Today we have with us Linda Smolkin author of “Among the Branded“, a work of contemporary fiction that is receiving raving reviews from readers all over. Linda will be answering various questions ranging from her passion for writing to her advice for budding writers. She also gives an exciting sneak-peek into her new novel that will be releasing next spring.
[Book Escapade] Let us start from the very beginning. How did you get drawn into writing?
[Linda Smolkin] I’ve been writing pretty much my entire life. Let’s just say, without asking my age or for identification, that it has been a long time! I wrote (horrible) poetry as a child, and when I was about ten, I saw my first TV commercial and knew I wanted to write ads for a living. So, after university, I started working as a copywriter and still do that full time. I began writing novels because the stories in my head kept bothering me to get out.
[Book Escapade] Were you in a creative profession even before becoming a writer?
[Linda Smolkin] No, I’ve only been a writer. But if I had to choose another creative profession, it would be a kick-ass guitarist in a rock band. But, being a rock star requires a lot of traveling. I’ve turned into quite the homebody lately, so I’m pretty sure I chose the right profession.
[Book Escapade] How difficult was it for you to get your work published?
[Linda Smolkin] I’m an independently published author so once I decided to go indie, I had to treat it like a business. There was a lot to learn and, in between all of the business stuff, I had to work on edits and put on my creative hat. It’s very challenging to juggle everything. By the way, if you find a good concealer to cover my dark circles from staying up too late to get things done, let me know!
[Book Escapade] “Among the Branded” has a very sensitive theme which touches upon WWII and The Holocaust. What prompted you to write a novel revolving around this theme?
[Linda Smolkin] When I’m thinking about book ideas, I like to do the ‘what if’ scenario. What if this happened or what if that happened. So, when I began “Among the Branded”, I thought, “What if my main character found out something about her newest client? What would she do, especially if she didn’t own the company?” From this idea, I added characters and subplots. The story took off and became not only about this moral dilemma but also about family and friendships. All along, I knew I’d be writing a story set in modern day. I like to call it contemporary fiction with a historical touch. So, I didn’t really go about writing a novel about past atrocities, but it wound up being an important element of the story as the main character faces a difficult work-related choice.
[Book Escapade] How difficult was it for you to handle this theme with great maturity?
[Linda Smolkin]It was definitely challenging to write, but other parts were very emotional as well, especially the developing relationship between my main character, Stephanie, and Izzy, the Holocaust survivor whom she meets. I’m Jewish, but Stephanie isn’t, so I needed to understand her motivations (and a big thank-you to my awesome editors for pointing this out to me!). I had to really think about it and, in the process, rewrote several parts. All in all, I believe I was able to get inside her head to find out: Why were these particular issues so important to her? Why couldn’t she let go of what bothered her? At the same time, I didn’t want the story to feel far-fetched. There were different outcomes that could have played out toward the end, but I believe she did the right thing. I’m actually dying to discuss it with readers! So, if there are any book clubs out there reading my novel, please visit my website and get in touch with me!
[Book Escapade] Which character in “Among the Branded” is the closest to your heart?
[Linda Smolkin]This is such a great question! This may surprise many readers who might think that Izzy is closest to my heart. But, I’d have to say it’s Katherine, Stephanie’s mom. Katherine is in her mid-sixties and goes through some trying times. She’s a bit of a free spirit and does some spontaneous stuff, but not really by choice. She’s also southern, from North Carolina to be exact, and I really loved creating her character and writing the dialogue for her.
[Book Escapade] In your interview with Female First you had mentioned that you had quit a job and had relocated to Russia to teach English. How did this change your perspective on life?
[Linda Smolkin] I took so much for granted! Life here in the United States was so easy and convenient for me. I guess you could say I started appreciating what I had.
[Book Escapade] Could you kindly provide an insight into the novel that you are currently working on?
[Linda Smolkin] I recently got my editor’s feedback, so I’m in editing mode as I type—although I should say I’m in procrastination mode on a few scenes because I have to be in the right mindset. It’s an emotional story. It follows three generations of women, their relationships with one another, and a secret that only two of them know. The story takes place over a few decades and a few locations, including Russia. Living there for a year certainly helped when working on some of the scenes. If all goes as planned, it will come out in spring of next year.
[Book Escapade] What kind of genres do you enjoy reading? Who are your favorite authors?
[Linda Smolkin] I love reading a variety, but my favorites are literary fiction, women’s fiction, and some historical fiction. For me to enjoy a story, it has to give me all the feels! I want to laugh one minute and cry (or get teary-eyed) the next. I really like Pat Conroy, Markus Zusak, Allison Winn Scotch, and Jonathan Hopper. A couple of years ago, I reread my favorite childhood book, “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret” by Judy Blume. It was still as awesome as the first time. And, for the past year, I’ve been enjoying more psychological thrillers and the twisted stories those talented authors weave!
[Book Escapade] Finally, do you have any advice for the budding writers who would be reading this interview?
[Linda Smolkin] I think the best advice is not to listen to too much advice. There’s so much of it out there. Every writer goes about the process differently. The main thing is to be true to yourself. Write the stories you want to tell, not what might be trendy or what somebody else wants you to write. And don’t be afraid to put your heart and soul into it, and if you do, it will show through on the pages.
Thank you Linda for sharing details about yourself and your work. Wishing you all the success with your novels!