Interview with E Lee Smith

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I remember it was a short poem I wrote when I was about seven or eight years old and it was about the gravel in my grandparents' driveway. I loved going to visit them and often, laying on the back seat of our car, I would listen for the sound of our tires on gravel. They had a long gravel drive and I was convinced I could tell the sound of their gravel from any other. I wrote a poem about the sound and the joy of visiting them. When my grandmother read it she was really happy about it... and proud, I think.
How do you approach cover design?
On Shadowhorn: Age of the Revenant I designed and painted my own cover. But that's not quite correct. I was pondering and debating with myself over what I should put on the cover. My youngest daughter had already told me she really liked the title of the book, so I asked her what image the title brought to mind for her. She hadn't read the story yet so she thought for a moment and said, "If there is really any kind of horn in this book, then you should put one on the cover." I felt that was good but incomplete so she and I discussed it - I voted for the shotgun- and the design was set. Then it was up to me to execute it.
Describe your desk
I have two desks, three drafting tables and our dining room table that I use as work spaces. All of them look like bombs went off on them. It's like that old saying, 'Don't clean that up or I'll never find anything!' Truthfully when I do straighten an area up, I often misplace stuff. The stacks of drawings, notes and reference materials look like chaos, but I seem to know where a thing is when I want to lay my hands on it. I'm sure it's some kind of madness by which I 'm afflicted. The dining table has to be dealt with soon. It's where I completed the writing and formatting of Shadowhorn and I'm not going to get away with the mess I made in there much longer. My wife is supportive but that is where we have family meals when everyone comes in for holidays.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The quick answer? Being finished. But really, whether it's drawing, painting or writing, I think there is a great comfort and excitement in getting to that place where creation just flows through you. I don't know how it works for anyone else, but if I can focus and block out the tedious bits of survival eating at me; immerse myself completely, sometimes a wave of prose, poetry and passion just rolls to a crest and there's no holding it back; events unfold, characters live and breath and speak with words I don't even know are coming, and the story is revealed to me as much as it is to any reader. That's probably the greatest joy.
That sounds exciting, but rather mystical, don't you think?
Sometimes it feels like magic. Sometimes I don't know exactly where the thoughts come from in the moment. And I'm not claiming to be a writing genius or anything. Just describing the most joyous part of it for me.
Many students of writing study to craft a story. Should they even bother without this type of inspiration?
Of course they should. I said I don't know where a thought comes from in the moment, but I'll guarantee you it is fueled by countless hours of contemplation, research, studying other artists work and living a full life of experiences. All of these things come together as a foundation upon which true creation can dance. They are the underpinning for the humming machine to run on. Study,study and study more. When the time is right you feel that second wind kick in. It doesn't happen without a lot of preparation.
So, who are some of your favorite authors?
I don't try to label favorites, but I probably was influenced by several. I would say I'm probably most impressed by J. R. R. Tolkien. His devotion to his story (and I consider them all one) and his world building prowess were phenomenal. I'm certain he impacted many new authors, and fiction in general after he was published. Other influences were Aldous Huxley with Brave New World, Mark Twain, Herman Melville for Moby-Dick, Dune's Frank Herbert and Braum Stoker for Count Dracula of course. Though sometimes I wasn't thrilled with the outcome of the story, I feel each of these authors spoke with a unique voice, many times exploring where others had not dared to go. It's just my opinion.

I count some theatre as influences; Lion in Winter by William Inge, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams and The Crucible by Arthur Miller are a few and musicals like Camelot, Phantom of the Opera and Pirates of Pinzance. Of course as a youngster I liked the Hardy Boys mysteries and comic books. Superman was a role model for me and I liked Batman, Fantastic Four and Spiderman. I also dug Thor.
Any other influences you can think of?
Plenty, but those are some of the major ones I think. I mean, if you have the mind-set, everything around you influences you. Movies, plays, music, a billboard on the highway. I sometimes play video games and truthfully tell my wife that it is research. Everything goes into the mix, stirs around and combines. If I'm lucky I get a cake.

My wife, Lisa, and my children inspire me. Lisa is in a very responsible and taxing position at her job, yet she keeps us on track here all the time. The Lady has stuck with me through all the nonsense that exudes from a person like me. She has supported me and helped me in many, many endeavors; some successful - some not so successful, some downright failures. She is an angel with as sweet a heart as you'll ever find and she's intelligent, bright, funny and caring. Lisa's a 'take care of you' kind of woman, not just to me but to every one of our children also. I would be a total wreck without her. I can't keep up with anything going on around me. She edited Shadowhorn by the way. She didn't look at it until I completed the writing and I was very anxious when she said she'd read it. You know you want to make your spouse proud, or at least not disappointed, with what you do. I was thrilled by the time she finished reading because she actually liked the book and it's not normally the genre she would pick up from the shelf. Then she spent all this time editing the thing. All this time just to help me do a better job, without asking a thing in return. That's a wonderful partner.
What is your writing process?
That's difficult to answer. Because I don't have a discipline about it. Something is working all the time in my mind and my subconscious. It's like I feed this internal beast continuously and when enough food, or the right kind of food has been shoved in there, the beast will cough out a calf. Again, I don't think this happens without study and observation and experiences; those are just one part of the nutrition the beast needs. Really its like many, many pieces float around in there, bumping into each other, colliding, bouncing around, attaching themselves to each other until several of them make something whole. That's the story. Then it's a matter of sitting down and gutting through the work of putting that story to paper. When I'm doing that part I write at every chance I get, I sneak extra time to write when I should be doing other things, and when I can't write I feel like an athlete out of training. When I can't physically write because of life commitments I'm thinking about the story and writing in my head a lot.
What are you working on next?
Probably another novel, maybe a graphic novel. I want to create a graphic novel as a sole venture, but the time needed to write, draw, letter, ink and paint all of those pages is staggering. I could probably complete two novels in the time it will take me to finish one graphic novel. What I work on next will come to me once I resolve any issues on Shadowhorn. I also have a dining room to straighten out.
Anything else you would have people know?
Let's see... I'm a regular guy who thinks a lot. I love my wife, adore my kids, enjoy playing poker, cherish my truck, and hate cleaning the pool. I like seeing rolling hills, trees, pastures and livestock. I love my mother, brothers and sister. I watch movies, go to the theatre when I can, and read as time allows. My wife claims I'm a hermit but I just go off into my cave when she says that.
Published 2017-05-11.
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Books by This Author

Shadowhorn: Age of the Revenant
Price: $7.99 USD. Words: 116,490. Language: English. Published: May 7, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Supernatural
(4.00 from 1 review)
In the gloomy aftermath of man's reign on earth, with ravenous creatures roaming the night and humans on the brink of extinction, there arose a lone bloodline to stand against the darkness; a forgotten clan defending the remnants of civilization; one family who, in order to preserve humanity, must fight as if they had none... Shadowhorn: Age of the Revenant.