Zack Smedley was born in 1995, in an endearing Southern Maryland county almost no one has heard of. He earned a degree in Chemical Engineering from UMBC in 2017, and he currently works within the field. Additionally, he’s taken several creative- and script-writing courses, and in 2015 he hosted a workshop on the modern publishing industry.
As a member of the LGBT community, his goal is to give a voice to marginalized young adults through gritty, morally complex narratives. He spends his free time building furniture, baking, modifying electronic systems, and managing his obsession with Aaron Sorkin.
Can you tell us something about your writing journey, like how did you get Deposing Nathan published? How tough or easy was it for you to find a publisher?
Well, I sent my first query in May 2012, during my last month of 11th grade. That was for a fantasy project that was (rightly) rejected unanimously, and in 2013, I shelved that in favor of a new project–my first ever YA contemp. That got a lot of manuscript requests, including an R&R that lasted an entire summer…but, ultimately, that one was shelved as well. From there, I sat down to write a new project called DEPOSING NATHAN…which, obviously worked out better than the first two. I found my agent a month after college graduation, and she began shopping for a publisher. To read about the wild rollercoaster of my journey from offer of rep to publication day, I have an 8-part blog series about it here!
What was the toughest thing you had to go through when writing Deposing Nathan?
The research. This story includes anything from a criminal deposition (i.e. an interrogation under oath) to teen anxiety attacks, to discussions of religion and sexuality and parental abuse. Not to mention, one of the main characters is a genius who’s obsessed with medical jargon. I wanted absolutely everything to be accurate. This meant doing about 2 months of legal research, auditing a premed class, reading some very difficult recaps from victims of parental abuse, and reading dozens of forums by folks struggling with their sexuality vs. religion. I wrote this story to help people, so I wanted to tell it as realistically as possible. (Fun fact: at one point I legitimately threw ice water in my own face so I could describe what it feels like).
What was your favorite part about writing Deposing Nathan?
The snappy dialogue. I wrote this book to sound similar to THE NEWSROOM or an Aaron Sorkin film… a room full of intelligent people loudly and eloquently laying out electric arguments. Except in this case, those people are teenagers, and the topics of debate are bisexuality and religion.
Who was the first character you ever created/invented?
Mrs. Lawson, the acerbic prosecutor in DEPOSING NATHAN (Fun fact: she’s also my favorite character!)
I was wondering how old you were when you first decided you wanted to become an author and how old you were when you wrote your first book?
I was thirteen. In April of 2009, towards the end of my 8th grade year, I sat down and wrote my first manuscript. It was a pile of rancid garbage, but it was a manuscript in the technical sense…about 70,000 words long. Thank God that never saw the light of day.
What are some things you do to give depth to your characters ?
I touched on this earlier, but, research. This is very very very common advice, but, I get inside each character’s head and think about what they want in each scene. If done well, this will drive the story…and if done exceptionally, in my opinion, it’ll also drive dialogue and mannerisms. I’m proud to say that many reviewers have stated how they feel like they “know these people,” and I believe that’s because of how much time I spent creating each character’s background.
In your personal life, do you believe that love conquers all?
Well look at you, getting existential. Sorry to be a downer here, but: of course not. There are a boatload of real-world factors that love often can’t override, like the stress of a long-distance relationship or the fundamental incompatibility of two people who otherwise care deeply for each other. “Love conquers all” is a nice sentiment, but it’s how we end up with cringey & problematic teen books where the two end up together despite a dozen reasons why they shouldn’t. The message we should be sending teens–and one of the central themes of DEPOSING NATHAN–is that love doesn’t conquer all. Self-care does.
What is your favorite book of 2019, or what book are you looking forward to the most?
My favorite so far has been RED, WHITE, & ROYAL BLUE…that’s the first and only book I’ve read that has sharp dialogue delivery similar to my own. I’m also especially excited to read BRAVE FACE by Shaun David Hutchinson, which is next on my TBR. There are so many wonderful upcoming titles…my wallet is gutted, and I 100% love it.
INTERVIEW : YA SH3LF