Madison, GA

An Interview With Local Author Tarrant Smith

Crystal Jackson

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I recently interviewed local Madison, Georgia, paranormal romance author Tarrant Smith. Smith is the 2020 Georgia Independent Author of the Year recipient. She graduated from Queens College in North Carolina with a degree in English literature. She now lives in Madison with her husband, son, and two rescue cats who follow her around like familiars. As a kitchen witch, Smith has always sought out and nurtured the magick that can be found in the mundane trappings of everyday life.

Here's what she had to say about her work:

What kind of reader would most enjoy your books?

My ideal reader is someone who likes the series by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Christine Feehan, Karen Marie Moning, or Patricia Briggs. Like these well-known paranormal romance authors, my heroes tend to be immortal beings with complicated histories who sport deep emotional scars. The heroines of my books are strong and willful women who are not in need of saving and are fully capable of handling the dominating tendencies of their partners. And of course, I always include a heaping dose of steamy chemistry for my readers to enjoy.
Of course, I do relish the chance to convert a non-romance reader to my preferred sub-genre. It never gets old hearing someone tell me they’ve never read a paranormal romance before yet they thoroughly enjoyed my books. Believe me, they’re not your mother’s Harlequin bodice rippers.

How long does it take you to finish a book?

Honestly, it’s hard to say how long it takes to finish one of my books. Sometimes the story flows quickly and I have a first draft within three months. Other times I write more slowly, living with the story as it brews inside my imagination until I fully understood the deeper issues confronting each character. It’s typical for me not to have a clear ending in mind until I have written two-thirds of the book. But once I have that first draft penned, I let the story rest for a month or two. This step of distancing myself from my creation has become more important over the years. It’s only after this rest period that I have the fresh perspective to edit and rewrite effectively. Many times, this is the moment I toss out anything that doesn’t serve the novel’s plot while simultaneously strengthen the imagery and mood of each scene.
After all the rewrites, I turn my book over to my editor for a professional and final edit. From that point to the book’s release, I can add another three months. So to finally answer this question, it takes me a full year to write, rest, edit, and publish a new book I can feel proud to market.

Do you have any interesting writing quirks?

I enjoy writing in public and in the company of creative people. There’s just something about the added energy of other individuals in the room that seems to help me. Strangely, I’ve always been able to block out any distracting noise while writing. Before Covid-19, I could usually be found writing a new book at a coffee shop, the public library, or on a writing “date” with one of my author friends.

Where is your favorite place to write?

I love a good coffee shop. There’s plenty of energy, caffeine, and pastries to keep the words and ideas flowing onto the page.

What is your favorite novel?

I’m not sure I have a favorite anymore. There are books I like to revisit depending on my mood. Books like Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Acheron because I love the main character. I find myself snuggling back into a C.S Harris novel or a Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey Mystery whenever I want a period detective who is a bit broody. I love Tana French simply for her exquisite prose style. I have kept Deepak Chopra’s The Return of Merlin on my bookshelf as a reminder that Arthurian legend can be retold in new and unexpected ways. Marion Zimmer Bradley’s books also have a treasured spot on my bookshelves for their pagan storytelling chops.

How many unpublished or half-finished books do you have?

I currently have five stories knocking around inside my imagination. Two of those are books I’m in the process of writing. These will be book 5 (The Heart of Monsters) and 6 (The Tears of Dragons) and are stand-alone additions to the Pale Series. Two more potential books have idea sheets saved on my laptop. I’ll go back to review the main character’s details and write an initial chapter when I’ve cleared space in my writing pipeline. (Book 7 is a heist novel and 8 contains a murder and a hunt for a killer.) Lastly, I have one scene in my mind that is only a tantalizing idea. It is still in a very malleable state, rather dream-like. But the character and single scene hasn’t faded over time, which means it will probably become a book later in the Legends of the Pale Series. (Book 9 where I answer more questions about the fate of the Fae inside the Pale.) I also am working on a second collection of poetry, a follow-up to Love, Sex & Witchery, that I think I will be released in 2022.

How much time do you spend writing each week?

I used to stick to a strict 10 am to 4 pm, Monday through Friday, and sometimes on the weekends writing schedule. I also had a firm word count I tried to hit every day. Basically, I treated my writing time like I was punching a clock, showing up to an office. But, over the past few years that writing schedule has changed considerably. I now only write a few hours a day, and not even every day. Sometimes I write for eight hours straight, sometimes longer. I am more productive if my writing time is in the morning, after coffee, and my morning yoga practice. And if for some reason I go for several days without writing a single word, I don’t beat myself up about it anymore. Sometimes, the ideas need to stew inside me before they pour out and onto the page. I tend to mark my progress by how many scenes or chapters I’ve written, not a daily word count or the hours spent on the clock anymore.

Who is your favorite character in a book you've written, and which is your favorite of your books?

Wow, how to choose… In my first series, The Darkly Novels, it used to be a three-way tie between Hueil, Airem, and Neb before Crank’s solo story occurred with book 5, Resurrected Darkly. Each of the first three male characters had their own charm but Crank’s soul-deep wounds and his teasing brogue make him my swoon-worthy choice.
In my newest novels, the Legends of the Pale Series, I have two ongoing favorites. Murmur, Lugh’s demon, and Keely are standout characters for me. Murmur is simply a delicious balance of badass warrior and gentle lover who’ll do anything to keep his mate happy. And, I love Keely for her ability to handle herself despite the situations I put her in. I also find myself giggling whenever she steps up to manage Lugh for me.
My favorite book is always the one I’m writing now.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

Not in the least. My worst writing problem is I have too many scenes and dialogue jostling for attention. When this happens, I experience a kind of logistics log jam in my writing flow which may look like writer’s block. It is quite the opposite, however. My characters have the tendency to get out of line, become noisy if they feel ignored, or wander off and sulk without notice. Scenes will often present themselves out of order or press to be written even though they belong to an entirely different book. Sometimes my only solution is to put everyone in a time-out for a short period and come back in a day or two.

What is one thing that might surprise readers about writing a book or being a writer?

I write about the experience of being an indie author quite a lot on my blog so I’m not sure this will come to anyone’s surprise, but it’s just how much time and work goes into this choice of professions. Penning your first draft is the easiest and probably the most enjoyable part of being a writer. But then you need to edit, rewrite, proofread, format, and possibly hone your cover design and blurb writing skills. If you actually publish what you write, either indie or traditionally, you will have to think about the time, energy, and money it takes to market a book and yourself. Most people don’t consider this to be an integral part of being a writer. Aren’t writers just supposed to drink coffee and write? Unfortunately, no. That’s only a small portion of the overall picture. Marketing yourself and your darlings is also a part of the job, even if you are traditionally published.
I now have ten books on the market. Five make up the completed Darkly Series, four releases are currently in the Legends of the Pale Series, and I have one lone poetry collection. Each requires promotions, social media ads, and marketing blurbs that will hopefully entice a reader. There are daily Facebook posts and Twitter tweets, entries for my website’s blog, reviews to beg for and keep track of, and any number of other avenues I’ve yet to discover that might help me find readers for my books. All this must be managed alongside my “writing time”.
So, I guess the biggest surprise to being a writer is not in the creative aspects but in learning to manage your time.

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The Love of Gods was awarded Literary Titan's Silver Book Award for June 2019.
The Fate of Wolves was awarded Literary Titan's Gold Book Award in December 2019
The Dreams of Demons was awarded Literary Titan's Silver Book Award in August 2020
The Souls of Witches was awarded Literary Titan's Siver book Award in February 2021
Bound Darkly was awarded Literary Titan's Gold Book Award for July 2019.
Kept Darkly was awarded Literary Titan's Gold Book Award for August 2019.
Surrendered Darkly was awarded Literary Titan's Gold Book Award for August 2019.
Resurrected Darkly was awarded Literary Titan's Gold Book Award for August 2019.

For more information about the author and her romance books please go to tarrantsmith.com

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Crystal Jackson is a former therapist turned writer. She is the author of the Heart of Madison series and a volume of poetry entitled My Words Are Whiskey. Her work has been featured on Medium, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, The Good Men Project, and Elephant Journal. When she's not writing, you can find her traveling, paddle boarding, cycling, throwing axes badly but with terrifying enthusiasm, hiking, or curled up with her nose in a book in Madison, Georgia, where she lives with one puppy and two wild and wonderful children. Crystal writes about relationships, mental health, parenting, social justice, and more. Never miss an update. Subscribe to emails: https://crystaljacksonwriter.substack.com/

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