Interview with Author Daniel Blake Smith

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I was trained as an historian—was a professor of American history at the University of Kentucky for many years—so early on I was into the storytelling business.  Most of my earlier books, in fact, are works of history:  I’ve published books with major commercial presses (Henry Holt/MacMillan and St. Martin’s Press) on the founding of Virginia (THE SHIPWRECK THAT SAVED JAMESTOWN); The Trail of Tears (AN AMERICAN BETRAYAL:  CHEROKEE PATRIOTS AND THE TRAIL OF TEARS); and a family saga (OUR FAMILY DREAMS).

2) What inspired you to write your book?

I was inspired to write MR. WONDERFUL out of autobiographical motivations.  I began the work as a memoir but soon found that I wanted (and the book needed) to have the freedom of fiction, so I quickly moved beyond my own story (yes, I am a college professor, like the protagonist, Brian Fenton; and yes, I have a son—but not ‘wayward and loopy’, like Danny in the story; and, yes, my father recently passed, a small town Texas doctor just as in the novel) to create something larger, deeper, and more meaningful that takes readers well beyond the confines of my particular experience.  But watching my father go through dementia as he came near the end did serve as the initial spark to write something in honor of him.

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I guess I hope that readers come away feeling that they’ve met some real, relatable, flawed, but fascinating characters who struggle with issues—success, manhood, relationships, death, loss, and legacy—that we all must confront.

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

I love first-person narration in novels, especially with the story set in the ‘eternal present tense’ and so this story—narrated (not always reliably) by the father and son, Brian and Danny Fenton—offered the opportunity to show how much point of view matters in understanding how life and our emotional reactions to it unfold and acquire meaning.

5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

I would love to sit down with at least three characters and ask the following questions:  1) Danny, the wayward son:  ‘what gives you meaning and purpose when you get up every day?  Are you thinking of some goal, some future accomplishment or just living moment to moment?  2) Claire Fenton:  how in the world do you maintain such commitment, devotion, and positive feelings in the face of so much negativity, decline, and loss?  3) Robert (‘Doc’) Fenton:  how could you be both John Wayne and a feeling person who reached out to others?  Why and how did you hide this secret, inner self?

6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

Facebook and Twitter have probably helped me reach out the most to prospective readers—in part, because I built up a pretty significant following through my previous work as a filmmaker.

7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

Aspiring writers need to read as much in the world of writing they intend to work in—novels for fiction writers; history and non-fiction for those wanting to tell ‘true’ stories.  And then you have to write.  Write some every day, just to feel yourself giving expression to images, thoughts, emotions.  Don’t worry if it’s not perfect or ‘publishable’ (it won’t be) at first.  As the great playwright, Tennessee Williams said (but it applies to all kinds of writing): “You don’t write plays; you REWRITE them.”

8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

Next up for me are a couple of film projects I’m trying to get off the ground—BLOOD BORN, a thriller about a down-on-his-luck 20 something young man whose world is turned upside down when he discovers that his blood can cure cancer; and I’ll be turning MR. WONDERFUL into a screenplay and hopefully an actual movie someday soon.  Book project:  I think I’ll do a sequel to MR. WONDERFUL, focusing on the antics and wild story of Danny and Dawn, the next generation, so to speak.

My website (has lots of photos, trailers, and other info about my work as book author and filmmaker):  danielblakesmith.com
Author bio:  DANIEL BLAKE SMITH is the author of several books including, THE SHIPWRECK THAT SAVED JAMESTOWN (Henry Holt); AN AMERICAN BETRAYAL (Henry Holt); and OUR FAMILY DREAMS (St. Martin’s Press).  He’s also a writer/producer whose most recent film, TEXAS HEART, starring John Savage (THE DEER HUNTER) and Lin Shaye (INSIDIOUS), is now available on Amazon Prime and on DVD.  Formerly a professor of American history at the University of Kentucky, Smith now lives in St. Louis where he works as a filmmaker and author.
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Mr. Wonderful by Daniel Blake Smith Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair, honest review. All opinions are my own.

Slight trigger warning: For anyone triggered by storylines involving dementia or the death of a loved one, reader discretion is advised.

A man’s struggle to keep his family and his life from falling apart plays out artfully in author Daniel Blake Smith’s upcoming novel Mr. Wonderful. A dramatic look into the life of modern academia and the struggle of a family man with an ailing father, a troubled adult son and a strained job put him on a path of self-discovery. Here is the synopsis:

In spite of the world’s struggle and sorrow, life sometimes shows us the wonderful.

Brian Fenton’s life is falling apart. A professor at a bankrupt “directional school,” Brian suddenly learns he must either take early retirement or double his workload. As he confronts the embarrassment of his job going south, Brian discovers that his loopy son, Danny, is paying a surprise visit—which can only mean a hand out for money and a need to crash. To top it all off, Brian is fielding frantic calls about his aging father who’s declining rapidly with dementia.

Once a family doctor in Juniper, the small Texas town where Brian was raised, “Doc Fenton” is going down fast—forcefully reminding Brian of his own mortality and the painful issues separating him from his domineering father—a man only his loving wife could call “Mr. Wonderful.”

When Brian’s father passes, the gathered Fenton family partakes in a volatile small-town Texas funeral—at once hilarious and poignant—which produces startling revelations about Doc Fenton that propel Brian and the whole family into a new direction, a new path forward.

In the engaging vein of Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth and Jonathan Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You, Daniel Blake Smith’s debut novel is at once a comic and heart-wrenching family saga. It offers a piercingly honest window into how we struggle to make sense of ourselves, our families, and our life purpose. If we’re lucky, we discover Mr. Wonderful.

This book was fantastic. The writing was honest and vivid in it’s imagery. Delving into themes of hope, dreams and challenging the definition of family, this story takes the reader on a journey with the characters to not only discover themselves but their place in the world. I’m sure many people in the world can relate to that feeling of staleness and restlessness in both your job and your life. This book captures the essence of these feelings perfectly, making you feel every frustration and painful emotion the characters emote in their dialogue both inner and outer. What struck with me was the story of Brian’s father, as he struggles through his last days. I lost my grandfather five years ago and he was suffering from dementia while in the hospital, and so the raw emotion and pain of dealing with a loss after months of dementia hit an emotional wellspring within me as a reader.

The characters are what made this story flow as smoothly as it did. The contrasting points of view between protagonist Brian and his son Danny showcase two very different views of life, and how two paths on the road to life can converge in unexpected ways. It’s a breathtaking study of family relationships, the complicated ties we have to family and how the past can affect the present and the future.

Overall I loved this book. Due out this Friday, January 19th, 2018, the novel Mr. Wonderful by Daniel Blake Smith is a brilliant read that deserves your attention as the year begins, so if you haven’t yet either preorder or buy your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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