Off the Shelf


Leslee Ballard:  When it comes to debut author and friend, Lucie Smoker I am 100% biased (my favorite part of her book is seeing my name in the first paragraph of the dedication) so instead of my usual review I offer instead a peek into a recent Monday morning coffee visit.

Lucie Smoker:   Leslee, Thanks for having me. I love reading “Off the Shelf” and am honored to visit your cyber space.

Leslee Ballard:  The honor is all mine, my friend. Ok, let’s get started before my coffee gets cold. What is the title of your book?

Lucie Smoker: Distortion

Leslee Ballard:  In 100 words or less, describe your book.

Lucie Smoker:  It’s a Houston crime novel about an artist, Adele Proust, who paints a crime scene in reverse perspective and turns a murder investigation backwards—onto her friends.  To clear them, she introduces undercover feds into her art-punk community.  She betrays its secrets.  Setting becomes character as a bohemian community stands up to government intrusion, then faces gentrification.

Adele Proust distorts the traditional noir “bombshell” motif—she’s decidedly not stupid, evil nor blonde.  A real woman, she’s over the abuse of her past and ready to go after her art dreams while ignoring the attention men place on her chest.

Leslee Ballard:  Impressively done, that was ninety-nine words, no you don’t get to edit your answer. I’ve seen you edit. What challenges did you face while writing?  distortion

Lucie Smoker:  The biggest challenge is always confidence.  It’s my first novel so I often questioned whether I could pull it off.  I was committed to creating “real” characters, not stereotypes.  And the setting was a challenge.  While the action of the story takes place in current time, the Houston setting time-warps back to the Montrose neighborhood of the 1980’s, rampant with drug violence, teen prostitution and gay bashings. I use a mixture of current, historic, and fictional locations to recreate the lawlessness that community experienced at that time.  To gain control, police barricaded its main thoroughfare and actually restricted entrance into the neighborhood for a while. It was a fascinating time that provides a unique view into the destruction of a community.

In the back of my mind I kept thinking, “You can’t recreate that place, you can’t…” I had to give myself permission to believe I could succeed.

Leslee Ballard:   From start to finish, how long did it take for you to write Distortion?

Lucie Smoker:  About a year for the first draft, but as Hemingway put it, “The first draft of anything is shit.”  Then I spent about a year revising, with the help of several beta-readers and a copy editor.  After signing with Buzz Books, we had another couple months of revisions.

Leslee Ballard:  I read most of that first draft and I didn’t think it was too bad. It was lots of fun to watch the book evolve from what it started out as to what it is today. What are you working on now?

Lucie Smoker:  3 things:  First, the sequel to Distortion.  I plan for three sequels because there’s a legendary association with 4-part mystery series.  Also, I’ve been invited to write a short story for the UK’s Crime City Central.  Just lately, Buzz Books Senior editor Malena Lott asked me to begin work on a series of shorts about the character Jack Thomas and his commando-style activism around the world.

Leslee Ballard:  Is this next project easier or harder to write?

Lucie Smoker:  Easier in some ways because I believe in myself now.  I’m more nervous though because there are expectations to meet. Can I do it again?  In technical ways, sequels are complex.  They have their own challenges as I tiptoe the line between new readers and those who came off reading the first one.

Leslee Ballard:   Any advice for writers?

Lucie Smoker:  Yes. Write every day.  No excuses, just write.  Don’t worry about whether it’s any good.  Give yourself permission to write a first draft that is crap.  Believe in yourself, research your details, learn the parameters of your genre, but in the beginning, just WRITE.

Leslee Ballard:  Ok, one last question, my coffee needs my attention. When and where can our readers pick up a copy of Distortion?

Lucie Smoker:  As of October 30, you can purchase it locally at Hastings Books or check it out from the Enid library, hopefully soon. I will be having a book signing at the Enid Hastings on November 3rd from 7-9 pm.  Plus it will be available as an e-book or paperback online.

Leslee Ballard:   Thank you, Lucie. It’s been great chatting with you today about your new book!