Interview with Billy Wood-Smith

Where do you get the inspiration for your books?
From everyday life… (my own and other people’s.)

You just released the third part of the CAN YOU MEND IT? series. How does it feel?Versuch 1 bunt

Liberating. Because it was a lot of work…

You do not describe the characters in very much detail. Why?

When I read a book, I usually have a certain picture in my head of what the protagonists look like right away. The description the author delivers in the book usually is in total contrast to what I imagine and it annoys me. So, in the case of my own books, I decided to just skip the descriptions.

 What is most important to you when you write?

Peace and quiet.  I need to be able to concentrate and really imagine the scene I am writing about.
Sometimes I have a good idea, but translating it into words that will produce the correct picture in the readers mind is sometimes very hard. I only know if I got it right when I re-read the scene a few days later. Some scenes take several rounds re-reading, revising and refining until I find that it really ‘works’ the way I want it to.

Which scenes are you referring to?

The ones that took many rounds of rewriting?

A lot of the dialogues are that way. Striking the right balance between telling what they say and describing how they say it, is quite a challenge. The key, in my opinion, is not to get lost in descriptions, but nail it with as little words as possible.
And I really want my readers to feel it: Joe’s frustration, D’s embarrassment, Sarah’s irritation, Jack’s confusion…
I try to steer clear of too much detail that might just distract: For example, if I go on and on about how his eyes moved over her face and dilated and his lips parted, and then I switch to her and tell you all about how her heart races and she feel like this and that, you will most likely lose the feeling while you read it.
So, the scenes with a lot of verbal and physical exchange are hard to write. What I found even trickier sometimes, however, were the  flashbacks. There are a few in each of the three books and they all are crucial because they help the reader understand what happened years ago. There was a lot of times while writing these flashbacks, that I got way too lost in details and then had to radically weed out.

Which scenes do you consider ‘flashback’ scenes?

Well, there is Pictures and Memories in the first book where D looks through her photos, and all the memories start popping up.
Then there is Breakfast with Sarah, where Joe and Sarah have quite a lively exchange in the course of which the reader finally finds out what exactly happened three years ago (at least from Joe’s POV). Right afterwards Joe sits in the car in a parking lot and ponders that as well.
In the second book we have Drawer Contents where Joe is going through his drawer and finds some photos, which make him remember how D and he first got together. I thought it was important to get a glimpse of that also from his perspective.
In the third book there is two flashback moments – the most important one, of course, being the talk D and Joe have on the mountain in The Crap from the Past.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

Never had it. On the contrary. My problem is finding the time to write down and refine all the things that pop up in my head. Especially the refining takes a lot of time.

How do you go about writing a book?

When I first started, all I wanted was to experiment with that one scene I’ve had in my head since I was 16 or so. It’s the scene where Joe brings D back her phone after the grill party. (Initially it was something else that she dropped, because when I was 16, cell phones didn’t yet exist…)
Then the story started to grow far beyond that one scene, and handling it became harder and harder. Not just because I didn’t have a plan or even chapter titles yet, but also because I wrote scenes as they popped up in my head and not necessarily in consecutive order. Bringing some order into the variety of scenes (some of which eventually became part of books  2 or even 3 later) was not easy.
The first step was to come up with good chapter titles that I could identify the parts by. The second step was better formatting. The third step was filling in the gaps that I had left between the scenes. That was sometimes very boring and I found that I really cannot force it. There were several “gaps” that I just didn’t know how to fill. And then, suddenly, I had an idea. With time I realized that if I just wait, there will eventually also be a good idea for any gap.

What’s striking about your book is the chapter titles. There is not just Chapter one, two, three…

I personally get a little upset when I read a book with chapter titles one, two, three and then try to find something again later. It’s impossible. A lot of times numbering the chapters is probably done so the chapter titles cannot give anything away.
I think the chapter titles I have in the CAN YOU MEND IT? series are vague enough not to give anything away in advance, but once a person has read the chapter, the title should make perfect sense, and will enable the readers to find scenes again if they wish to…
‘Alligator Attacks’, for example will definitely not let anyone know in advance what’s going to happen in the chapter. Once you’ve read it, however, you know…

That’s definitely true. Toothbrush Variations didn’t give anything away either. Or The Stalker…

(Laughs )

How important are your readers to you?

That’s a hard one to answer. When I published the first book, I was dying to get feedback. Not just from my friends and family who all loved the book and couldn’t wait for the next part, but also from anyone out there.
The book was free one Amazon every once in a while and close to 1.000 people downloaded it. I was sooo excited. From those downloads I got exactly 5 reviews… And even though all of these reviews were five stars, I realized at that point that I better not make my motivation to finish writing the story dependent on feedback from readers, because more often than not, there simply isn’t any feedback.
I finished the story now, the third book has been released and I am happy how it turned out; my friends and family like it a lot, and – honestly – that’s what really matters to me. If other people like it too, that’s great. Good reviews thrill me. But if there isn’t anything at all, I’m fine too.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I like writing, but it’s just a hobby for me. I have a full time job, I have some housework and I have a lot of outdoor hobbies that I do with my husband – such as biking, hiking, going to the lake to swim, skiing in winter… – and travelling. Even if I sacrificed a lot of my free time and evenings over the past two years to finish the books, I had this rule that my husband and our hobbies have to come first.
Now that the third book is finished, it feels almost strange to have so much free time and to just sit and watch the news without the computer already on my lap.

Which one of your CYMI characters do you most identify with?

Naturally Joe and D are the two I identify with the most. Depending on the situation, it’s sometimes more Joe and sometimes more D.  Also Sarah, Jack and Christine are easy to relate to. There is not a lot of myself in Liz, but I know a few people just like her, so I think she’s quite realistic as well.

Any personal info you want to share? Like: How old are you and where do you live?

I’m 43 years old, happily married for 15 years and live in Austria.

Any plans for your next book?

While writing the Can you mend it? series I also wrote quite a few scenes about the time when Joe and D first met. These scenes were initially meant to be flashbacks, but I didn’t put them into the books because it would have been too much. The three books are long enough as they are.
If I feel like it and if I have time, I might use these scenes in a prequel, however. About the time when Joe and D first got together.
For right now I enjoy having more free time, however.
Also, I am experimenting with translating book 1 into German.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Can you mend it?