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Fire on the Island by Timothy Jay Smith - Book Tour

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Fire on the Island by Timothy Jay Smith @TimothyJaySmith @lovebooksgroup

For lovers of crime fiction and the allure of the Greek islands, Fire on the Island is the perfect summer read. 

FIRE ON THE ISLAND is a playful, romantic thriller set in contemporary Greece, with a gay Greek-American FBI agent, who is undercover on the island to investigate a series of mysterious fires. Set against the very real refugee crisis on the beautiful, sun-drenched Greek islands, this novel paints a loving portrait of a community in crisis. As the island residents grapple with declining tourism, poverty, refugees, family feuds, and a perilously damaged church, an arsonist invades their midst.

Nick Damigos, the FBI agent, arrives on the island just in time to witness the latest fire and save a beloved truffle-sniffing dog. Hailed as a hero and embraced by the community, Nick finds himself drawn to Takis, a young bartender who becomes his primary suspect, which is a problem because they’re having an affair. Theirs is not the only complicated romance in the community and Takis isn’t the only suspicious character on the island. The priest is an art forger, a young Albanian waiter harbors a secret, the captain of the coast guard station seems to have his own agenda, and the village itself hides a violent history. Nick has to unravel the truth in time to prevent catastrophe, as he comes to terms with his own past trauma. In saving the village, he will go a long way toward saving himself.

A long time devotee of the Greek islands, Smith paints the setting with gorgeous color and empathy, ushering in a new romantic thriller with the charm of  Zorba the Greek while shedding bright light on the very real challenges of life in contemporary Greece.

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Author Interview
1.       What would you consider to be your Kryptonite as an author?
If you’re asking what weakens me as a writer to the point of destruction or impotence, the answer is nothing.

2.       If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Writing is a craft that is a lot harder than it appears. Learn the rules before you think you’re good enough to break them.

3. What book do you feel is under-appreciated? How about overrated?
The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis. People tend to think of Zorba the Greek when Kazantzakis is mentioned, but this book is equally as good and actually more powerful. It humanizes Christ in ways that make him more accessible and believable. I’m not a believer of any religion, but when I finished The Last Temptation, I recall putting it down and saying aloud, “If there’s one book that could convince me to be a Christian, it’s this one.” (However, it didn’t.)
The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. It’s been years since I read it, but I still recall how nothing worked for me in this book. By the end of the book, all I felt I knew about the main character (Robert Langdon) was that he had a quirky smile. But worse, there were just things that stretched incredulity, and even in fiction things need to be somewhat plausible. At one point, Langdon just happens to have a friend who lives near Versailles and has a private jet that he lets Langdon fly to England—without paperwork, flight plan, or official clearance. In the real world, the military would’ve shot him down.

4. Favorite childhood memory involving books?
In my hometown, the local library always had a summer reading challenge for kids, and I loved competing in that. I have to credit my mother for instilling in me a love of reading. She was always reading, more often than not bestsellers, and claimed she had read every book in her small hometown’s library. She was the first woman in her family to get a college degree, and if you’re going to be educated, you have to read.

5. What fantastical fictional world would you want to live in (if any) given the chance?
I can’t think of one. I’m not fond of fantasy. I’m a very realistic, pragmatic guy. The only exception is that I love the magical realism books of Isabel Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Jorge Luis Borges, but nothing that would qualify as real fantasy.

6. Did you want to be an author when you grew up?
I’ve always enjoyed the writing aspect of any job or task I had. I’ll also say that I wrote my first stage play when I was ten years old and started a novel when I was twelve. But I developed other career goals, which were enormously exciting, so I can’t say I always wanted to be an author. I certainly wasn’t a frustrated writer wishing I didn’t have to have a day job.
In my career, I worked on economic development projects to help lower income people, first in the US and then internationally. My own specific career goal was to design and manage an overseas project that had some real significance. That happened. I designed and managed the U.S. Government’s first significant project to assist Palestinians after the start of the peace process. When that project ended, I was 46 years old and had accomplished what I had set out to achieve in that career. Anything else felt like it would be redundant. I also had a story to tell (and believed it might contribute to Middle East peace). I had grown up a Zionist (though I’m not Jewish) and ended my career helping Palestinians. I knew, understood, and appreciated both sides of that conflict, and felt compelled to write about it. That became my first novel, A Vision of Angels.

7. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
Earnest. Disciplined. Curious.

8. What is your most unusual writing quirk?
That I need to be in my study with the door shut even when I’m home alone. It stems from psychological trauma from my childhood. My father had a violent temper, but for the most part, if I was in my room with my door closed, I was safe. He only violated my closed door twice. To this day, I still feel anxious/distracted if my door is open.

9. What’s one movie you like recommending to others?
Call Me By Your Name

10. If you could own any animal as a pet, what would it be?
A Dalmatian dog. I had one for 16.5 years. He died in 2007 and I still miss him. But my circumstances have changed and it’s just not possible to have another dog.

11. Have you ever met anyone famous?
I grew up in Palm Springs, California, so I saw and lived near many celebrities. I bagged groceries for Frank Sinatra, Mia Farrow, and Lucille Ball. I sat next to Sonny and Cher at a soda fountain while we all ate banana splits. I watched Paul Newman and Steve McQueen leave a local cafĂ© arm-in-arm. I went to hear Desi Arnaz’s trial on charges of assaulting a housekeeper. We were not a rich family by any means (I went to work at 12 to be able to buy a desk), but on our street lived Loretta Young, Jack Webb, Elizabeth Taylor, Julie London, and Liberace. Dr. Jonas Salk, inventor of the polio vaccine, lived around the corner; his brother was our veterinarian; and his nephew and I were co-conspirators in avoiding the Vietnam War. I was an altar boy when President Lyndon Johnson came to our church. Finally, I spoke with Edward Albee at a theater conference.

12. What is the first book that made you cry?I can’t remember the first, but I do the last: Leading Men by Christopher Castellani. It’s an intriguing book, but not especially emotional until the very last scene between Tennessee Williams and his longtime lover, Frank Merlot. I really lost it.
13. How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?Two or three years, depending on what other projects I am working on. Probably closer to three years.
14. How do you select the names of your characters?
Each book has been different. Sometimes the names simply come to me. I write in foreign settings, and I’ll ask friends for their favorite Turkish names, for example. When I started The Fourth Courier, I couldn’t come up with an appropriate name for my protagonist, so as a placeholder, I used my middle name (Jay) and my favorite grandmother’s last name (Porter), assuming I’d change it later, but Jay Porter stuck. Whatever approach I use, I almost always look up the origin and meaning of the names I use.
15. What are your top 5 favorite movies?
Call Me By Your NameZorba the Greek
Spy Who Came In From The Cold
Night of the Iguana
16. If you were the last person on Earth, what would you do?Pray for the Earth’s fast recovery from humanity.
17. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Learn what’s a ‘darling’ and be prepared to kill them. Don’t try to be too clever (it always shows). Trust your reader. Hold back as much information for as long as you can. Don’t give someone’s backstory in one big dump. Don’t ignore the rule of Chekhov’s Gun. Don’t try to surprise your readers with twists that ultimately don’t feel organic to the whole story. Value feedback.
18. What book do you wish you had written?American War by Omar El Akkad.
19. Tell us some fun facts about yourself!I’ve been to 112 countries, many more than once. (I currently live in Nice, France.)
I’m 16th generation American. My ancestors arrived in the tailwinds of the Mayflower.
Through 7th grade, I spent most of every summer in Iowa (where my extended family still lives).
I dropped out of high school because I was bored and wanted to get away from home, and was admitted as a dropout to UC Berkeley.
I have rarely owned a TV, don’t have one now, and don’t know how to turn on any modern model. Remote controls? What happened to on and off buttons?
All my life, I suffered from a terrible, panic-inducing phobia about swimming in the open sea, or more precisely, moving water. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat on the shore envying people who could swim out to sea so freely. Five years ago, I figured I was getting old enough that I had one last chance to overcome it, and vowed to try.  Here’s a link to what happened:
I have planted 8,750 trees in Tanzania in the last three years, and hope to plant at least 30,000 trees total within a decade.
I am the founder of the Smith Prize for Political Theater.
I actually like studying grammar, and have studied (and in some cases, actually speak) seven languages.
20. If you could live in any time period, what would it be and why?Paris 1930s before WWII. I’ve always loved the American literary scene from that time and place. To have hung out with Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Stein: sublime.
21. What is your favorite genre to read?Literary with a splash of suspense. (In other words, my books!)

Timothy Jay Smith 

Tim has traveled the world collecting stories and characters for his novels and screenplays which have received high praise. Fire on the Island won the Gold Medal in the 2017 Faulkner-Wisdom Competition for the Novel. He won the Paris Prize for Fiction for his first book, A Vision of Angels. Kirkus Reviews called Cooper's Promise "literary dynamite" and selected it as one of the Best Books of 2012. Tim was nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize for his short fiction, "Stolen Memories." His recent novel, The Fourth Courier received tremendous reviews. His screenplays have won numerous international competitions. Tim is the founder of the Smith Prize for Political Theater. He lives in France.

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