CAT Magazine

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We Found The First One-Eyed Man At Dawn...Chatting with Lyle Blake Smythers

Do you not just love that teaser? "We found the first one-eyed man at dawn.." What better way to start off! Welcome to Writing Innovations Lyle Blake Smythers!

WI:  Tell us a little bit about yourself...

I am a busy man because by day I am a librarian and by night I am an actor.  I have been in the Washington, D.C., area since 1974 and have worked most of that time in the field of children’s and young adult books,  as a children’s librarian for a public library, a school librarian, and a cataloger of children’s/YA books at the Library of Congress.  Currently I am still at LC but providing cataloging support for a special ongoing inventory and quality control project.

When I’m not among the books,  I am onstage performing.  I started in local community theater, which here in D.C. is of unusually high quality, and somewhere along the way I made the jump to professional theater that actually pays me something.  Right now I can be seen as the Major-General in a dinner theater production of The Pirates of Penzance.

In what I laughingly refer to as my spare time, I pursue my other passion, which is writing.

WI:  How many books have you written?

Feasting With Panthers is my first published novel but actually the second one I’ve completed.  The first was a short realistic children’s novel for the middle grades which I shopped around to traditional publishers for a while before coming to believe that it had insurmountable problems with the narrator’s voice.  It has now become a trunk novel, meaning I have put it away.  It was doing something completely different that allowed me to produce Feasting, which is not a children’s book but an unusual magical adventure novel with multiple narrators and, I hope, a fresh approach to the whole swords-and-sorcery field.

WI:  When did you first consider yourself a writer?

When I was in the sixth grade I was a big fan of the adventure novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, his Tarzan books, the John Carter stories set on Mars, and the Pellucidar books that took readers to a strange world at the Earth’s core.  I started writing my own story, entitled Expedition Into the Unknown, a highly derivative work that took some men in a giant Devil Drill to the Earth’s core for adventures among strange people and monsters.  It was not terribly good but I had fun with it.  When I got to junior high school I said, “This is awful” and abandoned it.  Since then I have been preoccupied with making my own stories.

WI:  Have you had any classes or hold a degree that aides you in your writing?

Like most writers, I have been a lifelong reader, and I took a creative writing class in high school.  I worked on the literary magazine in both high school and college and was an English major.  As I have mentioned, I am a librarian, with a degree in library science.  Most importantly for my creative side, however,  I read widely in many genres.

WI:  What, in your opinion, is the first most important step to marketing a book?

If you want get basic, I agree with those who say that the title and the cover are extremely important, followed by the blurb or the description that you provide.  We are currently awash in a sea of books, what with e-books and self-publishing, and so we must fight for the reader’s attention.

WI:  Do you prefer to publish in paperback or e-book format?

I am rather traditional in that I want my work to see print, something I can hold in my hand and show to my father, who does not use a computer.  I also recognize the importance of e-books and their growing popularity.  I am very pleased that Pink Narcissus Press is making both versions available.

WI:  Tell us what it's like for you when you sit down to write...Do you need complete silence, do you create a playlist?

Because of my busy schedule,  I can go as long as one or two weeks between writing sessions, during which time I am frequently thinking about what’s coming next in my work in progress and making notes to myself.  I frequently find myself writing in a leather armchair at the cigar shop where I buy cigars, because they have a smoking area inside that is climate controlled.  It’s a nice place to relax, look over my notes, and start trying to make more literary magic.

WI:  How long did it take you to write this particular book/novel?

It took an incredible fourteen years (see previous remarks about my busy schedule), during which I occasionally put it aside and came back to it again.  There were other things going on in my life which distracted me from being productive.  Now I do make more time to write.  I am on the verge of finishing the first draft of my work in progress and it has only taken two and a half years.

WI:  Most authors despise the editing process. What is this process like for you?

I have found the editing to be essential for producing a better book, but it must come from the outside, from another person who is impartial.  I do some self-editing as I go, then go back and try to clean things up, but I need an editor.  Rose Mambert, my editor at Pink Narcissus Press, did so much to improve my book in the areas of consistency,  clear writing, the pruning of unnecessary stuff, and content in general.  This is an invaluable process.  It’s less painful when I realize that the editor is helping make my book a better book, which of course is the ultimate goal.

WI:  Do you like the traditional publishing route, or do you prefer self-publishing?

This has been my first publishing experience, other than a few short stories here and there, and Pink Narcissus is a small press that falls into the traditional pub category.  I like having the support and not having to do everything myself.  However, I tend to write rather unusual, not to say oddball, things and there may come a time when I may choose to embrace the freedom of self-publishing to get something out to the world that a trad pub would not want to publish.  I find it’s valuable to be open to different options.

WI:  What do you hope readers will take away from your books?

I hope they find a fresh, original story that is full of surprises and told in inventive ways, through language that is vivid, literary, and exciting.  I love words and I must say I had a field day with writing this one.

WI:  What can we expect from you in the future?

My work in progress is a blend of dark fantasy, New Weird and urban detective noir.  A little China Mieville, a little Jeff Vandermeer, a little Philip K. Dick, a little Raymond Chandler., in a realistic, complex real-world setting combining elements of both science fiction and fantasy.  Two supernatural beings from Irish mythology, the hero Finn M’Coul and Viledark, the Hog Who Ate the Sun, are running a private detective agency on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., when they come across a new sex drug that increases the male orgasm but also kills and only works on gay men.  Their search for a missing boy leads them to Sin, a psychotic supervillain who claims to be the original model for Fu Manchu.  I have not yet sold this book to a publisher.

WI:  Please let readers know where they can connect with you and purchase your books...

Right now Feasting can be pre-ordered from Barnes & Noble at  It will shortly be available on Amazon and from my publisher at which is also how they can connect with me if they have comments or questions.  I am also on Facebook.

Thank you so much for this opportunity to be here.

Thank you so much for taking time to chat with us today. We wish you much success in the future.

The Writing Innovations Team

Lyle is on tour with the Virtual Book Tour Cafe', and you can follow HERE.

We found the first one-eyed man at dawn...

So begins the highly original fantasy tale of warrior poet Catalan,  when he and his band stumble upon a handsome acolyte near death in a  mountain pass. But when the acolyte reveals his mystical vision, the  poet finds himself at the center of a War Game between two mysterious  
sorcerers. To unravel the mystery, Catalan and the agents of the War  Game must seek the missing pieces of an enchanted chess set in a quest  complicated by deceit and treachery, in which nothing is what it seems.

Ingeniously weaving together citations throughout the text from a  variety of sources ? including Yeats, Milton, Joyce, Poe, Baudelaire,  the King James Bible and many more ? author Lyle Blake Smythers serves  up a truly literary feast.


Book Genre - Literary Fantasy
Publisher - Pink Narcissus Press
Release Date - May 2012

Lyle Blake Smythers:
Lyle Blake Smythers is an actor, writer and librarian in the Washington, D.C., area. Since 1976 he has performed in over 100 stage productions, including three appearances at the National Theatre. He has published fiction, poetry, satire and literary criticism in Manscape, FirstHand, Playguy, The William and Mary Review, Insights, School Library Journal and Children?s Literature Review. He is a former children?s librarian and is currently providing cataloging support for an ongoing project at the Library of Congress.

5 Responses to "We Found The First One-Eyed Man At Dawn...Chatting with Lyle Blake Smythers"

BK Walker said...

Thank you for chatting with us today Lyle. Great interview it was. :)

Lyle Blake Smythers said...

It's my pleasure.  I am open to any questions from your followers and visitors.  Or, as we say when performing live onstage, "Thanks, folks.  I'll be here all week."

A Reader said...

Do you find that writing helps one survive a tortured adolescence.?

Lyle Blake Smythers said...

Writing does a number of things for me.  Creative expression is a magical and wondrous thing and sometimes seems to provide the only available opportunity for being in control of something.  Most of the things in life are things we have no control over: the weather, traffic, your duties at work, OTHER PEOPLE (that's the biggie).  I get to make the decisions on what I write--at least in the first draft, before an editor or a publisher gets hold of it!

Just the process of making something can be immeasurably satisfying.  One of my favorite lines in the amazing Stephen Sondheim musical SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE comes from the artist Georges Seurat, who is working on his gigantic painting.

"Look, I made a hat / Where there never was a hat."

Having said all of that, I would say that the act of creation can help compensate for the rejections, the lack of acceptance, the lack of understanding that many of us experienced growing up.  Good question.

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