“I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid, but I never could have imagined it,” says Jennifer E. Smith. With nine published books, an international readership, and an upcoming event in Cebu and Manila this weekend, it’s clear that she’s living the life she never thought she would. Unsurprisingly, it is her realistic mindset combined with her genuine love for writing that made her a success.
“When I was 10, I won a short story contest in school. Since then, I never stopped writing, and always knew I’d write no matter what,” she adds. We caught up with the Young Adult novelist and learned about her latest book, Windfall.
You’ve been writing since you were a kid, but what led you to getting your book published?
I wrote a couple of the books in the years right after college that did not get published. I was crushed about them, then I just picked myself up, dusted myself off and started again. I look back now, and I can’t believe that after my first book got rejected, I just opened up a blank word document and wrote another 400 pages, with no encouragement. Discouragement, even. Then, after that second book was rejected, I just did it again. I mean, thank you, younger me, for doing that. It was a crazy thing to do, but eventually, my third book, The Comeback Season, was published.
You met massive commercial success with your third book, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. What changed after publishing your first two books?
My first two books—though I was proud of them—weren’t connecting to the audience, so I took a year off writing. I was hearing about what publishers wanted, but none of them were things I wanted to write. I started writing what I wanted to write. It was simply an idea that popped in my head that I loved. That’s what made the difference—what I thought was the quiet book of my heart that I wasn’t sure anyone would love ended up being my most successful book.
Where did you find the drive to keep on writing?
I look back, and it would be a Sunday afternoon and my friends are hungover on the couch, and then I’d just go in my room and write. Where did I draw that kind of confidence to know that all those hours I was putting in was going lead to something? It could have easily not have, but I wrote and wrote. The heartbeat underneath all of that was the love of it. It has to be first and foremost, something you’d do no matter what—it always was for me. I’m just really lucky that it did end up culminating into the career I have, but I would have kept writing either way.
I noticed that you’re always drawn to themes of fleeting and unlikely romances.
Even when I set out to write something completely different, I find myself coming back to ideas about fate and I like to play around with what ifs, like what if you missed your flight by four minutes ended up meeting someone special because of this? It’s not likely, but it happens. I actually receive so many emails from readers who met their significant others on the plane.
Tell us about Windfall.
It’s about Alice, who has been in love with Teddy, her best friend, for years. On his 18th birthday, she buys him a lottery ticket as a joke, but he ends up winning $140 million. In contrast, Alice is someone who won the worst lottery possible in life, being orphaned when she was little. Teddy’s win leads her to ask: Are you always destined to be waiting for the other shoe to drop? Does the world owe us anything, or are these events completely random?
How does Teddy winning the lottery affect their relationship?
They were on the brink on something happening the night before, but when they wake up, everything is different. Teddy, as you might expect from a wayward 18-year-old, went a little crazy with the money. It changes him, and it’s about them finding their way back to each other.
You’ve published a lot of books already. What did you set out to accomplish with Windfall?
In my previous books, you find these themes on fate that I’m always drawn too. This one’s longer, deeper, more emotional, and bigger in scope, which was all intentional. It’s less of the fantasy, which you get at the beginning of the book, and more about the reality behind seemingly fantastic events, like winning a lottery.
CATCH JENNIFER E. SMITH ALONG WITH AUTHOR JASMINE WARGA AT THEIR BOOK SIGNING ON NOVEMBER 11 AT THE GALLERY, AYALA CENTER CEBU, AND NOVEMBER 12, 2PM AT THE SAMSUNG HALL AT SM AURA PREMIER. WINDFALL IS AVAILABLE AT NATIONAL BOOK STORE BRANCHES NATIONWIDE. JENNIFER E. SMITH IS ON INSTAGRAM AT @JENNIFERESMITH