A Day with Roland Smith

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On February 7, 2015 I went to the annual conference of the Colorado Council International Reading Association, an organization of teachers and others dedicated to promoting literacy.

On February 7, 2015 I went to the annual conference of the Colorado Council International Reading Association, an organization of teachers and others dedicated to promoting literacy.

 

At the conference I interviewed Roland Smith, who was this year’s keynote speaker. Smith is the author of more than 25 novels. He wrote the Cryptid Hunters series, Elephant Run, Thunder Cave, and many more fabulous books. His newest novel, Beneath, was just published in late January. 

 

“Naming your favorite novel is like picking your favorite child,” Smith said. “But I can honestly say that Beneath is my favorite book, to heck with the other kids!” 

 

Before becoming a full-time writer, Smith was an endangered species biologist. Many of his books feature cryptids—a species thought to be real but for which there is no scientific proof. His passion for cryptids is clearly inspired by his work over many years. His first book is called Sea Otter Rescue which was based on his work saving otters from the Exxon-Valdez oil spill in 1989. 

 

During a speech to the Young Writer Award winners, Smith told the students how he writes a book. First, he spends twice as long doing research as he does writing the book. When he is done with research he does a storyboard. Then, he writes the story out in his moleskin journal just like many of the characters in his novels. 

 

“I try to write a minimum of 500 words a day,” he said. “Even on Christmas day!” When he is done he types the book up on his computer and edits it, and then sends it to his editor. 

 

I asked Smith how it feels when he begins a book. “When I begin writing it’s daunting every single time, even after writing 25 books,” he said. “I still have look at my row of books I've written to remind myself when I'm writing a new book, yeah I can do this. It’s always a relief when I'm done writing a book. ”

 

When I asked where he got his inspiration from he said, “Inspiration doesn't cause writing—writing causes inspiration. ”