Today we are excited to bring you our C.H. Smith Interview: crafting stories that make readers feel.
When our founder, Katherine D. Graham, first read Smith's novel, The Princess Knight, she thought she was reading 'just another fantasy story'. A princess was cursed, a quest was formed to seek out the cure, and a ragtag team of adventures had to find all the pieces of armor to save their princess.
It was so much more than that.
By the end of the book, Katherine found herself weeping for the characters' fate. As an editor who reads fantasy and sci-fi books almost every single day (and hardly ever sheds a tear for them), to all-out weep for a character in a book that started out seeming so 'normal' moved Katherine to the core.
We reached out to indie author C.H. Smith to talk about his writing of The Princess Knight, and his advice for fellow authors on how to write stories that make readers truly feel for the characters.
With that, welcome to our interview, C.H.! Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself?
"I'm on the wrong end of my 30s with three little ones, but at least I have a supportive wife.
I played college baseball a hundred pounds or so ago while getting my Bachelor's of Arts in English at Belhaven College in Jackson, MS.
I love the outdoors, specifically anything to do with the water (fishing, swimming, diving). On that note, The Old Man and the Sea is one of my all-time favorite books. I mostly read the classics and epic fantasy along with a little nonfiction that catches my eye sprinkled in along the way.
I absolutely judge a book by its cover... most readers do I think.
For TPK, I wanted the cover to be reminiscent of some of my childhood favorites. I believe Kennon Barton at Red Basement Publishing, LLC nailed it. And finally, I try to be the man of God my wife and children deserve."
Speaking of judging a book by its cover; within your novel, The Princess Knight, the story is so simple in appearance and yet truly profound in meaning by the end. Did you purposefully intend to have the story weigh heavier on the reader as they went along, or did that happen naturally as you wrote?
"When the idea for TPK first started rattling around in my head, I had no idea how it would end. But I did have a really clear view of the beginning. I tried to show early on that when something gets all bottled up inside, it can be awkward to get out. As the book progresses, Daniel gets into the flow of the story... I tried to show that as well.
So, It was a conscious decision for Daniel to be hesitant and wordy at the same time early on. Then as the story progressed and he became more comfortable retelling his tale, he became a better storyteller. Storytellers are made... They ain't born. "
That is most definitely true! Regarding storytelling style, we are curious to know whether you are a planner or a pantser?
"I truly aspire to be a planner. I love plotting ideas and watching the blank page fill with different ideas and different colors of ink. Unfortunately, when I start writing, my beautiful outlines are a rough guide at best. I don't even call myself a hybrid. I am more of a wanna-be planner than anything else."
Many writers find themselves in a similar place regarding wanting to be more organized, but in your case your story was still captivating!
The reason Katherine chose your book for this interview is because of the depth of emotion this story brings out in readers while remaining genuine and empathetic. What would you say are the key things you keep in mind to evoke strong emotions such as hope, grief, and love without coming across as "fake"?
"Some things are obvious. I tried not to say "this is grief", but show the internal conflict or hollow, spaced-out moments so common with the emotion. Same with hope and love. Show the smile and devotion without spelling it out.
But really, I think most writers, myself included, put a part of themselves in their characters. I tried to pull deep from the well of my emotions and memories to pour over the book."
What advice would you give yourself regarding your writing of The Princess Knight now that you have published it and had so many positive reviews for it?
"During my first draft, I tried to be "pretty" and edit as I went. I wish I could go back and slap the back of my own noggin and scream, "Get the words on the page! Just write!"
There will be time later on to fix the typos and agonize over word choice. I think it may have flowed better, but I'll never know now. But in reality, I do not have many regrets about the writing phase... That's the fun part anyway. "
Thank you so much for taking the time to join us for our interview, C.H.!
Want to learn more about C.H. Smith and his books?
-The Princess Knight and C.H. Smith's other novels (including his newest novel, Nothing More Than Zero) are available on Amazon HERE
-You can follow C.H. Smith on Instagram HERE
-Or on Facebook HERE
-Want to read some of The Princess Knight's reviews? Check out Goodreads HERE