Flowers By The River is a story of family and grief and learning how to overcome grief while not letting go of the person you loved and lost. It’s about acceptance and finding joy in life after ten years of living with an agonising grief that has slowed time to a crawl and made the characters numb to the world.
Journey with a family learning to overcome grief, as I chat with Dean Smith, the author of the powerful ‘Flowers By the River’ today. Dean, looking back, what inspired you to first start writing this book?
Most of my books begin with me hearing a song and getting struck with an image. I was shopping when I heard Eva Cassidy’s cover of Fields of Gold play out in the store I was at and I had this image pop up in my mind of a boy sitting alone in a field of flowers next to a river and then things unravelled from there and I had a basic plotline by the time I left the shopping centre. The same thing happened with my first book actually, shopping centres must be a place of great inspiration for me.
Were some of the elements in the plot, even at that early shopping centre stage drawn from your own life?
I’d say so, everyone’s suffered loss at some point after all, I think it’s quite a universal theme.
Were the universal themes that kept your focus, and became the central ideas you wanted to share with readers?
As the tagline of my book says, life doesn’t end with death. Grief isn’t insurmountable and people who have suffered loss can find joy again in their memories of the one they’ve lost. Pain is temporary, love is forever.
Love is so important and is often best shown through characters. Can you share a little more about these characters that we’ll meet in this book?
With my last book, everyone was larger than life and often hateful in their actions but this time I wanted to create a family that was very much an every day family dealing with a tragically common situation. I took inspiration from pretty much everyone I knew because I wanted the Hughes to feel like someone you could know. A real family.
I love that you kept returning to the idea of developing a relatable book. Is building this feeling what you always keep at the forefront of your mind as you write, or do you focus on other ideas?
Depends on the book, with this one I just wanted to make sure it was relatable really.
What did you learn from turning an idea borne at a shopping centre, into the relatable novel that readers can share?
Definitely how to write for a different audience as well as how to write a different style of book. My first book, Black, was dark and vicious while this one is emotional and softer, kinder. It was quite a learning curve when I began writing it.
Now that you’ve gained experience on that learning curve, have you taken your experiences to another writing project?
I’m taking a break for the moment but I finished the first draft of my third book last year and so now that Flowers is done and realised, I’ll probably begin rewrites and editing on that book. I’ve also been writing down ideas for my fourth book. When I want to take a break from writing a book, I think about writing something else.
I have a method of writing in which I will only write for one hour a day, 6 days a week. It allows me to put everything into that one hour without burning myself out on a project. I think it’s worked well for me so far since I’ve become a lot more focused since I started doing it.
Do you feel like this focused, time-limited technique has helped your voice as an author improve as you’ve kept showing up for each writing session?
I’d like to think that, between these two books and the first draft of the third book, that I’ve got quite a versatile voice. I like trying out different genres and themes, I like thinking about how to change my style to fit the book.
Have you thought about how to brand yourself as an author around these changes of style?
I just write what I want to write, really. Writing is a hobby first for me and a source of income second. I just write what takes my fancy and simply throw it out into the atmosphere and see what happens.
Awesome attitude, just seeing what happens can be a lot of fun. I personally love it as a way to explore a writers’ approach to writing by tossing out a few curlier questions, just to see what happens. Let’s try it now with the question if space is a vacuum, who changes the bags?
A celestial janitor that probably got the short end of the stick.
Changing the space bags does sound like it could be really messy, so hopefully, the space janitor can move onto other jobs soon! What happens if Batman gets bitten by a vampire?
He literally becomes a dark knight since he’d go poof in the daylight?
That doesn’t sound fun at all! If money doesn’t grow on trees then why do banks have branches?
Because money makes people senseless.
*Laughs* Nice touch there. What is your favourite word?
Oh, I really love the way that word just rolls of the tongue too. It just seems magical. Keeping with the magical tone, if you could create a new creature, but blending two together, what new animal would be created?
A capybara and a Rabbit simply because I love rabbits and would want a dog size rabbit.
A dog size rabbit sounds awesome. Big, cuddly and cute. What more could you want! For those readers who are looking for a little less cute, and a little more monster, what new monster would you create if you could?
I’d probably create some sort of banshee creature (because banshees are awesome) that could change reality with it’s voice. It’s song could be both beautiful and destructive depending on it’s mood.
Love that idea! Are you left or right handed?
Both, why limit myself to one?
Why one exactly! Have you ever been on a literary pilgrimage?
No, most pilgrimages concerning books and writing have only taken place on the pages of books I’ve read. I really should at some point though, I’m surrounded with literary history so there’s no excuse.
You really should, but before you get all fired up planning your pilgrimage, can you share your favourite line from Flowers by the River, to give us a snippet of the best bits of your book?
I can’t say since it’s the last few lines but I like the sentiment of the last few sentences of Flowers By The River.
We can’t spoil the ending so we’ll all have to go and get a copy right now to find the mystery of those last few sentences. I might just go and read them again right now, so we’ll wrap up our chat here. Dean, best of luck for this novel, and I hope to hear more about your upcoming work soon!
Excited to read the book we discussed today? Find it here on Amazon: ‘Flowers By The River ( ASIN: B07PW4LVXQ )‘.
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