Monday, May 18, 2020

Interview with Angie Smibert, author of The Truce

Today, I'm thrilled to welcome author Angie Smibert to the blog!!! She's the author of the Ghosts of Ordinary Objects series. The third book in the series, The Truce, comes out May 26th, 2020.

First things first, can you tell us more about The Truce?

In the third book of the Ghosts of Ordinary Objects series, it’s December 1942 in the small coal mining community of Big Vein, Virginia. By now, Bone Phillips (12) is growing accustomed to her a Gift, a family Gift, as her Mamaw calls it, and maybe even begun to embrace it. Bone can see the stories or ghosts inside ordinary objects. But there’s one object her beloved Uncle Ash has forbidden her to touch: his dog tags from the first World War. He came back from that war a changed man, and every year about this time, he needs to escape for a while. He packs up the truck and his dogs and asks Bone to declare a truce with her dreaded Aunt Mattie while he’s gone. Reluctantly, Bone does. However, the truce is soon threatened by a discovery in the mine:  a body—wearing Uncle Ash’s dog tags. Bone has to use her Gift to solve the mystery. And that’s all I’ll say for now…except there is a ghost dog involved.

Ooh, a ghost dog!! Love it! Bone is such an interesting character. How was she born?

The story started with a sense memory of swimming in the New River as a kid, much like Bone does in the beginning of Bone’s Gift, the first book in the series. I remembered the feeling of being that kid who didn’t want summer to end or to particularly grow up and be the ‘little lady’ that other people expected. Bone was born out of that feeling.

This is the third novel in the series. Will there be more?

That’s it for now! I’m playing around with a short story, though.

These three novels are set in rural Virginia, where you live. How do you feel about the connection to place in your writing?

Actually, I live in a city—Roanoke—in Southwest, Virginia. However, I grew up in Blacksburg, a small college town west of here. And my mother’s family is from McCoy, a rural area outside Blacksburg along the New River, where there were coal mines until the 1950s. One of them was called Big Vein. My grandfather and his brothers were miners there—until he got hurt. Then he took over his father’s store. In fact, I kept that store in the books. In many ways, writing these stories has been an exploration of this place that I came from. And as Eudora Welty wrote, “One place understood helps us understand all places better.”

You weave folklore into the story. Tell us more about that.

Appalachian folklore is part of the place, the characters, and even the plots of the books. Bone loves stories, from folktales and legends to movies and books. However, she doesn’t like real-life stories—so, of course, that’s why I gave her the Gift of being able to see those.

In each of the books, Bone or one of the other characters—like Uncle Ash—is always telling a folktale or ghost story from the region. Plus I also used a particular story as the “spine” (for lack of a better word) of the plot. For instance, in Bone’s Gift, Bone’s life mirrors a story she’s telling called “Ashpet”—the Appalachian version of Cinderella. In Lingering Echoes—which is set at Halloween—the ‘spine’ tale is Stingy Jack, the origin story of Jack O’Lanterns. At the heart of The Truce, there’s a ghost dog story.

Ghost or spirit dog stories are popular in the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina. (And also found in many other folklores.) A ghost dog might come to warn someone about an impending death. Or the big black dog might actually be there to claim a wicked person’s soul. However, in a few stories, the dog is protecting someone or some thing, such as a fabled silver mine. And as I said, in the Truce, there is a ghost dog and he/she might be near a mine.

For more on folklore and history in the series, please see my resource page:

Wow! So many folklore connections! Now for the big question: what can we expect next from Angie Smibert?

I’m working (slowly) on a spooky magical realism-type story set in the early 1970s in Appalachia that involves (so far) an old resort turned into an artist commune and a ghost or two. I’m also still teaching writing. That takes up a lot of my time lately. ;)

Yup, I'm going to need that book ASAP! Sounds awesome!

Now it's time for the dreaded Lightning Round...muahahahaha!!!

Hogwarts house:  Ravenclaw

Favorite spooky book or movie: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (tho, as you'll see below, I'm also a Harry Potter fan.)

One fact most people wouldn’t know about you: I'm on level 38 of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. ;) (I'm a level 14 magizoologist, btw. Anyone want to ride the Knight Bus to come battle foes with me at Hogwarts Castle?) And, of course, I'm in Ravenclaw.

Best Halloween costume from your past: boxing aliens. This was in the late 90s. My friend had given me a boxing alien puppet. (Do they still make these? There were others, including a boxing nun.) So we decided to make matching boxing alien costumes. This involved making paper mache heads, complete with glowing neon eyes, and duct tape-foam boxing gloves. We got graduation gowns from a thrift store. The costumes were a hit at the party--but very hot! Did I mention this was in Florida?

Favorite board game: If you'd asked me this a few months ago, I would've said Pandemic. And I was thrilled when its designer, Matt Leacok, blurbed my board game book last year. Right now, though, I'd say my fave board game is either Code Names or Exploding Kittens (which is a card game). 

What are you reading now?: Actually, since I'm teaching an MFA thesis course right now, I'm reading A LOT of student manuscripts.  I have also been listening to short stories from a few recent volumes of The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year (edited by Jonathan Strahan) on Scribd. One of my favorite these  is "Red Dirt Witch" by NK Jemisin. Love her stuff and have the latest on order!

Angie Smibert was born in Blacksburg, a once sleepy college town in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. She grew up thinking she wanted to be a veterinarian; organic chemistry had other ideas. But she always had stories in her head. Eventually, after a few degrees and few cool jobs - including a 10-year stint at NASA's Kennedy Space Center - she wrote some of those stories down. Visit her online at:

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