Good morning! Happy Sunday! Today we have another wonderful interview of a talented author, Chele Pedersen Smith. She has quite the writing journey, great determination, and an inspiring aura about her! If you are interested in reading her books, the links will be below the interview! If you want to contact her or find out more about Chele Pedersen Smith or her upcoming books, she can be followed at Facebook and Amazon.
Are you an indie author or a traditionally published author?
I’m an indie author so I wear all the hats–except for covers. I have a fab guy for that named Steven Novak. Also, my reader friend Lisa designed the diary cover for “Chronicle of the Century.” Along the way, I met other authors and reader friends who have given me tips. It really takes a group effort to support and promote each other. It’s a nice comradery.
Tell me a little about your writing journey, thus far.
I’ve been writing since sixth grade where my friend Debby and I won a school hobby contest with our “books.” In eighth grade, I created a teen mystery series for fun. It centered on Sherri who had a great knack for things working out for her and her best friend Anna, who had my ironic luck. Back then I’d grab a bundle of blank paper and staple them together to make a book. Since I grew up a Navy brat and we moved often, I think creating characters gave me comfort. They were there for me and when I made new friends, they loved to read my stories. It was my first taste of satisfaction as an “author.”
But I’ve had my share of rejections too, which I think is a crucial part of the journey. It makes us better writers. I didn’t always see it that way. The word “no,” hurts. It’s frustrating. In my early years, I’d get mad and want to give up. But over the years I figured this out. Once the sting subsides and maybe after a little ice cream, I take a deep breath and a fresh approach. I start whittling away to try to make my story the best it can be.
In my early twenties, I tried getting my first manuscript published—a collaboration of the Sherri series— with several YA publishers. Mostly the verdict arrived in a robotic form letter, some would give hints like “too short,” but Scholastic was the only one to give me detailed advice and two novels to read for examples. I read them. One was a contemporary (80s) Beauty and the Beast take on romance, I think called The Rose, or something like that. I really liked it. But by then life started happening with marriage and jobs and eventually dental assisting school so I set writing aside to tackle later. Around that time, I was also entering Redbook magazine’s short story contests and not winning.
Soon after, kids came along and I kept my writing sharpened with Christmas newsletters. Eventually, divorce, more jobs, another marriage, and golden retrievers entered my life. At this point, I was trying to get spiritual nonfiction pieces into a magazine and getting the “nopes.” (I racked up quite a collection and they became my second book, The Pearly Gates Phone Company.)
It wasn’t until six years ago that time allowed the muse to call me back into fiction. We moved to Massachusetts for my husband’s job and I left one where I was thriving. I didn’t look for work right away because I needed to make sure my eighth grader was adjusting to her first major move. And then we got a puppy. So, to balance the crazy, a story began circling my brain. I wasn’t sure if it would be a good idea to write since it’s based on real-life scandalous events, or if I should try to get it published, or if I even had the strength and patience to go through it again, but I thought, what the heck. At least it got me writing again.
While the story was far from done, I noticed a friend from high school posting about her best friend’s published book. At first I thought Deedee was kidding but apparently, Mary had been doing this for a while and had several books out successfully. As a fellow alumnus, she, Dee and I were on newspaper together senior year. This was the moment the green-eyed monster kicked me in the pants, reminding me this was what I was meant to do! It was also a game changer. I immediately contacted Mary and when my story was ready after many edits, M.P. McDonald helped me navigate the world of self-publishing.
Funny thing, the story that lured me back into writing was not the one I uploaded. I got emotionally stuck so I changed gears to start a flirty spy mystery— just for fun. I never intended to publish it. Plus, shortly after I started it, I decided to go back to college so it took me three and a half years to finish it. I’m still in school with one semester to go, but during breaks, I got really into writing the spy story and began seeing it as a real book. The whimsical title, Behind Frenemy Lines, came to me partway through. My daughter was having issues with a friend at school and I jokingly referred to her as a frenemy. And voila, it became my first published work. I do intend to finish the first one and thanks to taking creative writing classes, writing prompts gave me a new way to work through the stump. I also have a new direction for it and more fictional elements to add, but it will keep the original premise.
Do you write under a pseudonym? If so explain why.
Yes. I use my nickname for Michele (Chele, pronounced Shell) and my maiden name in two parts. There’s a legacy about my dad’s family name Smith having first been Pedersen, which went through two changes. I want to do a little digging and see if it’s true but in the meantime, I‘m glad to wear it as a pen name.
Having the slight pseudonym is for a little privacy but a lot more about reclaiming myself. It’s to recapture the girl I used to be in my young single days– the writer who took all the English electives in high school and wrote for the high school and college paper. In marriage and love, it’s easy to lose your identity. We need to stay true to our inner selves and be our own “before anyone else.”
What genre do you write and why?
I don’t seem to be able to stick to one genre. Since I’m a sucker for swooning and wooing, my favorite is contemporary romance and romantic comedy but I have spiritual nonfiction and ideas for some light spiritual fiction as well. Anything can make me suspicious so my imagination likes to add mystery, even to the romances and it’s also why I like speculative fiction too. I think it’s intriguing when an ordinary day has a strange twist. My third book is an eclectic collection of eight tales warping time called The Epochracy Files. Each story is very different— from its premise, length and time period. (One of the pieces, Parlor Game, is from the 80s Redbook contest.) The stories vary from flash fiction, micro, short stories and even the YA novella, Chronicle of the Century, which is both standalone and part of the collection. None of the stories are too fantasy/science-fictiony, either. I love humor so I always have a little of it going on no matter what I write.
What are you currently working on?
I have a snappy rom-com about a unique way of meeting someone. I love the old Hollywood term, “meet-cute” so I like to come up with interesting ways for my characters to run into each other. I can’t give the title just yet because it would give it away, but I’m eager to return to it now that I have a holiday break.
I plan to revamp my Sherri series and I’ve also started other rom-coms and have the opening two chapters done for the Behind Frenemy Lines sequel, as well a Christmas-themed story in mind with the sexy secret agents so there will be more Lee and Gal.
What inspired you to write your books?
Real life or dreams usually sparks ideas for my books. Sometimes it’s something I experienced and it becomes the main story or its little snippets I use for details. Behind Frenemy Lines began playfully, just two spies hooking up. I wanted something light and mindless at first. But then I added in-depth back stories to their characters and developed a plot. They were spies needing something to keep them busy besides getting busy. (By the way, the story is a little edgier than a sweet romance. It’s not explicit but it does get a bit steamy.)
When I decided to write a spy story, I ran into a dilemma. I stink at politics. So the challenge was on. I came up with something presidential and fun and readers are enjoying the surprise.
I mentioned earlier how my characters are important to me. Galaxy began in high school journalism for a TV script in 1981. When I needed a female lead, she came to mind. It was fun digging out the old assignment and refashioning her in 2014 as a leading lady. She may be a protagonist, but she has mystique and some trust issues and the feeling is mutual from her work partner, Lee. Despite their attraction, they have a case to solve and trust to resolve. I like Aristotle’s and Shakespeare’s view of players portraying traits that are both good and bad. We’re human and I think we all possess both sides as well.
The more I worked with Lee, the more he turned into a hunky “perfect” book boyfriend, but without being too perfect. How I got his full name is classified but if you put it together, it’s probably not hard to figure out where it came from.
I like to cross my characters over from short stories into the novels. You may recognize someone in the 1930s spy tale, Time Hop featured in the time-twisting collection who is also mentioned in Behind Frenemy Lines and will have more of a role in the sequel.
When I needed inspiration for a sensory image in BFL, I used a childhood memory from navy housing. Firemen used to burn down the old barracks for fire training and the stale, crispy smell still haunts me today.
The anecdotal blessings in Pearly Gates started when my dad called from Heaven. It was such a freaky, wonderful incident, I knew I had to write about it. I wrote it all down shortly after it happened in 2002, but it went through several rewrites. I condensed it and made it livelier. I conjured other amazing coincidences too, those small moments of awe coming from someplace bigger than ourselves. Most are my experiences but friends and family told me their stories so I wrote them too.
What first inspired me to write in the first place was loving to read, my fourth-grade teacher reading Beverly Cleary to us after lunch, and being fascinated with school book fairs and libraries. Judy Blume and Ms. Cleary’s realistic fiction influenced my writing style. My mom had Erma Bombeck books lying around so in junior high I read them too. Her way with humor seeped in.
What are your top 5 favorite books?
Summer Sisters by Judy Blume
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling
Skipping Christmas by John Grisham
Forever and a Nightby Lana Campbell
The Law of Tall Girlsby Joanne MacGregor. I just finished it and loved it!
What does literary success look like to you?
The most successful sign is having readers who enjoy my work and I do have a few in my Facebook group. I write because I enjoy it but being read is the most validating feeling. At the end of the day, we want other people to read our labor of love, the carefully chosen wordplay of describing things just so, to fall for our characters as if they’re real because they are real to us. When that happens, I am over the moon. It means my imagination is valued and having my head in the clouds is all worth it.
Ideally, success would also mean steady sales and making a living writing my novels but even when I was twenty, I knew I probably needed a day job. It’s a slow journey. I don’t expect to get rich. But no matter what, I am living my dream.
How many hours a day do you write? What is your writing routine?
I’m not very organized and since my writing time has been limited to semester breaks, I’m not good at setting strict hours. Whenever I have free time or a pressing urge to jot details or ideas down, I run to the laptop, journal or at least a scrap of paper. A lot of Eureka moments happen in the shower so it’s a mad scramble before I forget. I have so many ideas on the back of envelopes crammed into my journal. One day, while I was out on an errand, an envelope escaped and was scattered on top of the pile. My daughter woke up and became a little alarmed because the “note” I left didn’t make sense. Luckily it went to a romantic comedy. It’s a good thing I don’t write murder mysteries.
My favorite time to write is the quiet mornings when my husband is at work. I feel freer, relaxed and not interrupted. I put on favorite tunes, and I’m happy with a cup of coffee and when difficult parts require more thought– writing chocolate! Sometimes I have clear ideas where I want the story to go and other times my fingers are flying off without much of plan. The characters have an uncanny way of taking over.
I don’t measure my writing goals in word counts. I feel too boxed in. I only use them to gauge category length. If I’ve crafted a great scene, dialogue, or maneuvered a tricky plot, I feel victorious. I still remember the feeling of conquering all three of those things in the toying and mysterious ballroom scene in Behind Frenemy Lines. A lot happens in one setting. My husband was replacing our kitchen faucet at the time so even now when I use it, it releases the warm memory of writing chapter sixteen.
After the satisfying glee of tying everything together, I walk through the story looking at it from all angles. I add more details and I look for plot holes. Since I didn’t know how BFL would play out, I realized a big reveal toward the end would have made Galaxy react differently to an earlier incident with Lee and would have served as a trigger so I changed her expression there as well as making her squirmier in other situations. I try to address anything weak and make sure to my best ability, everything in the story is plausible. Unless I add some impossible scenarios for the fun of a rom-com. And there are definitely a few of those.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it be and why?
I would so love to claim JK Rowling’s imaginative writing in Harry Potter! I marvel at the world she created and often wonder how she thought of all those things, even down to the little details like the fun candy.
I do have some similarities in my early work before I even read Harry Potter. Parlor Game from 1986 is a wizard/dragon fantasy that came from a dream and I have a mirror scene. It’s not exactly the same as hers, but when I re-read my work this summer, I was amazed and honored to have a teensy bit of like-mind with her.
What advice would you like to give to aspiring authors?
Write it all down! Dump it all out on paper, whether with pen or computer. You can rearrange it all later. Just get it down. And then keep reading your favorite authors as a technical guide. Study their work to see how they use grammar, dialogue breaks and such. A different line for each character to speak is crucial. Use dialogue tags sparingly.
My older second-cousin was a test reader and gave me valuable adverb advice. “If I see another ruefully, nervously, or wryly I’m going to scream.”
He was a riot, but he was right. Too many bog down a sentence. In creative writing, we were taught to show what the character is doing and feeling by describing it instead. Last semester, my journalism professor taught us the word “that” is rarely needed, so eliminate it whenever possible. It frees up our writing and makes it sound less mechanical. Those are a must to know. But aside from the technical stuff, there are no rules creatively. Write your own style. Use real-life happenings in a fictional and imaginable way. Keep your eye out for any ordinary thing that might be used suspiciously or make a great story.
****Chele Pedersen Smith’s Books and links!****
She’s a complicated agent harboring secrets and an arsenal he never expects; he’s a surveillance specialist suppressing skeletons and sly moves of his own. Thrown together to solve a string of threats, it’s not long before they’re smitten. But then a quandary presents itself. Should they kiss or wring each other’s neck?
Twists, and turns but who to trust …and that’s just between them–nevermind the case and their most suspecting culprit, who’s about to careen a crazy corner and reveal a shocker no one ever sees coming.
A different side of rom-com. Winner of Best Espionage/Spies category in The Wild Dreams Publishing’s Indie Awards 2018.
In a world where history is taboo, the girls are soon immersed in a mystery, shedding light on a place they never expect–the groovy ’70s. Fascinated with a place where one could prank pizzas without caller ID blowing your cover, the girls bond with the writer, empathizing over the entries with laughter and angst.
Flit from a dangerous fantasy game in the 80s, to a strange side-effect of the ’20s, a bellhop’s secret operative in the 30s, present-day heeding of high society, an unusual earworm, lost loves* and phantom promises to jumping one-hundred years into the troubled future novella where two teens find a mysterious journal from the groovy 70s, revealing a time when one could prank pizzas without Caller ID blowing your cover. But does it hold a solution to their millennial problems?
*contains a story by guest author Michael R. Young