Our Hometown Stories: Andrew Smith-Storytelling 101
By Rachel Singer
I had the privilege of first meeting Andrew Smith 2 years ago while he was coaching my son Landon on the Hart District Rugby team. All of our interactions were of the "coaching" variety. I was unaware at that time that he was harboring a secret...Andrew Smith is a master storyteller.
In addition to being an economics teacher at Canyon High School and a top notch rugby coach, Andrew Smith is one of my favorite authors! His first novel, "Ghost Medicine" was released to high acclaim and literary praise in September 2008.
"Ghost Medicine" is a beautifully written story with a stellar cast of characters. You fall in love with four best friends, Troy, Tom, Gabe and Luz. This powerful coming-of-age story chronicles one magical yet tragic summer when their lives unravel. These young friends learn the adult reality of what can happen when one seemingly innocent event snowballs and changes the path of your life forever. A must read for parents and students alike.
Andrew Smith and his wife Jocelyn have two children, 14-year-old Trevin and 11-year-old Chiara. The Smith family live on a one-acre ranch in the Lake Elizabeth area, where they have a menagerie of chickens, goats, dogs and cats. They are also the proud owners of three horses; Reno, Arrow and Dusty. Fans of "Ghost Medicine" will be excited to know that these horses really do exist!
Lake Elizabeth is a small quaint town where you are positive the local sheriff must be named Andy Taylor. These peaceful inspiring surroundings, besides being an ideal haven for a writer; have set the stage for the compelling landscape and imagery throughout "Ghost Medicine". Residents of Santa Clarita will picture Sand Canyon or Agua Dulce. Smith intentionally left the exact setting of "Ghost Medicine" vague, so that no matter where in the country you live, you will be able to visualize your own hometown.
His latest book, "In the Path of Falling Objects" is slated for an October 2009 release. I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy, which I promptly devoured within 24 hours. "In the Path" is an extraordinary story of four lost souls who wind up together on a road trip in a black 1940 Lincoln Cabriolet. They each hope the road will lead them to their vision of a better life. Inevitably, it becomes a road trip through hell. This small book will haunt you long after you have turned the final page.
Throughout his novels, Andrew Smith draws parallels from his own life. None is more apparent, than when we are introduced to Matthew, from "In the Path of Falling Objects". Matthew is a soldier serving a tour in Vietnam and we meet him via the letters he sends home to his younger brother Jonah. This was a page taken right out of Andrew Smith's own life. His older brother Patrick volunteered to serve and was stationed in Vietnam. The letters that Patrick sent home to his family are almost 100% verbatim the words that Andrew Smith has given to Matthew.
My girlfriends and I have a local book club and we were honored last November to have Andrew Smith as our special guest. We had all read and loved his book. It was enlightening to be able to sit down with the author in an intimate setting and listen to how the creative journey progresses from conception, characters and plot, all the way to publication. We were a rapt audience.
Most mornings at 3 a.m., before the roosters, Andrew gets up and writes for one hour with a cup of coffee in hand, then hits the trails for a pre-dawn run. He is back before the sun rises to feed the animals. Andrew puts in a half-day before most people have gotten out of bed to ponder the start of their own day.
Having a book published can be tedious and can take upwards of two years. I was amazed to learn that Andrew stews and mulls around an idea for a very long time before ever putting pen to paper. When the ideas gel, he will finish his manuscript within a few months. His latest work was completed in just five weeks. The speed of his writing depends on how much talking the characters are doing in his head! The waiting game begins with contracts, drafts and revisions. The grand finale is entering a bookstore and seeing your novel on the shelf.
Andrew's son, Trevin Smith has always had aspirations himself to become a writer. He touched his dads heart when at ten years old upon learning that "Ghost Medicine" was to be published, thanked his dad for being a great role model. That is one of those moments as a parent that you never forget.
Rugby is a Smith family affair. Besides currently coaching, Andrew played at the college level and was very involved with his children while they participated in a local youth rugby program. Today, Trevin is the team's videographer, while Jocelyn and Chiara are avid fans.
When not writing or working the ranch, Andrew Smith shared with me that he is a "streak runner". I was quite taken aback for a moment, picturing the 1970's all over again, but he quickly indicated that a streak runner never takes a day off from their running. He has not missed a day in 10 years!
Smith is wrapping up negotiations for his 2010 release, "Winger," a much-anticipated novel about one of his passions, Rugby. He has crafted this book in a lighter, more humorous vein wrapped around a serious issue. His current rugby players will most likely recognize themselves and some of their on and off-field experiences. I am already chomping at the bit!
So, next time you are cruising down Interstate 5 and pull up alongside a beautiful 1940 Lincoln Cabriolet, give a wave. Behind the wheel just may be Andrew Smith mulling over his next novel, accompanied by his family, sitting back and enjoying the ride.