1. How did you get started into writing?
I’ve always loved reading, and one day I read a published short story with a HUGE plot hole in it. I thought, “I could do better than that!” So I did. I wrote a short story – a brilliant work of utter genius, in my and my mother’s opinions – and sent it to the same magazine. The rejection letter arrived in something just short of the speed of light. And there began a very painful lesson, that writing well is a lot harder than it looks.
But as I wrote that first story, I discovered a passion for writing that I didn’t know I had possessed. I kept writing, and kept submitting, and kept falling deeper and deeper in love with the process of writing. And then finally I received a book contract – twenty years after that first rejection letter!
2. How has your life changed since becoming a published author?
Rather dramatically, actually. I did the one thing everyone says not to do – I quit my day job. But I only did that because my husband was nearing retirement age (he’s a bit older than I am!), and we had always planned that I would quit working when he retired so I would be free to travel with him. So now I am a full-time writer and a part-time traveler, and I’m thoroughly enjoying both endeavors!
3. Do you have a favorite character or write yourself in one of them? Any characters you don’t particularly like?
My favorite character is whichever one I’m writing at the moment. Seriously. I fall in love with every character. In MURDER BY MUSHROOM, for instance, the heroine is an awkward, socially inept young woman who so desperately wants to be accepted by her peers. I just love Jackie! I do see a lot of myself in her, though she’s not totally me. She’s her own person, and very much alive in my mind.
And actually, I didn’t much like the victim, Alice Farmer, when I first started writing MURDER BY MUSHROOM. She was a gossipy old woman who stuck her nose into other people’s business. But I did feel sorry for the manner of her death. Mushroom poisoning is NOT a good way to die!
4. Reading this book made me hungry. Where did you get the idea for a deadly mushroom casserole?
I was having dinner next to an editor at a conference, and we were eating chicken with mushroom sauce. One of my friends, who is a mushroom hunter, had been telling me a few weeks before that she was called to the emergency room of the local hospital to help diagnose a case of wild mushroom poisoning. The two kind of clicked together, and I mixed those elements in with the idea for a murder mystery I’d considered writing several years before. Before the dinner was over, I had the murder pretty well ironed out. The motive and suspects and all that came later.
5. What’s your favorite dish to bring to a potluck? Are you a mushroom fan?
I absolutely love mushrooms, and I love church potlucks! I like to try different dishes, but I do have a few favorites. One is a Broccoli-Craisin Salad that is so yummy. And another is Jambalaya – with mushrooms, of course.
6. Alice Farmer seemed to be the type of stereotypical Christian that everyone loves to hate. Why do you think that some Christians act in spite instead of showing love?
I tend to think people react out of their own deep-seated feelings, unless they make a conscious effort not to. People who act spitefully may be harboring some deep pain that has never healed. In MURDER BY MUSHROOM I don’t go into the reasons why
That isn’t to say that everyone who has experienced bad things will treat others badly. But in my own life, I’ve had to make a conscious effort to ask God to help me forgive those who have hurt me so I can treat others with the grace that He has showed to me so abundantly.
I enjoy reading mysteries, especially funny ones. I love Sharon Dunn and Rene Gutteridge. I also like chick lit, of the type written by Tracy Bateman and Kristin Billerbeck. And I adore science fiction and fantasy – Sharon Hinck’s THE RESTORER is a breathtaking book, one I would recommend to anyone, even those who aren’t particularly fond of fantasy.
8. Will these characters show up again? What else are you working on now?
I have been a very busy lady lately. I have four books launching in the next eight months!
I’m not sure if we’ll encounter the characters from MURDER BY MUSHROOM again, though. I do have another mystery coming out in December. BLUEGRASS PERIL isn’t quite as “cozy,” but the heroine was originally one of the suspects in MURDER BY MUSHROOM. I changed her name in the next book, though, since it isn’t really a sequel. You’ll have to see if you recognize her!
I also have a 3-book series, the Sister-to-Sister Series, launching in February with book #1 - STUCK IN THE MIDDLE. That series isn’t a mystery series. It’s contemporary and humorous, but has a serious side as well. And just last week I signed the contract for the sequel to my first novel, JUST AS I AM. I don’t have a finalized title for that one yet, but it will be released in March.
People can read all about my upcoming books on my website – www.VirginiaSmith.org.
10. Any last words?
Just this – mushrooms ROCK! I love them! But stick to the kind you buy at the grocery store.
Thank you so much, Deborah! This was a fun interview!