Interview with Rodney V. Smith

Describe your desk
Ugh. Do I really have to? Okay fine: it's a mess right now. I usually try to keep it clean, but when I get deep in a project it just keeps getting messier and messier. All it takes is one thing out of place like a toy where it shouldn't be, and before you know it everything is piled up. How the heck did these letters even get here anyway? They aren't even for me. Can we move on to the next question now? I have no idea how half of this stuff got here... (duct tape? really?)
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Barbados, and I was surrounded by books from as young as I can remember. My grandparents placed a lot of value in reading and everyone in the family was an avid reader, so there were books of all kinds all over the place. The ones I remember most were the encyclopedias though, back when they used to print these huge heavy books and they were always so fascinating. You could open to any page and read about some piece of history or some far off place you never heard of. Great place to grow up. The one thing that did have a huge effect though was picking up A Midsummer's Night Dream when I was around eight years old. That was the period when I'd just started reading absolutely everything I could get my hands on, and I do mean everything. I was already working my way through half of the children's section at the local library, and the adult section always looked so full of promise, but to my eight year old brain the books always looked so thick and imposing... so I hadn't committed to it yet. I was still curious. And then Shakespeare opened my eyes. This whole experience was just part of living in Barbados for me, just part of being me.

In Barbados there is a dialect which I never seemed to be able to master. I could copy it effectively for short bursts, but I never thought in it, especially with my mother insisting that I speak proper english and pronounce my words carefully. Enunciation was key. And in the written language, in all of the books I read, the language flowed and it was perfect. So I didn't grow up speaking the Barbadian dialect, I grew up speaking the language of books and that influenced everything.
When did you first start writing?
That's a tough one. I think it was around ten or eleven that I tried my first real story outside of school. My brother and I had these characters that we made up with our toys and I thought, hey how cool would it be if I wrote stories about these characters and showed them to my friends. The stories were absolutely ridiculous, anything I could dream up, any situation that I saw on television or in a movie that I thought was cool, I'd write my own version of it. I kept it up for a while, mainly writing in notepads, filling up whole school books that they gave us for writing. Once my dad showed up with a Smith-Corona typewriter, I fell in love and set out to write my first novel. It was glorious, filled with a lot of cussing and magic (I was 14 at the time, gimme a break) and so full of plotholes it wasn't funny. But I was writing and that was all that mattered. When we got our first computer and I had access to a word processing software, where there were no limits (just lots and lots of floppy discs) I just kept on writing and writing. There were a couple more attempts at novels, but when I discovered screenwriting, I adopted that as my primary mode of writing.
What's the story behind your latest book?
So You Might Be a Vampire is the character Bob coming to terms with the fact that he's a vampire and not a very good one. Its a deconstruction through Bob's eyes and thoughts about what it's really like to be a vampire in this world. What works, what doesn't work, how much it costs and the fact that you still have to hold down a day job. Imagine that. You get to be somewhat immortal, but there's nobody around handing you bags of cash, or an instruction manual. So we get to see Bob screw up a lot and just figure out if this is something he really wants to be.

This is actually an adaptation of a story I'd started as my second screenplay, and man did it suck. The main character was always named Bob, but the first time around, he was a wandering god. It was angsty and dark. When I came back to the story and decided that the main premise was still sound, I changed everything. I made Bob into a vampire and it just worked so much better. I was actually able to like the character this time around and see what his motivations were. But a lof of the framework had already been laid and a lot of it was good. So I wrote out some notes on the story... but something was still missing. The question of who Bob really was, and why? How did this world work?

I sat down to write the answers and this story is exactly that.
Who are your favorite authors?
Stephen King is always my number one. Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Anne Rice, JK Rowling. That's my official top list. Tolkien would be there except for the fact that while I love the stories, the reading of them was always so damn laborious, so the language never worked for me. With all of my favorite authors there, they always drew me into their worlds with their words and made me part of it and I love them for it.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Oh, I remember and it was terrible! My brother Ryan and I used to make up these games and elaborate stories with these different colored marbles that we had given names to. We didn't have any action figures, but we had legos and these marbles were actually the perfect size to fit in most of the vehicles we could build. So a lot of our play revolved around using these marbles as characters in different backgrounds. We had scenarios in space, on earth, on distinct planets, whatever we could think up and to us it was amazing the level of play we could achieve. Children's brains are weird. Anyway, I ended up illustrating these characters based on how we saw them in our heads and then one day I decided to take it one step further. I wanted to draw a comic book of these stories, but first, we needed a story. So I wrote it and then drew the comic for it. I can't remember what the story was about but it involved spaceships and military bases and a whole bunch of stuff that I had seen on television or the movies. Did I mention I was around 9 or 10 at the time? I should have because I think that alone explains the bizarre nature of everything I just said.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
That's a tricky one because I remember everything back to when I was around 3 years old and I was always reading. I really don't think Dick and Jane (See Spot Run! Run Spot Run!) had that much of an impact on me though. But when I was 8, I did get my hands on A Midsummer's Night Dream at my grandmother's house and that changed everything for me. There was something about the language, the flow, the beat and the rhythm of the words that appealed to me then. I didn't understand half of it at the time and some words were unfamiliar, but I just opened a dictionary until I found the word, or bugged someone until they explained it. There was a lot of curiosity that got woken up by that book, a whole world of words and new experiences, and then when it all came together, it was just an amazing story, one that I wished I had created. Now that was a book that inspired me and had an impact that still lasts today.
How do you approach cover design?
Theme. The main question of what is this story about and what should this image tell me about the story, how should it make me feel... those are the first questions I ask.
Published 2014-05-25.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.