OBS staff member Annabell got to have a wonderful conversation with author Angela Yuriko Smith about her novel End of Mae, what prompted her to step into fiction writing after having worked in the non-fiction arena for years, and what readers can expect next.
Read the review of End of Mae here
Annabell: At the End of Mae, you added the non-fiction story of the Jersey Devil. How did you come upon that story? And in what ways did it influence your novella?
Angela Yuriko Smith: That was actually a real news story I did for the real Community News, located in New Jersey. I found the story of the Jersey Devil fascinating, especially the way people still believed in it. The area has a distinct atmosphere permeating it, however, and when the sun sets it’s easy to believe that something is in the shadows watching you. After I had written the news story on it, the legend continued to percolate in my mind. When it came time for me to start a fictional tale, it was the inspiration behind it.
Annabell: End of Mae explores dark themes (beatings, torture, manipulation). What made you decide to invoke those elements into the story?
Angela Yuriko Smith: One of the basic premises behind the story was my observation that typically the devil is portrayed as a hideous beast, and yet scripturally, he is described like an angel. He’s also attributed to being a sweet talker, and manipulative. I wanted to bring that element into my villain as a way to point out that the worst ‘bad guys’ don’t advertise it and are quite likeable.
One of the worst real villains we know, Jeffrey Dahmer, was reported to be quite charming and attractive. I won’t get into the gruesome details, but at one point police turned a naked young man back over to him that had previously escaped. The man was found drugged, naked and bleeding, prompting a 911 call from the ladies who found him. Dahmer excused the incident to the police by saying it was his boyfriend and they’d had a fight. At the time he was a registered sex offender with multiple offences. The young man was killed after being returned to Dahmer.
That was what I was trying to point out with Heylel; the fact that evil is seldom ugly and the more beautiful and charming an individual is, the more cautious we should be in general. I didn’t want to dwell on the darker elements of torture, but present them as a possible outcome in that situation.
Annabell: Your characters having interesting names (Heyel, Mae, Prym). Are there any significant meanings behind the names that contributed to you choosing them?
Angela Yuriko Smith: Actually yes. Heylel is an old name from the Bible, and is often associated with evil. Mae was just a name that popped in my head, but I just recently have been informed that it is also a Hebrew name, and means “bitter”, which I thought was appropriate. Prym’s real name is actually Alichino, which is another old name that appears in Dante’s Inferno, but actually predates it. It’s the name of a demon, or devil’s helper and often attributed for inspiring the archetypical character of the Harlequin in old Italian Commedia dell’arte. Also known as Helliquin, the character traits were a black face and supernatural acrobatic skills. In the next book Prym comes back in a new guise with a new name and purpose.
Annabell: What do you think is Mae’s strongest trait? What is her weakest? Do you share the same?
Angela Yuriko Smith: I think Mae’s strongest trait is probably her curiosity, open mind and resilience. Her weakest traits would be the same. It’s my opinion that our personality traits are never really “good or bad” for us, but rather beneficial or detrimental based on the situation presented.
For example, we are often told to be curious and explore our world while simultaneously being warned that curiosity may get us into trouble. A strong woman can be seen as self assured, or brash, depending on who is judging her. I like the Taoist line of thought that there are no good or bad traits. We just have what we have and we work with it.
As far as sharing those traits with Mae, I’d probably have to say yes. Like Mae, I am insanely curious and it has gotten me in many sticky situations. I have lived on the street, ran for my life a few times and had other close calls where I should have ran but didn’t. I based some of Mae’s adventures on a three day spell where I was held against my will, and my reaction was similar to Mae’s – go with the flow ‘til you figure out what’s what and then take action. I was, thankfully, never handcuffed in a basement and beaten.
I guess that’s why I can’t say her curiosity is good or bad. My own curious nature has given me a lot of trouble in the past, but without those scrapes I wouldn’t be who I am now.
Annabell: Why did you decide to write End of Mae as a novella instead of a full fledged novel?
Angela Yuriko Smith: End of Mae was presented as a novella due to my own cowardice, lack of faith and impatience. I knew there were piles upon piles of new Indie fiction being released every hour, and I wasn’t sure if the world would want my contribution.
I released End of Mae to see if there would be any interest in the story, and if I were any good as a fictional writer. I used to be very into fiction growing up, but I had a bad run in with a teacher one year that sort of stomped all of that “made up garbage” out of my head. Fantasy became something to be ashamed of, in my mind. End of Mae sort of came out by itself in my spare time, and I always felt guilty about it, because it “wasn’t real”.
It was the challenge of a fellow writer at a conference that prompted me to finally delve back into fiction. He made the statement that non fiction writers couldn’t write fiction if they wanted to, due to a lack of imagination. I found that rude and a worthy challenge. Now I am very grateful to that loud and opinionated man for being the thorn in my side that helped me reconnect to something that I love.
Annabell: Will there be a sequel? How many more will there be? What can readers expect in the next installment?
Angela Yuriko Smith: There will be a sequel, and a third book is actually partially plotted out at the moment. One of the biggest complaints that I have been getting from all the reviews that have been done is: what happens next? I have mapped out the second book, and am very happy with the way the story is played out.
I go further into merging fiction with actual paranormal anomalies and delve into some old Biblical lore that is not often brought to light. The characters can also now progress with developing further. Where End of Mae was more of an introduction to the characters and story elements, the next book sees the outcome of the situations previously set up.
One thing you may be happy with, as someone that can appreciate a strong female character, is that Mae comes into her own and Heylel actually becomes the weaker character in their match. Prym was removed in the last tale, as far as Mae is concerned, but she comes back with a makeover and a new purpose. Dr. Smeltzer gets a bit of justice served to him, and I will be glad to deal it. Of all the characters, I liked him the least. He allows evil to happen around him and turns a blind eye, deluding himself that he is blameless. Beyond the third book I don’t know. That may be the end, the stories will decide.
Annabell: As a non-fiction writer for various newspapers and online publications, what made you decide to step into the world of fiction?
Angela Yuriko Smith: I mentioned earlier that the catalyst was an argument I had with a pure fictional writer, but it would be more true to say I was returning to the world of fiction. I wrote my first story somewhere around 2nd grade, and I remember being impressed that it was a pretty thick sheaf of notebook paper. It was a ghost story about an old house in our neighborhood.
It was my job, in my circle of friends, to tell the spooky stories. I took my role seriously, and every sleepover we would play a game where I would tell the spookiest story I could about any item mentioned. The girls would take turns picking the most innocent items, and then I would weave my tale.
In 5th grade I came across a horrible teacher, who I at this moment realized sparked a lot of Prym’s character. She detested my stories and referred to them as “lies”. I felt very ashamed, and even though I hated her, she influenced me to forgo fiction in the pursuit of “the truth”.
The argument and challenge that prompted this book was something I wrestled with for years. Originally, I published this book a year earlier under a different title and a pen name so that my professional byline wouldn’t be ‘sullied with this “lie” (sarcasm intended). Now that I have it out there and haven’t been scolded for making up stories, I feel like I’ve been freed from bondage. I don’t think I realized what a negative influence that teacher had been on me until quite recently. Perhaps I should dedicate my next book to her!
Annabell: What is your usual routine like when you are writing? Do you write at night or during the day? Do you have to be alone to write or can you write in public places?
Angela Yuriko Smith: I’m sort of an opportunistic person, so I write whenever I can. Years ago I used to dream of one day having a writing nook that was my own cozy place to work, but I have since learned that if I spend my life waiting for things to be perfect before I start something, I will never start.
Now I just write when I can get my hands on a keyboard. Sometimes it’s with distracting television blaring in the back ground, less often it’s with music and a candle or silence. I am often guilty of writing while engaged in something else, like conversations and cooking. I also have the creepy habit of telling stories when I sleep if I’m over tired and fall asleep mid sentence.
I do find it very hard to write in public places. People are just far to interesting to watch and all the conversations and activity of strangers can derail me from just about any work.
Annabell: Can you tell readers what House of SiverJinx is?
Angela Yuriko Smith: House of SilverJinx is all on its own another story, but I’ll try to sum it up here in a paragraph or two. My husband and I met online, he was in Australia and I was in the US. One of the online places to spend time together was in a virtual world called Second Life. His character’s last name was Silverfall and mine was Jinx.
We dabbled in a few of the vampire role play games that are so prevalent online and became leaders of a vampire ‘family’. When we needed a name for our ‘family’ we just combined our last names. Later we began designing clothes and that became our label since we were already using it.
We still have the clothes business (it pays my bills while I wait on my visa approval), and I couldn’t help sneaking the name in there as a tip of the hat to all our old vampire oriented friends, many of which I am still friends with. Originally, I didn’t realize Heylel was a vampire, and one day, as I was reviewing some of the vampire lore I’d learned, it hit me. I didn’t have to rewrite that element into the story, it was already there. I just couldn’t see it.
My official definition of silverjinx?
Silverjinx /ˈsilvər/jiNGks/ Noun: A situation or object that originally brings bad luck which turns out to be blessing in retrospect, based on the premise that “there is no great loss without some little gain” or “every cloud has a silver lining”.
Annabell: What are some projects you are working on that readers can look forward to in the future?
Angela Yuriko Smith: I am actually finishing up a nonfiction book on how I have marketed End of Mae so successfully and without spending any money on it. I have found a lot of Indie books out there that deserve far more attention than they get, and I blame it solely on marketing, or the lack of.
I’ve done a lot of research over the years and what I have found is that typically authors don’t realize that the work doesn’t stop once they are published. Many of them have beautiful work, but the likelihood that it will be found and appreciated can be greatly increased by their own promotions.
When I ask published authors what the biggest hurdles in marketing their book are, I am repeatedly told lack of funds and lack of time. I came up with ways to introduce marketing for authors that minimize both time and expenditure.
In one month I managed to get half a dozen interviews, two live chats, almost 50 reviews, was an editor’s pick that exposes my book ongoing to over 200,000 potential readers and had 2,000 unique visitors to my interactive “Heylel’s House” that I built virtually as a promotional hub. This all cost me less than $50 if I include two paperbacks I mailed away as prizes in a giveaway.
Everything I did I am laying out in the book I am finishing now, which is titled All You Need Is “Like” and can be replicated by any other author. After that is finished, which will hopefully be in the next few weeks, I can get back to Mae and Heylel and finish their story.
Like many new grooms, Heylel is about to discover that married life is not necessarily full of bliss.
Thank you to author Angela Yuriko Smith for granting OBS the chance to read her novel and being able to interview her! You can find out more about the author and her work at her website: http://dandilyonfluff.com/