Nicole T. Smith, L.Ac. has filled notebooks and crashed computers in her pursuit of creating story. When asked what genre she writes in, she replies: Who can pick just one? Nicole has spent over two decades in the medical field. Her latest novel, We Have Shadows Too, explores the repercussions of trauma, the psychological layers of the mind, the invisible scars we carry and secrets we hide even from ourselves. When not writing or treating patients, Nicole is traveling the world, trying a new sport, whipping up a plant-based meal, or hosting an organic wine tasting. She loves nature, warm weather, deserted beaches, Victorian attics, retro clothing, foreign languages and studying the sciences. She weaves the theme of truth vs. illusion through her books, inviting readers to think differently, unconventionally or from a new perspective.
1) First, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me! When did you know that writing is what you were called to do? What is it about being a writer that you love the most? What about being a writer frustrates you the most?
I still have the first book I wrote, with illustrated cover and all, from when I was five years old. Although, my mother tells me I started writing stories from the age of four and was carrying books around before I knew how to read. Throughout the years, writing has been a best friend.
I love to travel, and go away several times a year. Exploring, managing a new situation, meeting the world with two feet, two hands, two eyes, feels natural to me and necessary. Writing provides this, in a way, any time I want. And it allows breaking the confines of time – the ability to place characters in the past, present, or future. I can visit a place that doesn’t exist through words, any time I want.
I can’t say that anything really frustrates me about writing itself, however, when needing to focus on the marketing aspects, it does take me out of my story brain, which is where I prefer to be.
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
My new novel, We Have Shadows Too, deals with repressed memories, childhood trauma, and generational impact. The female protagonist, Rella Cooper, finds out at age thirty-eight that what she has perceived as reality is not quite the case. Questions are raised for both the reader and Rella, such as, is it worth the pain and turmoil to learn the truth, to bring light to the shadows, or keep them in the dark?
I have a website dedicated to the book: www.shadows.group. Readers can now find me on social media: @nicolesmithwriter, @nsmithwriter. The book will also be available through the larger retail channels, both as a paperback and ebook.
I have written in many genres, both fiction and nonfiction, including books on weight loss, cleansing, nutrition, autobiographical travel through Paris and France, and an acupuncture study guide for students taking their board exams. These books currently are only available by contacting me personally, through my acupuncture website, which is: www.ThePamperedPorcupine.com.
3) What projects are you currently working on?
While promoting We Have Shadows Too, I’m nearly finished with the first draft of book one in a dystopian three-book series I’m quite excited about and have another idea percolating that has elements of time travel.
I continue to write blogs for both www.shadows.group and my Pampered Porcupine acupuncture website.
4) What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
I think my most significant achievement would have to be my latest book, We Have Shadows Too. The subject matter was not easy to write about, but I felt it important to address. Being in the medical field for nearly two decades now, I’ve come to see how trauma induces damage that can leave a person with perplexing symptoms which may, at first, appear unrelated, but in fact, have a common source. It’s only by recognizing this, and addressing and acknowledging the trauma, that deeper healing can occur. It’s not always about fixing the problem – sometimes the mental “disorder” as it’s called is a solution. As one reviewer puts it: “Recovery may not be the answer for those who have similarly endured. Respectfully told, this gently laid out story reveals ways the mind might defend itself and that it doesn’t have to be undone to free the soul.”
As far as where I see myself in the next five years – a best-selling author, of course! I also strive to have at least another two books published, if not three or four.
5) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career?
I can’t say I’ve ever had anything rejected, since I don’t use a traditional publishing route, at this point. I have brought my work forward in writing retreats and groups, and I welcome the feedback. I’m a pretty harsh critic on myself, and sometimes I need to hear the thoughts of others to know that yes, I have something worthy and interesting. But what I love most about these groups is seeing my story through the eyes of another, the questions raised, what they want to know more about, or perhaps what needs clarification.
6) Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel?
I write every moment I get. My stories are always with me, so even during a workday, at a gathering, while driving, I’m taking notes, jotting down scenes, writing in my head. One of my favorite writing times is during my walks. I get some of my best ideas, content, characters, and plot development, while on long walks. I live in a rural area, so it’s generally quiet, without distractions while walking.
I never outline. I find it hinders my creativity and puts the breaks on the story before it really takes off. I have an idea, sometimes complicated, sometimes just a few hints of a story, and start writing. I see what comes. It’s fun, almost like I’m the reader, not the writer.
How long to finish a novel? It depends on the novel. In some instances, like the dystopian I’m working on, I completed most of the first book in a matter of months. We Have Shadows Too took me three years, almost to the day, to finish. I didn’t give myself a deadline for the book at first, since, during the initial year, it had its challenging moments. Writing about trauma shadows isn’t easy, even as fiction. You still need to meld with the character. I was kind to myself and gave time for breaks. But once the first draft was complete, I did set a deadline, which culminated with a return trip to Ireland, to the very place where I began the first pages of the story.
7) Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?
Not at all. We all have stories to tell, and they change throughout the years. What one might write at fourteen or twenty-two or thirty-five is likely very different than at age fifty, seventy, and onward. We live in story every day, our own, and experiences color writing in various shades. Perhaps an amazing idea comes when you’re a teen, or perhaps not until after you’re retired.
It’s never too late to write. It’s not like figure skating, where the career ends early because of the wear and tear on the body. You can always pick up a pen or open a laptop and get to work. Nothing stopping you, except maybe senility, and even then, a great story could still come!
First and foremost, I feel writing should be for oneself. I wouldn’t write something I didn’t like or didn’t believe in, even if it were a book that could instantly bring fame. I enjoy the process of writing immensely. Many things I write for myself, but I equally revel in holding a new, published book in my hand that I wrote, hearing what others have to say about it, and what a thrill to see it on the shelves and online.
As far as being a “success,” it comes down to what defines success. For some, being a successful writer could mean writing a series for their grandchildren, for others, entering a poetry contest, or finishing a first novel. And for those that aspire to achieve a name in the writing field – go for it – no matter what your age!
8) Are you an avid reader and have you always been? What’s the first book you ever read that really touched you emotionally and moved you? Who is your favorite author? What book are you currently reading?
When I was about eleven years old, they built a brand-new library in my town. I often wish I could return to that first day I stepped inside, feel the rush of excitement upon entering the doors, the smell of all the books, rows of neatly categorized titles. I spent a lot of time there. I would have my mom drop me off or I’d walk myself. I’d peruse the offerings and read in the aisles and there came a point when I’d exhausted all the age-appropriate choices I was interested in and checked in daily to see what new had arrived. I read voraciously when I was younger, never without a book. I’d sit on the stone ledge of the front porch of our house and get lost in stories.
The first books I remember, my mother read to me, about animals and toy bears, and yes, I can say they touched me emotionally because I worried about their welfare. A few years later, I was hooked on the Nancy Drew series, and still have the collection. In turn, I wrote a lot of mysteries growing up, both in the whodunit sense, but also psychological ones, that delved into the enigmas of the mind.
I don’t have a favorite author just as I don’t have a favorite artist or musician. I like different aspects of many. It’s more about what book stands out to me, what painting, what song. I can say that what has influenced me most as a writer was learning from a young age about symbolism, foreshadowing, hidden messages, and using setting craftily, each word a prop on a stage, with a purpose. It’s not just about telling a story, it’s how it’s told.
Currently, my nose has been in research books for my latest fiction endeavor, along with articles about marketing and promotion for the upcoming novel release.
9) Did the quarantine stifle your creativity or did it make you even more driven to get things done? What perspective did the Pandemic give you that you that now influences what you do creatively?
I never quarantined. As an acupuncturist, my doors stayed open. The key to maintaining a strong front against any illness or disease is a healthy body, sound mind, and correct information. Using acupuncture, herbs, diet, education, my patients stayed well.
I am a driven person, no matter the circumstances! In early 2020, much of my free time went to research. I have been studying the history and impact of information and paradigms pertaining to health, nutrition, and medicine for three decades, and strive to give people the truth and all the facts. Additionally, I jumped on several house projects, incorporated ballet into my daily exercise, and held organic wine tastings. We took a couple trips to Costa Rica and Mexico, two countries that never imposed restrictions, so that was wonderful. I live in a cold climate and need my travels to the sun throughout the winter!
10) Given the recent shake-ups in publishing, what are your thoughts about how the publishing industry is being represented today? Do you lean more towards traditional publishing or self-publishing as a preference? Does being a hybrid author interest you?
I often think about what writing and publishing was like a hundred years ago. Was it better then, or now? I can’t say for sure, but I do feel that certainly, authors have more choices now.
Personally, I don’t like the idea of handing over something I’ve created to a traditional publisher, as often, they decide the book cover, blurb, sometimes even the title! I wouldn’t feel comfortable with that. Several years ago, I was fortunate to learn how it’s not difficult to open your own publishing company, if you have all the other pieces required to complete a book, such as an editor, book designer, cover illustrator, and so on. It’s important to reach far and wide, have your book available everywhere, in all the retail channels. I can accomplish this and still keep creative control.
11) You mentioned marketing for your new book. Is there anything that you would like to share, or anything new you tried?
Yes, actually! Have you heard of a book trailer? I hadn’t, until attending a writer’s event in Florida last year. For me, it was a novel idea, and I knew I had to have my own book trailer. The entire concept for the trailer came to me on one of my walks. I took many of the shots and clips myself, with simply my iPhone, and a great videographer put it all together. I absolutely love how it came out, and still get chills when I watch it. It’s available on my website and YouTube. I wrote a blog about the whole process on www.shadows.group. I highly recommend writers exploring the idea of a book trailer. It affords a whole new way to express creativity, gain exposure about your book, and have a ton of fun in the process.
12) I feel like writing is a remarkable tool to help people not only express themselves, but also to cope emotionally and mentally. I know for me I write to be and feel more authentic. What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity? How does writing help you to be more empowered in your purpose?
This is a great question, and I could go in many directions in answering it.
The expression “born” to do something is commonly used, and I wouldn’t say I was “born to write” but I would say that I was given the gift of writing, as an outlet, a talent, a love, and I’m grateful for that. It’s helped me in all areas we use words, from creative writing to wellness articles, resumes, public speaking, even communicating with my patients. We all have a secret superpower, and I feel writing is mine.
I had worried when I was younger that I couldn’t be like the writers I was reading, but I came to realize that I wouldn’t want to be. Their voice is not mine. The beauty in art, in nature, in people, is diversity. I write authentic me. I don’t think it’s one quality, but, rather, a tapestry, that only I can sew.
I strive to be truthful and ethical. Words are powerful. Often, I have messages in my writing. I have a saying: truth through another lens. Perception is defined as a “process of becoming aware” but also as “a way of regarding or interpreting.” Writing can give new perception, taking a person from how they once might have interpreted something, to inciting a new level of awareness, viewing from a different angle. I’d like to think that my writing engages the reader and has a share in this.