Author Interview: Deborah Smith Ford

Today’s interview is with a fantastic children’s author and an all-around insanely talented lady, Deborah Smith Ford! I first met her at Fandom Fest last year, and have been fortunate to get to know her and her incredible talent since then. See what she has to say about writing for children, an area that a lot of people take for granted (and shouldn’t)!

Ford sharing about writing in classroom

SJ: Every writer has some sort of process. Give us a glimpse into yours. Do you meticulously outline? Do you write depending on what calls are out there?
DSF: My writing process varies, and an outline is part of the beginnings, although my outline is more like webbing – on paper, computer or just in my brain! 
When I write I write non-stop! Usually one thought moves into another and so on until, sometimes, I physically drop. By the way, I do not always use a computer, and my typewriting days have ended due to the strength in my fingers has lessened (but I’m sure I could get it back!). Instead, I write many times with pencil and paper, skipping every other line.
On other occasions I write from memories, notes I have taken after I wake up, when on the road riding with someone (not driving), seeing something that triggers a thought, anywhere and everywhere, etc., so I combine all those ideas into my own, thus beginning another chain of writing.
Sometimes my illustrator, Susi Galloway Newell, comes up with an artistic idea and my writing also flows from that.
Either way, all of the writing ends up making sense eventually, even though it may not to others to begin with.
SJ: Bonus question – Do you put on a cape and do a chant before hunkering down to work? Sacrifice anything? Along with your process, what’s your quirkiest writing habit?
DSF: I do like to be comfortable when writing. Cotton pj bottoms-type pants (sweatpants are my fave) are nice with cotton long sleeve t-shirt, and a drink, always a drink nearby – usually just water, but sometimes cold or hot tea (depending on the weather).

Like my study days in school, I do prefer almost absolute quiet with a window nearby – and even the phone off the hook if need be!

Are you a meticulous planner or do you believe in the muse? Where do your ideas come from? Do they filter in through your dreams? Do they show up at inopportune times and whap you upside the head? Do they result in a shady deal with a dark power?
DSF: I guess I kind of covered where my ideas come from before under “writing process,” and yes they do come from everywhere. Mostly from  my memories, but from people, animals and objects that I meet as well!
SJ:  bonus question – If your muse had a physical manifestation, what would he or she look like and how would she or he act? Is it a sexy superhero version of Callisto? A sharp-tongued rogue? A reptilian alien? Do they have a catch phrase?
DSF: Any muse I might have would have to be myself when younger and/or any child-like character. When I write for older ages, the child becomes older in my thoughts, as well as in his or her actions.
SJ: What’s the book/story that’s closest to your heart? Is there a piece that you clearly feel is a piece of you? Do you play favorites?
DSF: The first published book, “The Little Apple, “would have to be the closest one to my heart, as that is where it mostly came from. The young lady in the first book does come from the imagination, but she was also inspired from real life. Her own thoughts and companions she meets along the way are from both as well – imagination and real life.
Illustration from The Little Apple, Allie on swing with mommy pushing
Hard to play favorites at this point, except if it were not for the first book, there probably would not have been others, and thus the series established – “Allie’s Adventures”!
The Little Apple
SJ: If you could only write one genre ever again upon pain of being sacrificed to Cthulhu, what would it be and why?
             DSF: Children or youth are the genres I currently like to write in.
             SJ: What’s your biggest frustration as a writer? What do you consider the downside, or is there one? Is there any cliché that makes you want to wring people’s necks?
            DSF: My biggest frustration is feeling guilty if I do not write every day or over a period of time. Since I write almost every day, but not books, then that guilt is lessened. I am not a spring chicken anymore either, so I keep thinking I need to rush things – but rushing anything is not good.
           I despise, “So are you still writing.?” “When will the next book be published?” “Do you make money at writing?”…
            SJ: If you had to be stuck in one of your own books/stories for the rest of your life, what would it be and why? If you had to stick a loved one in one of your own books, what would it be and why? An enemy?
             DSF: I would love to be back on a farm, traveling and having adventures, but returning to the farm. I’d also like all my loved ones to be there with me. I don’t think of having enemies – if there were any, that is probably their punishment, I wouldn’t think (or write) about them. 

Do you think it’s possible to develop a sure-fire recipe/formula for success as a writer? Would you want to, or does that compromise the art or the fun of it?

            DSF: No recipe to be a successful writer (in my mind). Just write (study up on grammar if need be), but write what you like and better yet, write what you love.

             SJ: Everyone has words of wisdom for young writers, so I’m not going to ask you about that. With a few unknown writers becoming success stories, a lot of people seem to think it’s an easy career choice. What would your words of wisdom be to these people?

             DSF: After one has decided that he or she cannot eat or sleep without writing SOMEthing, then they know they are hooked, and that’s that. IF one has to make a living at writing, that becomes another ballgame. There are so many opportunities to earn money writing, not writing only books necessarily.
Then when the real life job is settled upon and lived, one’s spare time can be spent writing for enjoyment – books, poetry, articles – whatever floats your boat until eventually THAT becomes one’s real life job AND love!!!
Allie's Adventures, 2nd bk, The Little Goat in Africa


             SJ: It seems like everyone likes to gang up on certain genres as being inferior, less meaningful, or cheap entertainment (especially if it’s speculative in nature). Make a case for the genre you write.


Perfect example I think with my being an author of children’s books. All I can say is, try it!!! I would also love to illustrate them, and I did with the first one (in the 1980s) until this new digital age came about. I find I can only do one or one hundred things well at a time, and adding on that one additional talent, like illustrating, does not work for me.

Creating children’s books with multiple illustrations is not the most wise way to go financially either, but what is a children’s book without them?! I have people remind me of this, and others also say things like “No one will pay that for your book.” – They do.
In the end, I do what I like, am blessed to be able to, and have to just ignore those who think otherwise – you have to or you’ll go crazy! Personally, those who support me, say such people are just jealous (not my words).
I am also an actress in film and TV and am a celebrity lookalike, so I also keep busy acting and traveling as a result. I find myself writing when on set sometimes!
             SJ: What do you want people to instantly think of when they hear your name or your work mentioned?
            DSF: “Why that Deborah Smith Ford must love what she does, as it shows up in her books. Most of all, it is obvious in “Allie” and all the other characters who are part of her adventures.” 
             By the way, “The Little Apple” is available as a soft covered book, an ebook and as a CD (the CD is only available through me). Links for all the above are given.
             Thank you for taking the time to interview me. It was refreshing, fun and thought-provoking, and I was ready to answer even more questions!
Deborah Smith Ford by Michael Cairns
To learn more about Deborah Smith Ford and all her projects, check out her collection of links!
Deborah Smith Ford also writes excellent articles about literature, entertainment, fantasy, and the arts! To check those out, please go to, type her name in the search box at the upper right, and see all that she has to say about others!

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