I’m currently reading today’s featured book, and if real life didn’t make demands on me (seriously, why can’t I read all the time?), you’d need a crowbar to pry it from my hands. It’s a sequel that can be read as a standalone, but trust me when I say you won’t want to miss the strong-willed, no-nonsense main character grandmother Bea Crenshaw in the first book. This author combined a few of the questions and created quite a humorous Halloween scenario that I’d love to witness. Welcome Brenda Marie Smith!
Which urban legend scares you most?
The idea of a Chupacabra scares my pants off (which is a scary idea in itself), but I like the Mothman because he’s scary but also tragic and mysterious. Mae Clair has written a fictionalized account of him: The Point Pleasant Series, in which he sometimes goes into a rage and haunts the residents of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, but he also shows compassion and gives aid to certain people who have shown him kindness. Ultimately, he is all alone, the sole member of his species, and I can’t imagine much that would be scarier or more tragic.
Was there a horror movie you refused to watch because the previews were too scary?
I never liked Alien or Aliens because the monster was so SLLIIIIMYYY, but I watched them with my hands over my eyes. I refused to watch The Walking Dead for ten years because zombies are so gross. My son finally convinced me to try one episode, and I was instantly hooked—not on the zombies, but on the excellent human drama, all based on the well-drawn characters in extreme peril.
I’d like to answer all of these questions at once: Candy apple or candy corn? If you watch horror movies, are you the person who yells at the characters, covers your eyes, or falls asleep? Do you ever see figures in your peripheral vision?
If you were to find me watching a horror movie on Halloween, I’d be sitting near a pile of untouched candy apples, munching candy corn, alternately yelling at characters and covering my eyes, while trying to avoid looking at the floating spot in my eye that looks like a spindly black spider and ignoring the monsters in my peripheral vision. If the caramel is soft and the apples are crisp, I might eat a candy apple anyway. If the caramel is hard, I’ll use it to whack the monsters on the head or poke them in the eye with the apple stick.
If you decided to write a spinoff of a side character, who would you choose?
I did write a spinoff of If Darkness Takes Us, with its standalone sequel, If the Light Escapes. The first book was told from the point of view of grandmother Bea Crenshaw, the second in the voice of her 18-year-old grandson Keno Simms. I chose Keno because he was a standout character in the first book. I was a little worried that, being so young, he wouldn’t be able to carry an adult novel, but he surprised my socks off by spewing out of me so fast that I literally could not type fast enough to keep up with him. I’d like to write a third book in the series from the points of view of both Keno and Bea as well as other characters, perhaps Keno’s younger cousins Milo and Mazie, maybe his mother Erin and/or his uncle Pete.
How do you celebrate when you finish writing a book?
For me, there are different levels of “finishing” a book. Finish the first draft: take a day or two off from writing and marketing. Complete a rewrite: have cocktails and a special dinner with the hubby. Polish off the various publisher edits: hoot and holler with my family and my critique partners. Finally see my book go up for sale: sit there stunned, laughing and crying, refreshing the book buy link hundreds of times per day, tearing myself away to sleep for a week. For my first two novels, I threw a book launch party. For this one, due to COVID, I might have a much smaller gathering then do an online event sometime soon after.
If you could spend the day with another popular author, who would you choose?
I would have chosen Toni Morrison or John LeCarré, but, sadly, these amazing authors are no longer with us, unless I could contact them in a séance. I would love to spend a day with Margaret Atwood and absorb some of her talent and wisdom through osmosis. I would do my best not to turn her off with my pesky questions and be on my best behavior. I admire her so much. I’m sure I would be a nervous wreck but also happy as a clam.
A Standalone Sequel to If Darkness Takes Us
A solar electromagnetic pulse fried the U.S. grid. Now northern lights are in Texas—3,000 miles farther south than where they belong. The universe won’t stop screwing with 18-year-old Keno Simms. All that’s left for him and his broken family is farming their Austin subdivision, trying to eke out a living on poor soil in the scorching heat.
Keno’s one solace is his love for Alma, who has her own secret sorrows. When he gets her pregnant, he vows to keep her alive no matter what. Yet armed marauders and nature itself collude against him, forcing him to make choices that rip at his conscience. IF THE LIGHT ESCAPES is post-apocalyptic science fiction set in a near-future reality, a coming-of-age story told in the voice of a heroic teen who’s forced into manhood too soon.
Author Bio and Social Media
Brenda Marie Smith lived off the grid for many years in a farming collective where her sons were delivered by midwives. She’s been a community activist, managed student housing co-ops, produced concerts to raise money for causes, done massive quantities of bookkeeping, and raised a small herd of teenage boys.
Brenda is attracted to stories where everyday characters transcend their limitations to find their inner heroism. She and her husband reside in a grid-connected, solar-powered home in South Austin, Texas. They have more grown kids and grandkids than they can count.