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FIVE ON FRIDAY with Roland Smith

Dear readers,

Your authorness here, with information about a new regular feature to my website blog. It’s called FIVE ON FRIDAY and what it means is that most Fridays, I’ll be interviewing several different YA and middle grade authors, some adult authors and also some illustrators.

I’ll be asking them to tell us about their writing process, what books and writers inspired them and what their next projects will be. I’ve lined up some real characters and it will be a fun, entertaining and enlightening reason to visit here each week. (Or heck, more often).

So I hope you’ll subscribe and enjoy a fun conversation each week with lots of talented authors.

Five on Friday with Award Winning Author Roland Smith
Visit Roland at his website.

When did you know that you first wanted to be a writer?
I was five years old. My parents, for some mysterious reason, gave me a dusty old Underwood manual typewriter for Christmas that weighed more than I did at the time. I feel in love with the machine and would type nonsense on it every day. The clacking sound of the keys was music to my ears.

What book or writer do you feel influenced you the most?
There are too many to name really. I was one of those lucky ones who learned to read at a relatively young age. Every Saturday morning I would ride my bike down to the public library and fill my handlebar basket with books. When I read a good book I would think: “Boy, I wish I could write as well as that writer.” I read two or three books a week, and I’ve done this for over 40 years. The words and ideas from all these books are what turned me into an author. If I had to choose “ONE” book as a favorite it would be To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee, but that book came later in my reading life. When I was young, because there wasn’t much out there for young boys when I was growing up, I read a lot of classics like Treasure Island, Kidnapped and Dracula… All adventure stories. I think authors end up writing the kind of books they like to read, which is certainly reflected in the novels I write today.

What book or books are you currently reading or have recently read that you’d recommend to others?
It would be easier to name authors. I usually pick authors instead of titles. So, anything by Terry Trueman, Pam Munoz Ryan, Will Hobbs, Gary Paulsen, Dan Gutman, Anthony Horowitz, Gordon Korman, oh… and of course, Michael P. Spradlin, and many others. (Nice save, buddy! MPS)

I just finished a non-fiction book called Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. It has to do with the fact that to become good at something (actually anything) you have to spend 10,000 hours practicing it. I’ve been a believer in this for all of my life. Meaning, I think that anyone can become an author if they “choose” to spend their time practicing writing rather than playing video games, watching T.V., etc. all of which are fun activities, but they are like eating candy: It tastes good, but the calories do your body absolutely no good.

If you could offer one piece of advice to aspiring writers (or illustrators), what would it be?
PRACTICE. I write 365 days a year (even on Christmas day, but not for long). When I visit schools I’m often asked where my “inspiration” comes from. The truth is that I’m rarely “inspired.” If I waited for inspiration I wouldn’t have over 25 books out. I’m on the road 7 to 8 months every year visiting schools and speaking at conferences. As a result, I have to write my books on airplanes, at airports, in dreary hotel rooms. Here’s my routine on the road: I go to bed at 8 o’clock every night (no matter what time zone I’m in); I wake up at 4 in the morning; I write for 2 or 3 three hours before I go out and speak; if I have enough energy when I get back to the hotel (or on the airplane) I try to put in some more hours. One rule I have when I’m on the road is that I never turn the TV on. The reason for this is that I WILL WATCH IT if it’s on…for hours. When I’m home on the farm I basically write all day long. I’m not sure how many hours I get in while I’m home, because I have a tendency to wander in and out of my office and see what’s going on with my family.

“Writing causes inspiration. Inspiration does not cause writing.” If you want to be an author you have to write. It doesn’t matter if you’re tired, empty headed, or sick with the flu. Start the pencil or pen moving across the paper, or your fingers tapping keys. The physical act of writing is where inspiration comes from.

Can you share with us your next project or any information about the next book you’re working on?
I have three novels coming out this year. Tentacles which is the sequel to Cryptid Hunters and I,Q Book Two: The White House sequel to I,Q Book One: Independence Hall. And a novel called Beneath.


  1. Fascinating interview! I am a big fan of Roland Smith after reading Peak and Elephant Run in the last few months.

    I’m glad to hear that someone else is comforted by the premise of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and how much energy, time, and effort it takes to be good at anything, particularly writing. I often wonder if I am possessed because I spend so many hours on my writing in addition to a full time job in an elementary school.

  2. Jacqueline,

    Thanks for stopping by the blog! Roland is indeed an amazing writer and having had the pleasure to know him for a few years now an even better guy. I haven’t read Outliers yet, but I did read The Tipping Point and found it fascinating. Roland’s take has made me want to read it though.

    As for your writing, it does take time and effort but so does doing anything well. Don’t give up. I believe it was Edison who said 90% of success in life is just dogged persistence. Paraphrasing.

    Thanks again for checking out the blog and I hope you’ll come back in the weeks ahead for more talks with some great talents.

  3. I concur with Mike,Jacqueline…

    And don’t know if he would agree with this, but I believe that writers are made, not born. I could sing for 50,000 hours and never be a singer. You either have the chops or you don’t. Writing, is an entirely different instrument. It took me 20 years to get my first book published, and almost 20 years to get where I am today. Along the way I had the good fortune to get involved in some interesting things, and meet some interesting people, which gave me something to write about.

    I’m not repeating the adage, write what you “know” here… In fact, I don’t believe in that. You write about what you care about. And I suspect that what most authors care about most in their books are the characters they invent. This is why the reader turns the pages too.

  4. I couldn’t agree more Roland. If every writer only wrote ‘what they knew’ most of the great literature of the world would never exist. I always point to William Styron. He was not a holacaust survivor but he wrote SOPHIE’S CHOICE, he was not a slave but he wrote THE CONFESSIONS OF NAT TURNER.

    I’m not comparing myself to Styron by any stretch, but I don’t know anything about being a squire to a Templar Knight, yet I still managed to write THE YOUNGEST TEMPLAR. Because I was passionate about the story.

    Passion is what drives the world. It’s also what creates stories and art.

  5. Hi Michael. I looooooove Spy Goddess. It’s one of my all time favs. It’s thrilling and action pact. I think my two favs have to be Alex and Rachel. I just fineshed reading To Hawaii with love(Totally Awsome). But there was one litle thing. I didn’t like how the book ended, I mean come on it ended with,”The Book of Seraphim was gone.” And then you go onto the manga and you don’t even mentchen the book in it. Don’t you think your fans wont to know what happens next to the book, and everyone els.

  6. Hello Riley,

    Ok. First of all. Ouch. Second of all,I’m glad you enjoyed the Spy Goddess books. I’m sorry you were disappointed in how the second book ended and how it was turned into a Manga series. What I hope you will understand is that these decisions were not mine to make. The publisher, HarperCollins, decided they didn’t want any more Spy Goddess books after two. And in order to keep the series alive I had to go with the Manga version. I would have loved to have kept going and writing new novels in the Spy Goddess world but it just didn’t work out. So I’m sorry that you’re upset, but I appreciate your passion. In the meantime, I’m moving on to a lot of other exciting things so I hope you’ll spend some time on my website and check out some of my other books. Keep reading!

  7. That was mean. have you even read a WHOLE book of Roland’s? I find that Roland’s books are good for kids and even some adults. He even got me into starting my own short story, which may i say i have put good work into and plan on continuing it and maybe publish it. So thanks for the inspiration Roland!! And Jacks Run, Jacks Lie, and I.Q. art GREAT books!!

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