Woman uses West Virginia city as setting for her first book
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — Nicole Smith has written a mystery set in Parkersburg, featuring local sites and landmarks. The cover photo features a picture looking down the Quincy Hill Steps.
Entitled “Waiting for Jacob,” the book is written under her pen name, Cole Smith, which she also uses for her online blog, www.colesmithwrites.com, where she writes about creativity, organization and writing.
“I figured with Nicole Smith I would never rank high in the Google search rankings because of Anna Nicole Smith, so I made a little change to it,” she said of her choice for a pen name.
In the book her main character is Rachel Joy, a Christian detective and algebra tutor who loves to solve problems. Life in Parkersburg, West Virginia, has no shortage but when a church friend’s daughter goes missing, Rachel must decide whether to search for a woman who doesn’t want to be found, or to listen to the friends who know her best.
Smith said the book is written as a “cozy mystery,” also referred to as “cozies,” which are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community.
Smith is a 2000 graduate of Parkersburg Christian School on Core Road and earned a bachelor’s degree in business management at West Virginia University at Parkersburg in 2005. She currently works at Parkersburg Christian School as a classroom supervisor for eighth through 12th grades.
She has long been interested in writing and won a Young Riders Contest in second grade. She can remember thinking that being an author would be an interesting thing to do. She had wanted to publish a book for a while and is glad she was able to accomplish that goal.
Smith cited Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot stories, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlook Holmes stories and Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently books as her main inspirations. Her amateur detective, Rachel, deals mainly with problems people run into in their daily lives.
“Because it’s set in Parkersburg, I kind of go a little bit into the opioid crisis because you can’t write a book, unfortunately, set in Parkersburg without sort of taking a little bit of a run at that,” she said. “I think everybody’s been affected by it in one way or another.”
Smith said her protagonist is an algebra tutor who prefers to keep things logical, neat and tidy and veers away from people’s emotional problems and issues, often referring those types of issues to someone else.
“Waiting for Jacob” is self-published and was officially launched March 20 through a Kindle version on Amazon. For the first three days, it was available as a free download and as of Friday had received over 550 downloads, she said. It had reached No. 17 in “cozy mysteries,” No. 22 in “Christian fiction” and No. 24 in “Christian books.”
“That was a big surprise to me, because I was hoping to maybe crack the top 100 on the free charts,” she said, adding her appreciation to friends who helped promote the book through word of mouth and social media.
The book will come out in paperback in two weeks, she added. Smith is looking for retail and other venues which provide an outlet for local authors.
She has enjoyed the writing and publishing process.
“I am almost as proud of all of the technical skills that I had to learn to be able to do this as I am of the finished book,” Smith said.
“I felt like I learned so much this year that sometimes my head is going to explode. As someone who works in the classroom too, it’s really been humbling and has given me more patience for some of the students who aren’t getting it. There were certainly times when I ran into a technical problem that I thought ‘I’m not going to get this,’” she said.
Smith said most of the things she learned involved marketing and technical issues. On the writing side, she has been attending the West Virginia Writers Conference for about 10 years and knew she needed different eyes looking at her work. She did her best to edit and self-edit but also hired a professional editor in Houston who provided invaluable help, she said.
Smith has other story ideas and may be interested in doing a sequel.
“I try to be working on something all of the time,” she said.
Information from: News and Sentinel (Parkersburg, W.Va.), http://www.newsandsentinel.com