March 6, 2013

Author Interview: Sherri L. Smith Author of Orleans +GIVEAWAY

Today I have the please of welcoming Sherri L. Smith to The O.W.L. 
She is the author of Orleans just now released.

First came the storms.
Then came the Fever.
And the Wall.

After a string of devastating hurricanes and a severe outbreak of Delta Fever, the Gulf Coast has been quarantined. Years later, residents of the Outer States are under the assumption that life in the Delta is all but extinct… but in reality, a new primitive society has been born.

Fen de la Guerre is living with the O-Positive blood tribe in the Delta when they are ambushed. Left with her tribe leader’s newborn, Fen is determined to get the baby to a better life over the wall before her blood becomes tainted. Fen meets Daniel, a scientist from the Outer States who has snuck into the Delta illegally. Brought together by chance, kept together by danger, Fen and Daniel navigate the wasteland of Orleans. In the end, they are each other’s last hope for survival.

A bit about Sherri L. Smith

Sherri L. Smith has written several award-winning novels for young adults. Flygirl (2010) won the California Book Award, was a YALSA Best Book for Young Adults, and has received fourteen State Award nominations. She lives near Los Angeles. 

For more information, visit  her website at or her blog, The Middle Hundred, at

Welcome Sherri!

First the easy questions 

What Point of View -1st or 3rd: Both
Boy or Girl main character (or both!): Girl
Genre: Speculative
Middle Grade or Young Adult: YA
More boy or girl book (stereotypically): Both!

The Serious Questions

First I have to say that I LOVED the book! It was so different from anything else that I’ve read lately. Fen was such a great character – so strong and determined and smart.
(Thank you! It really means a lot!)

For Orleans what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?
I am most proud of Fen. She’s such a spitfire and I admire that. Anyone who can survive that sort of crucible and still find their humanity is pretty incredible.
Orleans is set in the future where disease has taken over the area of New Orleans – please tell us about what research, if any, did you do to decide how this would look or how the disease spread?

The disease already existed in my head. I have a doctor friend I go to for help justifying what I’ve created. In this instance, she introduced me to a fantastic doctor of pediatric hematology and oncology. We had a rather disgusting lunch where I told him what I wanted based on spread and virility of the disease, and he guided me toward real-world parallels. It was cool, like your science teacher letting you make up the answers and then providing the questions. I left with a list of symptoms—like jaundiced skin and pica, or the compulsion to eat dirt for minerals—and ideas on how to treat (or not treat) them. From there, I reached out to one of my oldest friends, who is a biology teacher. Along with her research scientist sister, they helped me figure out how to destroy the virus. Aren’t friends just amazing?

Tell about your writing process. How long did it take you to write Orleans from idea to finish? Please tell about revision if you can!This book seemed to take FOREVER. It was actually about three years. I had the idea back in 2005 after Katrina, but I was working on something else. I wrote up a paragraph of ideas and dialogue in 2007, did research in 2008, but didn’t actually write the first draft until early 2009.

The biggest changes through the revision process came in points of view. It went from one (just Fen), to five, to three—a lot of time was spent with three points of view—and then down to two. I reached a point of real despair in the middle of it all. I started to feel like I was losing my way, then I lost my editor to the vagaries of corporate downsizing. For a while there, I felt like I never wanted to write again. But I got a new editor who helped me remember what I wanted to say. And a friend read my book’s tarot cards. Can you believe it? She confirmed what I knew—that the third POV needed to go. Then it was like hacking back a forest of weeds to find the garden I’d planted. But it was all there, waiting. I’m so glad it did!

When you were in middle school kind of student were you? Did you write then?
That’s a weird question because I never went to middle school. I grew up in Washington, D.C., where elementary goes to 6th grade, but I moved away before starting 7th grade in Junior High. I went to a Junior High for one year, then moved to Chicago where elementary school goes to 8th grade. And then I went straight into high school. So, if we focus on 7th grade, I would say I was quiet, I read a lot, and didn’t have a lot of friends because I was the new kid. Oh, and I had a bully who made fun of my awesome first-day-of-school clothes. But when she finally threw down the gauntlet (ie. shoved a chair at me in the cafeteria), I was so busy reading a book that I didn’t notice. I shoved it out of my way and walked past her. Apparently, that terrified her. She backed away and never bothered me again. Books are awesome. And yes, I was writing, even then. I wrote my first science fiction short story in 8th grade (elementary school again!) and won a contest! That was cool. 

And because it’s the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? OR WHOOO do you like to read or really enjoyed in HS or middle school? My favorite authors back then were Susan Cooper (THE DARK IS RISING), Lloyd Alexander (CHRONICLES OF PRYDAIN) and Michael Moorcock (ELRIC, ETERNAL CHAMPION Series). Oooh, and the DRAGONLANCE series by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis. I was a huge fantasy/SF reader. But I’ve never played D&D in my life. Go figure.

The Fun Questions! (based on what middle school students do!) 

Do you chew gum? Yes or No If yes favorite kind? Yes, mint 

Do you text? Yes 
Was school lunch just as yucky then as it is now?! Yes. It gets better in high school, but not by much.

Thank you so much Sherri for joining us and sharing your writing process.  I love hearing it!
And be sure to read my review of Orleans coming up later today.

Make sure to head over to GreenBeanTeenQueen tomorrow to hear more!

Now for the GIVEAWAY!
One lucky winner will receive a Delta Relief Kit, complete with a signed ARC, a blood type ID dog tag, a glow stick, and the ever-crucial Snickers bar—everything you need to navigate ORLEANS, at least from the comfort of your armchair! (U.S. only)

Fill out the Rafflecopter


  1. Orleans sounds fantastic! I love it when books can combine real history with page turning fiction. I'm excited to read Fen's story!

  2. Wow. This sounds thrilling and different.

  3. Sounds really different. I love books that really make me think, "What if that really happened?"

  4. Great interview. I love how Sherri handled the bully, even if inadvertantly. I look forward to reading this book!

  5. Thanks for having me, Jill! My mom was a teacher with a real reading crusade, so I love that you are carrying on the good fight!

  6. Ooh, this sounds awesome! And I loved Flygirl, so I've got to get my hands on it sooner or later.

  7. I would love to read this! I think my kids would love it.

  8. This sounds like a terrific book. Thanks for the chance to win. And thanks for the informative interview.

  9. The book sounds amazing.
    I am glad to know that she texts because they always blame on texting for wasting authors time.

  10. Sounds so good. Like your questions. The first questions(easy ones)are a great way to start interview. Interesting about how her moving affected her middle school or lack of experience.

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