Q&A with SM Stevens

Today I’m pleased to be taking part in the blog tour for Horseshoes And Hand Grenades. I’m delighted to welcome SM Stevens to Portable Magic. This post is presented with thanks to SM Stevens for inviting me to join her blog tour and for answering my questions!

Have you always wanted to write?

Yes, although as a kid I didn’t know what I would write about. I grew up in a small town and used to complain to my mother that I needed to escape so I could experience things worth writing about. (And after marriage, two kids, many fascinating jobs and major illnesses, I have plenty to write about now!)

What were your previous jobs? 

I’ve had some very cool jobs, doing PR for “Old Ironsides” – a frigate known for defeating 5 British warships in the War of 1812, and for the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston where we went from one of the worst zoos in the country to one of the best. Some of my amazing zoo experiences are depicted in Horseshoes and Hand Grenades.

Have those jobs helped you with your writing process?

Absolutely, because I learned to write with many, many interruptions, which came in handy when writing my books surrounded by three dogs and two children.

What was your inspiration for Horseshoes and Hand Grenades?

Inspiration is too positive a word. The catalyst was Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement. I decided it was time for a novel that answered those annoying questions posed to victims like: Was it partly your fault? Was it really that bad? And why didn’t you speak up sooner?

My second reason for writing it was to help validate the experiences of victims who have suffered “lesser abuse”. Women tend to discount our traumas, convincing ourselves they didn’t matter. I maintain that “almost counts” and there is no such thing as a minor trauma. Acknowledging that is the first step toward healing.

How do you construct your characters? Do they have traits of people you know?

Hah, don’t tell my friends or my daughters’ friends but I often start by picturing someone I know and using their general appearance and personality. But soon the character looks and acts completely differently from the original model.

What does your writing process look like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Both. It’s an iterative process. I start with a theme and a skeleton plot. I start writing and let the characters drag me down new paths. Then I go back to the plot. Then I try to interweave the various plot lines. Then I tear my hair out. Then I grab a bunch of post-its and colour code my plot lines so I can mix and match until it all makes sense. Hopefully.

Who are your favourite writers? Are you influenced by them?

Hmm, there are many writers whose work I love. But most of them I would feel arrogant attempting to emulate—Kurt Vonnegut, the king of concision. Toni Morrison, the queen of composing music with words. It would be funny to try to combine their styles in one book, but it would probably also be a dismal failure.

If you could invite three people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be and why?

My mother’s parents and her brother, because they all died before I was born and I’d very much like to know them.

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with and why?

The one boss I ever had—and I’ve had many—who I just could not get along with! That would be torturous.

What is next for you?

I hope to tackle one of the many issues shaping society these days–gender identity, mental health, immigration—in novel form.


Band/Singer?Anything with Paul Weller in it. The Smiths. And Little Barrie.

Colour? Green. Because it says nature.

Place? Favourite place is anywhere in the woods with my dog and preferably my boyfriend or one of my daughters at my side. My favourite city is London. I lived there as a student while attending UCL and then as an adult working at National Grid. It’s like 20 Bostons put together, with a lower scale than New York which I find claustrophobic. And I love that you can walk around any section and find beautiful architecture that doesn’t even make it into the guidebooks.

Biscuit? I‘m a Yank who has lived in the U.K. twice. My favorite is the milk chocolate McVitie’s digestive. It’s probably a good thing they’re not readily available in the States as I can easily devour a package in one or two sittings


Horseshoes And Hand Grenades is available from Amazon.

You can follow the rest of the blog tour here:


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