. Delighted to be here.

Q. Which is more important in your books – the characters or the plot?
A. I start with characters and then develop an intricate but believable plot, that will test my protagonists in fresh ways, while remaining true to their personalities. 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.

Q. If you use characters as a starting point, what made you chose suspense for your genre?
A. Once you’ve created fascinating characters you have decide what to do with them, what troubles to inflict and how your protagonists will deal with them. Today’s writers have the Herculean task of inventing novel ways to test and torment fictional characters, plus the added challenge of competing for the attention of insanely busy readers. Try to estimate the number of book, movie and television plots the average American adults today, have encountered by the time they’re thirty or forty. It has to number in the tens of thousands. That makes for a jaded audience.
Of course with some genres, romance for example, the plot is a given. Boy and girl meet. Problems and/or misunderstanding keep them apart. Problems and/or misunderstanding are resolved. Kisses. Boy and girl exchange vows promising undying love. End of story. Can’t knock it. That’s what a sizable group of people want. I’m not one of them. And I’m incapable of delivering it.
My goal is to keep my readers involved and turning the pages far into the night. That’s why I construct my books around suspense/mystery. While readers are being alternately charmed, dazzled, entranced, amused, aroused, outraged and entertained by my characters, they’re busy looking for clues and guessing what surprises await them. That’s what gets my juices bubbling.

Q. Do ever get so emotionally involved when you’re writing that your eyes tear?
A. Easy one to answer. Yes. However, I’d like to explain that my tears don’t mean that I’m vicariously experiencing a character’s pain (or triumph). It’s more like the empathy of a concerned relative.

Q. What can you tell us about Exceeding Expectations?
A. I intended the book to be a page-turner suspense, primarily written for women, so naturally I included romance. The factual events that inspired it took place in Palm Beach, playground of the mega-rich, which triggered my imagination to incorporate additional lush settings, like an expansive estate in Virginia, an entire 5 story Manhattan townhouse, and of course Paris. But frankly, I adore the characters. There’s the irresistible rascal Jack Morgan – lackluster artist, gifted lover who prefers women older than himself, and utterly devoted father. His daughter Charlotte (Charlie), a self-deprecating 23 year old who is aware that she’s pampered, over-protected and unprepared to do anything besides marrying a member of her elite social class. Raul Francesco, the flirtatious young lawyer, Cuban expatriate, who enjoys teasing Charlie, when he’s not helping her deal with the fallout of her father’s devastating suicide. But I also provide the supporting characters unique and memorable personalities. I don’t want to ruin the surprises that I’ve worked to hard to include by identifying and describing them. Readers will discover them for themselves.

Q. Now, a fun question. Tell us 10 things about yourself that fans might find interesting or surprising?
A 1. I make jewelry but refuse to sell it. I like what I make too much to part with it. (Occasionally, I give a piece to a very good friend.)

A 2. I enjoy watching documentaries.

A 3. I don’t need a time machine, black hole or a crack in the universe to step back in time. A visit to any museum, historic mansion, or dig site that has art or artifacts from the past will transport me. When I can’t get to one of the above, and I desperately need a break from the frantic Age of Instant Access, an antique store will do.

A 4. I’m impossibly impatient. For example, besides the news, I record all TV programs I want to see so that I can condense a 60 minute episode into 30. (Which does not disturb my husband whose tastes differ from mine, and who does his viewing in another room. Having things in common in marriage is highly overrated.)

A 5. I’m fascinated by all facets of crime, criminals and deviant behavior.

A 6. I’m a volunteer tutor at an after school program for disadvantaged kids.

A 7. I love watching lightning and listening to thunder but only when I’m safe and dry.

A 8. I’m equally parts left and right brained, a condition I share with the late Oliva Goldsmith, author of First Wives Club. When I worked at IBM it troubled me not to be primarily left brained, like most of my geek colleagues. Goldsmith’s must-read primer for novelists, The Bestseller, assured me that the condition was ideal for writing fiction. The creative right side provides the original characters and plot, while the practical left side organizes, evaluates and bullies the right side into endless editing.

A 9. I grow orchids in front of my house and cactus inside. Many varieties of cactus, with their asymmetrical shapes and twisted limbs, resemble modern sculpture.

A 10. As a kid, I was so impressed that my mother could whistle through her fingers that I practiced and practiced until I could do it. My daughter is the 3rd generation of women in our family that accomplish this awesome feat. Sad to say, to date, her daughter shows no interest in maintaining the family tradition.

Q. This is your chance to speak directly to readers who haven’t discovered your books. What would you like to say to them?
A. I give my readers the respect they deserve. I see them as intelligent discerning people. That’s why I avoid clichés: phrases, characters and plots. My readers are going to be entertained, transported for a time from the ordinary and maybe even learn a thing or two. My goal is to give them their money’s worth.

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 and antiques, taught ballroom dancing, tutored, modeled, designed software and managed projects for IBM and returned to college several 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. . . Clearly, this author has, and wishes to share with her readers, what the French call joie de vivre – not simply the joy of life – but an all-encompassing appreciation for every facet of life.”

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