Authors are our rockstars. We geek out over them. We love them. And one that we love in particular is Jennifer Smith. If you haven’t read her books, you are missing out. It’s like being transported into a different world, but it’s always something that you feel like could happen in your life.
Her latest book, Windfall, hits shelves, May 2nd and it’s fantastic. Here’s what it’s about –
Alice doesn’t believe in luck—at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday—just when it seems they might be on the brink of something—she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes.
At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall.
As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined . . . and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect.
We had a chance to speak with the author. Read all about it below and be sure to order Windfall now.
I learned on your website you have always wanted to be a writer. In terms of material have you always wanted to be a writer of novels, or was it just where your writing path took you?
Yes! Like a lot of writers, I think I gravitated toward what I like to read. And for me, that’s always been novels. I tried writing short stories in school, because that’s what they always have you do, and I was just never very good at it. I read so many novels as a kid that I had a better sense for longer narratives, and the rhythm of that format, the rise and fall of a more extended arc. So even as far back as seventh grade, I started turning in chapters of novels rather than short stories in my English classes. Luckily, most of my teachers didn’t mind!
If you had to pick your top three books to recommend to people – any genre, what would those books be?
That’s so tough – there are too many to pick just three! But I guess I’d probably go with The Great Gatsby, because it’s brilliant and gorgeously written; Wonder, because it’s moving and important; and the entire Harry Potter series (let’s pretend the box set counts as one!), because it’s pure magic.
Did you have a specific experience or inspiration for Windfall or did the idea just come to you?
If you’re asking whether I’ve won the lottery, the answer is no! But I’ve always been obsessed with stories about luck and fate and chance, so this seemed like a natural fit. I’d been trying to find my way into a book about the lottery for a long time, but could never quite figure it out. At first, I thought maybe I’d write about two families who live next door to each other, and the way things shift when one of them wins the jackpot. But somehow, that just didn’t seem exciting enough. Then one day, I was in line at a bodega behind a young guy who was buying a big stack of tickets, and just like that, I knew what this book would be.
There are certain days when nothing works and it feels like you’re just banging your head against the keyboard and everything you write is a complete and utter mess. Then, right before you pack it in, something comes to you, and you manage to untangle it from the giant knot in your brain and pin it down on the page, and then you sit back and give it a good look and realize that even though all you have to show for a whole day’s work is a single sentence, it’s actually a pretty darn good one. Sometimes, it’s even close to perfect. And that’s the very best feeling in the world.
Did you have any favorite authors that inspired you or just loved reading growing up?
As a kid, I loved books that were sad and sweet and full of heart – Where the Red Fern Grows and Bridge to Terabithia and Tuck Everlasting. So those inspired me quite a lot. But honestly, I think writers are sort of like magpies – gathering scraps from all different places to make their nests – and I feel like I’ve learned something from pretty much ever book I’ve ever read. (And there have been a lot of them!)
When you are working on a novel do you prefer to actually write in notebooks with pen & paper or love the ease of typing onto a laptop?
Oh man, if I wrote with a pen, none of my novels would exist, since I can barely read my own handwriting! It’s tiny and terrible and used to drive my teachers nuts. So I definitely write on a computer, and I love how that makes it so easy to write and re-write over yourself. When people ask how many drafts it took to write one of my books, I never quite know, since I’m constantly tinkering with what’s there on the screen.
If you could transport yourself into the world of one book, what book would you pick and why?
Harry Potter. Because who doesn’t want to go to Hogwarts?
Do you ever envision writing a series of novels, or is it more enjoyable to write as the ideas come to you for your work?
I don’t plan my books out ahead of time, so the idea of a series has always felt daunting. Maybe one day, but for now, I’m just taking them one at a time. Coming up with the ideas is actually the hardest part for me. Once I know what I’m writing, it’s a pretty straight shot. But each time I finish a book, I always spend a few panicky months worrying that I’ll never have another good idea. Luckily, it’s worked out so far, and something eventually comes to me. But it’s my least favorite part of the process!
If there was a song, any song you could pick to go with Windfall, what would it be?
That’s a good question. I know a lot of writers have a theme song for their books, or even a whole playlist, but I never really come up with one. I suppose for this book it would have to be a song about luck, right? I’m open to suggestions and curious to hear what readers think!
Is there anything in particular like a book or TV series, music anything really that you fangirl or nerd out over?
Well, if you couldn’t already tell, I adore Harry Potter. And more recently, I’ve been obsessed with Hamilton. (So guess all we need now is a Harry Potter/Hamilton mash-up, right?)
Windfall hits shelves May 2nd, 2017.