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.
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
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.
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