Interview With Jennifer E. Smith

By Sara Aslagson-Sahar

Jennifer E. Smith, is the author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, The Geography of You and Me, This Is What Happy Looks Like, and many more. With such unique titles and riveting stories I often find myself staying up all night to finish her books. Following the characters as they deal with life’s realities, such as going off to college or meeting your Dad’s soon-to-be wife for the first time and the realness of the people who join you, and the people you leave behind.

After getting sucked into reading her book Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between I realized she would be someone perfect to interview and decided to reach out to her. Thankfully, she agreed. 

To dive right in, a lot of your books, including The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, The Geography of You and Me, and Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between, have traveling in them. Is traveling important to you? Why do you include it in your books?

Yes! Traveling is a huge passion of mine. When I was a kid, we used to take family road trips to different corners of the country (I’ve been to forty-six of the fifty states!), and in my adult life, I’ve made a habit of venturing a bit farther afield to places like Kenya, New Zealand, Argentina, Japan, South Africa, Iceland, and so many more. I’ve been lucky enough to go to six of the seven continents, and am always planning my next trip. So it’s been really fun to set my books in some of the places I’ve fallen in love with along the way, and to sort of widen the lens of my stories through travel. There’s a quote I love that says, “The world is a book, and those who don’t travel read only the first page.” It’s been a great joy to be able to show readers some of my very favorite pages.

The titles of your books are so unique. Honestly, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight was such an intriguing title that I had to pick it up. What is the process for creating those one-of-a-kind titles?

Well, that one came very late in the process. It was actually a line in the book, and when we couldn’t think of anything else, my editor at the time had the brilliant idea to use it. All of the titles come from different places, and I seem to either have them right from the start or else go down to the wire trying to figure something out. With This Is What Happy Looks Like and The Geography of You and Me, I knew before I even started writing. With my newest one, Windfall, we went through literally dozens before we landed on that one at the eleventh hour. It’s not my favorite part of the process, so I’m glad to hear you’ve liked them!

Right now your only book with a sequel is This Is What Happy Looks Like. What compelled you to write Happy Again? Do you think you will write sequels for any of your other books?

I definitely didn’t plan to write that one. I always get a lot of requests for sequels, since my endings tend to be a bit ambiguous, but I’m usually pretty happy with where I leave my characters, so it wasn’t something I considered very seriously. Then I was on a plane one day and the idea for Happy Again popped into my head. That never happens to me. Seriously…never. But it was like I could see Ellie in this one particular moment, and I spent the rest of the flight sketching out the novella. It was a lot of fun to write, and it’s been really nice to be able to point readers in that direction once they’ve finished the first book. If that were ever to happen for any of my other stories, I’d definitely consider another sequel – but for now, I like to think I left all those characters exactly where they should be.

You’ve published a fair number of books over the years and in your F.A.Q. on your website said that you always wanted to be a writer and recognize the difference between writing and publishing. How does it feel to be a published writer and have seven, soon to be eight, books published?

I feel very, very lucky. I know how rare it is to actually be doing the thing you dreamed about as a kid, and sometimes I still can’t believe this is my job. I worked really hard to get to this place, but there were never any guarantees, and sometimes I look back and think about what a crazy leap of faith it all was, to keep writing in spite of the odds, and in spite of the setbacks, and in spite of all the rejection. I did it because I loved to write, simple as that. The first two novels I wrote were roundly rejected, and after each one, the first thing I did was sit down and open another blank document. I’m so grateful now that I did.

When you were dreaming of being a writer someday did you picture yourself writing Young Adult fiction? What is your favorite part about writing Young Adult fiction?

YA is actually sort of a newish category, so it wasn’t something I ever really imagined. But as soon as I discovered it, I fell madly in love. It’s such an interesting time of life to write about, since everything is happening for the first time. Plus, everyone has been there, so I love the universality of it. And the audience is the best. I absolutely love writing for teens.  

In my junior year of university I studied abroad in England. On my plane flight over I reread The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight imagining I was Hadley and Oliver could be the person sitting next to me.

That’s so nice to hear! There’s nothing quite like reading on a plane – everything else sort of disappears. I love to travel with books that are set wherever I’m headed, so it sort of feels like I’m already halfway there by the time I arrive.

In May of 2017 you have your new book Windfall coming out. How do you feel? Does the fact that you have published seven other books alter the way you feel?

I think I’ll always be nervous and excited about every book of mine that comes out, no matter how many I’ve written. But this is a really special one for me, so everything does feel a bit heightened. You never want to play favorites with your books, but there are a few that I’m especially fond of, and I’m so looking forward to the moment when Windfall is out in the world. It’s the story of a girl who has been in love with her best guy friend through all of high school, and for his 18th birthday, sort of on a lark, she buys him a lottery ticket. To their surprise, he wins 140 million dollars, which of course changes everything. I couldn’t be more excited about this book, and I hope you’ll all enjoy it too!

We are sure we will! Thank you so much for answering our questions. We at Sculpt wish Windfall success and cannot wait to see what else you have in store.
Jennifer E. Smith is the author of Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between, The Geography of You and Me, This Is What Happy Looks Like, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, The Storm Makers, You Are Here, and The Comeback Season. She earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and her work has been translated into thirty-three languages. She currently lives in New York City.

To learn more about her and her work, including where to purchase it, check out her website.

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