Author Lisa April Smith lives with her husband, He-who-wishes-to-remain-anonymous, in Eternal Playland, Florida, a delightful spot just off I-95. Ms. Smith describes Eternal Playland as: “a little piece of level heaven with occasional dampness, where the bugs are plentiful but respectful, and even the smallest strip mall contains at least one pizza place and a nail salon.”
Before discovering a passion for writing, Ms. Smith sold plumbing and heating, antiques, taught ballroom dancing, tutored, modeled, designed software and managed projects for IBM and returned to college multiple times to study anthropology, sociology and computer science, in which she holds degrees, as well as psychology, archeology, literature, history and art. Combine those widely diverse interests with a love of travel and a gift for writing page-turners and it’s easy to understand the brilliance with which Ms. Smith writes and brings her stories to life.
Could you please tell us a bit about your book? The story? The characters?
It’s 1961 and Palm Beach socialite, irresistible rascal and devoted father Jack Morgan encounters genuine danger while staging his suicide to shield his beloved daughters from disgrace. Next, meet his daughter Charlotte (Charlie), an over-indulged 23 year old struggling to cope with the traumatizing loss of her beloved father, her sister’s resulting mental breakdown and the discovery that she’s suddenly penniless. Fortunately, Raul, an admiring young attorney, offers assistance. As terrified as she is about daily survival, Charlie soon realizes that she has to learn what drove her father to kill himself. With Raul’s much needed ego-bolstering, the drive of necessity and unforeseen determination, Charlie finds a practical use for her annoyingly lean 5’ 11” frame. In time, this career finances her hard-wrought independence, her sister’s costly treatment and an emotional eye-opening journey to Paris.
Jumping back in time to romantic pre-WWII Paris, readers meet young Alan Fitzpatrick – aka Jack Morgan – a lack-luster artist and expert lover, and the bewitching girl who will become the mother of his children. Not even Charlie’s relentless detective work will uncover all Jack’s secrets, but in a fireworks of surprise endings, she discovers all that she needs to know and more: disturbing truths about her father, her own unique talent, crimes great and small and a diabolical villain.
How did you come up with the title and how much say did you have on the cover design?
I wrestled with a name for the book for quite some time until my eureka episode and Exceeding Expectations appeared before my eyes in blazing letters. The title appealed to me on several levels. It not only described my heroine’s eventually successful battle, it was a playful tribute to a wonderful author.
I received help finding available photos but chose the cover myself. (I also chose the original cover that no one, except me, liked.)
Do you have a favorite line or excerpt that you would like to share from your book?
Since I can’t insert the entire first chapter, here’s an excerpt.
The glass shattered harmlessly, but his chest had struck the steering wheel with an impact that left him gasping for air. The motor groaned and sputtered as Jack waited with his eyes closed. His chest ached with every breath. Tentatively touching his forehead he discovered a swelling throbbing bump. Jack opened his eyes. Mostly Iowa had not fared as well. He lay slumped against the door. Blood from the broken nose bathed his face, neck, and shirt. Jack didn’t know if he was dead or unconscious, but he wouldn’t be a threat for a while.
“Why didn’t you jump when you had the chance?” Jack asked the limp figure. “Soon as I find out what kind of shape I’m in, I’ll figure out what I’m going to do with you. If I can walk back to town, I’ll send someone out to help. And that’s better than you deserve, you dumb bastard, considering you were trying to kill me.”
Limb by limb, joint by joint, Jack tested his extremities. His arms, hands, and fingers moved, painfully, but they didn’t appear to be broken. He flexed one leg and then the other. “My legs seem okay,” he informed his mute companion.
His chest and shoulders ached. “Probably cracked a few ribs and there’s a buzzing in my ears. Going to be sore for a while, as well as black and blue, but I’m alive. What about it, Iowa? You going to make it?” Jack leaned across the inert body expecting to hear a heartbeat. Nothing. Silence. The kid was dead! Jesus Christ! He hadn’t intended to kill him. His goal had been to prevent his own imminent demise.
What are some of your favorite ways to promote your work?
I really enjoy speaking at book related events. I can understand why actors like doing live theater. It’s the immediate response and intimacy. Facebook has its appeal. Using Zuckerberg’s ingenious creation, to my astonishment, I’ve learned that it’s possible to not only build relationships but genuine friendships. I’m new to virtual book tours, but I enjoy fielding questions about subjects near and dear: my books and my writing.
What is a typical writing day like for you?
Except when we’re traveling, five to six days a week I’m at my desk about 7:00 am and quit between 1:00 and 2:00. But whether I’m at my desk or not, I’m never entirely off. If I’m on a plane, or driving, or watching reruns of 30 Rock, or shopping for groceries, my brain involuntarily generates ways for improving the book. Often, when I’m half-asleep, the wildest and best ideas emerge. Some people might call it drive, discipline or dedication. Personally, I think it’s a sign of a compulsive disorder.
What are some ways that you like to relax?
I love travelling outside the US – which we do from time to time, when I can convince He-Who-Wishes-To-Remain-Anonymous to cooperate. However, if you’re talking about everyday activities, I read, play golf, tend to my cactus and orchids, visit museums, talk on the phone with my kids, volunteer tutor at an afterschool program and do laundry. While most people consider laundry a tedious chore, I find filling and emptying the washer/drier an excellent mindless break. Ironing? Not so much.
What author/s do you think are overlooked in the writing/reading world today?
Self-published independent authors. And you can’t place the blame solely on established publishing houses for not investing in unknown authors. The cost of paper, printing, storage, shipping and returns is formidable. E-books eliminate a large percentage of that expense. As e-readers become more and more commonplace, publishing will change in ways we can only guess at.
What author would you most like to meet and why?
Tough decision, but if I had to choose one it would be Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens). He was a brilliant author, entertaining speaker and daring social commentator. Portraying black characters as brave, loyal, admirable human beings with souls, he took a stand against slavery and social injustice. Black or white, his characters were memorable, flawed and real. Although he was celebrated for his wit, and continues to be cherished as an American icon for his writing, his life was dotted with failures, loss and personal tragedy. So much to learn from this man, I’d would love to sit down with him one lazy afternoon for a leisurely exchange.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to share with readers?
Absolutely! Exceeding Expectations has a sequel. In Paradise Misplaced, you’ll catch up with Charlotte, Jack and Raul, plus a complete cast of new characters, cops and criminals, suitors and pursuers, lovers and would-be lovers, plus a crazed man who pushes Charlie off a subway platform in front of an oncoming train.
Personally, from now to April 26th, I’m currently the featured author in a Virtual Book Tour, sponsored by Pump Up Your Books. There are guest articles, book spotlights, pointed interviews and giveaways. Very exciting! Check out the tour schedule and more at Lisa April Smith’s Virtual Tour and More.
What is something about yourself that would come as a surprise to many people?
I’d bet my closest friends don’t know this about me. Although I have no reason to make use of this skill, I’m a reasonably good marksman. My father taught me about rifles, including shooting and the proper handling of one, when I was in my early teens. I have no idea why he thought that familiarity with firearms was a vital part of a young lady’s education. Maybe because he lacked sons. Maybe he had another reason that he didn’t share with me. It’s hard to fathom so much of what that man did in his brief fifty-five years. He was an unconventional oddball and proud to be one. But he did respect and love books. And he passed that along as well.