Please welcome Nancy Raven Smith, author of Land Sharks.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
So many days are perfect, but if I had to choose a one, it would be a vacation day with my husband, daughters, and son-in-law. I’d like to think we’re on a beach on a warm day. We’d spend the day relaxing, enjoying the water and the sun, and use the day to share family news, plans, and Pina Coladas.
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?
Nothing that I’d call a signature, although my favorite perfume is Fleurs d’Orlane.
Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?
I’d need a book to list them all. So many great authors and so many great books. Here’s a few that I most enjoy and re-read frequently: Elizabeth Peters, Dick Francis, Dorothy Gilman, Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, John D. MacDonald, Michael Crichton, Sarah Paretsky, Sue Grafton, Arthur Conan Doyle, James Herriott, Mary Stewart, Suzanne Collins, and Cornell Woolrich.
Do you listen to music when you write?
I do listen to music, and I listen to movies when writing. My original training as a writer was as a screenwriter. While I wrote screenplays, I would play DVDs of good movies in the same genre as my project. I’d turn the volume low so the dialogue wasn’t particularly discernable, but I could hear the rhythm of the movie. Since I wrote comedies and thrillers, that helped me keep a sense of the pacing.
Now that I’m writing novels, playing music while I write helps block distractions and focus my energy. I do have eclectic tastes. Currently, the albums on my player include “Mozart/Eine Kleine Nachtmusik Overtures The Marriage of Figaro and The Magic Flute,” “John Denver’s Greatest Hits,” The Soundtrack for “Top Gun,” “The Very Best of Meatloaf,” “Big, Bad Voodoo Daddy,” “The Boston Pops Round-up,” and Billy Joel’s “An Innocent Man.” Other things frequently in the mix are Cajun/Zydeco music, Broadway scores, more Boston Pops, and Herb Alpert’s Whipped Cream.
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Land Sharks would be semi-sweet chocolate with mixed nuts. The mixed nuts are for the characters in the story and semi-sweet chocolate is for my protagonist’s romantic life.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I seem to be fascinated by frauds. Most people who commit them are sociopaths or psychopaths, and I find fraud cases to be fertile ground for my story ideas. They’re also filled with opportunities for humor. For Land Sharks, I was originally drawn to the location of Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia which used to be known as the Plastic Triangle because much of the early credit card fraud originated there. Today, credit card fraud is everywhere. My protagonist has a job as a bank fraud investigator which places her up to her neck in frauds. That allowed for other frauds to find their way organically into the story.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
For me, theme is what I’m saying about the human condition in my stories. I know many people define it differently. And stories can have more than one theme. I think Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy has more huge, important themes than anything I’ve read in a long time.
For Land Sharks, the central question is “When is love real?”
For Horsing Around – How 26 Rescue Horses, 12 Cats, 10 Dogs, and a Cow, Plus 2 Suburban Teenagers Made Me a Better Human, written by my husband with support from our daughter, Lynn Raven and myself, it’s “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” (Neale Donald Walsch)
I once pitched several of my screenplays to a vice president from New Line Cinema. Her response floored me. She said that they all had the same theme of searching for identity. She said that the majority of writers have one major theme that resonates throughout their work. I had never thought about it before, but when I did, I saw that she was right.
Tell us about your main character.
Lexi has been accurately described by a reader as a “feisty gal with a good left hook.”
In her mid-thirties, Lexi Winslow is an attractive, capable woman with good street smart sense. She’s excellent at her job as a bank fraud investigator. The beginning of Land Sharks finds her after she’s been arrested for a crime she didn’t commit and then released for lack of evidence. Even though she wasn’t charged, her reputation is in ruins, and she was fired. She’s managed to land a job in her field, which may well be her last if she isn’t careful. That situation puts her at the whims of her new boss. She feels the loss of control over her life and resents it. ‘In control’ is definitely her preferred state of being. Even her romantic life is a mess as she’s drawn to a man who’s toxic for her.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Maybe the tone, fun, and craziness of Elizabeth Peters’ Vicky Bliss and hopefully the earnest heart of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone.
If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
It would have to be a banquet instead of a dinner party. I couldn’t possibly narrow it to just six. Here’s my shortest possible guest list–Elizabeth Peters, Dick Francis and his wife, Dorothy Gilman, Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, John D. MacDonald, Sarah Paretsky, James Herriott, and Suzanne Collins.
What’s next for you?
I mentioned our family memoir, Horsing Around, earlier. It’s finished and we’re preparing it for publication this summer (2016). I’m also currently plotting the sequel for Land Sharks.
Thank you for letting me share with your readers.
Nancy Raven Smith grew up in Virginia where she rode horses competitively and ran horse sport events. On her farm, she rescued horses, dogs and cats and is an advocate for animal rescue. Later in California, she traded her event experience for film work. Her screenplays have won numerous major awards. Raven Smith decided to write one idea as a novel and discovered a passion for writing mysteries. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Women in Film, and Romance Writers of America.