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FIVE ON FRIDAY with Sherri L. Smith

This weeks FIVE ON FRIDAY guest is Chicago native and celebrated author Sherri L. Smith. Her books have run numerous awards and her recently released Flygirl was called by School Library Journal “a thrilling, but little-known story that begs to be told.”

Visit Sherri at her website.

When did you know that you first wanted to be a writer?

I think my family knew before I did. I’ve loved books ever since I was a little kid, and I started writing poetry and really bad fantasy novels in 5th and 6th grade. But, if you’d asked me, I would have said I wanted to be an obstetrician, or “baby doctor.” Or a vet. I remember my grandmother hearing me say this and sighing. She said, “Hmm, I always thought you’d be a writer.” Now, I am!

What book or writer do you feel influenced you the most?

That’s a tough one, since I’ve got so many favorites. I’m really impressed by Virginia Woolf’s stream-of-consciousness writing style, and for fun YA/MG fantasy, you can’t beat Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles or Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising sequence. That said, I read and re-read E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web over a hundred times as a kid, and J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is a close second. Fairy tales have a hold on my work, whether my books are contemporary, historical, speculative or mundane. So I guess I should have said the Brothers Grimm!

What book or books are you currently reading or have recently read that you’d recommend to others?

Currently I’m reading a steam punk novel and the jury’s still out on that one. I’ve just read Bernard Cornwell’s Agincourt, which is good, but not as great as his Grail Quest series, which I heartily recommend to anyone who likes battles, history, archery and Arthurian legend. Oh! I also just finished reading Dreamdark: Silksinger, the soon-to-be released follow up to Blackbringer by Laini Taylor. Laini’s got a way of making fairies tougher than the norm. It brings me back to my TSR days, but also forward to something grittier. Be sure to check it out.

If you could offer one piece of advice to aspiring writers (or illustrators), what would it be?

My best advice is to sit down and write. Or stand up and write. Just write. In my experience, there are lots of folks who say they are writers, but not so many of them are actually DOING it. Do it and don’t stop.

Can you share with us your next project or any information about the next book you’re working on?

Its early days still, but I’m currently working on a book called Orleans, about a near-future New Orleans after a series of devastating storms. It follows the journey of a girl who lives in this new world and is charged with saving the life of a newborn baby. If all goes well, it will be out in 2011, which seems terribly far away, but I promise it’s going to be worth the wait!

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