Sunday, February 27, 2022

TRUTH AND OTHER LIES, by author MAGGIE SMITH (releases March 8th!)

The Devil Wears Prada meets All the President's Men

Megan Barnes' life is in free fall. After losing both her job as a reporter and her boyfriend in the same day, she retreats to Chicago and moves in with Helen, her over-protective mother. Before long, the two are clashing over everything from pro-choice to #MeToo, not to mention Helen's run for U.S. Congress, which puts Megan's career on hold until after the election.

Desperate to reboot her life, Megan gets her chance when an altercation at a campus rally brings her face-to-face with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jocelyn Jones, who offers her a job on her PR team. Before long, Megan is pulled into the heady world of fame and glamour her charismatic new mentor represents.

Until an anonymous tweet brings it all crashing down. To salvage Jocelyn's reputation, Megan must locate the online troll and expose the lies. But when the trail leads to blackmail, and circles back to her own mother, Megan realizes if she pulls any harder on this thread, what should have been the scoop of her career could unravel into a tabloid nightmare.

Readers who love Jodi Picoult's topical plot twists and Liane Moriarty's character-driven novels will devour this fast-paced tale of three women whose lives converge as one fights a devastating accusation, another campaigns for a contested seat in Congress, and one, the young reporter with ties to both, navigates the tricky line between secrets and lies.

Reviews ~

Twisty, timely, and rivetingly thought-provoking, Smith mines the intensity of competition, the duplicity of the human psyche, and the terrifying knowledge that with one wrong decision, your life can be changed forever. This author knows her journalism-the pressure, the stress and the compulsion for the big story-and deeply understands the tension and conflicts women battle when their professional and personal lives are set on a collision course.

-Hank Phillippi Ryan, Emmy-winning investigative reporter and USA Today bestselling author of Her Perfect Life

The political skews personal in this debut, which focuses on the bonds of powerful women in the rough-and-tumble world of politics and government. Smith's characters sometimes do each other in, more often do each other proud, always with an awareness of the fragility of reputation set against the abiding strength of spirit. Smith leads with boldness and heart from the first page.

-Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean and The Good Son

Truth and Other Lies is my favorite kind of novel-one that tackles tough topics in a breezy, compulsively readable way. Maggie Smith is a welcome new voice in fiction.

-Camille Pagán, bestselling author of Don't Make Me Turn This Life Around

Author interview ~

Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing: I never even thought about becoming a writer until five years ago when I grew tired of the art consulting business I’d founded and run for many years and decided to make a change. I signed up for a week-long writing workshop in northern Wisconsin, mainly to have a vacation in a lovely campground up there, but a prompt by the instructor gave me the idea to write about a unique triangle: a mother, a daughter, and a mentor. After I got back home, I decided to give it a go, and started not only writing but also learning how to write by taking more classes, reading craft books, and joining a writing roundtable. Eventually I sold my business and took up writing full-time and that initial idea became the seed of my debut novel, Truth and Other Lies, which releases March 8th.

What is something about you that would surprise people? That I went to college for a very long time and eventually emerged with a Ph.D. in Psychology, but after only two years, quit that profession to go into business with my husband selling artwork throughout the United States to healthcare and senior living facilities.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published? Like a lot of authors, I first went after agents with no success. Then I found a woman-owned press that seemed ideal, didn’t require me to have an agent, and wanted to publish my book. I worked with one of their editors for eight months on revisions, only to have the company go bankrupt right before I was due to start work on my cover design. I scrambled, cancelled my audio book narrator and the publicist I’d lined up, and went looking for another small press, which I found a few months later. I’m so happy now that happened, because my new publisher is very supportive, motivated, and hard-working, and best of all, located only twenty minutes from my home. They’ve been open to incorporating my ideas about cover design, layout, marketing, and promotion so it feels like a true collaboration.  

How do you market your work? I use social media a lot, both to publicize my own work, but also to interface with the literary community in general through book reviews, sharing news about publications and industry trends, spreading the word about organizations I belong to for writers. Now that I have an actual book being published, I’m working with a publicist out of Chicago to approach both media influencers, bookstagrammers, and book reviewers. I’m also making a concentrated effort to be a guest at book clubs – my goal is to visit 22 of them during the year 2022.

Do you have a favorite character in your book? My novel is the story of three women: A world-famous journalist at the end of her career, whose being accused of plagiarism by a Twitter troll; a budding politician knee-deep in a run for Congress; and the young reporter who’s forced to choose between her mentor and her mother when she uncovers a decades-old lie. For me, the mother was the hardest character to write but wound up being my favorite, because she holds values very different from mine and yet I was able to burrow deep enough in her psyche and write a poignant backstory for her so hopefully the reader will understand why she believes and acts the way she does.

Finish this sentence: If I could write about anything, it would be …?  I’d love to write a sweeping love story which occurs during a climactic moment in history, something like The English Patient or Doctor Zhivago or Gone with the Wind.

Favorite movie: Chinatown. All the pieces – dialogue, plot, theme - fit together into a seamless whole. It’s a love story, a mystery, a history lesson, and a cautionary tale. It’s got a villain, an innocent, a damsel in distress, a cast of unique secondary characters, and a protagonist who has no idea what’s really going on until it’s too late.

Place you’d like to travel to: France has always been at the top of my list. Paris, yes, but also the coastline of Cote d’Azur, the lavender fields of Provence, the island of Corsica, the beaches at Normandy, and the vineyards of the Loire Valley. So many varied landscapes, each so fascinating, yet so different from each other.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? Take your craft seriously, by which I mean study other authors and see how they handle components of the process, like dialogue, setting, plot, description. Read books that teach you basic principles about how to write. Set aside time to put words on paper – it can be every day, or two hours in the evening after the kids are in bed, or every Sunday afternoon, but keep that time sacrosanct and do it, don’t just talk about it. Set yourself a goal to be a better writer this year than you were the last. Get eyes on your work in the form of people you trust to give you honest feedback and listen and absorb what they say.

What are you working on now? I’m halfway through my second novel, which I started during NaNoWriMo in 2020, and have tentatively titled Blindspot. It’s women’s fiction with psychological suspense elements. The tagline is: An ambitious district attorney, desperate to stop a stalker who’s threatening her and her teenage daughter, is charged with murder when he turns up dead.

To connect with Maggie ~

Truth and Other Lies March, 2022

Editor, Write City Magazine, Podcast Host



Twitter:  @magpie0218


In a career that’s included work as a journalist, a psychologist, and the founder of a national art consulting company, Maggie Smith now adds novelist to her resume with the publication of her debut, Truth and Other Lies.  In addition to her writing, Maggie hosts the weekly podcast Hear Us Roar, where she interviews debut authors about their novel and their path to publication and blogs monthly for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. A board member of the Chicago Writer’s Association, she’s Managing Editor of their Write City Magazine, and coordinator of Book Nook, which highlights Chicago-area independent bookstores. She resides in Milwaukee WI with her husband and her aging but still adorable sheltie.


Tuesday, February 22, 2022


This book is out today! Happy book birthday to ONE LITTLE WORD. 📖

Allegra Hudson was murdered.

An anonymous “source” drops the note into recently widowed Madeleine Barton’s lap exactly when she needs it most. As a new single mother, she is struggling to make ends meet as a freelance reporter, and covering the mysterious death of local bestselling author Allegra Hudson could be the career-launching story of her dreams.

Working with Allegra’s grieving husband, Connor, Madeleine plunges down the rabbit hole of the writer’s privileged life. The deeper she digs, the more dirt she finds: a conniving best friend, a stalker ex-boyfriend, and a marriage in shambles. The closer Madeleine gets to the truth, the murkier the waters become.

Her source’s looming presence and constant meddling in her investigation paired with her growing bond with Connor over their shared grief have blinded her to the facts, but nothing explains why Allegra Hudson’s life feels so familiar. Only one thing is certain: Madeleine can trust no one.

One Little Word is a deliciously clever game of cat-and-mouse with a completely unexpected twist.


 "It's not easy to hit me with a twist I don't see coming, but Audra McElyea did it in One Little Word, a clever and compelling tale from an author to watch." - Kimberly Belle, USA Today bestselling author of The Marriage Lie

"One Little Word is a riveting suspense novel packed with sharp turns and unexpected twists. Single mother and widow Madeleine Barton is the perfect protagonist, capturing your heart and bringing you along for this crazy, thrilling ride. Audra McElyea is one to watch!" - Samantha Downing, #1 internationally bestselling author of My Lovely Wife

Q & A with Audra ~

Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.

Well, I’m a wife, mom to two energetic little boys, and my background is as a corporate buyer for clothing and jewelry, so I haven’t always been a writer. I could probably write another novel about the road to my debut. Haha. But I won’t, don’t worry.

I felt like God was calling me to be a writer about eleven years ago, and I kept saying no by doing everything *except* learning to be a writer. But after a year or so of everything else blowing up in my face (I can laugh about it now) I finally said OKAY, and he blessed me with many mentors who helped me learn what to do/what not to do during my years spent working on my first novel, When Lilies Bloom. That novel eventually got shelved, but I learned so much through that experience, and I can honestly say I absolutely love writing more than any other job I’ve ever done. I didn’t get my agent or publisher until I started shopping One Little Word around many years later. All it takes is years of constant perseverance…no big deal, right?

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

I enjoy working out (as strange as that sounds, I know), reading, watching movies and TV, listening to music, canoeing, playing badminton, and hiking (if it’s not too cold). My husband is a huge outdoorsman, and my little boys have endless energy, so anything active we can do with them is always a plus.

How do you start your day (a routine of sorts?)

First thing’s first, I get the boys up and ready for school. This is often the most difficult part of the day as none of us are morning people. Then, when I get back home, I do a Bible study, workout, and then dive into whatever work I have going on. Sometimes I’m in marketing and public relations-mode for a book that’s upcoming, and other times I’m in editing and writing-mode. No matter which mode I’m in, the work keeps me busy until it’s time to grab the boys from school.

Finish this: “I can’t write without…”

Tazo Zen Green Tea. I like coffee but coffee doesn’t like me. So, my favorite drink ever is always Tazo Zen Green Tea.

Where do you get your ideas?

One Little Word actually came to me in a dream played out like a movie in its entirety and is the only book I’ve written out of four to do so. It was a gift. Thanks for that, God! I woke up and jotted the main plot down and thanked the Lord because I knew I didn’t come up with that crazy plot myself. I was so excited I wrote the first draft in one month. I’ve never written any book as quickly as I did One Little Word.

For all my other books, I’ve just been inspired by compilations of movies and books I’ve seen and loved throughout my life. As a kid I was obsessed with Nancy Drew, Scooby-Doo, and later everything Alfred Hitchcock. So, I’ve always loved to solve a good mystery, and I also like to come up with my own.

Do you have a manuscript(s) in your drawer? If so, will it ever see the light of day?

I like to work a few books ahead, so right now I’m editing two more books I’ve completed while outlining another one. Counterplay is next, and will hopefully release in 2023, but I don’t have a release date from my publisher quite yet. I describe it as Gone Girl meets You meets Dear Wife. It’s a darker book than One Little Word for sure, but just as twisty and thrilling.

I do have one book in a drawer to speak. The one I mentioned earlier, When Lilies Bloom. Never say never, but I have no immediate plans to resurrect that one.

Do you have a go-to first reader after you feel your manuscript is ready?

I have an author friend who always provides brilliant feedback. Her name is Jennifer Klepper and she is an amazing writer and advice-giver. If that’s a word, haha. I don’t know what I’d do without her, she’s so great.

Is there a particular author or book that inspired your writing or decision to write?

Emily Giffin really inspired me to write because whenever I read her books, I felt like her voice was similar to what mine would be. I had no idea where to start, but I knew I wanted to try to write a book one day down the road. Safe Haven, by Nicholas Sparks, really got my wheels turning years with the twist at the end, because at that point as a reader I hadn’t really gotten into the suspense/thriller genre yet and when I read it, I knew if/when I wrote a book, I wanted to write something suspenseful.

Is anything in your book based on real-life experiences?

For sure the anxiety disorder that Madeleine experiences at times is something I’ve dealt with my whole life. Although our experiences are quite different, it was important for me to include that struggle in the book. Hopefully others can relate.

Do you have a favorite character?

I wouldn’t say he’s my favorite character, but Lane Stone in One Little Word is by far one of the most complicated characters I’ve written. You never know what to expect from him.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Honestly, to survive in this industry you must love writing and telling stories. If you check that box off, then you must have undying levels of persistence to be traditionally published. Then, if you’re still kicking after all that and still love writing, then writing may be for you. It’s not easy, but your best allies are other authors. The best part of this industry is your fellow authors. Never in my life have I seen and experienced such kindness from other people in the “workplace”. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other authors for help, the worst they can say is no. Find a writing group like WFWA, Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, etc. to begin with, and start sharing your work with others in those groups. Honest, brutal feedback is your best-friend going forward if you truly want to grow as a writer.

Favorite band or music?

I’m pretty well-rounded. I love Taylor Swift, The Lumineers, One Republic, Imagine Dragons, Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Mumford & Sons, Linkin Park, Ed Sheeran, Pink, Aerosmith, and Selena Gomez.

Favorite book and/or movie?

Well, the Bible is first. But my all-time favorite fiction novel so far is The Seven and 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. It’s absolutely brilliant and one-of-a-kind.

As far as movies go, there are so many, but Vertigo and About Time are my current favorites.

Place you’d like to travel?

So many places! I’d love to go to Edinburgh, Mykonos, Amsterdam, London, New York (again), Switzerland…basically all of Europe!

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?

Just thank-you to anyone who took the time to read One Little Word. And please, leave a review on Goodreads and Amazon, it helps authors much more than you realize.

To connect with Audra: