Syntell Smith - A Drama-Filled Romp Through The Stacks
Syntell Smith was born and raised in Washington Heights, Upper Manhattan in New York City. He began writing while blogging his hectic everyday life experiences in 2004. After gaining an audience with a following of dedicated readers, he studied scripts and plays and got into screenwriting. Syntell has written three books in his Call Numbers series. He loves comic books, video games, and watching reruns of Law and Order. Syntell is active on Twitter, Facebook, & Tumblr and currently lives in Detroit. As our Author of the Day, he tells us all about his book, Call Numbers.
Please give us a short introduction to what Call Numbers is about.
Call Numbers is a workplace drama series similar to television shows like "The Office", "The West Wing", "Parks and Recreation", and "Spin City". Ensemble pieces that explore the lives of the staff of a New York City library during the 1990's.
What inspired you to write this story? Was there anything in particular that made you want to tackle this?
Most of it was inspired by work experiences I had myself when I worked for the New York Public Library from 1992 until 1997. But of course, I've taken a few liberties and applied dramatic license to the stories so no one is affected in real life.
Tell us more about Robin Walker. What makes him tick?
He is loosely based on me, an average young adult, going to college and working part-time. He's very opinionated, with an interesting personality that could rub people the wrong way, but overall his intentions are usually good. He's one of those morally gray characters.
Why did you pick the 58th Street Branch Library as the backdrop for your story?
58th Street is actually one of the libraries I worked at. It was a very unique branch at the time that was very small and intimate with no children's or reference room like other libraries and I felt it was the ideal location for the staff to interact when working together.
What did you have the most fun with when writing this book?
The best thing was taking the readers back to this certain time period of New York City. There weren't any smartphones yet, the internet is in the very early stages (and will be explored in later books.), I really had a lot of fun reminiscing about the 90's and writing it down for others to experience.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I'm an amateur landscape photographer, I have an artistic eye that many seem to appreciate when I go out and about with my camera. I just don't have the time to develop it due to writing all the time.
How much of your own life experiences have you written into this story?
I have years of experiences waiting to be written in this series that I hope to extend to thirteen books. Most of it will be made up, but there's still a small margin of real-life events written in.
Why did you title this "The Not So Quiet Life of Librarians"?
Originally the title for this first book was just "Call Numbers", with different titles following, but I decided to add a subtitle and use "Call Numbers" as a series title to help readers remember the series as a whole.
Interesting cover. Please tell us more about how it came about.
The card catalog has always been a symbol of what the library was previously and red is such an eye-catching color. I hired a great graphic artist who redesigned my cover (After a failed first attempt by myself.) with plans for the entire series. A distinct look with different shades of colors and a unique graphic right in the center.
Why drama? What drew you to the genre?
Great question. Before self-publishing, I queried various literary agents, trying to go the traditional route of publishing. They all suggested I take a humor approach and make it more of a sitcom story, instead of making it so dramatic. But I didn't find the subject matter funny, I take the library seriously and feel the stories should be told with a dramatic narrative to show how important the library is to the community.
Readers say the characters feel very realistic. How did you pull this off?
Most of the characters I've written so far have been based on someone I have interacted with in real life. It helps make them relatable to the reader, feeling that this is someone they can hang out with in real life. I write these characters doing regular things, like going out for pizza, going to clubs, getting drunk at someone's house, etc. It really familiarizes them and makes them very realistic.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I set a few hours each day to do something related to writing, whether that's outlining, character building, or writing various scenes out of order to put together later.
What are you working on right now?
After writing 3 books in the series, I'm taking a break to write other things. I'm working on a standalone novel that's a bit more modern and also exploring other genres.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I'm very active on social media, Twitter, Facebook, and more or less, Tumblr. I love commissioning artists on Instagram for character portraits, and I plan to do more book events in-person around southeast Michigan.