Ask the Author: Darcy Woods
What would you like readers to know about you?
I am prone to puns and alliteration. I’m also a Gemini born on the cusp of Taurus, so basically my husband married three women and every day’s a roll of the dice. And, I’m an eternal optimist. I have an insatiable need to believe in a world that is better than it sometimes seems.
What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
The short version: SMOKE is a YA contemporary novel about growing, in life and…in basements.
The extended version: What lines would you cross to save someone you love? Filled with the kinds of impossible choices that made the TV show Weeds such a hit, this compelling drama asks to what lengths an avid rule-follower will go in order to save her family–and the answer involves “growing” in surprising directions.
Sixteen-year-old Honor Augustine never set out to become a felon. As an academic all-star, avid recycler, and dedicated daughter to her PTSD-afflicted father, she’s always been the literal embodiment of her name. Coloring inside the lines is what keeps Honor’s chaotic existence orderly. But when she discovers her father’s VA benefits drying up, coupled with a terrifying bank letter threatening the family’s greenhouse business–Honor vows to find a solution. She just doesn’t expect to find it on the dry erase board of English lit–“Nature’s first green is gold.” The quote by Frost becomes the seed of an idea. An idea that–with patience and care–could germinate into a means of survival. Maybe marijuana could be more than the medicinal plant that helps quiet her father’s demons. Maybe, it could save them all.
What has been your inspiration for writing it?
One of the first pieces of industry advice I received was “write what you know.” A phrase eerily familiar to a lot of authors. But as I began to unpack it, I realized there were actually chapters from my own life story that could make for a unique novel. As the daughter of a Vietnam war veteran with severe PTSD, and being a veteran myself, I have an intimate understanding of the lasting legacy of trauma. Also? I happen to know how to grow weed in a basement. It was combining this knowledge and personal experience—coupled with my desire de-stigmatize cannabis—that led to the first “puff” of SMOKE’s conception.
What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?
Interestingly, my favorite scene to write was also the most challenging. Guess that makes me a glutton for punishment? Anyway, I was lung-deep with a wicked case of Covid when I received my developmental edits. To be clear, writing is hard under the best of circumstances, let alone when you feel like literal death and your lungs are twin sacks of fire! Regardless, I managed to almost finish, but was eternally STUCK on how to rewrite the ending. I was physically, mentally, and emotionally depleted from battling this disease and my progressing multiple sclerosis. My future had never felt so uncertain. In a feat of supreme irony, my main character Honor’s dark moment had become my own. Both of us wrung out and frozen by the unknowns we faced. So, I told myself the thing we both needed to hear, and this became the new ending to SMOKE.
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
I wish I could say I knew from the womb and tumbled into the world with pen and paper in hand! In truth, my path was far more winding, and I needed an arsenal of life experiences and travels before I’d be ready to put finger to key. But it was THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson, that truly broke open my innate love of storytelling and YA. That book made me long to find the words I didn’t even know were in me.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
You’ve got to really love writing beyond reason, because there are so many unreasonable aspects to this industry. Read lots. Dream big. Live big. Approach writing (and life) with a curious heart rather than a fearful one. This is how I’ve mined some of my best stories. And never let someone else’s negative estimation of you or your abilities become your truth. Revel in the bigs and smalls of your successes. Learn from the failures. It’s in the failures that we stretch and grow as authors. Lastly, find your writer friends and hold them tight. They’ll be your compass when the path (or your plot) gets too winding, and your beacon of light when your flashlight runs dim.
Award-winning YA author Darcy Woods has held an eclectic mix of professions—from refueling helicopters in the U.S. Army to recharging bodies and spirits at a spa—but her most beloved career is being an author. She lives in Michigan with her husband and two tuxedo cats (who overdress for everything). SUMMER OF SUPERNOVAS is her double RITA®-nominated debut novel and has been translated into five languages. SMOKE (Random House/Crown BFYR, June 15, 2021) is her second novel. When not wandering the woods, she can be found on her website, darcywoods.com
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