Monday, January 24, 2011

Interview with Christian Author Cary Franklin Smith

Cary has been a pastor to several Baptist Churches in Texas, California and Nevada. He has done construction, worked for a crop duster, made bricks, stuffed turkeys into bags, cleaned out chicken coops, played in a rock band, pumped gas, sacked groceries, stocked shelves, packaged nursing home supplies, sold windows, drove a school bus, delivered fertilizer, fixed cars, delivered printing, taught school and co-hosted a radio program. Cary has a loving wife, is the father of 3 sons and the grandfather of 5 (plus 1 more in February).

Hello Cary. Whew! That’s quite a list. I’ve never known anyone with so much background. It seems like you’ve done it all. Okay, it’s time to tell us about your new book.

The Year of Leland Thomson tells the story of a sixteen year old boy who had a dream. For most of his life he had heard something calling to him from the distance. He was willing to follow but, after all, he was a poor, sawmill boy whose future lay in the mill, as had his father’s and grandfather’s before him. Along with the dream, Leland also had the gift. He played the cello with incredible passion and sensitivity, demonstrating a skill that far outstretched his age and circumstances. His family believed God had gifted him to play.

When he is discovered by Ralph Watkins, a Regent at The New York Conservatory of Music, a plan is laid to have Leland play at Carnegie Hall. But Leland prays each time he plays, giving honor to the One who gave him the gift. Ralph can’t accept Leland’s spiritual connection and tries to separate him from that which gives him his identity and ability.

Leland’s story is one of accepting ones culture, ones beliefs, ones dreams. These themes are also woven around side stories of other characters. The Year of Leland Thomson is a captivating story full of country charm and wit. It is appropriate for all ages but will have special meaning to those trying to find their place in the world.

What an inspirational story! J. Reuben Clark once said, “We get nearer to the Lord through music than perhaps through any other thing except prayer.” I believe it. Where did you get the inspiration for your novel?

There are actually two sources for inspiration. My dad grew up in and around sawmills in Southeast Texas. His dad was a foreman at many of them and actually owned a planer mill. During his latter days, my dad spoke a lot about his old sawmill life and about the stigma of being “sawmill trash.” Though I moved the story to Arkansas, his past history gave me the backdrop.

Musically, my youngest son, Jody, is our Leland. He began playing cello when he was ten or eleven and learned quickly. He became quite an accomplished cellist. It was as though he had a natural gift to play. I hear Jody when I describe Leland playing.

My mother believed that music was an important part of life, so she made sure all four of her kids had music lessons. Many people refer to those who play an instrument as having a gift. You said, “God gave Leland the gift.” Please expound your feeling about this statement.

We had the same beliefs. My wife teaches music at a Christian school and I play guitar and bass. We decided early on that our boys would be able to play an instrument. We told them they could pick out whatever instrument they wanted (except drums and accordion) and we would buy it for them and provide lessons. Their job would be to practice. (I secretly told them they would also learn to play the guitar.) Cory picked the bass guitar, Josh the violin (at age 4) and Jody wanted a cello. Not long afterwards they each added guitar and keyboard. What we noticed was the unique connection each boy had to his instrument. They learned with little struggle and played very well. It was as though they came equipped with this ability. They just needed the opportunity. I believe God gifts us for life: first with faith and then the ability to live out that faith. He then grants us grace to accomplish things that bring great fulfillment to Him, us and others. For Leland, that was in music.

I agree. David O. McKay said, “Music is truly the universal language, and when it is excellently expressed how deeply it moves our souls!” Yes, good music does affect us. This novel is called the Sawmill Series. What is this series about?

From the setting in the Ozarks, we discover good, simple, honest people struggling with the same issues most folks struggle with: family, society, race, faith and crisis. The question is not whether we will face difficult challenges in life; it is how we will deal with them. There is not an “in your face” tone to dealing with issues in this series, just the natural flow of faith and family. I wanted the Christian life being lived out to be genuine, not sterile and especially not artificial. The first book of the series, The Year of Leland Thomson, introduces us to a family whose beliefs are a natural expression of who they are, even when challenged by others. The second book, As Embers Fly, will deal with a secondary character in the first story, Frank Massey, and his dad, Claude. Claude is a detached, alcoholic father whose wife leaves him. They travel to California to find her and bring her back. It’s a story of self-discovery and choices. The third will deal with tragedy, loss and God’s ability to give beauty for ashes. I already wrote a portion of it and found myself weeping as I wrote. 

Your series sounds so touching to me. It’s about real people in real life situations who need faith and a loving Heavenly Father to help them through their trials. Okay, now it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

Let’s see: I cut the tail off of my cat when he came home with it nearly severed, because it was going to cost nearly $300 for the vet to do it. I shot my mom’s favorite variety of bird when I was a kid and tried to get my cat to eat it to transfer the blame; he wouldn’t. I heard a noise in our attic and put my cat up there to see if it was anything that might get me when I went up…just in case.

Man! You were a mischievous little boy. Once my dad told his friends that he could make his cat eat a pickle. They didn’t believe him so he brought them home to prove it. He got a nice plump pickle and his pet cat. When it let out a disgruntled meow, dad stuffed the pickle in his mouth. The cat began chewing like crazy and dad won the bet. I asked him how he did it. He said he pinched the cat’s tail and made him mad enough to eat the pickle. Little boys can be so mischievous at times, but my dad grew to be a gentle man and a spiritual giant in my eyes. Okay, tell us more, Cary.

I came up with a great idea of how I could install my pull-down attic stairs in my garage by myself. I lifted the unit into the attic and screwed on support boards across the opening from below. Then I got up in the attic and set the stairs in place and secured it. Everything was perfect until I realized I couldn’t get down. My support boards blocked the stairs from opening. Fortunately I had my cell phone and called my son to come and get me down. Additional problem: I had the screw gun with me and he had to go find a screwdriver and unscrew the boards manually, which left me in the hot attic way too long. My writing career began soon afterwards.

This is just too hilarious!!! Now we know the real you! A Carpenter at heart, a Pastor, and an Author all rolled into one. Hey, now that’s quite a combination.


Cheryl said...

Excellent interview. This sounds like a fabulous and uplifting story. I blogged about this giveaway at

Wishing you the best,


Amy said...

The book sounds wonderful! I need to give it a look!

Anonymous said...

You really keep life interesting. We are so blessed to have you as our pastor. You have brought so much life into our church. Can't wait to see whats next.

barbjan10 said...

Great interview and perhaps Cary learned that some of us just don't have the talent it takes to put an attic stairs in. LOL I agree with Gary that music is of utmost importance in our lives. Like his mother, my mother brought me up similar in providing music lessons from a young age in piano, voice, clarinet and classical dancing. Music became the love of my life. In the same way, our daughter was provided training in all she could handle - she had a natural talent for music in strings, piano, guitar, and every instrument she laid her hands on. She is at that point of trying to find her place in the world. I would dearly love for her to read this book - and myself, of course. I like what J. Reuban Clark said “We get nearer to the Lord through music than perhaps through any other thing except prayer.” I can certainly comply with that. Thank you for this incredible giveaway and the chance to win. I hope I win!

Grace & Peace,
Barb Shelton
barbjan10 at tx dot rr dot com

Dave Hudson - said...

When I read a good story, I place myself in the situations and 'feel' the outcomes. I connected with Leland from the start and found myself anticipating, along with him, what would happen next. I laughed when he laughed, worried when he worried, and found myself close to tears when he played. I eagerly await the next installment in the series. When you talk to Pastor Cary, he's as real as he is in the interview above. He's a joy to be around and his love for the Lord is an inspiration to us all.

Karen Thompson said...

What a great interview. I can absolutely see the sparkle in Bro. Cary's eyes as he was telling the story! I feel blessed to have been able to get to hear him preach! What a truly Godly pastor! His church is very fortunate to have him lead them! Will definitely be following this series.

Karen Thompson

Anonymous said...

thanks for the chance to read this fabulous novel...

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Judylynn said...

Thank you for this chance to win this book. I'd love to read it!


agent3547 said...

Welcome back. Enjoyed the interview. Sounds like a good read. Thank you. agent3547ataoldotcom

Christine H said...

I have a strong Faith in God. I always sung in Church choir. This book sounds insprirational. I've love to win it!! Thanks for the contest!!

Suzanne Lieurance said...

Interesting interview and it sounds like an interesting book. I agree that talent for music is a "gift."

Thanks so much for the contest.

Whitney said...

What a great interview! Sounds like it is a great book. I love the music aspect in the book.

Cindy said...

The book sounds like a great read. Would love
to have the chance to win it. Thank you

Linda Kish said...

Interesting experiences.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

avalonne83 said...

Great giveaway! I'd love to be entered.

Please count me in. Thanks.

avalonne83 [at] yahoo [dot] it

Linda Weaver Clarke said...

What wonderful comments about Cary! I can see that those who know him, love him and that he is an inspirational pastor in his church. That is an accomplishment in itself.

Linda Weaver Clarke said...

Congratulations, Suzanne Lieurance! You are the winner of Cary's book. I know you'll enjoy it. What a wonderful subject he has written on! Music seems to be a part of everyone's life, but for Leland, it's his life. Thanks, Cary, for the wonderful interview.