Interview with G. Ernest Smith by Porkchop Publishing
February 21, 2015
PP: So, what writing projects are you working on now?
Smith: I’m working on a Bone Ramsey novella called Bone River. In this story Ramsey and his crew find a woman abandoned on the bank of the St. Johns River. It features the Ramsey squad but focuses on Porkchop.
PP: Why Porkchop?
Smith: Because we don’t know much about him. In this encounter I humanize him and give him a love interest. My readers find out that although he is big and fierce, he also has feelings.
PP: At the end of Bone Hammer you implied that Bone and his crew might be working in the future for the FBI. Do they enter into this story?
Smith: Not a lot. No. But they will figure heavily into the next story, Bone Freeze.
PP: Next story? How far ahead do you work?
Smith: Well, while I’m writing a story, I’m usually thinking about and outlining the next story. In Bone Freeze, Ramsey will be on assignment for the FBI and much of the action will not take place in Florida.
PP: Really? Where will it be?
Smith: I don’t want to say any more because it’s still kind of fluid right now. But I thought a change of scenery would be something different for both the reader and Ramsey.
PP: But I thought both you and Ramsey are Florida boys.
Smith: Ramsey yes, but me? No. I’ve lived in Florida for quite a while, but I was born in Kentucky and grew up all over the U.S. because my dad was a career Marine. Later I joined the Navy and was sent all over the U.S. when I wasn’t at sea and then I became a technician with several aerospace companies and traveled some more. The upshot of all this is I’ve traveled to or worked in forty eight states.
PP: Forty eight states? Which two have you missed?
Smith: North Dakota and Hawaii. But maybe someday.
PP: What have you been reading?
Smith: A lot of stuff. Let’s see. I just finished The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. What a great book! A very dark look into a woman’s mind. The whole thing is told in the first person, but from different character’s viewpoints. Kind of a disjointed patchwork of testimony and observations but it all comes together brilliantly at the end. I’ve also finished G.M. Ford’s Leo Waterman series. What a writer he is! I’ve recently read Stephen King’s collection Everything’s Eventual. He just seems to be getting better and better. His characters are so real, you can hear them breathe. I’ve started Die Again by Tess Gerritsen. I’m looking forward to that one.
PP: Are you like your detective, Bone Ramsey? Do you remember everything you read?
Smith: I am like him in that I remember strange things that don’t quite seem logical. For instance, the U.S. treasury prints tons of paper bills every year and sixty per cent of them go overseas. How can that be? Or, did you know that hungry shoppers buy more things. I’m not talking about food. Things like stereos, phones, tires, everything. Now why is that? I remember those kinds of things. Bone Ramsey is the same way. He can call up odd, seemingly useless, bits of information whenever he wants.
PP: What do you do besides read?
Smith: Lately, I’ve been spending quiet evenings at home knitting by the fire.
PP: Knitting by the fire? In Florida?
Smith: Well, it sounds more quaint than drinking beer in front of the TV.
PP: Seriously, how do you spend your time?
Smith: Going to WalMart mostly. Sometimes I think I live there. Ha! Ha! They seem to have everything. Even when I don’t need anything, I’ll sometimes go and just hang out. Once they were having an employee meeting very early in the morning and I decided to crash it. I felt entitled somehow because I was such a good customer. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was disappointingly boring. Pretty much like any employee meeting at any big company. You know. Don’t forget to sign up for the new health plan. We need volunteers for the picnic. yada yada yada.
PP: Did it make you yearn for a nine to five job?
Smith: No, I remember what it’s like to do real work. I’d rather be a shiftless layabout. Or a writer, same thing. But seriously, I’ve been trying to get my boat back on the water. As you may have heard, my Catalina was struck by lightning last July and I’ve been working on it off and on since then. After replacing batteries and some switches and harnesses, we finally got the engine started, but the alternator caught fire. So, right now we’re trying to find an alternator for it. I’ll eventually get it running again, but it’s a lot of work.
PP: Maybe you can find one at WalMart.
Smith: Ha! I wish.
PP: What’s Mary working on right now?
Smith: She’s doing a book on Abraham Lincoln. We’re going on a research trip to Springfield, Illinois in April just so she can see the land of Lincoln.
PP: And how’s her new book doing, The War Against Polio?
Smith: It’s doing pretty well. She recently was invited to speak and do a book signing at the Post Polio Support group in Cocoa Beach. She was a little nervous about doing it. She’d much rather write than talk, but it went pretty well, I thought.
PP: How’s your daughter Mona?
Smith: She’s doing well. She thinks she has the cancer beat, but she’s recovering from the course of chemo she went through last year out in California. That really beat her up. She had a terrible year going through all that. And the year before, my son Brandon while in West Hollywood was shot in the head by his girl friend’s jealous ex, but he seems to have recovered from that too. What can I say? My kids can take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’, but they’re going to carry scars for the rest of their lives.
PP: Do they get their toughness from you?
Smith: Ha! I don’t think so. I don’t think I could survive all that stuff. After all, I’m not Bone Ramsey.
PP: But I thought you were a tough biker.
Smith: A biker, yes. Tough? I was born to be mild. But I still have my Harley softtail and the trike, and I ride them both when the weather is good.
PP: At the same time?
Smith: Ha! Not at the same time. No.
PP: Well, thank you for your time. When will Bone River be out?
Smith: Sometime in the early spring.
PP: We’ll look for it.
Interview with G. Ernest Smith on Smashwords
What do you read for pleasure?
I read G. Ernest Smith. He’s brilliant! Did that sound too self-serving? Too shameless? No, really, I read a lot of stuff, history, science, but I read thrillers mostly. Names like David Baldacci, Tess Gerritsen, Lee Child, Jonathan Kellerman, Randy Wayne White, Tom Lowe, John Sandford. Once in a while, I take a break from thrillers and delve into some quality science fiction and fantasy with John Scalzi, Joe Haldeman, Elizabeth Moon, Lois McMaster Bujold.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I spill a bowl of alphabet soup over a snow globe. If I squint, I can make out words.
That sounded a lot funnier when it was still in my head.
Actually, I use a Kindle Paperwhite but I also have Kindle and Nook apps on my Android tablet phone.
Why do you write?
I’m a masochist, I guess. But seriously, there is tremendous reward in story telling. I feel a primal connection with all those who have come before me and struggled to craft thoughts with words. William Shakespeare, Herman Melville, Robert Heinlein, Tom Clancy. These people are all story tellers of the first magnitude. I fade to insignificance in their creative light, but to even be in the same profession is an honor to me. And the reward of seeing my words in glorious typeface and bound in a glossy cover is immeasurable. To me this beats any other measure of success.
My characters and plot twists spring from my mind onto the written page and are given life. If someone is entertained by my musings and mention it to me, that’s all the reinforcement I need to write more. My fan base is small but very supportive.
What are you working on next?
A submarine epic. I got this idea from an account of Sir Francis Drake I read. I briefly wondered how he would have reacted to seeing a modern nuclear attack submarine.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
I like to arrange and catalog my collection of tiny motel shampoos. Just kidding! I have two motorcycles and a 34 foot Catalina. I’m a private pilot although I’m currently without an airplane. I sold my Cessna 172 last year, and it has a new home now in South Carolina.My wife and I enjoy eating stuff we shouldn’t, going to the movies and traveling. She’s also a writer and gives me tremendous support.
Where do you get your ideas?
A lot of what if’s. I got the idea for Assassin Awaken after reading an article about the bloody rituals practiced by the ancient Aztecs. I thought, what if an Aztec warrior was set loose in modern day Tampa, Florida. How would he survive? What would he think of what he saw? Could he make the adjustments needed to fit in?I got my idea for Look Down after reading about the Navy’s magnificent airships of the 1930’s, the Akron and the Macon. I thought, what if they were reborn and updated with advanced weapon systems and performing important military support missions from space.The idea for Bone Maze came to me after I heard a story about my grandfather being attacked by a rabid fox in Ohio. It came up onto his tractor after him like a cruise missile, and locked its jaws onto his ankle. It scared the piss out of him, and he had to get a series of inoculations for rabies. I could imagine how frightening that must have been. I thought, what if someone could actually direct animals to attack people and not just anyone, but specific targets.
Are there any traps to avoid when writing creatively?
Sure. All of them! But really, I’ve never had writer’s block, if there is such a thing, but when I was writing articles for a flying magazine, Florida Touch and Go, I used to get locked into a rewrite loop. I would write a piece and then say, “I can do better.” I would rewrite it and rewrite it and rewrite it. I couldn’t stop. It was an obsession. I finally developed some discipline in this matter, and today I write it once and rewrite two times. If I can’t say it in three tries, I just can’t say it. Move on.I also used to get bogged down in expository prose and description. I could bludgeon a story to death with too many words. I think I’ve finally conquered that devil. I streamline my stories so the action moves pretty fast and the reader stays interested. I think it was Elmore Leonard who said, “Leave out the parts readers tend to skip.” Good advice!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten when it comes to writing?
When I was a young man I had the good fortune to talk to one of the greats, Ray Bradbury. He was doing a series of lectures on the west coast and I caught up to him in Santa Maria at Allan Hancock College. He told in his lecture of the writing life and what it had given him. He did the screen play for Moby Dick, starring Gregory Peck, and had traveled extensively although he never flew. His greatest book is generally considered to be Fahrenheit 451. It won many awards, but what blew my mind was that he wrote the whole thing in about 8 days! He was on fire, he said. He was totally obsessed with writing it. He locked himself in his room and just wrote and wrote and wrote until it was finished. His wife understood the creative process quite well and knew what was going on. She just brought him food and coffee and stayed out of his way. Not all of his books came as easily, however. When I got to speak to him, I told him I was a writer too although I was new at it. He asked if I had a target audience or if I was writing primarily for my own entertainment. I was perplexed by this question. I said, I’m writing for myself although I would like to sell what I write. He said, “Good, you’re on the right track. You have to write what you would like to read. If you can do that, you’ll find others who’ll like it too.”I’ve always tried to do this. Write things I would like to read myself. Which means thriller genre mostly.
What other occupations have you had, and how did this influence your writing?
I’ve been forged out of the workaday existence of the middle class, and I know how the average man feels, what is important to him, for what he strives. I’ve been a Navy technician, a disk jockey, a computer programmer, a math teacher at the community college and a member of the Space Shuttle launch team. Now, I’m retired, but I still have a strong work ethic, and I treat writing like a job. I write something everyday. Sometimes it’s not very good and I have to throw it away later, but I still force myself to do it.
Why do you say a good story should make you either laugh, cry or pee your pants?
Ha! Well, that”s just my way of saying a story should grab you. I try to read and write stories that do all three of those things. But keep in mind I have a weak bladder.
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