By Maggie James
Novels set in a tropical Caribbean paradise
In today's post, I'm delighted to welcome to my blog novelist Michael Smart, author of the 'Bequia Mysteries' series of novels. Michael is a native New Yorker and an experienced blue water sailor and airplane pilot, two passions shared by the protagonists in his novels.
The Bequia Mysteries are set in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a tropical archipelago in the eastern Caribbean where Michael lived and sailed for many years. He draws on these experiences to create intimate and lively portraits of the islands and people in these compelling stories of mystery, adventure and romance.
Find out more about Michael and his books at www.bequiamysteries.com. He's also on Google+, Pinterest and Goodreads.
OK, let's get going with the interview! I hope you enjoy it.
The Bequia series of mysteries
Tell us about the Bequia mysteries. When will Deadeye and Deadlight be published?
The stories are about mystery and danger spiced with a bit of romance set in the exotic islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, involving three central protagonists who share my passion for ocean sailing and flying, and who navigate complex relationships while attempting to solve the central dilemma and of course, stay alive. The stories involve themes of redemption, life changing choices and love.
Deadeye is available now for preorder at Smashwords, Apple Ibooks, Barnes and Noble and Kobo, and I’m offering a free copy of Dead Reckoning with every Deadeye preorder. Deadeye will be released for sale on August 5th at most ebook retailers including Amazon. Deadlight will be rolled out in a similar manner toward the end of the year, probably for Christmas, available for preorder probably by early November.
Location, location, location...
Will you set future Bequia novels in different islands in the archipelago, or will you stick with the more well known ones?
The action in the novels takes place on many different Grenadine islands. For example, we get to see much more of Union Island and Petit St. Vincent in Deadeye, and much more of St. Vincent in Deadlight. In Dead Reckoning some of the action takes place on St. Lucia and Antigua, and in both Dead Reckoning and Deadeye the action moves for a short time to the U.S. Other locales including Europe, Africa and Asia will pop up later in the series.
The culinary delights of the Caribbean
Will readers of the Bequia mysteries get a taste of the Caribbean by reading them? Do they feature the rich culinary delights of the region, such as coconuts, mangoes, plaintains, dumplings?
Most definitely. Eating is a normal activity in the daily lives of my characters, and the Caribbean’s fabulous cuisine is a feature of that. Yes, my readers will encounter coconuts, mangoes, plantains, dumplings and much more.
In fact, I provide pictures of all the foods mentioned in the novels on the Bequia Mysteries website and on my Pinterest site, including links to recipes. So these are two great sites for my readers to visit to see the food, and maybe even try their hand at cooking them. Bon appétit.
New York, New York...
In your novel ‘Deadeye’, Jolene’s chase ends in New York City. As a native New Yorker, will you feature your home city in any future novels, whether it’s the Bequia series or something different?
Certainly. New York is a fantastic city to set stories in. And as a native New Yorker I can use neighbourhoods, boroughs and suburbs you don’t normally see in films and TV shows set in New York that readers may be less familiar with. I’m excited by that notion.
You’re also a science fiction writer. Will we see any novels from you in that genre in the near future, or are you concentrating on the Bequia series for now?
I actually have a science fiction title close to being published, and I'm making notes on a second. And I’m halfway through a fourth title in the Bequia Mysteries. Of course the release is going to require a shift in marketing and promotion geared to a different audience, and I haven’t begun focussing on that yet.
Boats, trains and planes, minus the trains
Your website highlights the boats and planes featured in the Bequia mysteries. How many of these have you sailed/piloted yourself? Which boats/planes would you love to take for a sail/flight in the Caribbean?
I’ve flown all the aircraft featured in Dead Reckoning and Deadeye except the Hercules C130 and the Gulfstream jet. I don’t hold a type rating for either of those aircraft. As a charter and delivery captain, and a yacht broker, I’ve sailed almost every type of sailing vessel; sloops, ketches, yawls, schooners, from 8 meters to 30 meters. My favourite of course is a Herreshoff designed staysail schooner, which is what Wherever is. Similarly with the weapons featured in the novels I do not have my characters use a weapon I haven’t fired myself to familiarize myself with its weight, its feel, its mechanisms and other characteristics. Exceptions include the Heckler and Koch MP5 and M25 rifle in Dead Reckoning. But my son-in-law is a Captain in the U. S. Marine Corps and I’ve interviewed soldiers possessing knowledge of both weapons.
The inspiration behind it all
What got you into writing novels? Have you always written fiction, or is it a more recent venture for you?
I started writing fiction at age thirteen. What got me started was reading. Even at that age I was an avid reader, and I was fascinated by the power of human imagination and the ability to tell a story. In fact the science fiction novel is from a story I began writing in my teens. About a year ago I pulled it out of an old file I’ve kept of my early writing and I laugh at how amateurish and unsophisticated the writing was, but the story and characters and themes were all there. It just needed to be rewritten.
Who and what inspires you? Who are your favourite authors?
I draw inspiration from everyday things, people watching, a news story, particularly Caribbean news which I follow, films and television shows, novels, and of course my own experiences. My writing style and influences are drawn from the hard-boiled pioneers I cut my teeth on reading. Authors like Raymond Chandler, Dashiel Hammett, John D. MacDonald, Leslie Charteris with the great Simon Templar Saint series, John Creasey’s The Toff, and Dick Francis among many others. And of course the scifi greats like Clarke, Wells, Bradbury, Heinlein, Asimov to name just a few. Contemporary favourites, though sadly some are no longer with us, include Robert B. Parker, Clive Cussler, and the great Patrick O’Brian.
If the juices are flowing, I keep going
Talk us through a typical writing day. How long does one of your novels take to come to fruition?
A typical writing day for me begins around one or two in the afternoon, depending on when I awake and get out of bed. I’m usually writing until three or four in the morning. Many times I pull all-nighters. If the juices are flowing and my eyelids aren’t drooping I’ll just keep going. If I get into bed with too many scenes, action, dialogue, or story notes running around my brain I can’t sleep anyway. Rather than toss and turn I simply get up and continue writing. Usually the first thing I do is go through my email, check my social sites, browse any blogs which were shared and the ones I follow, make comments and respond to emails, check the day’s headlines, make notes on what I need to follow up on, including any marketing I need to do for that day, all over a cup or two of coffee. That usually takes about two hours. Then I shower and dress and get ready as though I’m going to the office, which I am. I settle into a favourite nook, reopen my laptop and I’m there for the next ten to twelve hours with breaks for food or drink or to stretch my legs.
The Bequia Mysteries are easier and quicker to come to fruition once I understand the plot because I’m now familiar with the characters and the locale. Although every once in a while one of them will throw me a surprise just to keep me on my toes. The science fiction novel as I mentioned just required rewriting. The second science fiction novel I’m constructing now won’t be as quick, I think. And the non-Bequia Mysteries I’m constructing will be long labours of love, since they’ll involve all new characters and settings.
Right on target...
Given the benefit of hindsight, is there anything you’d do differently concerning your writing journey?
No. Everything happened in the manner and time it was supposed to for me to get here. I could’ve decided to pursue serious writing and publishing earlier. But I wouldn’t have possessed the level of craft I do now, or had the life experiences that shape my writing. Changes in the publishing industry and the opportunity to publish outside the traditional route would not have existed. I believe my perspective and my writing is right on target now.
Thank you, Michael, for a great interview! It's been a pleasure.
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