Today we welcome A.F.E “The Smith” Smith to the Wonderful World of Pankhearst. Her debut novel Darkhaven is about to be published by Harper Voyager, she’s all kinds of wonderful, and we love her.
OK, The Smith, so who the hell are you? Just some bird
I have nothing to declare but my genius and … ? this book wot I wrote. It’s called Darkhaven, and it’s actually somewhat Pankhearstian – is that a word? if not it should be – in that it features bloody murder and a pistol-packing female mercenary. But there’s also a disgraced bodyguard, a disowned heir and a girl who can turn into a flying unicorn. Plus lots of swords.
Why the hell should we care? Because you have excellent taste, obviously.
What the hell do you care about? Everything. Next question?
OK, I’m sensing you want more than that. But the truth is, I don’t believe there’s a limit on the number of things it’s possible to care about. People seem to spend a lot of their time telling other people they’re not focusing on the right problem, instead of quietly and positively trying to get on with fixing whatever problem they are interested in. As if we’re each only allowed one cause and if my cause isn’t your cause then we have to shout at each other on the internet.
Related to that, I suppose, I try to have as few Opinions as possible. Little-o opinions, like the best flavour of ice cream (chocolate, obviously) – they’re fine. But Opinions are those things that people shout at each other on the internet about. They often seem to be a way to avoid thinking about the messy complexity of an individual issue. Pretty much my only Opinion is that I would be willing to change any of my opinions, given enough reliable supporting data.
And related to that, I am often amazed at the number of People Shouting at Each Other on the Internet who seem to think that the best way to change the minds of the people with the opposing Opinion is to insult their intelligence. Because obviously, nothing makes someone more open and willing to listen to a different point of view than being called stupid.
Bet you wish you’d stuck with the short version now.
You are about to be castaway with the author or fictional character of your choice. You’re going to be alone with them for at a full year. Who would you choose? And why? I’m going to answer this question with an author AND a fictional character, because I’m a great big cheat.
For my author, I’d choose Terry Pratchett. There are a few authors whose entire bodies of work I’ve read and who have had a profound effect on me – Diana Wynne Jones being another – but Sir Terry is probably the one who had the greatest impact. Which on the surface may seem odd, because I don’t write comedy by any stretch of the imagination. But that’s kind of the point of the Pratchett novels, for me. They’re funny, yes, but they’re also incredibly moral and very wise: social commentary at its finest. So please, cheat Death and give me Sir Terry. We’ll have a damn good conversation, if nothing else.
As for my character, I’d choose Minerva McGonagall from the Harry Potter books, because she’s a total badass and I love her. (The moment when she delivers a stone-cold putdown to Umbridge in The Order of the Phoenix is possibly the greatest thing ever to happen in fiction.) Plus I’ve always known I’m not really a Muggle, so whilst on the island I can catch up on all that magical training I unfortunately missed when my Hogwarts letter went astray.
I have seen the future of fantasy and its name is …? Harriet Goodchild. I’m handing Harriet’s fantasy novel, After the Ruin, to pretty much anyone who asks me for a book recommendation. It’s a beautiful, complex, poetic piece of fantasy.
What is next for you? My second novel is currently with the publisher and due out in January. In theory, my third will follow this time next year. For someone who has never been convinced that anything I write is anything like good enough, working at this pace is a little bit scary. I suspect after I hand in my third book I’ll be completely out of words, so that would be the perfect time for me to be cast away for a year and learn transfiguration from McGonagall, please.
Tell us a secret. I would go out tonight, but I haven’t got a stitch to wear.
A.F.E Smith is an editor of academic texts by day and a fantasy writer by night. So far, she hasn’t mixed up the two. She lives with her husband and their two young children in a house that someone built to be as creaky as possible – getting to bed without waking the baby is like crossing a nightingale floor. Though she doesn’t have much spare time, she makes space for reading, mainly by not getting enough sleep (she’s powered by chocolate). Her physical bookshelves were stacked two deep long ago, so now she’s busy filling up her e-reader.
What A.F.E stands for is a closely guarded secret, but you might get it out of her if you offer her enough snacks.