Talking Shop with YA Romance Author Tiana Smith

Young adult literature is what made me want to be an author.

A copy of The Truth About Forever given to me by a friend introduced me to a genre teeming with swoon-worthy stories, loveable characters, and relatable lessons. Every time I open a YA book, I find myself diving back into the emotions of adolescence, getting lost in a world that feels new, while at the same time, seeming familiar. I love that space. Sure, I’m no longer seventeen, but reading YA novels are some of my favorite experiences. They bring me back to memories of youth, joy, and escapism. They remind me of how my favorite YA literature made a younger me feel understood, navigate those magical and (sometimes) miserable times, and build relationships and personal identity.

Earlier this year, I got the chance to meet YA romance author Tiana Smith. And long story short….I want to be her BFF. Her debut novel, Match Me If You Can, is a YA treat that I gobbled up during a long naptime, enjoying every page with ravenous consumption. Tiana crafts an irresistible story with engaging characters and a charming romance. Am I counting down the days until her next novel (which she described as a You’ve Got Mail-esque story) How to Speak Boy is released in January 2020? YES.

On this week’s Talking Shop, she chats with us about and why she likes deadlines, how she battles insecurities in her field, and why She’s the Man is one of the best rom-coms ever. (No arguments there!) Everyone, it’s time to fall in love with Tiana Smith. Let’s meet her!

About You:

How did your writing career begin?

Match Me If You Can was my first book published but was actually the fourth book I wrote. I’ve known I wanted to be an author for as long as I could remember, but I didn’t seriously start pursuing it as a career path until after I graduated from college. I wrote my first book during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, where you write an entire book in just one month, which is as intense as it sounds). After that, I was hooked, and I kept writing to find my voice and get more practice. It was a long process, but there’s nothing quite like the feeling of holding your book in your hands for the first time.

Tiana Smith signing a copy of her book in a bookstore

What got you interested in YA romance?

I like to write the kind of books I like to read. So, I get my inspiration from books I’ve loved, movies I re-watch again and again, and just life in general. YA romance is my favorite because there are so many emotions to process, so many opportunities for misunderstandings, and so much room for growth. 

What was the process of getting a book published like for you?

My journey definitely took a few twists and turns over the years. As I mentioned, Match Me If You Can was the fourth book I wrote. So that took a while. Then I tried querying to get an agent, which was brutal. I eventually got an offer from a small press, and at the same time I received an offer from an agent. I signed with the agent and turned down the small press. But then things didn’t work out with that agent. She left the industry, and I was back where I’d started. Around that same time, I heard about Swoon Reads, an imprint of Macmillan. It’s a traditional big five publisher that accepted non-agented submissions and I decided it couldn’t hurt to try. Things moved very quickly after that, because one month after I submitted my book, they made an offer. I now have a great publisher and a great agent, and the rest, as they say, is history.

copies of "Match Me If You Can"

Do any of your own adolescent experiences make it into your books?

I can’t think of a specific incident that has made it into my books (yet!) but my books are heavily inspired by my teenage years. The angst, the emotional roller coaster ride of dating, and the struggle to balance friends, family, and relationships—those are all things I dealt with and try to keep realistic in my writing. 

A copy of "Match Me If You Can" on a bed with hot chocolate

How do you balance writing with other areas of your life?

I’m lucky that I get to write full time. It definitely helps that I don’t have to juggle an additional day job on top of writing. I have a son who’s old enough to be in school full time, so that’s typically when I do my writing. (As much as I love summer, I don’t get a lot done!) I try to keep my writing time scheduled during the day, but any time I have a deadline or an event I have to attend, my family is always super supportive and helpful. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without them. 

Tiana Smith family photo

What are the biggest challenges in your writing career?

I think the biggest challenges I face are my own insecurities. It’s so easy to compare yourself to others and wonder if you should be doing more or should be farther along on your publishing path. Every once in a while, I take social media breaks and that really helps me find balance. Publishing is so subjective that it’s important to remember you’re doing the best you can and that’s all that matters. 

Tiana Smith signing a copy of her book

What inspires you? How do you fuel your creativity?

I feel inspired by everything around me. My friends, family, things I watch or read, and what’s going on in the world—all of that impacts my writing. That’s what fuels the ideas. But when I’m actually sitting down to write, I have to listen to music (usually something without words) so that I can really get in the zone. I also do well with deadlines. If I feel that pressure to get something done quickly, I’m more likely to buckle down and do it. 

Human pyramid in front of a book mural

You have another book coming out next year (!!!) How was writing your second book different from the first?

Very different! With my first book, I had to edit so much of my manuscript. But with my second book, my editor already approved my synopsis so I was writing it already knowing the direction it should take. That definitely helped because I was able to write it in a much shorter time and the edits weren’t nearly as painful. The final version of Match Me If You Can is very different than the original manuscript, while the final version of How To Speak Boy is closer to that original draft. Plus, I’d learned so much from editing my first book and I was able to apply that knowledge to my second book. 

Stack of "How to Speak Boy" by Tiana Smith on a table with flowers

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Just keep trying! Writing is hard, and there are a lot of obstacles in your way if you want to get published. Every author has faced rejection. But once they faced that rejection (multiple times, usually), they kept going.

The Fun Qs:

What makes you laugh?

My husband. He’s my best friend and the best person I know. The reason I write love stories is because he’s made me believe in them. I think it’s really important to have humor in a relationship because you need to be able to laugh at the little stuff. I also love romantic comedies (if that’s not obvious) because I love the humor in them. 

What is your favorite rom-com?

She’s the Man! It’s actually what partly inspired Match Me If You Can and is one of the funniest movies of all time.

What song is currently stuck in your head?

I’ve been listening to a lot to The Vamps lately, so let’s go with “Somebody To You” because that’s been on repeat a lot. 

What is your favorite meal?

Uh, this is really tricky to answer, because the truth is that I just like food. All of it. ☺ Pastries and baked goods are my weakness, but if I had to choose a favorite main meal, I’d probably say the apple dumpling. It’s basically apple pie for dinner, but it’s allowed because we call them dumplings. (I wasn’t lying when I said I liked pastries).

What is your favorite out-of-office activity?

I’d say reading, but I think you’d probably call that cheating since I’m a writer. I also like going to the gym…most of the time. Some days, not so much. 

Author photo of Tiana Smith

Ready to swoon over Tiana Smith’s literary rom-coms? Check out “Match Me If You Can” here and preorder “How to Speak Boy” here. Follow Tiana on Twitter, Instagram, and subscribe to her newsletter to keep up-to-date with all her happenings. Visit her website here.

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