Focus on Fiction is pleased to feature
Debra White Smith
Debra is the author of numerous fiction and non-fiction books, including Romancing Your Husband, 101 Ways to Romance Your Marriage, and the popular Seven Sisters fiction series. In addition to her writing, Debra is also the founder of Real Life Ministries, and a popular speaker at conferences and events across the nation. Debra holds a B.A. and M.A. in English and is pursuing a second Master's Degree through Trinity Seminary. She currently makes her home in East Texas, with her husband of 21 years, two children, and a herd of cats.
Focus: Debra, you've written a number of books, both fiction and non-fiction, for the Christian market. Can you tell us how many books in total you've had published?
Debra White Smith: I have 40 book sales as of right now. But I'm on the verge of contracting more, so that number is always growing. As far as the actual number of books I've contracted that have been published, that would be 33. Writers sign contract agreements for future books, so there are always going to be more books contracted than released.
Focus: Is there a particular book among all those you've written that you're especially proud of? If so, why?
Debra White Smith: My favorite novels are For Your Heart Only, Book #5 of The Seven Sister Series, First Impressions, Book #1 of The Austen Series, and Reason and Romance, Book #2 of The Austen Series.
For Your Heart Only is a favorite because of the quick-witted banter between the hero and heroine and the fast-paced mystery plot. The heroine and hero both captivated my heart in that title.
I love First Impressions because I just love Pride and Prejudice. I think it's my favorite Austen novel.
Reason and Romance is special to me because it is, I believe, the most balanced writing I have achieved. It felt more like a "work of art" when I finished than any of my other titles.
My favorite nonfiction book so far is Romancing Your Husband because that book features true-to-life, biblical concepts that revolutionized my marriage and have had the same miraculous affect on many other marriages.
Focus: You've said that your heart is to be real in your writing, and to show God's grace in the midst of every day life. Are there any additional messages or themes that you feel God has asked you to share with your readers?
Debra White Smith: My deep passion is to be real on any and every subject He prompts me to write or speak about. Within that context, I feel that He has called me to share how to break free from negative bonds in your past, how to truly seek Him with all your heart, and then to present marriage, parenting, and family concepts that really work to create a heaven-on-earth home life.
Focus: You've mentioned several books in a new series of stories--each based on a Jane Austen romance-- that you have coming out with Harvest House Publishers. Would you mind giving our readers a quick synopsis of those first two books--First Impressions and Reason and Romance?
Debra White Smith: First Impressions, as I mentioned earlier, is based on Pride and Prejudice. In this story, I have a cast of characters based on Jane Austen's original characters, but they are interacting in a community play based on Pride and Prejudice. So, I've got a story in a story, so to speak, and the two are interwoven throughout. By the end of the story, my hero and heroine become Austen's hero and heroine on the stage and in the plot. As in Austen's original, my heroine, Eddi Boswick, cannot stand my hero, Dave Davidson. He, in turn, can't stand the fact that she's the one woman who isn't chasing him and he winds up falling for her. As in Pride and Prejudice, Eddi must overcome her aversion for Dave. They both must overcome the mistakes they make in their relationship.
Reason and Romance is based on Sense and Sensibility. In this title, I did a straight re-telling of Austen's original plot. My heroine, Elaina Woods, is as sensible as Jane Austen's Elinor Dashwood. She is a college professor who winds up falling for a man, Ted Farris, who is secretly engaged. Her sister, Anna Woods, is a spontaneous romantic who has her heart broken by a womanizer before she can focus on the man who truly loves her. While the sensible Elaina learns to trust her heart, the spontaneous Anna learns to use her head.
Focus: I'm a great Jane Austen fan, and was delighted by your plan to write these contemporary versions of her stories. Where did you get the idea for this project?
Debra White Smith: I had the idea when I did my thesis for my first Master's Degree on Jane Austen. That seed germinated and sprouted. When I pitched the idea to Harvest House, they were elated with it.
Focus: You've said you'll write a present-day version of six of Austen's novels. Besides Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, which four do you plan to retell?
Debra White Smith: Mansfield Park, titled Central Park and set in New York. Emma, titled Eva. Northanger Abbey, titled Northington Village. And Persuasion, titled Possibilities.
Focus: In addition to the new Austen Series, you're the author of the Seven Sisters series, also published with Harvest House. For any of our readers who've not yet met Marilyn, Melissa, Kim Lan, Sonsee, Sammie, Victoria, and Jac, can you share how these ladies got together and became 'sisters'?
Debra White Smith: These characters are seven friends from college who call themselves the "Seven Sisters." They stick together after college and keep in touch with regular meetings, phone calls, and e-mails. I created a mystery romance for each of these characters in The Seven Sister Series.
Focus: In The Awakening, book two of the Seven Sisters series, lead character Kim Lan takes a mission trip to Vietnam. Much of this story was based on your own trip to Vietnam several years ago, and you brought home much more than memories of Saigon pedicabs! Would you be willing to tell us about your family's adoption of Brooke during that trip?
Debra White Smith: We could have had more children, but the Lord called us to adopt. Our biological son was just turning four when we went to get our adopted daughter. The Lord led us to a little girl named Kim Lan Tang who was "waiting" on us in a Vietnamese orphanage. I knew the minute I saw her photo that she was "the one." We proceeded from there. The whole thing unfolded beautifully. Nine months after beginning the process to adopt her, we braved the crazy traffic in Vietnam, and I went through the American embassy in Thailand before going back home to the U.S. It was a once in a lifetime adventure I wouldn't trade. And, I took my experiences--the sights and sounds of Vietnam--and used them to build a realistic novel. In The Awakening, the cast actually goes on a missions trip to the very orphanage where we got our daughter.
Focus: As you went through the adoption process, you met and became friends with an international adoption social worker named Susan K. Downs. Now, thanks to your encouragement, Susan has a new career--one she dreamed of for years. Can you share a little about how you influenced that job change?
Debra White Smith: Susan Downs was the person we contacted when we started our adoption process. Our pastor's wife put us in touch with her after seeing Susan in a New York airport (a major divine appointment story in itself). Susan worked for a Texas adoption agency three hours from our home at the time. She did our home study for us and did much to facilitate our adoption. Through it all, she and I became really good friends. So when she mentioned that she wanted to get involved in writing/editing for the Christian market, I shared her name with some of my editorial contacts. I even got her to help me on a novel. And, in return, I coached her in her novel writing. Susan's skills took her from there. I believe she's still editing for the Heartsong line at Barbour Books. She's also had several novellas and novels released. And one of her novels just made the CBA Best-Seller List. I'm very proud of her success!
Focus: You're taking a new step in your own career as well, by pursuing a second master's degree via correspondence courses. Talk about a full plate! How do you balance studies, writing, speaking, home schooling your children, and being a wife and mother?
Debra White Smith: I've had to make some changes in my life to get it all together. I filed for an extension on my master's degree classes because I was finding that I didn't have time to home school my children and undertake my own academic pursuits. My husband stepped in as ministry manager nearly a year ago, so that helped tremendously and took some of the pressure off of me. Recently, we decided to place our daughter back into a Christian school that will work with our travel times, so I won't be home schooling her this year. My husband carries the burden of home schooling our son. I purposely keep a conservative travel schedule and pick and choose which events I'll do. I guess the main thing I'm learning and have learned in balancing it all is to keep everything as simple as possible. I don't try to be "super" anything. I just do the best I can and let the less important things slide. I keep my focus on the top priorities and don't make a big deal of small stuff.
Focus: Romancing Your Husband, the non-fiction book you mentioned earlier, highlights some of the little ways you keep passion alive in your marriage in spite of your busy schedule. If you could give our married readers one quick romance tip what would it be?
Debra White Smith: Fill in this blank, "If I ______, for my husband, he would be so shocked he wouldn't stop thinking about it for weeks." Let your imagination go, and fill in the blank. Then, give your husband that shock. An occasional shock does wonders for a man and will keep your marriage lively!
Focus: Besides writing, and flirting with your husband, you also enjoy fishing and garage sale shopping:) Do you have any other hobbies?
Debra White Smith: I enjoy reading and shopping in stores for bargains. I also thoroughly enjoy traveling the U.S. and taking in the scenes at national parks and abroad after our ministry events.
Focus: How can your readers and fans be an encouragement to you?
Debra White Smith: If you read The Austen Series and you enjoyed it, please post a positive review on your favorite internet site, places like Christian Book Distributors or Amazon.com. I approached this novel series as a celebration of Austen, but some readers did not appreciate my modernizing these classics, and have posted some very negative comments online. I surf these sites and read these reviews, so readers' positive reviews really encourage me a lot and help to counteract the negative ones.
Focus: Is there anything else you would like your readers to know?
Debra White Smith: I guess the main thing is that I have an ordinary life in "Mayberry USA." I have found that many people assume multi-published authors live in another world. But I don't have a maid or a butler or a fleet of Mercedes. I'm a mom with two children, ages seven and nine, and my life is much like that of many of my readers.