April 7, 2014

An Author a (Mon)day: Lindsay Smith

An Author a (Mon)day is my sporadic feature where I ask authors a few questions about anything - themselves, their books and writing, to name a few. While it doesn't happen on a regular basis, you can be rest assured that it always happens on a Monday!

I love discovering debut authors with each new year. They offer fresh voices in the world of YA (and adult and MG too, of course), especially if they write something that's unlike anything I've read before. That's how I felt about Sekret, the debut novel from Lindsay Smith. Lindsay's novel is brilliant, as I said in my review. She also happens to be wonderfully friendly on Twitter! I'm so honored that she agreed to be featured on the blog today, so without further ado - Lindsay Smith!

Alexa: How did you come up with the idea for Sekret? I love that you focused on psychics, and how they were actually a part of Russian history.

Lindsay: I’ve always wanted to set a story in Soviet Russia—such a fascinating and tragic time period, and one that’s woefully under-explored and misunderstood here in the West—but I struggled with finding a storyline that I felt could appeal to a large audience. The psychic component came to me by thinking about the intense paranoia the average Russian lived under, when they couldn’t speak safely for fear of who might overhear, and that their inner thoughts were the only truly safe space for dissent. Then I thought—what if that, too, was taken away? The rest practically wrote itself.

Alexa: Did you get to do any fun research while writing Sekret? I'm betting you might have Googled some interesting things!

Lindsay: Googled and checked out at the library and even made a few interesting FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests. ;) The most valuable resources, for me, were some of the autobiographies to come out of Soviet defectors in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s—Oleg Kalugin and Vitaliy Mitrokhin in particular. But I’m sure my Google search history is pretty frightening to behold, not only for this book, but pretty much everything I write. Recent things I’ve Googled: how much blood is in the average human body, length of the effects of LSD, genetic virology, Nazi uniform insignias, computer viruses that would have worked on a Commodore 64, authentic-sounding bureaucratic subcommittee names, and how many people a single killer has to have killed (on average) before the investigation is turned over to the FBI.

Alexa: How does it feel to now be a published author? I can only imagine how exciting and nerve-wracking it must be.

Lindsay: For an introvert like me, it’s pretty exhausting! Launch week was so wonderful, and I had the support of so many local author friends and Internet cohorts alike, book bloggers, librarians, local indie stores, and the fabulous team at Macmillan. But I’m definitely ready to take a temporary vow of silence and/or sleep for a week. As I write this, I’m staring at a stack of my hardcovers, and it’s as surreal and unbelievable as you might imagine. It brings with it its own bundle of stresses and anxieties and doubts, but I think about the Lindsay who started the first draft of Sekret three years ago, who never knew if that story would succeed, and I grin all over again.

Alexa: Are you excited to go on tour for Sekret? I'm really hoping I get to see you at some point, even though Fierce Reads won't be stopping in New York this time around!

Lindsay: I’m so honored to be part of the Fierce Reads tour this spring! Part of me doesn’t even know who I think I am, joining the likes of Marie Rutkoski and Anna Banks and Katie Finn, but I love talking to other readers and writers and sharing that passion for stories. In addition to the tour, I’m doing several events this spring here in DC, and I’m planning to make a trip this summer up to New York as well. I’m working on an East Coast tour this fall with a few other YA and MG authors, too, so stay tuned for more details on that!

Alexa: Yeeeees! I am SO excited to hear that you'll probably be stopping by New York at some point. So, time for a change in topics. Since I'm also a writer, let's talk a bit about writing! Did you always know you wanted to write stories?

LindsayOh, definitely. I’m constantly asking “what if” about characters, time periods, situations. Writing stories was a great way to kill the time in boring classes or long commutes, but it requires a different kind of discipline to see them through, which took me a little while to learn.

Alexa: Do you have a writing routine? Tips? Quirks?

LindsayI hate outlining my entire book in advance, because I’m always thinking of new twists as I write (and then I have to go back and rewrite things so I look like I planned it that way all along). Whenever I have a few free moments at work, though, or over lunch, I’ll sketch out the next few scenes or bullet points in a scene, and by the time I get home I’m bursting with ideas for that scene that I can’t wait to put fingers to keys. My top-secret trick, then, is to let your subconscious do the heavy lifting for you—give it a few inputs about what you want to accomplish next and it can slow-cook those ideas for you until it has a breakthrough. I think this is why we seem to have so many moments of brilliance in the shower, or as we’re trying to fall asleep—they’ve been stewing in the background for who knows how long!

Alexa: Ooh, this is such a brilliant idea! I think I might just have to try it for myself ;) Okay, now it's time for some fun stuff, starting with the future. What are your upcoming writing projects? Upcoming reads?

LindsayI’m finishing up line edits on Skandal, the sequel to Sekret, as well as on Dreamstrider, an unrelated YA fantasy (think Inception meets Graceling). Those are both due out in 2015. My current work in progress is an adult urban fantasy, which I’m calling the Magical Misery Tour until I think of a real name for it, which is pretty dark and sarcastic but also, hopefully, humorous in that too-close-for-comfort sort of way. I’ve recently bought but haven’t yet gotten to read The Enchanted by Rene Denfield, The Tyrant’s Daughter by J. C. Carleson, The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz, and Pointe by Brandy Colbert and I’m dying for a free moment to read any/all of them!

Alexa: I'm definitely looking forward to reading The Ring and the Crown, and Pointe as well! And I'm really excited for Skandal, but Dreamstrider sounds right up my alley - SO PSYCHED! Okay, well, what are your current favorite reads? TV shows or films? Music?

Lindsay: I’m reading and LOVING Amber Lough’s The Fire Wish right now, a gorgeous Middle Eastern-inspired fantasy due out this summer. TV and movies—um, what are those again?—I’ve been half-watching The Americans (because obviously) while I work and I’d really love to see The Grand Budapest Hotel and the new X-Men movie when it comes out. My default music is ‘80s goth rock, but I’m really loving the Dum Dum Girls’ new album and these ridiculous Russian metal drinking songs. There are bears involved.

Alexa: I don't know how I haven't heard of The Fire Wish until now, but it sounds BRILLIANT. Again, fantasy is my jam so I think I'm going to have to read this one when it's out! I'm also looking forward to the new X-Men movie too. Okay, now, let's talk far into the future! In five years, what would you be doing? And who would you be with?

Lindsay: Writing more, I hope! I’m getting married this fall, as well as finishing grad school, so I’m hoping I WON’T succumb to another fit of insanity and choose to pursue a PhD or another master’s degree in five years, but my husband-to-be can stick around. ;) He’s so incredibly supportive of all my mad endeavors (except when they’re too mad, even for me) and is the best co-conspirator I could possibly ask for. I have plenty of stories I’m still dying to share, as well, so I’d love to have them polished and published, and continue to grow creatively as I develop my careers.

Alexa: Oh, yay for being engaged! And your husband-to-be sounds like an awesome guy indeed. Okay, last question! Since it's finally spring, what are your favorite spring traditions or trends?

LindsayI live in Washington, DC, so it’s not spring without admiring all our lovely cherry blossoms. We went to the Washington Nationals’ home opener for the year (I’m a die-hard baseball girl) and have taken the dog to brunch outdoors, so it is well and truly spring at last! If I start complaining about all the tourists, though, kindly remind me of the dozens of feet of snow we endured that kept the tourists (and everything else) at bay. I’ll take the crowds.

Alexa: I'm not a die-hard baseball girl, but it's definitely fun to watch the games! I also really want to come down and see the cherry blossoms if I can swing it, since I haven't been to see them since I was little and still lived in the area. But I totally agree - so ready for the warmer weather! Thank you so much, Lindsay, for being on the blog today! It was certainly a pleasure to have you, and I hope we meet in person this year.

If you want to find Lindsay online, you can check out her blogher Twitter, and her Tumblr

Sekret - Lindsay Smith
Sekret by Lindsay Smith
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan Children's
Publication Date: April 1, 2014

Yulia's father always taught her to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive the harsh realities of Soviet Russia. But when she's captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she's thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power. Yulia quickly realizes she can trust no one--not her KGB superiors or the other operatives vying for her attention--and must rely on her own wits and skills to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long. (from Goodreads)

Why should you read this book?

Science fiction, set against the backdrop of Russian history. Plus, there is espionage! And psychics! It sounds a bit like a crazy combination, but it really and truly works so well. It was definitely something different, at least in my opinion.


  1. Great interview, especially the COMING TO NY PART. And also the writing more books part. I am a big fan of that ;)

  2. Thanks so much for hosting me, Alexa! I'm always up for good fantasy recs. And best of luck with your writing projects, as well!

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