Angie Smibert, author of The Truce, lives in Roanoke, Virginia. The Truce is the third novel in her middle-grade Ghosts of Ordinary Objects series. The first book, Bone’s Gift, won a 2019 Whippoorwill Award for rural young adult fiction. She teaches for Southern New Hampshire University’s MFA program, as well as for Indiana University.
Get to know Angie in this Q&A and then join us on Sunday, March 21, at 2 PM ET as part of the all-virtual 2021 Virginia Festival of the Book to hear her discuss her work in Girls in the World: Middle-Grade Fiction.
Festival: What motivated you to become a writer?
Smibert: No one thing motivated me to become a writer. It was more of a journey. As a kid, I was a voracious reader (and consumer of stories in other forms). And I was always telling myself stories, taking a little bit of this book and putting it with something from this TV show. But I never wrote any of them down as a kid. Back then, I was bound and determined to be a veterinarian—until I worked for a few of them in college and encountered organic chemistry. (Ironically, one of my first writing jobs involved organic chemistry!)
But I always did well in English and writing classes. So, after college, I put my love of science together with writing to work as a science writer for many, many years. I worked some cool jobs for places like NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. And along the way, I decided to try writing some of those stories down.
Who or what are some of your creative influences?
I have diverse influences (or maybe just diverse tastes), ranging from Southern lit to middle-grade fantasy to hard science fiction.
What was your favorite part about writing your book?
The ghost dog, of course! In The Truce—just as with the rest of the series—I drew upon a wealth of Appalachian folklore as well as a few ghost stories. In the mountain South, there are many stories of ghost dogs, also called devil or spirit dogs. They can be seen as a portent of death, a bringer of justice, or even a protector. In The Truce, the main character, Bone Phillips, and her friends discover that a ghost dog is guarding a spot outside the coal mine. It holds a key to the mystery she needs to solve.
Do you have any sources of inspiration that you come back to while writing?
In many ways, Southwest Virginia itself is a source of inspiration. My middle grade series, Ghosts of Ordinary Objects, is set in the New River Valley and draws upon both family history and the folklore (and ghost stories) of the Appalachian region.
What is something that you’ve read recently and would recommend to others?
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia, Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi, The Dragon Pearl by Yoon Han Lee. All of these books are from an imprint that specializes in mixing folklore and mythology (from the authors’ own culture) with great middle-grade adventure.
What are you working on next?
My current work-in-progress mixes Appalachian and Celtic folklore in a modern setting—with some middle grade adventure.