Alexis Morgan thought she had everything wanted: A budding career as a college instructor, her own house in an up-and-coming Detroit suburb, and a close-knit group of friends. She wasn’t looking for love when she met a former boy band front man, Craig Harris, her childhood crush. Yet, their flirtation evolves into a long-distance romance that is challenged by Alexis’s independence and hesitation to get involved with someone at the mercy of the paparazzi. Still pained by the dissolution of her only serious relationship, can she handle a love affair with a man she has to share with the public without losing herself in the process? To Detroit, With Love is a story about growth and trust in love set amongst the backdrop of a city is on the cusp of revival that’s echoed in Alexis’s hope and tenacity.
Will Alexis’s hopes and wants change with her new chance at love? To explore Alexis’s growth, I’ve been joined by Bridget S. Smith, author of ‘To Detroit, With Love’. Bridget, thanks for sparing some time to chat about your novel with me today. Where did Alexis’s journey begin?
My first novel was ripped to shreds by everyone; friends, family, and of course publishers. I needed a break before I started a complete re-write. During this process, I retreated into the things that made me happy, sappy 1990’s era boy bands. This book is really a homage to my love of boy bands, and how we grew up alongside them.
Who doesn’t love a sappy boy band? And I love the fact that the sappy boy bands picked up your spirits enough to continue writing when you could have decided never to write again after having your first work critiqued to the point of pain. In the process of starting to write again, did you feel it was essential to guard against the problems you had in your first book by doing research?
I would say that my life long love of boy bands certainly served as research. I work in higher education, in radio and the music industry for over a decade, so much of the book stems from working in the industry. Once you will read the book, you will note that my leading characters often fall into these industries. I also have significant graduate work in the social sciences so many of my themes are influenced by the work of Erving Goffman and revolve around character’s understanding their “self” and the importance of that.
Keeping ourselves in these industries, are there any events that you’ve directly seen in the radio and music industry in particular or at least heard about that made it into the final cut?
There is a scene where the lead male character is performing at a speed-dating event. That really happened, with a real-life former boy band singer. The character isn’t based on him, but the scenario that took place was.
Oh, really, that’s a based on a real event? Wow, I can feel the awkwardness even from here. Your main male lead was formed from these real life snippets and fictional events that you’ve become aware of from working in the industry. How did you lead females, who don’t work in this industry come about?
The female characters were all inspired by friends I had in college. When we graduated and moved on, we lost that connection. This book imagines what it would be like if those friendships continued on into careers and real life challenges.
Do you feel that these the challenges you worked into the plot shaped how you characters react, or do you feel that the strength of the characters changed what you had planned?
In this book, the plot was informed by their personalities. It was so important that these characters held their own and stayed true to their ‘selves’ despite life’s challenges.
Working in radio and music feels means that you’ve met many a creative person. Which creative people do you think would best do justice to the lead male and female roles if we got to see these challenges up on the big screen?
My gut reaction would be to say Donnie Wahlberg for the male lead, but that’s just because I’ve had a crush on the man since the 2nd grade. Actually, now that I think of it, Joey Fatone from N Sync would be a better fit. With regard to the female lead, I have always loved Julia Styles, but she is blonde. Alexis has auburn hair. Maybe someone relatively unknown?
Those are good picks, but I always like it when an unknown is considered. I like that there’s that new chance for a career to be built, and that is always very attractive. What attracts you to writing?
Writing is cathartic. I can come home after a long day and lose myself in another world. I also love to read and consume a couple nonfiction books a month in addition to maybe four fiction. As an avid consumer, I write books that I want to read.
Is writing something that you want to read where you find the greatest rewards when writing this book?
As one of my Goodreads reviews mentions, it was wish fulfilment in some ways. Although, it took me a long time to admit that. I was able to write about things that made me happy in a time when so much was making me unhappy.
I don’t think there’s anything to hide about writing something that makes you feel happy. Being happy is important and if writing is a constructive way to reach that happiness I say why not! In this novel, what was most important to you that you wanted readers to take with them?
In order to be happy, it’s important to be open to change and opportunity. We tend to close ourselves off to the outside world in order to protect ourselves. In turn, we risk miss opportunities to take our lives beyond the day-to-day doldrums.
What have you learnt about life beyond these doldrums while bringing ‘To Detroit, With Love’ to life?
That writing is a process, creative writing followed by editing and revision after revision
What do you now understand about the writing process that will help you reduce the number of revisions in the future?
I’d start focusing on the plot before I got so far into the writing process. I wound up scraping some chapters that I loved but they didn’t further the plot.
Are you playing with any plots at the moment?
I’m on my third, yes, third, complete re-write of my first novel, Ready for Air. I hope to have it out in early 2018, I’m also nearly half way through the 2nd book in this series, which I hope to publish next spring.
Good luck working through that third re-write and getting that second instalment ready to publish! I hope that you don’t have to completely re-write either of them! How do you keep ideas separate when you’re working on multiple books at once? Are you avidly taking notes?
I have an app on my phone called “Google Keep”. There are entire plot lines on there.
That’s handy. How do these plot lines flourish?
For the most part, I work on developing the characters first. The characters are central to my books and I like to allow them to dictate the ending of the book.
Are there any practices or rituals that you like to do to get those characters ready to begin dictating where they want to end up?
I’ve struggled with this lately. I am a year behind my initial publishing schedule because I couldn’t find the time to write. Now, I kick my husband and fur-child out of the formal living room and settle into my cozy chair several nights a week. Once I start writing, I can go on for hours.
Is there any music that you use to get you straight into that writing zone?
As much as I like music, I prefer it quiet.
Do you even find the quiet unsettling and preventing you from making process? And how do you work through these creative blocks?
You just have to start writing. I have about half a dozen books that I’ve started to write, just to get myself into the flow of writing before I go back to my current project.
Wow, that’s a lot of works on the go! With so many ideas kicking around I’m guessing that you have a fairly strict editing process to ensure the novel flow well. How does this process of flow correction and polishing unfold for you?
This is my focus right now, I need to get better at editing. I do very little of it myself and farm it out to other writers.
As someone who has both successfully written and published one book, and had another that fell flat, what advice can you share with other current and aspiring authors?
Persistence is key. Have people lined up to read and review your book. Ask them to be honest. You can use that feedback as you try to promote your work.
What attention have you placed on promotional work so far in your writing career? Have you thought much about the author voice and brand that you want to leave on the world?
This is certainly an area of improvement for me. My goal is to create novels for modern women. I am horrified at the number of female characters who give up their identities and livelihood a month after meeting Prince Charming. Life doesn’t, and shouldn’t work that way. I want to be the author that ensures that characters stay true to themselves while navigating often-complicated relationships.
I like that challenge and I feel that there is a good market out there writing to modern women who can’t really see the validity of giving up everything for Price Charming after only a month. Before you return to the rewards of writing for modern women, let’s have some fun and take up the challenge of the quick fire question round to share a little of your author voice without cementing down your author brand. Let’s start with what is your favourite quote?
“The path to your own happiness starts and ends with you! You won’t find it anywhere else. Now stop looking outside and start looking inside.”- Donnie Wahlberg
Ahh, Donnie, he’s not only your top crush, but he has words of wisdom too! Do you have any philosophies that you live by?
If you don’t like something – change it.
Not that you don’t love your work in higher education and radio, but if you had your chance to change it, what would you pick?
I still deny the fact that I’m a millennial. In fact, I read an article that called us xennials. Either way, I feel fortunate to not be pigeon holed. Right now I’m most happy in the media part-time and higher education full-time, but who knows what the future will bring. Being able to travel the world and write also sounds amazing.
Travelling and writing sound pretty awesome. I hope that you can continue to avoid being pigeon holed and get to travel and write in one way or another. Here’s a good writer question, where is the line between insanity and creativity?
There isn’t much of a line here. I can tell you confidently that most creatives I know, especially in the music industry and radio, all have cracks in their sanity.
*Laughs* I can’t say that I’m surprised about that. I think it really helps if you have some of those cracks if you want to function well in a creative arena. Keeping our minds in the arenas of life, if all of the world is a stage, where does the audience sit?
It’s theater in the round. The audience is all around us, every day.
And when you’re talking to that audience, what are you favourite words to use?
Well if you read my reviews, it’s probably the F word. I had no idea I used it so much. But, in creative writing, I love the word pensive.
Pensive is a good word. What is your favourite line, quote or statement from your book?
“That’s you. Not penned in. Free to fly. That’s the love that I see you in. You deserve a crazy love. You settle for anything else and your life will become normal, and you will be unhappy.”
Bridget, thanks for giving a grand overview of the crazy love in ‘To Detroit, With Love’, and I wish you the best of luck working through that third rewrite of your first book.
Excited to read the book we discussed today? Find it here on Amazon: ‘To Detroit, With Love ( ASIN: B019BGIB4K )‘.
Want to find out more about Bridget S. Smith? Connect here!