M.A.Greene: Hello. I’m M.A.Greene a YA author reaching for publication. You can follow me on writing journey on Twitter @MAGreene996.
- M.A. Greene: So can you tell us when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
Eric Smith: When I was a little kid, my parents got me this electric typewriter. It was this old thing with a tiny little LCD screen on it, and you could type up a whole story, hit enter, and then watch the typewriter bang it out. I’d write these little one page stories about my friends and hand them out at school, and it just made me so wildly happy. I think I knew then, and started taking it seriously years and years later, after college.
- M.A. Greene: When did the initial idea for Don’t Read The Comments come to you?
Eric Smith: I’d been wanting to write a story about teens who meet in a video game for a while, and when I went on a writing retreat with some friends four years ago (shout out to Bill and Phil of the James River Writers!), I started really digging in. But it couldn’t just be about that. It had to be about what happens in that world. The consequences of being who you are in that landscape. So, a story about cyber harassment in virtual spaces was born.
- M.A. Greene: How long did it take you to write Don’t Read The Comments’ first draft, then to finish the book?
Eric Smith: The rough draft was something I’d gotten done in about two weeks… which I know sounds like I wrote it really fast, but it was a TERRIBLE first draft. Just awful. I spent a good year editing and polishing it up before I could even show it to my agent, getting beta readers and critique partners along the way. From that initial rough draft to it being actually published, it took four years.
- M.A. Greene: Don’t Read The Comments has a lot to do with gaming, are you a gamer yourself?
Eric Smith: I am! I play a lot of games across all consoles, but mostly on the Xbox One. Give me a good story driven game, and you’ve got me. Lots of role playing games and action adventures. Dragon Age, Mass Effect, any of the Final Fantasy titles… that keeps me happy. Oh, and Skyrim! Elder Scrolls, all the way.
- M.A. Greene: What type of research did you do for this book? Did you research gaming? Computer coding exc.?
Eric Smith: I mean, I do play a lot of video games, including online multiplayer ones… but I’m not much of a streamer. So I spent a good amount of time hanging around on Twitch and YouTube, watching Let’s Play videos and getting a sense of that community. The one that Divya and Aaron interact with is a fictional one based on the real spaces, but it draws from reality.
- M.A. Greene: What made you want to explore the darker sides that can come along with gaming along with the positive?
Eric Smith: Because it’s an aspect of life for people who look like me, when living in a digital space. It’s a story that doesn’t get featured nearly enough, and those harsh realities should be talked about more.
- M.A. Greene: How did you develop Divya and Aaron’s characters?
Eric Smith: Well, Aaron is based a bit on me. I grew up the same way he did, with similar parents, and also put together computers from out of the garbage. So he spooled out of my own life experience, and was a mashup of several of my close friends. Divya pulls a lot from the women I know who actually work in video games. Her strength and her fight. As for her family life, that also comes from people I know who were in the challenging position of being parents to their parents. All my characters in my stories tend to pull from real life, really.
- M.A. Greene: Are you a plotter or a panser?
Eric Smith: Plotter. I outlined all of Don’t’ Read the Comments before I wrote it.
- M.A. Greene: Are you only interesting in writing for Young Adults or other age groups as well?
Eric Smith: I’d like to break into writing rom-coms one day! They have a big piece of my heart, and it sure would be fun to write some adult romantic comedies.
- M.A. Greene: Do you write with music? And if so, did you ever write using real video gaming
Eric Smith: I wrote a lot of Don’t Read the Comments while listening to I Fight Dragons, a band that incorporates 8-bit chiptune music into their pop-punk-esque songs. They’re absolutely a favorite of mine. Sorry to disappoint though, but I didn’t write it while listening to strictly video game music.
- M.A. Greene: How did you start your career as a literary agent?
Eric Smith: I kicked off my publishing career at an actual publishing house first, Quirk Books. I spent a solid five years there, and it was awesome. But, eventually I wanted to focus on my own books, and agenting just felt like the next step. I’ve been agenting for four years or so, so I’m coming up on a decade in publishing. It’s not a terribly interesting route to agenting, sorry, but it’s how I got here.
- M.A. Greene: How has being a literary agent impacted your writing? Has it helped you know trends are out there? How to write a good hook or good ending for example?
Eric Smith: It hasn’t really. And I don’t pay attention to trends when it comes to my writing. If you’re writing to a trend, it means the trend has already happened and is over. I write what my heart tells me to.
- M.A. Greene: What do you enjoy the most about being a literary agent?
Eric Smith: Saying yes and telling authors that someone ELSE has said yes. Those phone calls are the best, letting someone know their book is going to happen.
- M.A. Greene: What advice would you give aspiring writers in regards to staying motivated, the publishing journey, or so forth?
Eric Smith: Just keep going, keep reading, and always work on the next thing. It can be really easy to just obsessed over the querying process and not work on something new… but you should. Get cracking on that next book, ignore all the noise, and keep pushing forward.