Atlanta native Haywood Smith currently lives in Massachusetts. She has one son, currently in medical school who is "married to a wonderful, fearless Christian woman," and a close family that includes her mother, three sisters, and a brother.
The Red Hat Club was on the New York Times Bestseller List. The paperback edition of Queen Bee of Mimosa Branch appeared on both the USA Today list and the New York Times Extended Bestseller List.
Author biography courtesy of the author's official web site.
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Some fun and fascinating outtakes from our interview with Smith:
"God already knows I wrote what I wrote, so I figured I might as well put my real name on my books. My Mama had to get used to the love scenes in my historical romances -- especially when I used bondage as a metaphor in the first one (very polite, consensual bondage; well, most of it)."
"I believe in taking lemons and making lemonade when life gets cruel. I've had joint problems since childhood, so I can only run if my life depends on it, but I now have a job I can do in a recliner. How great is that?"
"I haven't had plastic surgery, but I'm saving up to get lipo on my saddlebag hips and the tummy my sisters and I all have dubbed, ‘the baby.' I also believe that every woman out there should start putting money in a sugar bowl to ‘get the plumbing jerked' once she's finished having her kids. Life without periods is the best!"
"I am happier now without a significant man in my life than I was with one. Not that I'm down on men altogether. I just like my perfect girlie room, my white carpets, keeping my own hours and weird diets, and not having to worry about hiding my bite guard, surgical scars, white roots, and buzz saw snoring. Not to mention having the freedom to pass gas at will without criticism."
"I love hearing from readers who enjoyed my books. Such kind words make my day. I do not love hearing from people who can't handle the realistic nature or language in my work. Everything in my work is there for a reason. If a character cusses, she's been provoked (and it beats busting loose with an Uzi at the nineteenth hole of her ex's country club). If she takes the Lord's name in vain (like my fictional SuSu character) it's because she's subconsciously crying out to the God she's rejected."
"Mainly, I want the women in my books to accurately reflect the complexities, the heartache, and the humor that is our saving grace."
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In the spring of 2005, Haywood Smith took some time out to answer some of our questions:
What was the book that most influenced your life or your career as a writer?
That is so difficult to say. My parents belonged to The Great Books Club, and I read every one of those books before I graduated high school. I especially liked the ribald Greek playwright, Aristopahanes. Reading current translations of ancient plays and books made me realize people have been people just like us for thousands and thousands of years. I love Pearl Buck, Antonia Fraser, Mary Stuart. And of course, Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind. Historical novels have always been my favorites, but I also love mysteries, techno-thrillers, tattletale biographies, and science fiction. But the older I get, the more important it is for me that a book have a satisfying, positive ending.
What are your ten favorite books, and what makes them special to you?
This is so very hard, because I'm an avid reader, and narrowing down to ten is almost impossible.
First and foremost, the Bible -- What an amazing book! Not only a chronicle of our Creator's relationship with His creations, but a juicy, earthy collection of very human stories that touch every aspect of the human experience. I especially like seeing how God used very flawed people to work His will. Jonah, the sulking prophet, is one of my favorites. And impulsive Peter; boy, do I relate to him. As for Biblical theology and controversies, my wonderful Granny Bess used to say, "There's enough in that book that's not controversial to keep you busy till the end of your days." I have studied scripture for thirty-two years, and still find fresh and uplifting messages with every new inspection.
The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav -- A layman's treatise on subatomic quantum mechanics. Reading this the first time sprained my brain, but it's full of examples even nonscientific types like me can understand. The beauty of it is, though, that even at the most minute levels of creation, the elegant order of God can be seen, and the importance of us as observers cannot be underestimated.
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell -- I'm Southern. I'm romantic. I love real men, kick-ass women, and accurate history. What else is there to say?
The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis -- I grew up with these delightfully complex children's books, and still adore them. When I was little, we went to the northern Georgia mountains to spend the summers at Lake Rabun, where my great aunt and great-grandmother lived. We had no radio, no TV, not even a car on our side of the lake. What we did have was wonderful books, time to read and time to learn and respect nature. A perfect place to believe in fantasy.
Shogun by James Clavell -- I had trouble getting into this book, but once I did, I was transformed. Clavell takes the western mind on an epic journey, as deep into the eastern mind as possible. I wouldn't take anything for the amazing experience.
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck -- Buck's unique perspective on Chinese life opened another new word to me and deeply touched my heart.
Tess of the D'Urbevilles by Thomas Hardy -- We had to read it in tenth grade, but I fell in love with Hardy and read everything he had ever written. (I do that when I find a writer I like.) I always thought of his books as soap operas set in olden times.
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells -- Though I found its darker elements disturbing, Rebecca Wells' amazing chronicle did two fabulous things for me: number one, I forgave my mother (much cheaper than therapy), and number two, I finally realized the power we as women could have if we stop trying to fix each other and start accepting and loving each other -- flawed and troubled though we may be -- instead. This book profoundly affected me. It inspired The Red Hat Club.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling -- After a devastating divorce that left me so fragmented I couldn't even read any more, the first book I could digest was this one. It took me to a safe, wonderful place where good conquers over evil. And as a writer, it reminded me how to do it right, indeed. Rowling's seamless, simple style and imagination inspired me as a writer.
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov -- Asimov's work always challenged my mind and opened the universe of possibilities to me. Along with writers like Michael Crichton, Robert Heinlein, and Jules Verne, Asimov's fiction seeded a love for space exploration and a galactic outlook on our own small planet.
What are some of your favorite films, and what makes them unforgettable to you?Ben Hur -- I just love it, the whole thing. Passion, faith, great earthly powers in collision, great spiritual powers in collision. One man's journey through hell to heaven. Moviemaking as good as it gets.
Gone with the Wind -- Ditto, minus the faith element.
2001: A Space Odyssey -- Such a wondrous, majestic film. This movie opened my mind to the vastness of the galaxies.
Moonstruck -- The microcosm that reflects the macrocosm. A perfect jewel of a movie.
Star Wars -- Blew me away. A classic conflict made infinitely fresh. It's hard to express adequately how much this affected me.
An Affair to Remember -- Cary Grant, my very favorite leading man, in such a wonderful story. Wept buckets. Watch it all the time.
Braveheart -- So romantic and beautifully tragic. I even excused the lengthy battle scenes.
Most any really good comedy (with an edge) -- A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Loved One, Dr. Strangelove, National Lampoon's Vacation and Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, Father Goose, Grosse Point Blank, Funny Farm, Mr. Mom, She Devil.... I could go on for hours.
What types of music do you like? Is there any particular kind you like to listen to when you're writing?
I adore mellow classical music, which I listen to while I work (words distract me) -- along with very mellow jazz. I also like movie soundtracks, soft-rock oldies, some pop, country Gold -- oldies like Hank Williams and Pasty Cline. The only music I don't like is head-banger anything. Makes me want to get a gun and shoot the speakers.
If you had a book club, what would it be reading?
The sad thing is, while I'm writing women's humorous fiction, I don't read it, for fear I may inadvertently appropriate something. So I stick to other genres. The latest, best thing I read was David Sedaris's Me Talk Pretty One Day. Hilarious!
What are your favorite kinds of books to give -- and get -- as gifts?
Besides mine? I'd say hardback releases of books I love by southern authors like Patty Henry, Deborah Smith, and Carmen Green. Or wonderful reference books I find in the bargain shelves for writer friends. Or beautiful photo books. My most recent gift favorite is The Complete New Yorker book of Cartoons.
Do you have any special writing rituals? For example, what do you have on your desk when you're writing?
Due to advanced osteoarthritis, I work in a recliner with a cordless keyboard and mouse and a very large monitor. If I'm stuck, I use a mental exercise that affirms my inner child and asks her to help me write.
Many writers are hardly "overnight success" stories. How long did it take for you to get where you are today? Any rejection-slip horror stories or inspirational anecdotes?
I started writing after a midlife assessment in 1989, at my fortieth birthday. Then I found and joined Romance Writers of America's Georgia Chapter in Atlanta, one of the best in the country. There, it took me five years to learn how to "get it right." Then I went to the national RWA conference in New York, and got my agent by signing up for a three-minute pitch session. Only weeks later, she had four publishers interested in my first historical. Shadows in Velvet was published in 1996, and I have published a book a year since.
If you could choose one new writer to be "discovered," who would it be?
Patti Henry. She writes so beautifully, with such soul and heartfelt emotion. But she doesn't fall for easy answers. I've been privileged to work with her, and I see her as a great new star on the rise in women's fiction.
What tips or advice do you have for writers still looking to be discovered?
Keep reading best sellers and your favorite kinds of books. Keep writing. Keep learning about the craft of writing -- particularly grammar and spelling! Join local writers groups that give you access to authors who are actually publishing. They know the scoop.
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|Haywood Smith Home
Good to Know
|In Our Other Stores|
Signed, First Editions by Haywood Smith|
|Shadows in Velvet, 1996|
|Secrets in Satin, 1997|
|Damask Rose, 1998|
|Dangerous Gifts, 1999|
|Highland Princess, 2000|
|Border Lord, 2001|
|Queen Bee of Mimosa Branch, 2002|
|The Red Hat Club, 2003|
|The Red Hat Club Rides Again, 2005|