Interview with Janet Elaine Smith, Author of PAMPAS

Janet Elaine Smith, author of 13 novels, has set her latest book across the border. No, not the Canadian border, although she lives in Grand Forks, ND. Pampas is set in Argentina.

Smith is well suited to write about South America, as she and her husband served as missionaries there for 9 years. While they were in Venezuela, Smith says she first became enchanted with the handsome cowboys (gauchos) and huge ranches of Argentina when she was in college in Minneapolis, MN and had an Argentine roommate.

Smith grew up in northern Mn. "Halfway between Bemidji and Grand Rapids, if you went deep enough into the forest," she explains. It was a long ways from there to Venezuela, but she quickly grew to love the people and the country. When she became ill, she and her husband, Ivan, and their three children settled in Grand Forks, where they have run a charitable "Helps" organization in the Red River Valley. Much of their work during those 33 years has been with Mexican migrant workers, so she maintains her contact with the Latino population. She is working on translating Pampas into Spanish, and hopes to have it released by the end of the year. While the books are all different, Smith says two things are guaranteed: they all contain a lot of humor, and you will never find a Janet Elaine Smith novel that doesn’t have a happily-ever-after ending.

Smith had been a successful magazine writer for 25 years, but she says her dream came true in June, 2000, with the publication of her first novel, Dunnottar, which became the No. 1 best-selling Scottish book on in just over a month (out of over 8,000 titles), a position it held consistently for almost three months. Her books have won many awards, including two RIO (Reviewer International Organization) Awards of Excellence.

Her other books include: Dunnottar, Marylebone, Par for the Course, House Call to the Past, In St. Patrick’s Custody, Recipe for Murder, Dakota Printer, Monday Knight, And We’ll Call Her General Leigh, My Dear Phebe, A Christmas Dream, A Lumberjack Christmas

Smith’s books are available at many online stores, including,, and You can also read an excerpt of all of her books at her website: Or, you can get them at your local bookstore.


When did your passion for writing begin?

My husband and I were missionaries in Venezuela for 9 years. When we came back to the US, I wrote down our experiences so I wouldn’t forget them. By the time I had finished that, I was “hooked” on the whole idea of writing.

Can you tell us what your typical “writing” day is like?

You’re kidding, right? I don’t know if there is such a thing. Since we run a charitable Helps organization, interruptions are the norm. My day begins at a little after 6. I tend to my e-mail, then I do some writing—at least an hour. Sometimes it is my books, but many times it is for the dozen magazines I write for regularly. I write the best under pressure and deadlines. Then I spend about an hour in the morning working on various marketing efforts for my books.
I also spend time dealing with the problems of the people who have called in on the Help line.

After lunch, I do the e-mail again, then work on research for the book I’m working on or writing on the current book. I try to squeeze another hour of marketing in in the afternoon, but that depends on how many families we are dealing with on the Help line.

In the evening, I catch up on e-mail again, then go to writing. I have to discipline myself to spend at least another hour on it then. I also do a lot of chats, interviews, etc. in the evenings.
Barring any complications, that is pretty much a “normal” day for me.

Can you tell us a little about Pampas?

I’d love to. It is a fun, exciting adventure, intrigue, mystery, inspirational romantic comedy. I’m trying to get all of the genres I write into one book. I’m gaining on it! LOL!

The main character, Raul Escobar, is a typical Argentine cowboy—or at least so it seems. However, he is really as phony as the rival to Pace Picante Sauce on the TV commercial; he really came from “New Yawk City!” He has gone to Argentina to try to bury his very shady past. He goes to work for Señor Mendoza, who becomes like a father to him. When Señor Mendoza dies, Raul is suddenly the wealthiest man in Argentina. At the memorial fiesta, a young woman—also from New York City—shows up, she is determined to dig up her past, which was revealed to her by her grandmother on her deathbed. The only problem is that she wants to dig it up on Raul’s newly inherited property, and he’s not about to sit still for it.

The tale is one that shows that truly “what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” Can Raul keep his past hidden, and will Samantha Leota Manchester ever find hers? The fun that ensues will keep you laughing as you turn the pages. Even “the godfathers” put in an appearance!

Who published your book and how has your experience with them been?

It is published by PageFree Publishing. They have been wonderful to work with. Besides very nice people to deal with, I really think they have the best distribution in place for any POD or small traditional press I’ve ever run across. In my opinion, they are definitely “a keeper!”

Can you tell us the inspiration behind Pampas?

When I was in college, I had a roommate from Argentina. I was fascinated by the tales of the gauchos (cowboys) and I had always wanted to set a book there. As I did the research for the book, I realized why people call it “The Land of Enchantment.” It is truly a magical, mystical place.

Can you tell us ways you are promoting your book? Have they been successful?

I do a lot of online promotion, and also I spend some time every day calling bookstores across the country. They have been very successful. Again, this is due in large part to the fact that PageFree has their distribution channels firmly set in place. I get about 30-50 emails a day from people who are reading my books. That’s how I judge “success,” not necessarily on my royalty checks. Although I haven’t sent any of them back, either!

Who are your favorite authors and why do they inspire you?

Oh, boy! Why don’t you ask a hard question? I have so many, it is almost impossible to name them all. Way back before I was published, I became penpals with Mary Higgins Clark. She has been wonderfully supportive. I have also gotten to know her daughter, Carol, who writes with her in some of their books. I have become “cyber-friends” with Bertrice Small, and her drive and determination is extremely admirable. So is her sense of humor. I have a folder on my e-mail with the marital advice she has given me. It is labeled “BS Advice”!

And speaking of a sense of humor, to me about the funniest books around are Millie Criswell’s. I love them. We have also become “cyber-friends.” I have to admit, I love the Internet! I have met the most wonderful people through it. Hey, when you live in North Dakota, there’s not a lot to choose from out here!

There are tons of others whose books I adore. Of the new writers on the horizon, I guess my favorite would have to be Melissa S. James. I loved her book Stolen in the Storm. I just got to preview her next one, Solomon’s Choice. I didn’t think she could get any better—but she has. She could give Mary Higgins Clark a real run for her money!

Do you have a mentor?

I guess I would have to give that honor to Mary (Higgins Clark). She believed in me when nobody knew who I was. And Deb Stover. She told me I don’t give myself enough credit. I adore both of them.

What future projects do you have in the works?

I have about 70 or 80 books in my head, but in the immediate future, I am working on Old Habits Die Hard, the third Patrick and Grace Mystery. They are my favorite characters. Then I want to do Tuesday Nolan, the second book in the Women of the Week series. And I’ve had a lot of people asking if I am going to do a new Christmas book this year, so the wheels are turning.

What do you feel are the pros and cons of the publishing industry today?

I think the biggest pro is that because of new avenues (such as POD and even e-books), writers have a much better chance of actually getting published.

The con, to me, is that it is about the most secretive business I’ve ever seen in my life. The author has no way of knowing how many books they have sold, or to whom. Even with the big traditional publishers, they allow “x number of returns” whether they have actually gotten the books returned or not. Also, it is a long, slow trickle-down process for the money to get from the bookstore (either online or a brick-and-mortar) to the distributor, to the printer, to the publisher, and finally to the author. IF everybody pays on time, it takes at least a year and a half to see a single cent from one book sale.

If you are writing to get rich, you might as well quit now. But if you are doing it because you love to write and because you want to make people happy—and those crazy characters in your head won’t shut up until you help them find their release—then it’s the greatest job in the world.

Can you give aspiring authors words of advice towards getting published?

Write what you would enjoy reading. Believe in yourself, no matter what anybody else says. Do your research before you sign a contract with a publisher. I know big-time authors who have gotten “burned” because they didn’t understand the fine print. Make sure you have your facts straight in your book; I read one book that had the Red River (that runs between ND and MN) on the other side of the state (between MN and WI). And as far as the book itself, make sure you get a really good editor. It won’t matter so much for your first book, but it makes a huge difference if you plan to do future books. If readers find a ton of mistakes in the first one, they probably won’t bother to read the next one.

What’s one thing about your life that you think is important, but nobody asks?

Wow! Like I said, you do ask some hard questions. Hmm. I guess it would be if I have any regrets. About my books? None! About other things? Maybe one or two, but I’m not going to tell you what they are! Some things are better left unsaid! LOL!

Can you tell us where we can go to buy Pampas?

You can find it at almost any online bookstore—,,,,—you name it. Or you can go to your local bookstore. If they don’t have it, they can order it. Ask them to order an extra couple of copies to put on their shelves while you’re at it, OK? Thanks.

If you were shipwrecked on a deserted island, what is the one thing you just have to have with you?

Oh, that’s easy—now. For years my husband tried to get me to use the computer. I balked and refused. Now I can’t live without it. I’d take a laptop and make sure I had a lifetime supply of batteries! It’s my lifeline to humanity.

Thank you very much for your time!

Thank you for letting me share with you. It’s not the easiest ride I’ve ever been on in my life, but it sure is the most fun one!
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