A Visit with Nancy Raven Smith

LandSharks-200x314Hi Cindy. Thank you for inviting me to visit your wonderful blog. It’s always a pleasure to chat about writing.

How did you get started writing?

I was always a voracious reader, but I backed into writing accidentally.  I was working on film and television projects as a production coordinator. Unless you’re on a series, all below the line employees on film and television projects work a limited number of months and then those jobs end.  The employees then move on to new jobs on other projects.  So looking for the next job is a constant activity. In an effort to add a new skill, I took a class at UCLA on analyzing screenplays. Producers, actors, and directors often have their assistants read submitted material first, to see if it’s worth their time. I fell in love with writing during that class and went back to school to study writing at UCLA.

What genre(s) do you write in and why?

I write mysteries with humor and romance because that’s what I love to read. Think Elizabeth Peters Vicky Bliss series, Dorothy Gilman, or Janet Evanovich.

Traditional mysteries are in both my nurture and my nature. My father was a successful American WWII code breaker. He was a lover of Perry Mason, and Nero Wolfe. Their books and Ellery Queen magazines filled our family bookshelves. I followed in his reading footsteps and came to appreciate mysteries. My mother always enjoyed complicated jigsaw puzzles with intricate pictures on them. For me, writing mysteries is like creating a puzzle and then scattering the pieces throughout the story for the reader to have the fun of putting it back together.

What inspired your latest book?

A few years ago, I researched identity theft for a screenplay. It was a time when few people were aware of it. Since then I’ve been sensitive to the problems it can cause and the personal ramifications that identity theft can have on its victims. That led me to a general interest in fraud. As the target of fraud is to acquire money, power, or goods that can be cashed in, I thought who is more likely to be involved with it than a bank fraud investigator? That’s how my fictional protagonist, Lexi Winslow, acquired her career. From there, I conssidered where do the wealthiest people live who are most likely to be targeted. New York, Miami, and Beverly Hills came to mind. I knew Beverly Hills the best and chose it as Lexi’s workplace location. The fraud I used as the basis for this story is a more personal one that’s harder to diagnose than identity theft.

What is your least favorite part of writing?

The time necessary to concentrate on marketing. Although the part I do love about marketing is meeting other authors and people who love reading.

What is your next project and when will it be released?

My next project is as an advisor on my husband’s new book, The Reluctant Farmer of Whimsey Hill. It’s his memoir of our early married life. He was a robotics engineer for the US Navy and I convinced him to move to a rural farm in Virginia which I promptly filled with 26 rescue horses, 12 cats, 10 dogs, and a cow, plus two suburban teenagers. There were many more animals in total, but that’s the most we had at any one time. As an animal phobic person, you can imagine how crazy the animal environment was for him. We expect the book to be out by July, 2016.

What advice do you have for other authors wanting to self-publish?

My advice would be to thoroughly investigate the advantages and disadvantages of both self and traditional publishing before making a choice.

Do you have critique partners?

I have a reading circle of friends. They’re my beta readers and are composed of about 50/50 trained writers and readers. We don’t have meetings or anything like that, but when any of us wants feedback, we’ll send our manuscript to about half of the group. We save the other half for reading the revised version.

Was your road to publication fraught with peril or a walk in the park?

My road to publication was like a three legged race at a company barbeque picnic. Totally crazy. After I had finished the first draft of Land Sharks, I was reading articles by author and Sisters In Crime Guppy President, James M Jackson. He was writing about being an Amazon/Kindle Scout Program Winner for his book, Ant Farm. Since I was a debut author and I had recently decided to part ways with my agent from another project, I thought why not? I researched it quickly, submitted my book, and was accepted into the program. That was immediately followed by a month of intense campaigning  for votes/nominations. I was thrilled and surprised when Land Sharks was selected for ebook publication by Kindle Press. Next was submission of the final manuscript, a flurry of contract signings, bank account details, sending a new bio and book description for Kindle’s approval, etc. Once Kindle approved the final manuscript, they sent it off to Kirkus Editing.  When the notes came back in two and a half weeks, I did another polish. Kindle Press only takes the ebook and audio book versions. The author retains all other rights. So at the same time, I was preparing the paperback version with CreateSpace to publish simultaneously with the ebook version.  Did I mention this was during Thanksgiving and Christmas? My book was chosen in the first week of November and published on December 22nd.

Thank goodness for my partner in the three –legged race – my husband, who had my back through all of it.

Give us an elevator pitch for your book.

A bank fraud investigator goes undercover in Sumatra to find a young woman who may or may not be kidnapped. Her job might be easier if she didn’t have to deal with her boss’s untrained son who has a crush on her and the unexpected appearance of an ex-boyfriend who’s a conman and has his own secret agenda.


Land Sharks Excerpt –

She sketches as she talks and one of the orphan orangutans comes to life on her pad.

She really is good. When I say so, she looks embarrassed.

“Thank you, but most of my classmates at school are better.”

Having seen her work, I doubt it. She either doesn’t realize how good she is or she’s being modest. Wait. Neither of those would describe my conception of Karista as a rich snob.

In fact, she appears shy. Darn. It looks like I’m going to have to change my opinion of her. First Andre, then Steve, and now Karista. One would almost think that I’m a bad judge of character. The distressing evidence continues mounting up to prove it.

“We should join the others,” Javier says to Karista.

She doesn’t raise her head from her drawing. “You go ahead, honey. I’ll be along in a minute.”

“It’s okay. I’ll wait with you.”

She gives him a sweet smile, but doesn’t stop sketching.

I know a stalemate when I see one. I’ll have to try to get her alone another time.

I excuse myself and head back to the group, which is clustered near the edge of the ravine. I stand between Steve and Grace and look down the deep cliff at the river.

Two young Sumatran elephants are playing in the water below. Steve and others take pictures with their zoom lenses. There’s lots of jostling in the group for better angles and movement to get a better view.

Suddenly, Grace screams as she erupts forward from the group and toward the ravine’s edge. I manage to grab her arm as she goes by, but her impetus swings her body over the edge and lands me facedown, still hanging on to her. I can’t manage her weight for long. Nor do I have the strength to pull her up by myself.

Rocks and dirt shower down the sheer wall. I try to dig my toes into the ground to stop myself as I’m drawn inexorably closer and closer to the edge, but the ground is too soft to get a good purchase. Still, there’s no way I’m letting Grace go.

Abruptly, Grace’s weight stops dragging me past the cliff edge. Looking down, I can barely make out a tiny outcropping that Grace’s toes rest on. Thank goodness for that.

“Help,” I call out. “Help!” The dirt under Grace is crumbling. Another second and we could both plunge to our deaths.

People are moving away in shock, but not closer to help. Then a hand passes me and locks onto Grace’s arm next to mine.

“Swing your other arm up, Grace,” Steve says from beside me. She manages to raise it and he grabs her hand.

book pics 2 102715 053tightBio

Nancy Raven Smith grew up in Virginia where she ran horse sport events. Later in California, she traded her event experience for film work as a production coordinator and enrolled at UCLA to study screenwriting. Her scripts have won numerous awards, but she decided to write one idea as a novel. To her surprise, she discovered a passion for writing mysteries. She joined Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America, & Mystery Writers of America. There she experienced a deep camaraderie with the other authors who made her feel welcome. Raven Smith realized that she found her true creative home in writing mysteries/romantic suspense. Land SharksA Swindle in Sumatra is her first mystery/romantic suspense novel. She hopes people will enjoy reading it as much as she did writing it.

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