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Q&A with Roberta Smith: Living through the creative process

January 8, 2013

Apple Valley artist, author and resident Roberta Smith was born in Los Angeles and raised in Downey. Her family lived on a cul-de-sac that had 14 houses where there were plenty of kids to play with. The old TV shows of the “Nifty ’50s” (“Leave It to Beaver,” “The Donna Reed Show” and “Father Knows Best”) are apt examples of her experience growing up, though her mother always worked full time — even when Smith was as young as 4 years old— which was not the norm for the 50s. She and her sisters still own the house they grew up in.

Smith has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Redlands. For 12 years, she worked in marketing for an air filtration manufacturer before switching gears and eventually becoming a support analyst for Rockwell where she met her husband, Chuck. They’ve been married for 16 years.

Q: What brings you joy?
A: There are many things that bring me joy. But to name one, I’m an author and I love the creative process. When I’m in the zone and my story progresses, that’s joy.

Q: Any hobbies?
A: I haven’t been oil painting lately, but I know I’ll get back to it one day. I also like to ghost hunt. Does staying in haunted hotels count as a hobby? Actually, I count it as research. I’ve written four novels, three that are published as part of the Mickey McCoy paranormal series. I wouldn’t classify my writing as a hobby because it is more than that. I am currently the VP of the High Desert Branch of the California Writers Club.

Q: What are the top three issues facing the United States today and what’s your take on them?
A: I worry about our nation’s debt and borrowing money. We can’t keep doing what we’re doing. Senseless violent rampages (is violence ever sensible?) because people can’t handle their own emotions. The rising cost of everything.

Q: What’s on your “bucket list?”
A: I’ve never given a bucket list serious thought. I wanted to go river rafting and I accomplished that last May. I wanted to stay at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park and I also accomplished that last May. I want to see a ghost and while at the Stanley I went on a ghost hunt. I didn’t see a ghost but I captured an EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena). Close.

Q: If you could ask God any question, what would you ask?
A: Please explain, in layman’s terms, how things really operate.

Q: Who are three people you admire and why?
A: This is too difficult to answer, so let me say that if I perceive any of these qualities in a person, chances are I admire them: kindness, generosity and deep faith. Intelligent people who speak their mind. Intelligent people who don’t speak their mind. People who go out of their way to help their friends. People who know how to accomplish good works and have the energy to do it. People who forgive. People who remind me of my mother. People who can keep their home organized. People who work hard. People who don’t give up. People who believe in themselves and take action. People who are talented and work at developing that talent. People who can see both sides of an issue. Articulate people.

Q: Tell us about your sense of humor. Who makes you laugh?
A: I like subtle humor. But then again, I recently saw Rodney Carrington in Vegas. There was nothing subtle about him and I laughed so hard I cried. I’d pay the big bucks to see him again.

Q: What are the key ideas that form your values and outlook?
A: I think the adage “you reap what you sow” is right on. The choices I make and my responses to the things that happen to me form the direction of my life.

Q: Tell us about your faith.
A: I believe in a power greater than I am. I call this power God. I believe this is a power for good and that It definitely works in mysterious ways.

Q: What are the top three issues facing the local community, and what’s your take on them?
A: Zone changes that allow for more packed housing. Crime and a community with fewer cops. Funding for schools.

Q: Have you ever had a close brush with death?
A: I wouldn’t call it close, but I had breast cancer ten years ago and went through surgery, chemo, and radiation. Somehow I never believed it would get me. It didn’t.

Q: What could the America of yesterday teach the America of tomorrow?
A: Vote. And from Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address: “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

Q: When you contemplate the meaning of your life, what do you conclude?
A: I’m a work in progress.

Q: Aside from the obvious, when you count your blessings, what are you grateful for?
A: I have to do the obvious. I am most grateful for my family. I had wonderful parents who raised their kids with solid values. Even though I’ve made plenty of mistakes in life, those values helped get me back on track. I’m grateful for my husband who is always supportive and forgives me all my faults. (He also likes to do the grocery shopping. Yeah!)

Q: What would you want your great-great grandchildren to know about you?
A: I have a Civil War diary written by my great-great-grandfather. He wrote short entries in it every day of 1864. I transcribed it and when I came to the end, it felt so strange. I’d spent a year of his life with him and then he was gone. OK, he was part of something big, the American Civil War, and that in itself made him interesting. But he was an ordinary guy, a farmer, who never once complained in this diary about anything even though he was a soldier at war. Just having him come alive from the past as flesh and blood was fascinating. So what would I want a descendant of mine to know about me? That I existed. The time period I experienced. That I was real.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say, anything you’d like to get off your chest?
A: If you like the paranormal, specifically ghost stories, you might enjoy reading my novels.

Q: How can readers get a hold of you?
A: Please visit my website, www.bertabooks.com, or email me at bertabooks@verizon.net.

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