Interview with Smoky Trudeau

You're the author of two books for writers. Please tell us a bit about each.

When I lived in the Midwest, I taught fiction writing workshops at several community colleges. Every semester, on my class evaluation forms, at least a couple of students would write, “You should put this in a book.” I had really smart students—good writers—so I decided I probably should listen to them. Front-word, Back-word, Insight Out: Lessons on Writing the Novel Lurking Inside You Front Start to Finish is my fiction writers workshop, exactly as I taught it. It has lessons on everything from where to find story ideas to how to know where the right place is to end your story; point of view and how to decide what POV is best for your story; how to write compelling dialogue; how to write believable characters, and much more.

Left Brained, Write Brained: 366 Writing Prompts and Exercises to Free Your Creative Spirit, Awaken Your Muse, and Challenge Your Skills Every Day of the Year is a year’s worth of writing exercises in workbook form. There are serious exercises that focus on fiction fundamentals like dialogue and character description. But there are also fun and even downright silly exercises, like writing limericks and coming up with outrageous excuses for missing work. My students used to ask me why I liked silly exercises. I like them because silly exercises are serious work. Silliness seems non-threatening; it’s not scary. And when writing isn’t scary, it’s fun, and we’re more apt to do it.

What made you pick Vanilla Heart Publishing for your books?

My first novel, Redeeming Grace, was originally published in 2003 by a different publisher, who promptly went out of business. Publishing really is a tough industry in which to succeed! An acquaintance of mine directed me to Vanilla Heart. I was impressed both by the quality of their titles and by the publisher herself, who has a good head on her shoulders and is determined to make her company a success. And she’s done it, too: VHP has grown by leaps and bounds, and has published some very fine titles.

You also work as a book editor. What effect has this had on your own writing?

Being an editor makes me a better writer, just as being a writer makes me a better editor. I’ve edited a lot of very poorly written manuscripts, and turning a poorly written book into something the author can be proud of hones my own skill set when I set down to write my own books. But it has its downside, too: I spend so much time editing I haven’t got the time I’d like to have to pursue my own projects.

You've also worked as a writing instructor and writing coach for more than ten years. What advice do you have for other writers?

First, read! Read a lot. Read everything you can get your hands on. It astounds me how many former students and clients have come to me for help learning to write only to tell me they don’t like to read. If you don’t like to read books, why on earth would you want to write one? If you don’t like to read, what makes you think you can write one? It’s like someone taking piano lessons who doesn’t like music. It makes no sense.

Second, study your craft. So many of the poorly written books I’ve edited for vanity presses could have been really fine books if the authors only had studied fiction basics like point of view and writing compelling dialogue. The problem is, people think that because they can write—meaning, string a set of words together to form a sentence—they can write. And that isn’t the case. I remember one time when I was working on my second novel, The Cabin. My dishwasher was broken, and a repairman was in the kitchen fixing it while I worked at my desk nearby. He asked what I was doing, and I told him I was writing a novel. He said, “I’m gonna write me a novel someday, maybe when I retire.” I had to bite my tongue to resist replying, “Yes, and when I retire, I’m going to take up dishwasher repair.” The point is, to succeed as a writer, you need to study how to write—just like the repairman had to go to tech school to learn dishwasher repair, a lawyer goes to law school, and a brain surgeon to medical school.

You are live on books with heart, a blog talk radio show, each month. Please tell us a bit more about the show.

My show is called “Write Well With Smoky Trudeau,” and so far, it has been a monthly lesson taken from Front-word, Back-word, Insight Out. We’re coming to the end of the series, though, so beginning in March, we’ll focus on techniques such as writing flashback, foreshadowing, and building suspense. We’re also considering doing an essay writing series, and perhaps a few shows on nature writing.

With such a wide variety of experience, what do you consider your finest moment so far in your writing career?

When I first held my second novel, The Cabin, in my hands. I think every author worries they have only one great story inside. The Cabin proved I had at least two!

Can I have two finest moments? My latest book, Observations of an Earth Mage, will be out in mid-February. This is my collection of nature writings—essays and poetry—illustrated with my own photographs. I am tremendously proud of this book, and of the fact the essays it contains have already inspired many of my blog readers to go outside, take a hike, explore Mother Nature. Opening their eyes to the beauty of our planet is definitely something I’m proud of.

Where can people find out more about you and your work?

People can read the first chapters of Redeeming Grace and The Cabin, as well as reviews of the books, at my website, I also welcome new readers to my blog at

Anything else you'd like to add?

Just that I’d like to thank you for hosting me today. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about my work and my books.


  1. Great interview! I really enjoy the "Write Well" series. It's very informative and inspirational.

    I also agree that writers need to read!I've met a few who say they don't read very often. I don't understand how they intend to write if they don't read!

    Again, this was a great interview!

  2. Great interview, Smoky. I've enjoyed "Observations of an Earth Mage" and your novels a great deal.


  3. Update on Smoky's latest release, Observations of an Earth Mage, with 55 full color photographs, essays, poetry and prose... It is live and available across all venues,print and ebook! ISBN 978-1-935407-23-2.

    Great interview, and thank you for having Smoky here today!

    Kimberlee Williams
    Managing Editor
    Vanilla Heart Publishing

  4. Smoky - I adore you! You are so very professional and I love listening to your monthly blog-talk-radio Write Well workshops. I try to hone my craft regularly by writing, reading lots and learning from the best! Thanks.

  5. Great interview, Smoky! :) You never cease to amaze or impress me! :)

  6. Thanks to everyone for their kind comments. Smoky, keep up the good work ;)


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