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An Interview with Author Kay Smith-Blum

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Kay Smith-Blum, named Western WA Woman Business Owner of 2013 and a former Seattle School Board President, is an avid gardener and lover of nature. Smith-Blum founded Environmental Endeavors, the first greenhouse program in Seattle Public Schools. Intrigued by the tropes of mid-20th-century history, Smith-Blum has penned two novel-length tales set in Texas, but the recent upheaval over leaking waste tanks at the Hanford site drew her in. A meticulous researcher, Smith-Blum felt compelled to write the Hanford story in a way that would entertain as well as educate readers about this important story.

Winner of Black Fox Lit’s 2023 short story contest, Smith-Blum’s published short works may be found in multiple literary journals (full CV A companion short story to TANGLES will be published in Feisty Women: The WFWA Authors 2024 Anthology. An Austin, TX transplant, Smith-Blum has resided in Washington State and has been an active community member for four decades.

Follow Kay at:

Instagram @discerningKSB

Facebook/Linkedin @Kay Smith-Blum

Twitter @kaysmithblum

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

My high school English Lit teacher was an inspiration, not just to me but so many. I’ve always kept a journal, jotting down notes on the novel I would write, once I built a career, raised young children and other life stuff. Selling our biz freed me to pursue my writing and now I spend each morning writing, afternoons working on my craft and evenings luxuriating in my favorite authors: Tana French, Ann Napolitano, Sarah Waters, Emily Henry and historical fiction writers Kim Michele Richardson and Elizabeth Gilbert. Bonnie Garmus’s Lessons in Chemistry inspired so much about my current tale!

What inspired you to start writing this book?

Residing in Washington State for several decades, I’ve followed the trials and tribulation of the Hanford site in Eastern Washington and then one night, I had a dream about a mass of red hair floating on top of the water. The next day I ran into a pal who was raised in the Tri-City area where Hanford is located. They told me the waste tanks were leaking again. The next day I began plotting this story.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

Tangles is taken from the mass of hair envisioned above but also the intricate web of corporate and government that creates much of the tension in the plot

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

“Stardust” (Carmichael and Parish), “Season of the Witch” (Dylan), “Have You Seen her Face” (The Byrds), “Dream Lucky Blues” (Julia Lee), “I’ll Never Find Another You” (The Seekers), “Just Got a Letter” (Glen Miller and his Orch) and many more.

Describe your dream book cover.

A high shot of the Columbia River Basin at sunset its edges lit up like on fire with the title at top and the backs (silhouettes) of a male and female at bottom with the outline of the Hanford plant stacks imposed somewhere in between.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

Had a decades-long career in the European designer fashion industry, traveled the globe first for Neiman Marcus and then for my own specialty store. I worked my way through high school and college at JR Reed Music Co in Austin TX, selling guitar strings and sheet music and records to Willie Nelson, Charley Pride and Jerry Jeff Walker among many many others in the folk rock arena.

What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?

On the Home Front and the Hanford Plaintiffs for research as well as finding incredible bits to enhance my characters’ journeys. Beach Read (by Emily Henry) for comfort and it was spot on for the writing process!

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

I want as many people as possible to be aware of the ongoing problems at Hanford as well as understand the costs of nuclear weapons and power. The perfect reader for me is younger, one whose future will be affected by this environmental challenge.

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