A brand new year means a brand new look at authors from the area and beyond. This month I welcome a writer who makes it his business to tell romance stories from a male point of view and spice them up with mystery and suspense. Please say hello to Tim Smith, an award-winning, bestselling author and freelance writer. His books range from romantic mystery/thrillers to contemporary erotic romance. When not writing, he can often be found in the Florida Keys, indulging his passion for parasailing between research and seeking out the perfect Mojito.
Janet Irvin: Tim, here’s a question I’ve been dying to ask. Why did you decide to write in the romance field?
Tim Smith: When I began this descent into insanity in 2002, I released the first three installments in the Nick Seven spy thriller series. They all contained romantic elements, because I realized this character needed a love interest and someone to serve as a partner and sounding board. The switch to full-on romance came about from an appearance I did at a large book festival. I was doing okay but noticed some authors drawing bigger crowds. I visited them and found they were romance writers. I read one of their books and thought it would be fun to tell a humorous love story primarily from the man’s point of view. I also knew I could write something better than the one I had read.
J.I.: How has your previous career(s) prepared you to become a storyteller?
T.S.: I worked for years as a case manager in the human services field, serving adults with disabilities. Publicly funded and grant-driven programs require endless amounts of detailed paperwork and strict deadlines. I think this work ethic forced me to be disciplined and focused. As we evolved to a paperless system, it also educated me on computer programs. Additionally, I got to work with some diverse personalities that came to mind when I began developing characters.
J.I.: You indicate above that you have a main character – Nick Seven – and that he stars in a series. So when it comes to stand-alone novels or series…which do you prefer and why?
T.S.: I would have to say I like the comfort that a series offers. Once I get in the groove of writing a Nick Seven or Vic Fallon adventure, it’s like putting on my favorite sweatshirt. They also pose a challenge, because I write my series entries as stand-alone stories. If someone picks up Nick Seven book 6, they don’t need to read installments one through five to understand who these characters are or what their backstory is, because I include a brief synopsis as part of the narrative. That also creates a challenge for series followers, because I don’t want to bore them with a full resume if they already know the history. I do enjoy writing the occasional stand-alone story when I have an idea that doesn’t fit into one of the series.
J.I.: In THE NEON JUNGLE, protagonist Nick Seven has a happy love life. How do you keep the tension going in this situation?
T.S.: The tension between Nick and Felicia comes from their different personalities. Nick isn’t always right, and Felicia isn’t shy about expressing her opinion. Although she’s happy being with Nick, she’s previously stated that if he makes her too mad, “I’ll take my ass back home to Barbados.” That tends to keep him on his toes, because he doesn’t want to lose her. When I created Felicia, I wanted a strong character who could fend for herself, and not a damsel in distress that he would rescue in each story. I always make sure I give her equal time in the personal drama department, too, so Nick can focus his attention on her happiness. They care deeply about each other and there’s a lot of give and take, just like with any other couple.
J.I.: You spend time in the Florida Keys. In what way does this locale inspire or affect your writing?
T.S.: The attitude down there is very laid back. Nobody really cares what you did before you came there, and if people have a last name, they don’t advertise it. I draw inspiration from the relaxed atmosphere and sense of anonymity. There are also many scenic locations and landmarks to incorporate into my writing. I’ve met some interesting people, and I read the local newspapers in search of unique ideas. One of my favorite things to do is talk with the locals and hear their stories and anecdotes. And yes, some of these have found their way into my plots.
J.I.: Tim, you’ve told me you write shorter works of ten thousand words as well as the longer novels. Can you explain your process for doing this? Which length story do you prefer to write?
T.S.: When I began writing shorter works for my publisher’s Summer Shorts and Stocking Stuffer series, the immediate challenge was creating well-defined personalities and atmosphere on a smaller canvas. I had to adopt the philosophy “less is more.” After writing a couple of shorts, I resumed work on my novel in progress and kept that attitude. I actually prefer to write longer stories with intricate plots, but now I do them with less flowery prose. I often refer to Ernest Hemingway’s short stories, particularly “The Killers.” He could pack more action and detail into 10 pages than most authors do in several hundred.
J.I.: I agree with you about Hemingway. I, too, try to model my dialogue after his.. Now, being male in what is predominantly a female-written genre is unique. Or is it? What advantage or disadvantage does this give you?
T.S.: It is unique, since I write straight contemporary romance as opposed to LGBTQ. If there is an advantage, I haven’t found it yet, which is why I market books like “The Neon Jungle” as being primarily mystery/thrillers with a romantic subplot. The big disadvantage is that after ten-plus years writing under my own name for a traditional romance publisher, I still have trouble getting accepted or taken seriously. In retrospect, I should have used a non-gender-specific pseudonym when I signed with them. I’ve met women writers who told me that I couldn’t possibly write a believable love story because “men just don’t understand romance.” A blogger reviewed one of my books, trashed the story then attacked me personally because I dared to try out for the women’s soccer team. I was also barred from a popular romance writers convention because of my gender.
J.I.: You and I have talked briefly about the inclusion of sex scenes in our work. How do you decide when to include them?
T.S.: My sex scenes are always a natural part of the plot, a progression in the relationship. I don’t include gratuitous erotica or get to a point where I think, “I don’t know what to have these characters do next, so let’s throw in some sex.” I know some erotic romance writers who do that, and I think it disrupts the story. A friend of mine self-publishes on Kindle, and writes what I call “porn with a plot,” usually a whisper-thin story to string together a bunch of over-the-top sex scenes. I find it boring but he sells a lot more books than I do, so apparently there’s a market for it.
J.I.: What’s next for Tim Smith?
T.S.: I’m currently working on this year’s output of summer and holiday shorts, and my next full-length novel. Marketing and promotion for the rest of my books is ongoing, and I have already lined up several author events for the year. As it stands now, my next novel will be another Nick Seven thriller since “The Neon Jungle” is doing well, and I’d like to capitalize on that.
J.I.: Thank you, Tim, for your interesting and candid conversation! Now, for a little fun, two quick questions: Nick drinks scotch. What is your favorite drink?
T.S.: I’m also a scotch drinker, and Nick prefers the same brand I do. As they say, write what you know.
J.I.: And if you could choose just one, who would be your favorite writer?
T.S.: James W. Hall, a Florida-based thriller writer. I’m familiar with many of the locations he describes, and his plots are always intriguing.
Find out more about our January author at the following links:
AllAuthor — https://allauthor.com/author/timsmith/