Interview with Jeri Smith-ReadyApril, 2012
SS: How would you describe your life in only 8 words?
JS: Full of love, music, words, and fur. Really.
What Readers want to know...
SS: How would you describe perfect happiness?
JS: I don’t believe in one-size-fits-all lives. What makes me perfectly happy (spending most of my waking hours in the same house as my husband, squirreled away writing books, surrounded by animals) might drive someone else absolutely nuts.
So I think we all have to figure out what would make us happy and work towards that. Meaning, don’t reach for other people’s definitions of happiness.
This can take a really long time. It did for me. I was pretty clueless what I wanted to do with my life until I started writing in my mid-twenties. Even then, I went back to grad school because I wanted a backup plan. But eventually I knew that only writing would make me happy.
SS: What’s your greatest fear?
JS: Not being liked. A close second would be admitting my greatest fear.
SS: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
JS: I’m writing this interview while on an airplane, so if we’re talking RIGHT NOW, I’d like to be home in bed. But in general, the place I’d most love to visit is New Zealand. But I’m worried I might never come home.
SS: What are your most overused words or phrases?
JS: Awesome. Seriously. I also use parentheses way too much (or maybe just enough).
SS: What do you regret most?
JS: Not much. I’ve made a ton of mistakes, but they’ve all led me to this point. But I often regret not bringing a map with me in the car.
SS: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
JS: Singing. I have a strong voice but am terrible at staying on-key. Which is a really bad combination, because it means I’m loud and painful.
SS: What is your greatest achievement?
JS: Graduating college in only four years! I switched majors three times (before I discovered writing, I didn’t have much stick-to-it-ive-ness at anything) and had to take a very heavy load my last semester. I could’ve coasted like most seniors, but I really wanted to get an Honors degree instead of just a basic English degree. I had to write nineteen papers plus a thesis! But I did it somehow, and the courses I took that last semester blew my mind wide open, so I’m really glad I took the rough road for once in my life.
SS: What’s your greatest flaw?
JS: I tend to get wrapped up in my own head and not notice things and people around me. If I’m really involved in what I’m doing, I forget things people say in about half a second. It’s great for focus, but sometimes it comes across as thoughtlessness, and I wonder if I’m being a jerk.
SS: What’s your best quality?
JS: I had to consult my husband on this one, and he said it’s that I don’t take myself too seriously.
SS: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
JS: It would be cool to be a cat for a while. I’d get to stay up all night, see in the dark, get fed and petted for doing pretty much nothing.
SS: What trait is most noticeable about you?
JS: If you mean physical trait, it’s probably my smile. I must have a weird face, because whenever I’m not smiling, people ask if I’m upset. Nine times out of ten, I’m just thinking. Then they insist I must be annoyed at something, and eventually it becomes true. If you mean personality trait, people usually say I’m incredibly nice. I’m proud of this, because it means I’ve totally fooled 99% of those who’ve met me.
SS: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
JS: Bugs Bunny. I love trickster heroes (Ciara Griffin of my WVMP Radio series is a good example of my own). Bugs was always two or three (or more) steps ahead of his opponent and never had to resort to force to win the day. He was just cool.
SS: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
JS: This is hard, because I love villains. I often root for them if they’re more interesting than the hero. The first ones who come to mind are David Bowie’s Goblin King from LABYRINTH, and the Phantom from PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. They were so fascinating and tempting and offered such magic.
SS: What is your biggest pet peeve?
JS: When people name their pet peeves and it turns out to be something that I do.
SS: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
JS: Playing Wii Fit. I’ve always hated exercise with a passion, but I love video games, and I love beating my husband’s scores, so it’s super motivating.
SS: What’s your fantasy profession?
JS: Novelist! I can’t imagine anything better than this. Though I think it would be fun to drive a Zamboni or operate a forklift.
SS: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
JS: Sense of humor, empathy, and compassion
SS: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
JS: Does anyone not answer "pizza"?
SS: What are your 5 favorite songs?
JS: It’s SO hard to say, but here’s what first came to mind: “Inside Out” by Eve 6, “Aneurysm” by Nirvana, “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol, “Aly Walk with Me” by the Raveonettes, and “Holiday” by Green Day.
Questions About Books and Writing
SS: Who are your favorite authors?
JS: Neil Gaiman
Charles de Lint
SS: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
JS: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle
Stupid and Contagious by Caprice Crane
Looking for Alaska by John Green
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
SS: Is there a book you love to reread?
JS: I hardly ever reread books anymore, but when I was a kid I read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and Dodie Smith’s 101 Dalmatians (the novel, which is nothing like the Disney film) about thirty times each.
SS: Do you have one sentence of advice for new writers?
JS: Learn from those who’ve gone before you, but do what’s right for you instead of trying to follow someone else’s path, because everyone’s journey is unique.
SS: What comment do you hear most often from your readers?
JS: That they stayed up late reading it, even though they had to get up early the next day for school or work, because they couldn’t put it down.
SS: What is your birthdate?
SS: What were your previous occupations?
JS: Busgirl, Waitress, Veterinary Assistant, Knife Salesperson (not kidding), Secretary, Data Analyst, Grad Student, Policy Analyst, Freelance editor
SS: What was/is your favorite job?
JS: This one, no contest. I’m not really cut out for office work, although I must have done pretty well at it, because I kept getting promoted into jobs I didn’t want.
SS: Where did you go to high school and/or college?
JS: I went to high school at Loudoun County High School in Leesburg, Virginia, then got my bachelor’s degree in Honors/English, at Villanova University in Pennsylvania (Go ‘Cats!). Later I got my master’s degree in environmental policy at University of Maryland (Fear the Turtle!). Obviously I’m a big college basketball fan.
SS: Name of your favorite composer or music artist?
JS: Nirvana, hands down. Cake, Morphine, Green Day, and Tori Amos are some other all-time faves. My current obsessions include the Raveonettes, the XX, Elbow, Killers, Snow Patrol, Great Lake Swimmers, AFI, My Chemical Romance, Dead Confederate, Black Angels, Coldplay, and A Place to Bury Strangers.
SS: What is your favorite movie?
JS: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
SS: What is your favorite television show?
JS: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Get more on Jeri Smith-Ready at SimonandSchuster.com