Monday, January 24, 2011
Interview with Christian Author Cary Franklin Smith
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.
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.