Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Joan F. Smith Interview - The Other Side of Infinity

Photo Credit: Sharona Jacobs

Joan F. Smith is an author, dance instructor, and former associate dean of creative writing. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. Joan lives and writes in Massachusetts, where she was the 2021 Writer-in-Residence at the Milton Public Library. When she's not writing, she's either wrangling her kids, embarking on a new hobby she will quickly abandon, or listening to podcasts on a run.


When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
I truthfully don’t remember not writing, not telling stories. I’ve always expressed myself through storytelling!

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
I’m incredibly indecisive by nature, so I don’t have a single favorite book. Growing up, my favorite books were A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I’m also very partial to Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng and The Mothers by Brit Bennett.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
This is a small but mighty one: A year and a half after my debut novel The Half-Orphan’s Handbook came out, way after the excitement had dulled, a kid in my town wrote a very passionate review about my book that was published in a local magazine. My cousin reads this particular magazine and texted the review to me. I was able to send that eleven-year-old a bookmark, some swag, and a signed copy of my book.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to have a life in writing?
Read as much as you can in the genre you’re interested in writing. Study craft books, and be prepared to rewrite!

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
This book poured out of me faster than any other book has before, but what kept me from editing it was definitely the pandemic!

Can you tell us when you started THE OTHER SIDE OF INFINITY, how that came about?
It came about as kind of a strange lightning bolt feeling. I had the idea for it when my son was a newborn, and I was desperate to mitigate my postpartum worry with the knowledge of what would happen next. The main character in the book, December, has this kind of clairvoyance/foreknowledge. I thought about what else I would have done if I’d known things from my past, and how I would have tried to save a few lives of those important to me. And thus, the book was born!

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?
My favorite side character is a budding neurosurgeon, and I fell deep into some medical journals as a result.

  • The condo complex where Nick and December live is modeled after the one I grew up in, except it has a pool, and mine did not.
  • The first draft of this book poured out of me in about three months. It’s the fastest I have ever drafted anything.
  • I draft books in total silence, and this one is no exception. Unlike most of my writing friends, I don’t make playlists to prep for writing!
  • I have gone sledding on boogie boards before!
  • I always meant to change the name “Nick” and I never did.
  • Speaking of names: This is the second book in a row where I felt compelled to change a character’s name because a friend named their new baby that name.
  • A key takeaway from this book is that our actions always have reverberating impact on others, and that’s because I am constantly thinking about huge unanswerable questions like this.
  • I always wanted to be a lifeguard. I did a town swim team for a while and like Nick, my best stroke was the butterfly but my favorite was the backstroke.
  • Over the last five years, my critique partners and I have worked on a collective 15 (and counting!) books together. In all those five years, a twist in this book is the one I have not yet been forgiven for.
  • There is a beach boulder that plays a role in the story that is modeled after a story I told
    my then-three-year-old about a rock we found on the beach. Here it is!

What is the first job you have had?
I started babysitting for my neighbors when I was EIGHT YEARS OLD (actual babysitting, home alone, not parent’s helper stuff) which I cannot believe now that I have kids. My first real, formally paid job was as a breakfast waitress.

Best date you've ever had?
My husband and I went glassblowing on a whim the year we got out of college. It was really fun, and we still have the pieces!

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning? 
What day is it?

What is your most memorable travel experience?
My honeymoon! Paris, Nice, and Barcelona. We ate at the same restaurant as Elton John and Madonna and the next day the local Nice news reported they had put some rumored feud to rest.

What's your most missed memory?
Definitely doing projects with my dad.

Have you ever stood up for someone you hardly knew?
I have! I’d do it again.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before? 
True love with a heartbreak.

What was your favorite subject when you were in school? 
Science and English.

First Love?
He knows. J

First Heartbreak?
He knows, too.

Most horrifying dream you have ever had?
I had the exact same brutal nightmare when I was a kid three nights in a row. It was about a shark chasing me upstairs, and as I stepped on each step the one I’d just been on would fall away. I still think about it when I wake up in the middle of the night!

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
Unfortunately, almost losing my dad at a young age more than once, and then actually losing him—I think grief shapes people more than people who haven’t experienced extreme grief realize.

They Both Die at the End meets The Butterfly Effect in this YA novel by Joan F. Smith, where a teen uses her gift of foreknowledge to help a lifeguard save a drowning man―only to discover that her actions have suddenly put his life at risk.

It was supposed to be an ordinary day at the pool, but when lifeguard Nick hesitates during a save,
seventeen-year-old December uses her gift of foreknowledge to rescue the drowning man instead. The action comes at a cost. Not only will Nick and December fall in love, but also, she envisions that his own life is now at risk. The other problem? They’re basically strangers.

December embarks on a mission to save Nick’s life, and to experience what it feels like to fall in love―something she’d formerly known she’d never do. Nick, battling the shame of screwing up the rescue when he’s heralded as a community hero, resolves to make up for his inaction by doing December a major solid and searching for her mother, who went missing nine years ago.

As they grow closer, December’s gift starts playing tricks, and Nick’s family gets closer to an ugly truth about him. They both must learn what it really means to be a hero before time runs out.

You can purchase The Other Side of Infinity at the following Retailers:

1 Winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card.