Hello and welcome to another great Q&A session here on Always Trust In Books. Today I have Linda Smolkin answering some questions about her debut novel Among The Branded, released 02.05.17. I appreciate the opportunity to help promote self-published titles and Among The Branded sounded too good to pass up. I will first share a few details about Linda and Among The Branded, then on to the questions!
About Linda Smolkin
By day, I write articles, ads, email campaigns, scripts, and website and social media content. At night, I work on my novels and there’s usually chocolate (and sometimes wine) involved. I also drive everyone in my home crazy by playing the drums. It’s super fun, great for my hearing, and much better than going to the gym.
My family keeps me super busy and includes a 70-pound dog who thinks her you-know-what doesn’t stink. Not sure if that’s completely true, since I’m the one who usually picks it up.
In case I don’t get the chance to give an award-acceptance speech for my killer bowling skills, I’d like to thank my family and friends for everything. A special shout-out goes to Chef Boyardee who has been in my home on several occasions to help prepare dinner.
Book Synopsis for Among The Branded
What if a 70-year-old letter from World War II changed the course of your life?
While attending Valor of the ’40s, art director Stephanie Britain stumbles upon a flea market selling letters from the war.
She buys a handful, hoping they’ll inspire the redesign for her client’s website at her branding and design firm. She’s drawn by the lost art of penmanship, but soon discovers a hidden treasure nestled inside declarations of love from homesick soldiers.
Stephanie enlists a coworker to translate one and realizes it’s not a love letter after all. When a shocking discovery causes Stephanie to question her principles and dedication to her firm’s business, she’s forced to make a difficult decision—one that could give her peace of mind, yet ruin her career in the process.
Contemporary fiction with a historical touch, Among the Branded explores family life, an unexpected friendship, and moral conflicts that make us wonder what’s more important: our livelihood or our beliefs.
The Q&A Section
Welcome! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Sure! When people ask where I grew up, I usually say the East Coast—I’ve lived in many states, from New York to New Jersey to North Carolina to Maryland. After high school, I attended university and got a degree in journalism with a concentration in advertising. I started working for a department store’s advertising department then joined an ad agency where I worked for several years before joining the nonprofit world. I’m married to a great guy and we have a 17-year-old son who will graduate high school next year. By the way, how did I get this old so fast?
Congratulations on publishing your debut novel Among the Branded. Can you give us your personal overview of the novel?
The story follows Stephanie Britain, an art director who works at a branding and design firm. She befriends a Holocaust survivor while, at the same time, finds out something disturbing about her newest client. Throughout the novel, she deals with difficult choices of how to remain professional while taking a stand for what she believes in. The story also touches on friendship, family, and the life lessons history can teach us.
Where did the inspiration for Among the Branded originate from?
I wanted to write a story where my main character had to deal with something at work. One day, either while driving, daydreaming, or (lord help us) both at the same time, I thought: What if my main character found out something about her client? How would she handle it, especially if she didn’t own the firm? From there, I developed the story.
What influenced you to write contemporary fiction?
I always wanted to write a modern-day story but didn’t want it to focus on marriage, divorce, or other popular themes. I wanted to focus on career and an unlikely friendship. I’m also curious, in general, about relationships of all kinds, as well as how people handle grief. For me, it’s very interesting how differently people mourn. For example, some people like to talk, some shut down, and some use humor to get through it. I wanted to explore that a bit.
Your novel contains historical touches. Would you consider yourself to be a history buff?
Not at all. I had a lot to learn and research. But I’m drawn to certain parts of history, such as the period during World War II. Russian history also interests me, especially the early 1900s and the reign of Tsar Nicholas II. My sophomore novel, which comes out sometime next year, partially takes place in Russia, but in the 1990s. I guess you can now say that’s historical fiction!
Can you give us some insights into your writing style/process?
I usually handwrite an outline of the scenes in order and then start writing the draft. For Among the Branded, a lot changed since that first outline, but it kept me focused. It took about nine months to write the draft and about twice that much time to edit. I’m slow, but I am also a full-time writer for a marketing association, so I work on my novels in my free time. I’m not hard on myself about the writing/editing, and I don’t follow a write-every-day-or-else schedule for my books. I do what I can and that works for me.
What did you do to celebrate finishing Among the Branded?
I wish I could say I popped the bubbly, but honestly (and don’t tell anyone) I might have shed a tear or three. Finally having it out in the world, after all that work, was so satisfying. I also felt a bit of relief, even though I knew the hard work was just beginning. But, at that point, I loved that I could share my story with readers.
Are there any particular authors that you look up to or that influenced your work?
There are so many that it’s hard to count! People always say write what you know, but I’m so impressed with authors, like J.K. Rowling, who create new worlds and characters so uniquely. I really love Pat Conroy, Allison Winn Scotch, and Elizabeth Berg. They’re great storytellers. I also grew up reading Judy Blume, and she’s a rock star to me.
Do you have a hobby/activity you do to switch off from all the writing?
I love drumming and try to practice every day. I bought my first drum kit three years ago after my husband encouraged me. Now, I wonder why I waited so long. The only other thing I wish I had time for? Napping. I think it’s highly underrated and don’t do it nearly enough.
Is there a book/article that you have read recently that you would personally recommend to the readers of this Q&A?
Actually, just last year I started reading more psychological thrillers and came across a novel called The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson. It was oh-so twisted, but I couldn’t put it down. My all-time favorite book though is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It’s historical fiction, and I always recommend it. And, if you’d like to support a debut novelist, I happen to know of a book called Among the Branded that’s worth reading—or so my mother-in-law says.
Stuart, thanks so much for this opportunity! Here are some links for readers to connect with me or buy my book. Thank you!!
To purchase Among the Branded:
U.S. link: https://www.amazon.com/Among-Branded-Linda-Smolkin-ebook/dp/B06XSYWYL2/
U.K. link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Among-Branded-Linda-Smolkin-ebook/dp/B06XSYWYL2/
I am glad I could help promote Linda’s debut release. Please go check it out! If you are interested in checking out Among The Branded please let me and Linda know down in the comments. If there are any self-publishing authors who would like to be featured in a Q&A feel free to ask. I am grateful for everyone who has come to read and support this post. Thank you! Until next time, happy reading!