By Stacey Doud
Today, I had the opportunity to sit down for a chat with local author Jacqueline E. Smith. She is the author of the four (soon to be five) Cemetery Tours series of books, as well as the four Boy Band book series, aimed at young adults.
Smith was born and raised in Dallas and is now living in Richardson. She has been writing, in the form of fan fiction or short stories, since she was very young.
“I have written for fun my entire life. It started when I was in preschool, and it was drawing little Disney books which I still have. I made them on construction paper and then stapled them together,” Smith said.
“I remember the first book that made me feel real emotions and I thought, ‘This is cool. This can transport me.’ The name of the book was Shortcut by Donald Crews. It was about these kids that take a shortcut home along the railroad tracks, and they kept hearing a[n] [invisible] train. I thought it was so creepy and cool and I loved it. I was only three or four at the time.
“A few years later, the Harry Potter books came out. By the fifth book, it was the summer before my freshman year in high school. My parents were both working and left me in charge of my sister, who is seven years younger than me, so I just read Harry Potter over and over again. Of course, I couldn’t wait for the sixth book, so I just started writing Harry Potter fan fiction. That’s what really got me back into writing.”
Smith attended University of Texas at Dallas (UT-D) and earned her bachelor’s degree in Art and Performance as well as a master’s degree in Humanities. When she was a junior [undergrad], she got sick “again. I feel like everything in my life goes back to when I was engulfed in germs,” she said.
“I spent the entire Spring Break on the couch that year, and I was just so bummed. I wanted to go out and have adventures and fun. But I was stuck on the couch, so I started reading a bunch of romance novels that I bought at Half-Price Books. I started thinking to myself, ‘I could do this!’ It wasn’t even one of those epiphanies. It was just the thought that I could do this,” Smith said. She didn’t let anything stand in her way, as she went on to get her master’s degree in Humanities from UT-D.
Smith has had a life-long dream to work with animals and to take photos, but “there’s not a lot of money in traveling around and taking pictures.’ So, I had to find a way to make money. I thought, ‘well maybe I can write books and make money!’ Granted, that was not a solid plan because you really don’t make a lot of money in this industry. But at the time, it seemed like a solution,” Smith explained.
Smith says she prefers “indie [independent] writing” to working with publishers because the author keeps all of their rights, content, characters, etc. “Plus, I am not a good group writer. I am more the ‘leave me alone to write,’ kind of author. Of course, I have great editors, like my sister, to help me. She will tell me like it is and not try to sugarcoat it. That’s what I need,” she said.
As for her interest in the paranormal, Smith explained, “I’ve always loved ghosts. My mother raised us really celebrating Halloween, so I’ve always loved spooky things.”
She has also had a few paranormal experiences.
“My favorite experience was when I was taking a historical tour in The Colony, and we were in a cemetery. Most of the graves were situated around the front. And so, I was just walking around and taking some pictures, like I love to do. There was this tree off to the side, and it kept ‘calling me over.’ I kept thinking, ‘what’s with this tree? I don’t really need to go over there.’ But I finally did [go to the tree] and it turned out that there was a broken tombstone beneath the tree with my initials [JES] carved into it. My stomach dropped. It was the creepiest thing to have happened to me so far,” Smith explained.
Smith ended up penning the first Cemetery Tours book in 2010 to deal with the loss of a beloved pet. “It affected me so bad. I started getting headaches and got a rash,” she recalled. “I was so sad in the days following. [The cat] was my baby! I started watching 16 and Pregnant, believe it or not. When that was over, I started flipping through the channels and landed on Ghost Adventures. That show actually got me through the grief and gave me the idea for Cemetery Tours, which also helped with the sadness. “I was in such a state of distress. In fact, I think that’s what triggered my mental illness”.
Smith currently experiences Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). She can’t have her food touch on a plate, has to eat in a certain order and can’t eat unless she is expecting to eat. She also has trouble with even minor schedule changes. She is an advocate for the awareness and treatment of mental illnesses and shares her story regularly.
Smith says that there is a Book Five of Cemetery Tours waiting to be written. “I have not written it yet because it’s going to hurt. Something that Michael has dealt with in this whole series is that he can see ghosts that are still in this realm, but he has no idea what happens after. There may be more exploration of what may be beyond this life.”
Right now, Smith is working on a book titled Trashy Suspense Novel. She already has published Trashy Romance Novel, since her friends told her that no one can make money unless they write a trashy romance novel. Not one to mince words, Smith has named these two books for exactly what they are. “I like the names because if someone doesn’t like it, I can tell them that they knew what they were getting into…a trashy book!” The romance novel has won several awards, one which was for humor. “I like that I can be funny, and I pride myself on it, so that award meant a lot to me.”
Also, on the horizon, looms a potential independent film of the Boy Band series, to be produced by a Dallas director Jalitza Delgado. This topic will be the focus of a podcast called “Coffee Talk with Chelle” this Sunday (3/1) at 8pm CST. “We are in the fundraising stage right now,” Smith said.
To take a peek at Amazon’s page for Jackie, click HERE.
I know that I am personally looking forward to reading all of the Cemetery Tours books. I am on Chapter 3 of the first book, and it is tough to put down! So, thank you, Jackie, for your imagination, talent and honesty!