Dwayne Alexander Smith on the magic in the details

This week, to mark the end of our How to Write a Book series, we have a daily Q&A with a debut author

Author Dwayne Alexander Smith. Photograph: Gordon Chou

Author Dwayne Alexander Smith. Photograph: Gordon Chou

Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 12:00

Dwayne Alexander Smith is a screenwriter and author living in Los Angeles. Forty Acres is his first novel.

What was the first book to make an impression on you? It’s a tie. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I read both in elementary school. Both filled me with wonder and caused me to fall in love with fantasy and science fiction.

What was your favourite book as a child? Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. I can still recite most of the Oompa Loompa rhymes from memory. A book that I read over and over.

And what is your favourite book or books now? My favorite books are Huckleberry Finn, Grapes of Wrath, The Three Musketeers, and Dune. Pretty standard picks, I know. But I love them.

What is your favourite quotation? “All right, then, I’ll go to hell.” From Huckleberry Finn. When Huck Finn decides to save Jim.

Who is your favourite fictional character? I’m also a screenwriter. I love film and books equally. If I had to pick one fiction character I’d have to say Indiana Jones or Shane from the movie of the same name.

Who is the most under-rated Irish author? I have to admit that I’m not familiar with enough Irish authors to say which is underrated. The ones I’ve read, like CS Lewis, Shaw, Swift and Stoker are pretty highly regarded. I have heard people knock Bram Stoker,and I’ll admit that Dracula is a challenging read, but that book established one of the greatest fictional characters ever. The way Stoker expanded upon vampire mythology is pure genius.

Which do you prefer – ebooks or the traditional print version? I like holding the book in my hands. I like the feel of turning the pages. I like feeling the weight. I like the smell of books.

What is the most beautiful book you own? I don’t really own any beautiful books. All of my books are well used. I have a coffee table book of old boom boxes from the 1980s. I guess that would be closest.

Where and how do you write? I have a home office, which I rarely use. Writing is so lonely. I prefer a space where there’s people around but no ambient music playing. Lately I’ve been writing at a coworking office space in Santa Monica. For a monthly fee you get to write in a pretty snazzy open-office environment.

What book changed the way you think about fiction? I’m not sure what you mean by this question. Different books expose me to different ways to tell a story, but I don’t think any has changed the way I think about fiction. I have very strong opinions on how certain stories should be told to be the most effective, and I’m sticking to them.