Today we welcome S.M. Stevens to Meet the Authors. We’re headed to Massachusetts and New Hampshire to talk about how PR and Marketing, a run of “bad luck”, the #MeToo movement, the Boston zoo, the USS Constitution Museum, and the Jetsons play a role in S.M. Stevens life.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a born and bred New Englander, from Maine originally and currently splitting my time between Massachusetts and New Hampshire. I have lived in Italy and in the U.K. (twice).
While I love reading all kinds of books, when it comes to writing, I want my stories to be thought-provoking but “accessible” reads. I don’t like it when I can’t figure out what the author intended to say. I’ve read V by Thomas Pynchon twice and still don’t get it…
When I’m not writing fiction, I provide PR and Marketing to solar energy companies.
How many published books do you have?
Five. Horseshoes and Hand Grenades (Women’s Fiction/New Adult) will be released by TouchPoint Press in Sept. 2019. I have self-published a Middle Grade novel for animal lovers, and three Young Adult novels for musical theatre lovers.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?
Writing was always the favorite part of my PR and marketing work, but a full-time job and two daughters made trying my hand at fiction unrealistic. Then, in 2009, I broke my pelvis in three places in a horseback riding fall, and was couch-ridden for three months. That injury was the catalyst for the first novel I published.
What is the most crazy thing that has ever happened to you?
I had a run of “bad luck” a few years back. First, I broke my pelvis, as I said above. Almost a year to the day later, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. And less than a year after that, my car was rear-ended at high speed on the Massachusetts Turnpike.
But I chose to see myself as lucky. After all, I didn’t get a head injury during the fall from my horse. Surgery and chemotherapy cured my cancer. And I was not severely hurt in the car accident. Plus, it was something of a miracle that my car was pushed across three lanes of traffic without hitting any other vehicles!
What does your ideal writing space look like?
I feel quite fortunate that I can write almost anywhere, in any situation. I attribute that to my years as a business writer, when my train of thought was constantly interrupted by phone calls and people stopping in my office. I learned to write in five minute spurts, which came in handy when I was writing my first novels and watching children at the same time!
If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?
What was your first year of life as a street dog like?
Do you cry incessantly in the car because you’re on sensory overload, or because you’re hot, or for reasons even you can’t explain?
What are you thinking right now?
What are you currently reading?
Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham. Not sure how I feel about it yet; I’m about halfway through. But I found it on my bookshelf — I think I bought it during college — and decided it was time to actually read it!
Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?
The #MeToo movement, when it began in earnest in 2017. As I watched the news coverage of Harvey Weinstein etc., it hit me that society was asking the same questions of workplace sexual harassment victims that it asks of incest victims: Was it partly your fault? Why did you wait so long to speak up? And was it severe enough to really count? I hope that Horseshoes and Hand Grenades answers some of those questions.
A penguin knocks on your door and is wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there?
“I know you’ve always wanted to see penguins in the wild. But you best hurry. It’s getting so warm at the South Pole that I need this hat to stay cool. Oh, and can you do something about climate change please?”
List 3 interesting facts about yourself.
1 – I worked at the zoo in Boston for several years. The highlight of that job was helping move gorillas from sub-par accommodations into a new, multi-acre, indoor/outdoor rainforest exhibit. It was very moving. That scene is actually in my new book.
2 – During a job at the USS Constitution Museum, I worked with National Geographic on a story about the first dry-docking of Old Ironsides in 20 years.
3 – I lived in Italy and commuted to my job in London for seven months so my two dogs wouldn’t have to be put in a kennel in the U.K.
If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author or famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Toni Morrison. I would ask: Do you consciously reach for the poetic/musical language you use in your novels, or do your words just fall onto the page without conscious effort?
If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?
A tie: The Jetsons, because I loved their futuristic gadgets. Every time a new app or smart phone capability is introduced, I think we’re one step closer to living like the Jetsons. But I also loved The Bugaloos, because they were a band and had wings like fairies.
Tell us about your most recent book.
Horseshoes and Hand Grenades is, to my knowledge, the first story with a #MeToo theme that features women in their 20s. Plenty of YA novels introduce girls to sexual assault-related topics. I don’t know why more novels don’t focus on young women starting out in the workforce, because that’s when we first experience the corporate hierarchies and power plays that lead to harassment.
Here’s a brief synopsis:
Fragile but practical 22-year-old Shelby Stewart is damn sure “mild” childhood sexual abuse by her stepfather—a respected teacher and revered coach—didn’t change her. She succeeds at her new PR job in 1980s Boston but sucks at romance, sabotaging relationships with men her friends insist are not good enough for her.
Shelby’s co-worker, ambitious and confident Astrid Ericcson, says she wrote the book on How to Get Ahead by Flirting. But when her boss’s innuendoes escalate to not-so-subtle touching and under-the-table footsie, she finds both her career and her safety at risk.
Together, the women build their careers, friendships and romances while facing their respective demons.
I’d like to add that, despite the heavy themes, my early reviewers tell me the book is entertaining, funny and a “safe” place to deal with sexual trauma. Another great compliment came from a reviewer who said the book inspired her to tell her husband about a workplace incident she’d been keeping secret. I hope this book inspires more such conversations!
This was a deeply meaningful interview to host as I am part of the #MeToo movement (although not in a workplace setting). I had always mistakenly thought if I ignored what happened and just “forgot” about it; it would go away. Which means I never truly processed and felt the wide range of emotions concerning what happened. I never shared as I was ashamed, thought I had done something wrong, and feared getting into trouble (at the time).
I spent 2017 and some of 2018 allowing myself to process, feel, and let go of much from my childhood, young adult, and teenage years, including the #metoo incidences. I’ve pretty much processed and felt what I needed to feel at this point. I am grateful to see this book be published as it may assist those who are still in need of healing.
I would love to join the coffee date with Toni Morrison too!! Thank you S.M. Stevens for joining us. It has been a pleasure! – Camilla
Horseshoes and Hand Grenades touches on #MeToo subjects, wherein women reach new highs and lows in life, work, and romance, while struggling to make sense of the abusive relationships that haunt them.
Where to find the book:
US Amavon: https://amzn.to/2m4Mosh
UK Amavon: https://amzn.to/2m50rOv
TouchPoint Press: https://bit.ly/2K8nMYY
Connect with S.M. Stevens:
And if it feels the thing to do and you are inspired to do so, I would be deeply grateful if you’d like to “Buy Me a Coffee” … Camilla – Founder and Host of Meeting the Authors …