I’m half Venezuelan and a quarter Hawthorne. Writing is in my blood.
I wrote for magazines and free-lance assignments, from encyclopedias to radio programs from 2001-07. I have authored many unpublished novels and, so far, four (self) published novels, as well as assorted published short stories and articles.
Before my Ph.D program (Political Science, Economics and Anthropology), I tried to write short stories while I was assistant editor of Glass Packer/Processor, a business magazine. I then taught at what became the University of Central Florida. After publishing almost the requisite number of academic articles, I quit full-time academe and taught for years in a college prison program in NY. That’s when I turned to writing novels as well as freelance work. I wrote at least ten novels. Agents and/or publishers seriously considered several of them, and finally I self-published two of them as e-books on Smashwords: Body Destiny and From Renata With Love, a prison novel.
Scrapping the formula: write what you know, I wrote two historical novels. They are: Attila as Told to His Scribes and I, Zerco. These I published on Kindle, after a British agent marketed both of them unsuccessfully for years; he finally retired.
Niggling at the back of my consciousness were stories from my family: both the Venezuelan and Hawthorne branches.
My mother was born on a Venezuelan island off its coast. She was named on ship-board after a Russian princess, raised in Trinidad to age 11, and then she, her brothers and her mother fled Trinidad for New York–but always denied they fled. My maternal grandfather later became the Governor of the Venezuelan state of Falcon; he and his many brothers were mostly high up on the security side of dictator Vicente Gomez’s long-lasting regime.
My paternal grandmother was the granddaughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne and the favored daughter of his son, Julian Hawthorne, a bestselling novelist and convicted fraudulent speculator. Her son, my father, Julian Smyth, was impatient with the whole Hawthorne phenomenon and was a would-be scientist and teacher. My paternal grandfather, Clifford Smyth, was a former consul in Colombia, journalist, writer, novelist and the founder of what became the New York Times Book Review. He and his wife, were Swedenborgians, following a mysticism my father rebelled against. However, Clifford also published a fantasy novel about an American traveler wooing a South American Indian princess. His son, Julian, married a Venezuelan who styled herself a princess, having been named after one.
My parents later set up and ran a small school, where I grew up–as the teachers’ son.
After graduating from college, I joined the Army to avoid the draft (serving just before Vietnam). I was stationed in Turkey and Germany in the Army Security Agency.
After the military, I worked for a business magazine (Glass Packer/Processor), virtually reporting, writing and laying out each issue as Assistant and then Associate Editor. The Editor assigned the themes for each issue, sold ads for it, and arranged ad-related articles for me to write.
At graduate school, I focused on third world politics and development, with a concentration in South Asia. I spent a year (1969-70) in Central India for my dissertation research. Then, I taught at the University of Central Florida, until I decided not to apply for tenure. I returned to the Mid-Hudson region of New York, where I’d grown up.
In 1979, I married Elizabeth, now a published novelist and poet and together we raised a son, a daughter and (part-time) my daughter from a previous marriage. They are all grown now, and I’m well past retirement age.
But still I write. In 2017, I “published” on Amazon and with a private publisher, a novel-memoir of my mother’s childhood in Trinidad, and the mystery surrounding her family’s hurried departure for New York: Princess Olga Uncovering My Headstrong Mother’s Venezuelan Connection.
I am currently working on two novels. One is a fictional retrospective: “What? At High Valley?” The other is post-apocalyptic: “Will We Survive?”