Name: Alicia M. Smith
Book Title: Common Stones
Your book’s Amazon purchase link:
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/common-stones-alicia-m-smith/1123101651?ean=9781462411641
What is your book about?
Common Stones is a nonfiction, inspirational, Christian-based book. It joins together a collection of testimonies (including my own)—real stories from real people triumphing over life-altering hurdles. These testimonies are one-hundred-percent authentic. Stories of struggle and pain. Stories of hope, healing, and love.
Ultimately, I sought the “common stepping stone,” leading each of these courageous men and women to triumph. I achieved this goal, unifying these true stories with their common thread. My hope is that Common Stones offers inspiration, healing and hope for readers who feel tested, battered and beaten by life.
What inspired you to write your book?
My father passed from brain cancer in November, 2007—a glioblastoma multiform, the “deadliest of malignant primary brain tumors in adults” (noted by the National Brain Tumor Society). Watching the most amazing man I’ve ever known fight his greatest fight, and ultimately lose his greatest fight, knocked me off my feet. Literally. I struggled for years, not knowing how or even why to keep going. I knew I needed to speak with others. I needed to hear how others had made it through their landmines, absorbing all the wisdom they would offer—while also realizing that I wasn’t as alone as I once thought.
The first chapter of Common Stones tells my story, including how my father’s brain cancer was allegedly caused by his exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, and all the turmoil associated with that. It continues with testimonies I acquired from six phenomenal individuals who made it through their turbulent trials, describing exactly how they came out on top. It would have been selfish to keep these lessons to myself—they had to be shared!
Can you describe your writing process?
Aside from my writing, I have another job as a Special Project Consultant for a technology consulting firm (focusing on education). Thus, dividing that time can be a bit challenging. Because of this, my goal for each weekday is to set aside a minimum of two hours to write. Just write. The material could be my next manuscript or my next blog post. All that matters is that I write. On the weekdays, I do not concern myself with perfection (storyline, facts, grammar, etc.). Instead, I focus on getting all my thoughts, inspiration, and creativity on “paper.” If my thoughts aren’t fluid enough for a storyline or have a clear direction for my blog, I at least type bullet-points, staccato thoughts, etc. Every item is a place to start. The only way I fail is if I don’t write them down.
On the weekends, I try to perfect. I set aside a minimum of a couple of hours on Saturdays (preferably at least one on Sundays), just to tweak/adjust/research. Then the following week, I can attack my prior pages (or begin new ones) with a fresh perspective and fresh start. This structure worked well for me given my many competing work responsibilities, while not putting a lot of stress on my shoulders to attempt a daily “masterpiece.”
How did you come to do what you’re doing today?
I had done a lot of formal, technical writing in my past (my thesis, research articles, manuals, etc.), but nothing quite as in depth as nonfiction. As I stated above, I was having a difficult time healing/coping after losing my father, struggling night after night with flashbacks and pain.
Late one night I awoke, knowing what I had to do. The vision of Common Stones seized my mind, permitting me to think of nothing else until I took steps toward it. Within six months I decided to resign from my consulting job and seek those who would allow me to interview them in order to “ghostwrite” their testimonies. My employer and I agreed that I would stay on part-time to assist the team as they were in need, but I would continue to have the bulk of my time to pursue the mission of my manuscript.
How I met each of the interviewees in Common Stones is a story in and of itself….
Can you describe a typical day in your life?
Well, things have changed immensely in the past three months, as my husband Ryan and I adopted a precious newborn baby boy: Jayden Daniel. Thus, I can honestly say, not many days are alike at the moment! However, usually it begins with me making my energy drink and guzzling it just before an early morning feeding with our little one. After activity-time with Jayden, I lay him down for his nap and try to get in about one hour of writing time. Rinse and repeat throughout the day. Whatever I don’t accomplish during nap times, I save for catch-up on the weekends. It’s an exhausting lifestyle, but beyond rewarding in every way!
What do you most enjoy about what you do?
I enjoy receiving personal messages from readers. Of course, I appreciate all the knowledge and perspective I have acquired from all the inspirational and astoundingly strong individuals whose stories I’ve had the honor of telling. However, the emails, social media messages, blog comments, and in-person conversations from my readers are extremely cherished. For example, having a reader pull me aside at a signing, point to a paragraph in Common Stones, and say, “I read this, and it was as if I didn’t even have to continue reading the entire book. I felt as if someone else ‘got it.’ Thank you for that.” Tears fell from our eyes. I’ll never forget that moment, as well as many, many others. Those are gifts that made every sleepless night during the making of Common Stones worth it.
Are there any people and/or books that have inspired you along your journey?
Yes! As for books, there are so many. But one I always fall back upon is Crazy Love, by Francis Chan. It describes the difference between how the world falls into “believing in and worshiping God,” and a more authentic faith, love, and relationship with God.
As for a book based on the craft of writing, I really enjoyed Stephen King’s On Writing. I loved getting to know the man behind the craft, in addition to his tips on writing itself.
Can you share something that people may be surprised to learn about you?
If you meet me in person, or even view pictures of me online, you’ll see I’m a bit of a shorty—not even five foot two inches (though I normally round-up when someone asks). (I often stand on a stool just to comfortably hug some of my friends and husband.) But I love sports—even more specifically, challenging sporting events, such as triathlons or obstacle course mud races designed by Navy Seals. You’d probably never guess it by looking at me!
What’s next for you?
I have a couple of manuscripts rotating through the revolving door of my mind at the moment: another nonfiction anthology, as well as a children’s book on adoption (there seems to be many vantage points that haven’t been approached just yet in this arena). I’m excited to do both; however, I am just waiting for the perfect time. Though, spending time with my son will always be “what’s next”!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
If I can be of help answering any questions about self-publishing, writing, or interviewing for anthologies, or anything else under the sun, please feel free to contact me through www.authoraliciasmith.com or CommonStones@outlook.com.