Thursday, May 13, 2010

My Interview with Jeri Smith-Ready & your chance to ask too!

For those that don't know yet (gasp!), can you tell us what Shade is about?

Okay, here’s my amateur short version (not the extended magical marketing remix):
16-year-old Aura can see ghosts. Then again, so can everyone around the world who was born after her. In fact, they have a word for the moment of her birth: the Shift. Aura suspects that the Shift might be connected to her missing mystery dad and an event that happened at Newgrange tomb in Ireland a year before her birth.

Ghosts can be annoying at their best. At their worst, as dark, powerful "shades," they can be deadly. So Aura's major goal in life is to undo the Shift and make the ghosts go away.

And then, her boyfriend dies and becomes a ghost.

You have written many amazing adult fiction books with Shade being your first foray into YA. Was Shade started as YA or did it evolve that way?

It originally started as an idea for a world where the existence of ghosts had been proven, and a law firm that specialized in wrongful death suits. As tickled as I was by my cheesy tagline, “I sue dead people,” the idea went nowhere without a main character or a compelling story to give it life. (Besides, I know zilch about law, so it wouldn’t have gotten far. It wasn’t until the main character of 16-year-old Aura Salvatore came into the picture that the story took off. I thought hey, what if all people her age and younger could see ghosts? And then the biggest part of the story of all: what if her boyfriend died and become a ghost?

SHADE wasn’t my first attempt at writing YA, though. I wrote another YA (about the daughters of fallen angels Lucifer and Beelzebub as high school seniors) in between my other books, in bits and pieces from 2003 to 2006. But when it came time to revise it for submission in 2008, I realized it pretty much sucked (well, the first half of it, anyway). By that point, I already had the idea for SHADE and was really excited about it, so I decided to do that instead. Sometimes you just have to know when to drop a project and move on.

Having written for both adult & YA audiences, what was the hardest/easiest about writing YA?

In some ways, writing YA is easier. I get to focus on the elements of storytelling I enjoy most and that I think I’m best at: character development and voice, especially dialogue. Writing for teens usually requires a faster pace, and I’m all for that. Whether I’m writing for adults or teens, I believe in following Elmore Leonard’s #1 rule of writing: leave out the boring parts.

The hardest part of writing YA for me is cutting down on the plot digressions. Especially with a book like SHADE where the whole society has changed because of ghosts, it’s so tempting to geek out and explore all the different world-building aspects. My editor does a great job of telling me when I’m losing focus from the main characters and their conflicts. Also when I’m getting too James Bond-ish.

In Shade, the colors purple & red are significant, why were these colours chosen?

The color concept is based on the visible light spectrum—though I don't specifically mention it in the book—where violet and red lie at opposite ends. Red corresponds with the first “chakra” (or energy center, in traditional Indian medicine), located at the base of the spine, where it represents life and the physical world. Violet is associated with the seventh chakra, at the top of the head, representing pure thought. Though I’d chosen obsidian because of its use by ghost hunters, I later discovered that the rock corresponds to the color red and the first chakra. Score one happy world-building accident!

How many books are planned for this series?

There will be at least two (SHIFT is coming out next May). I hope there’ll be three or four ultimately, but of course that depends on my publisher wanting more, which of course depends on readers supporting the series. This doesn’t just apply to my books—if you love an author, buy their books and tell all your friends! Otherwise the publishers won’t know how loved they are, and next thing you know, no more books. :-(

Can you give us a sneak peak at what to expect in book #2, Shift?

SHIFT picks up right after SHADE finishes, and you won’t believe how Chapter One ends! Aura faces a whole new unimaginable dilemma in her choice between Logan and Zachary. As Zachary puts it, “We need to redefine the word ‘impossible.’”

But Aura does find out all about her mom and dad and the mystery of the Shift. The question is, what does she do with that information? And that leads us into a possible third and fourth book.

Ahhh, as if I wasn't already dying to read Shift!

Thanks so much for having me on your blogs! I love to hear from readers, so come visit me at, or better yet on twitter @jsmithready or, where I spend way too much time.

And thanks for writing amazing books & sharing them with us!

I hope you have enjoyed the week so far. Today is the last day to enter the contest for a SIGNED copy of Shade courtesy of Jeri! (Click here to enter)

Now for the fun interactive part...Jeri will be checking in with us today so if you have any questions for her, just type it up in a comment below!


  1. Thanks for having me! I'm happy to answer any questions you have for me today, about the writing process, about any of my books (including SHADE, of course), or whatever crazy thing you can come up with.

    Looking forward to it!

  2. Excellent interview! Loved the book, and thought it was interesting how Jeri chose the colors red and purple.

    I was curious why the people who could see ghosts before the Shift lost their ability. Does it have something to do with ghosts now being violet?

  3. Thanks, Alexia! I'm glad you enjoyed SHADE.

    As to why the older people lost their ability to see ghosts, it has more to do with the post-Shifters and the way they see the world than with the ghosts themselves. In other words, the ghosts haven't changed, the living people have.

    I think. ;-)

  4. Great interview! I'm totally intrigued ad looking forward to reading Shade!

    My question is: There are many mythologies that are used in popular writing, but you seem to have blended a Celtic origin with Eastern did these two elements gel for your story?

  5. Jackie: Glad you enjoyed the interview, and hope you enjoy SHADE, too!

    I didn't really incorporate Eastern philosophy into the book. It's just the background research stuff that works out that way. For instance, You'll never see the word "chakra" in any of the books, but I think people instinctively associate red with life, because it's the color of blood and warmth. So they can understand why ghosts wouldn't like red, for that reason alone.

    But it's fascinating the way the different elements gel in the real world. Quartz, for instance, is associated with the seventh chakra, and I used it in the book as a ghost attractor (it functions the opposite way as obsidian for controlling ghosts). I discovered after the fact that Quartz is all over the place at Newgrange and other passage tombs. So I think that there's some "wisdom" or whatever that different cultures from around the world have in common.

    But above all, I try to keep all this background stuff out of the book itself except when absolutely necessary. I don't like to distract from the story with too many world-building details. I want the focus to be on the characters and their dilemmas, and if readers are interested in the ideas behind it all, they have interviews like this one to satisfy that curiosity. :-)

  6. Jeri,

    I love the idea you integrate the visible light spectrum into the building of your world. Any idea how much time you spent researching and contemplating the science behind SHADE?

  7. Wow, good question, Shannon! I honestly have no idea. I tend to do some research at the beginning, then continue to do it as needed or for inspiration as I go along, or as I discover wonderful new research resources.

    And I will admit that I am still figuring out and discovering some details as I write the second book. ;-)

  8. Thanks so much for stopping in and taking the time to answer questions Jeri :)

    I love the mystical element in SHADE and can't wait to see how this comes into play in defining who (or what?) Aura & Zach are.