Author Interview: Smoke by Darcy Woods
What are you willing to do to support your loved ones? Darcy Woods answers this for Honor, a high achieving youth faced with an impossible choice. Fans of Weeds will love this book! Check out our interview with Darcy to learn more about Honor and Smoke!
Smokeby Darcy Woods
Published by: Crown Books for Young Readers
on June 15, 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
What lines would you cross to save someone you love? Filled with the kinds of impossible choices that made the TV show Weeds such a hit, this compelling drama asks to what lengths an avid rule-follower will go in order to save her family--and the answer involves "growing" in surprising directions.
Sixteen-year-old Honor Augustine never set out to become a felon. As an academic all-star, avid recycler, and dedicated daughter to her PTSD-afflicted father, she's always been the literal embodiment of her name. Coloring inside the lines is what keeps Honor's chaotic existence orderly.
But when she discovers her father's VA benefits drying up, coupled with a terrifying bank letter threatening the family's greenhouse business--Honor vows to find a solution. She just doesn't expect to spot it on the dry erase board of English lit--"Nature's first green is gold."
The quote by Frost becomes the seed of an idea. An idea that--with patience and care--could germinate into a means of survival. Maybe marijuana could be more than the medicinal plant that helps quiet her father's demons. Maybe, it could save them all.
Interview with Darcy Woods
Tell us about Honor. What would she bring for lunch at school?
Honor is a STEM girl at heart and often prefers the company of plants to people, cutoffs to couture, and would rather have one true friend than a dozen fake ones. If there was an Olympic medal for Carrying the Weight of the World, she would take home the gold. In her sack lunch, you’re likely to find a no-muss, no-fuss peanut butter sandwich. And when it comes to grades, Honor goes for A’s all the way! In fact, given the choice between getting an F and navigating a pit of rattlers, she would probably opt for the snakes (after heavily researching how to charm them and stuffing her pockets with antivenom). But look beyond the social awkwardness, over-achieving, and introverted tendencies, and you’ll find a heart that beats wildly fierce and loyal with love for those who are closest to her. There is literally nothing she wouldn’t do for the sake of her loved ones. And therein lies the crux: Honor’s greatest strength is also her fatal flaw.
Summer of Supernovas is structured around romantic love whereas Smoke focuses on family. How are the books similar and where do they shine uniquely compared to one another?
Both stories feature heroines whose attachments to a particular ideal or belief, deeply limits them in life. Wil, the heroine in Summer of Supernovas, lives her life according to her astrological chart. Because her deceased mother was an expert astrologer, the stars become a potent source of connection—a means of keeping her mother close. For Honor in Smoke, her attachment lies in an almost militant devotion to rule-following. It’s her coping mechanism. It’s how she creates order within the chaos of her combat veteran father’s deteriorating mental health as the family teeters on the brink of financial ruin. But in order for both of these girls to move into the essence of who they truly are, they must abandon (to some degree) the very thing that defines them.
What makes them shine uniquely, though, is probably the tonality and my intent as an author. Summer of Supernovas is a romantic comedy filled with humor and heart. A joyous ode to the cosmos and love in its many forms—familial, friendship, and romantic. My wish was to deliver a delightfully charismatic main character with the most absurdly adorable meet-cute and HEA I could conjure. I wanted to leave readers with a smiling heart and many happy sighs. By contrast, Smoke is storm and clouds (with bursts of sun, I swear!) that ultimately leads to a wondrous rainbow where hope burns eternal. It’s a story of resilience, mined from my own personal experience. I sought to create people and situations that were inherently messy and reflective of the complex world we live in. Is Honor good because she gets straight A’s and cares deeply for others? Or is she bad because she committed a felony by growing and selling a bonanza of weed? I’m not here to preach or provide definitive answers. But I believe both can be true. That “good” people are capable of “bad” deeds, and “bad” people are capable of “good” deeds. Smoke explores the fluidity of these labels by having a good girl doing the wrong things for the right reasons. It also explores a number of societal issues that I hope lead to conversation and reflection.
What went into researching Smoke?
SO. MUCH. But mainly, there were three key topics—PTSD, cultivating marijuana, and the criminal aspects—that were the most labor intensive and critical to get right. The Author’s Note in Smoke really lays bare many of my personal intersections with the novel, including that I am the daughter of a Vietnam War veteran with PTSD, and have experienced ASD (Acute Stress Disorder) as an Army vet myself. Beyond that, I consulted with a psychologist and did a deep dive into numerous case studies on the subject. Similarly, growing marijuana was also in my wheelhouse (or should I say, weedhouse?) since my dad is a grower and has been for decades. I also interviewed a commercial industry insider, which helped shed light on how I might (fictionally) exploit the line between the black market and legal one. Speaking of legalities, the last leg of my research was especially interesting, and not at all in my weedhouse! I had this incredible opportunity to speak with a former Federal Agent who specialized in marijuana busts. The former Fed was able to give me a precise breakdown of exactly how my fictional criminal scenario would play out in real life, which I confirmed with a state prosecutor, and incorporated directly into the novel. It was all very fascinating!