Guest Post and Author Interview: Sylvia Dickey Smith

Today, I'm so happy to have Sylvia Dickey Smith, author of the Sidra Smart Southern Detective series (Dance on His Grave, Deadly Sins Deadly Secrets, and Dead Wreckoning) and historical fiction A War of Her Own here for a guest post and interview!  Click the book titles to read my reviews of Sylvia's books. 

Natalie and I recently met Sylvia at a local book signing and we were floored by how kind and approchable she is!  We admit that we monopolized her at the signing because we were so excited to have a real author talk to us! 
We are giving away a signed copy of A War of Her Own---click here to enter for a chance to win.  If you liked The Help by Kathryn Stockett, then A War of Her Own is for you! 

Thanks for inviting me to be a guest on your blog. I’d like to start by talking about the shifts our lives take. Much has been written about mid-life and how our thinking begins to change. How our priorities shift. Something magical happens at mid-life.

Events of my life, at 40 (many years ago now) changed my life completely. I gave birth to my fourth child after 11 years of thinking I was through having children. (My others were 10, 12, and 14.) Second, I enrolled in my very first freshman college class. And third, my dad died unexpectedly. WOW. Talk about midlife crisis!

These events propelled me on a journey that led me to recreate myself into the person I wanted to be—a strong, independent woman who knew who she was, who changed those things about herself she didn’t like, and who discovered what she believed, what she didn’t, and the courage to take a stand for those things. A five-year journey of wandering in a wilderness taught me that wilderness is a very sacred place. 

When I walked out of wilderness several years later, I worked in the human services field for a number of years, and didn’t start my writing career until after I retired. And you know what—that’s when I found my passion. So a mid-life change of course had set me off in a direction that ended up leading me toward my passion—writing strong women!

I have three mystery books published (thanks, Kelli, for reviewing them as well!) But after the third book (Dead Wreckoning) I felt compelled to write a historical tale of the homefront, a simple story of a young woman, a family secret, and a cheating husband.

Much has been written about WWII, but little has been written about the home front. Those years were so significant to our society today that events of those days still impact us so much today.

We know those fighting on the battlefield were changed as a result of the experience, but those at home changed too, especially women. Events in the small town of Orange, Texas was a microcosm of what happened all over the country.

Author Interview

How did you come to write about World War II Orange, Texas?

I’ve always been fascinated with that period of history, particularly the effects it had on my hometown of Orange and my family. I remember so many stories I’ve heard over the years about what life was like. I’d tuck those ideas away, pull them out and work on the project for a while. Then I’d stall over the hook and put it aside. I knew my character, I knew my setting, but I didn’t know why she was so sad. Many stories revolve around family secrets, but I didn’t know hers. When I began to explore some of my own family history, the idea cemented itself in my psyche. I picked up the story again and didn’t stop until I completed it.

Can you tell us about the research you did for A War of Her Own?

Well, I grew up in the 40s so much of what life was like during the war was still that way when I was a kid going to Tilley Elementary School in Riverside. We lived there until I was twelve, and then back again a couple of times, so I knew what living there was like—not too different than what it had been like during the war. Plus, there are several books out that share those years with readers. Books like They Called It the War Effort, by Louis Fairchild, which is an oral history of the era, was invaluable. Picturing Orange, and also The Gateway to Texas, edited by Dr. Howard C. Williams, and the Heritage House Museum, Las Sabinas, the publication of the Orange County Historical Society, the website of W. T. Block and Dr. Howard Williams—all these provided so much detail and photos.

Did you have any input on the book cover?

Yes, I do. The first design my publisher developed, I just didn’t think did the book justice. He and I agreed to hire a graphic artist in Austin, Texas (Amanda Cobb) and loved what she did.

Do you have any must-haves while writing?

My computer and quiet—undisturbed quiet—which I seldom get. I have a fantastic, helpful husband who always brings me hot coffee just when I’m in the midst of a visit with my muse.

What are you reading right now?

I’m trying to read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but am having a difficult time getting past those first 80-100 pages I’ve heard you have to wade through to get to the great story! I’m surprised editors didn’t edit that out—but who can complain with the success of that series.

What's next for you?

My work in progress is: The Swamp Whisperer, the tale of a strong woman of a different age.

Medicare recipient Boo Murphy is more at home in the swamps behind her house than she is on dry land. One morning Boo paddles her pirogue through mosquito-infested swamp, the taste of stewed squirrel on her tongue when she maneuvers around a bend and discovers an Atakapa-Ishak settlement.

The Paleo-Indian tribe, believed to be extinct for centuries, not only survives but also thrives, and seeks to rebuild a lost civilization under questionable circumstances. But when Boo takes persnickety Sasha, her second-cousin-once-removed, out to the site the next day to prove what she’s seen, a storm comes up, marooning them in a deserted house along with a dead man, a strange woman, and a long-deceased Atakapa chief.

The interplay between Boo and Sasha make this a fun but powerful read as we seek beneath the rough exterior of two old women who are both set in their very different ways, yet are there for each other when the chips are down.

Natalie, Sylvia and Kelli at the A War of Her Own signing
Thank you so much for your time, Sylvia!  It was great to meet you in person and we look forward to your next book! 

Buy Sylvia's books, including her Sassy Southern cookbook at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.  

Visit Sylvia's webiste here.   

Click here to enter a giveaway of a signed copy of A War of Her Own.


  1. Sylvia is inspiring and her book sounds fascinating.
    Thanks for a great interview, ladies!
    And I, too, would so rather be reading.
    Donna Volkenannt

  2. She sounds like an amazing woman!

  3. You know what? The world is full of amazing women! Let's celebrate ourselves! And keep the momentum going!

    Hope you don't mind me dropping by to stick in my 2 cents worth. It was so much fun meeting you two, Kellie and Natalie. You made the trip so much more rewarding! Love to see strong YOUNG women! Love it!

  4. I enjoyed the interview. Sylvia, your interesting path to writing is proof that the route to our passions can take some unusual twists and turns along the way.

  5. Can't they though! And isn't it great! Even the journey is worthwhile!


  6. Thanks for the interview. The book sounds really interesting. I love the cover too. I like knowing that you can become a writer at any point in your life. It's too easy to think that because I haven't done something at 25 years old, I can never do it.
    Alison Can Read

  7. Sorry, Sylvia, I posted this link on my blog Wednesday and am now a date late visiting. (Rolling eyes at myself). I enjoyed learning more about you. Nice interview.


  8. Alison, YES! Isn't it fun to know we can! Today, authors have so many options they didn't have a number of years ago. I think today, readers value the wisdom that comes (hopefully!) with experience. Good luck on your journey. I'm heading over to visit your blog!

    Patricia--no problem! Hopefully folks will find it! Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Loved the interview with Sylvia. The background on the book and the overall journey into the creativity behind writing.
    Will look out for her books and thanks for sharing this incredible find.
    Loved the pics of my fave girls with author too. :)


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