Back Porch Book Chat: A casual, virtual conversation about books. Join us as we chat with book lovers like ourselves about a topic we all love! Our guest today is S. D. Smith from West Virginia. He chats with us about his family’s reading life, his writing (Green Ember!), and the StoryWarren website. Check out his bio after the interview for more about Sam. Interview conducted by Betsy.
Getting to Know S. D. Smith
Before we begin, tell us what iced beverage you’d like as we sit in our rocking chairs on this late spring day: Sweet tea? Lemonade? La Croix? Ice water?
I’m not an ice guy. I hope I’m a nice guy, but not an ice guy. I like water. No ice. Occasional Coke. I’m boring!
Actually, you’re European in disguise–they don’t like ice, either (even in their Coke!).
Sam, we know you’re a kindred spirit when it comes to sharing books with your family. Tell us what that looks like in your home, how you use books and stories as part of your family culture.
It’s tough to answer, because, as the cliché machine has said, books are so seamlessly woven into the fabric of our lives. We all listen to audio books a lot and most of us read regularly, too. We talk about stories, make time for stories, and share stories with each other all the time. It’s less an area of life and more a thread through most areas.
I love the metaphor of the thread woven through most areas–that sounds like my home, too.
What books has your family particularly enjoyed this past year?
My youngest daughter loves Carolyn Leiloglou’s forthcoming Noah Green book, which she got in advance of publication because Carolyn’s a friend. My oldest daughter just reread Fahrenheit 451. My oldest son is loving Dune, and my youngest wants to say he loved Ember’s End. (He’s my best kid, according to the facts.) My wife probably reads more than any of us. I know she’s enjoyed Ruth Simons’s Beholding and Becoming. I have loved rereading Little Women. Louisa May Alcott inspired me in a big way as a child.
Great titles! Megan just reviewed Carolyn’s newest picture book, Library’s Most Wanted, and we’re big fans of Little Women around here, too.
S. D. Smith’s Books: The Green Ember Series
You recently published Ember’s End, the final book in your Green Ember Series. Congratulations! How does it feel to be at this point in the Green Ember saga? I remember reading the first Green Ember book (The Green Ember) when it was the only Green Ember book. As you look back on the series, are there plot points you would like to change? Any cringe-worthy moments? Scenes that are your favorites?
Thank you. I feel grateful to get to the end, and pleased with the series. I know I’ve grown as a writer, and of course I cringe at things I’ve written sometimes, but there’s no way to improve without forging on through those stages. Lots of emotions. But mostly gratitude, to God, to my family and friends, and to the readers who have encouraged me and cheered me on in incredibly generous ways.
What advice would you offer to young, aspiring writers? Are you part of a local writing community? Do you have a professional editor? Any good writing habits you would recommend?
The best writing advice I have is to write. Stop not writing. After that, seek to serve your audience. Writing should be more about love and service than fame and self-expression. Storytelling is a service job. Get to work and serve in love. Show up before you show off. Seek for joy. Ask God for grace and humility and the gift of writing something that is a gift of delight to readers.
Great advice–it reminds me of what Jonathan Rogers keeps reminding students in his Grammar for Writers course: love your reader.
I love what you write on your author’s blog about the origins of The Green Ember stories, especially this line: “But hope is worth fighting for, and these are stories anchored in hope.” We’re about to embark on our summer reading adventure, looking towards “hope on the horizon.” The similarity in language is striking. Can you tell our readers a little bit of what you mean by “anchored in hope”?
I think we all need hopeful stories. I know I do. But to be honest they need to reflect and be rooted in Reality. I believe stories that are faithful to what God says about the world are desperately needed. And, as my friend Heidi Johnston has said, those stories are “not an escape from reality, but an escape into reality.”
Sam and StoryWarren
Sam, you started StoryWarren back in 2012, not too long after Redeemed Reader began. Tell us a little bit about StoryWarren and the vision behind it.
SW is all about being allies in imagination for parents and others who love kids and want to help foster holy imagination in them. It’s a resource for encouragement and is pretty modest beyond that. I’m really grateful for the team there led by our managing editor, author James Witmer. His book, A Year in the Big Old Garden, is just the kind of thing SW exists to share. (Though we have to force him to post anything about it.)
Readers, we hope you check out StoryWarren–you can sign up for a weekly digest that always has interesting things to read (and do!) with your family.
What’s Next for S. D. Smith
Finally, what’s next for you as an author? Do you have new stories or even a new series in mind? Do you think you’ll stick with fantasy as a genre?
I am working on new stories. I have a YA novel done and am considering the best next steps to share it. I’m also working on some other projects, including some ongoing writing aimed at encouraging and equipping young writers.
Ooh, a YA novel. Consider us intrigued. Good YA novels can be hard to find, so let us know when it’s ready for the world! Thanks so much for (virtually) chatting with us here at Redeemed Reader!
Readers, you can purchase Sam’s books through the amazon links below, or you can also purchase them directly from his website (depending on the time you read this, there’s a fantastic deal going on right now for a few Green Ember bundles).
Sam is also one of our “Message-in-a-Bottle” correspondents for Hope on the Horizon!
Related Reading from Redeemed Reader:
- Book Review: The Green Ember
- Book Review: Ember Falls
- Book List: Mega Fantasy List (note the section on “Fantasy by Professing Christians” for Sam’s work and others like it)
When S. D. Smith isn’t writing books (which he does in his writing shed that he calls “The Forge”), he’s enjoying his home in West Virginia with his wife and four kids. You can follow him on Instagram (@sdsmithereens), on Facebook, or visit his author website.
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