Debut Author Interview Project: Ginger Smith

Angry Robot have an awesome publicist, which means that over the next few weeks I’ll be posting interviews with quite a few of their debut authors! I am very excited to have so many wonderful interviews to post. Today, you’ll hear from Ginger Smith about her debut The Rush’s Edge (Goodreads/Bookshop [affiliate link]). I don’t know about you, but I really want to read The Rush’s Edge now!

Please tell us about your book:

Lab-grown, genetically-engineered “vat” soldier Hal and his crew scour the Edge of the galaxy salvaging crashed ships. Hal knows vats like him die early chasing the adrenaline rush they’re programmed to crave, but his former commanding officer and best friend Tyce keeps him on the right path. After he meets natural-born tecker Vivi, he begins to wonder if there’s a future for the two of them, but first, they must figure out what was downloaded into their ship by a strange alien artifact and why the government will do anything to keep them silent about it. In short, The Rush’s Edge is the story of a programmed solider who, with the help of his found family, discovers what it means to be human. 

How did you celebrate its release?

Due to COVID, I wasn’t able to do very much celebrating, except with my husband at home. But I did buy a beautiful pair of moonstone earrings I’d been eyeing and wore them at my launch event. [The Rush’s Edge was released in November 2020.]

Why and when did you start writing in earnest?

I was about ten when I read The Elfstones of Shanara by Terry Brooks, and I was crushed by the ending (I don’t want to spoil it, but a character that I loved died in what I felt was a really unfair way). I got so upset and angry that I decided right then and there to write my own novel and that way I could have it end how I wanted it to, and there wouldn’t be any deaths at the end! It was a sprawling 328-page hot mess of a fantasy novel, complete with a good and evil brother, mages, dwarves, gnomes and a beautiful princess. I threw in everything AND the kitchen sink. I toiled tirelessly on that monster for two or three years, and I still have it today. It remains unpublished (lol).

What was your publishing journey like?

It was a crazy thrill ride, interspersed with tons of waiting. I wrote The Rush’s Edge in about three months, then spent another month editing.  When I thought I was ready, I began querying agents, changing my query for each one, as well as revising those initial 25 pages. I had gotten to agent number six or seven when I saw that Angry Robot and an e-publisher had an open submission period at about the same time, so I figured I had nothing to lose. I submitted to both as well as a few more agents.

All summer I dreamed of my book finding a home at Angry Robot.  It seemed like such a long shot. Finally, the e-publisher called to talk contracts, then Angry Robot called to talk 24 hours after that. I thought I was going to die when I was offered the contract with AR. They were such a unique publisher that I wanted my book to find a home there. They even gave me time to get an agent. I signed with Amanda Rutter, and she was a huge help in navigating the contract and publication process!  

Angry Robot was just a dream to work with. Editing was a team effort and I even had input on the cover, which I did not expect. All in all, except for COVID and its restrictions, the entire process exceeded my hopes.

How many books did you write before your debut and what did you learn from them?

Well, not counting the one at ten years old (lol), probably three. Two of them were fanfic novels. I think I learned so much about pacing a story, writing action scenes and building strong characterization from those experiences.

How has your relationship to writing changed after finding out that your debut would be published?

This is a great question! I think I understand my writing process better and I trust it more now in a lot of ways. As I wrote the debut novel with the intention of getting it published, I really paid attention to the processes I used so that I could replicate them later. Success also makes everything a little more complicated because you want to live up to or surpass your first book. 

What do you wish you had known before publishing your first book?

I wish I’d known how much waiting was actually involved. I definitely learned the lessons of patience by writing the book, then waiting a whole year for publication. I also wish I’d listened to those people that told me not to read reviews.

What challenges do you face as a published author?

First, is getting the word about my book out there. Secondly, trying to switch worlds to write something new is very, very hard. I miss Hal, Vivi and Ty. After spending two years of my creative life with them, it’s very hard to put them aside to work on something else.

Do you feel the industry has been welcoming to you?

Yes, all the way around. Angry Robot’s a great publisher to work with, and I have a great group of author friends I met on Twitter. Also, Amanda Rutter, my agent, has been supportive from day one.

How has the pandemic affected you creatively?

It’s been harder to focus on writing, but working from home did give me more time to complete the edits on The Rush’s Edge.

Do you think that current events have changed the reception of your debut?

COVID really had a dampening effect upon being able to do in person events. I think this is the major reason 2020 has been hard on all debut authors.

How do you approach reviews, what was your first negative review like?

That’s a tough question. I’ve had two reviews say two completely different things that couldn’t possibly both be true, and that taught me that reviews are subjective/entirely for readers. I want everyone to love my book as much as I do, but unfortunately, some will not. That’s how this game is played. I don’t think anyone likes getting that first negative review, but you can’t let those things rent space in your brain, as my husband likes to say.

What are you planning next?

I’d love to publish more stories in The Rush’s Edge universe, but right now, I’m starting on a horror novel set in a dystopian future.  I also may put up a few stories on my website (ginger-smith-author.com) set in the world of The Rush’s Edge so keep your eyes open for those!

Do you have a set writing routine?

I write every evening from 7 to 10, without fail.

What is your preferred writing soundtrack?

I have different soundtracks for different moods in a story.  For The Rush’s Edge, I listened to the Spider-man: Into the Spiderverse soundtrack, The Heavy, The Police, Styx, Queen, Pink Floyd and Rush.

Coffee, tea or other writing fuel?

Coffee, but I’ll take anything caffeinated.

What was your favourite moment on the journey to publication?

When I got a favorable Publisher’s Weekly review, I felt like I’d made it.  I printed it out, framed it and hung it on my wall along with the cover artwork from my book.  Holding The Rush’s Edge in my hands was another amazing highlight that I’ll never forget.

What books (or other media) have you loved recently?

Wandavision was simply amazing and just what I needed after The Mandalorian.

I’ve also read a few great books over the last year: The Phlebotomist by Chris Panatier, Captain Moxley and the Embers of the Empire by Dan Hanks and The Light Years by R.W.W. Greene.

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