By ARDEN BASTIA What do local news stories have to do with vampires? For local author Raina Smith, it's everything. Smith is the author of four novels, each exploring the universal energy force that connects all life, uncovering the complexities of the
What do local news stories have to do with vampires? For local author Raina Smith, it’s everything.
Smith is the author of four novels, each exploring the universal energy force that connects all life, uncovering the complexities of the human condition.
The Rhode Island native is director of public relations, media relations, communications and government affairs for Care New England. She began her writing career in 2003 as a television news reporter for WPRI Channel 12.
“I loved my job,” she said last Thursday in a presentation to the Warwick Rotary Club. “I got to go out into the state of Rhode Island every day, and interview people. One day I’d be interviewing the Governor at the State House and the next day, I’d be at the Ash Street Jail in Fall River, interviewing a prisoner. Or I’d be at a murder scene, or the scene of a fire. So I really got to get a good feeling about humanity and what we’re all about.”
Smith recalls covering stories on everything from child abuse to political scandals, education to healthcare. Stories, she said, she sometimes found upsetting. “I couldn’t but feel and ask, who are human beings? How did we get to this point? Who is mankind? What have we become?”
It was at this point in her life, Smith says, that she had a vision of the Earth that inspired her first novel, The 13th Apostle, which was released in 2009.
“I had this scene come into my mind. It was the planet Earth, like if you were in outer space, just hanging out there, and you look down at Earth,” she said, comparing it to the perspective of God. “And you saw that mankind was doing to themselves and to each other, to the planet, to animals, environment, everything. I just felt that if there was a creator, he wouldn’t be too happy with where we’re are at with ourselves and how we treat others and the environment.”
Smith said she felt compelled to write the story, even if she didn’t yet know where it was going to lead. One chapter led to another chapter, which led to another, and before she knew it, Smith had written her first novel.
The 13th Apostle, the first book in a trilogy, focuses on the story of Father Joseph, who uncovers a well-guarded secret scroll in the Vatican that reveals disturbing prophecies about the end of days. Father Joseph then embarks on a worldwide journey in a quest to save the soul of mankind, but little does he know, angels from heaven and hell have already descended upon Earth to find the last purest soul. The 13th Apostle asks readers to consider whether mankind in inherently good or evil, and where they fall on that fine line.
But Smith wasn’t writing alone. “I often felt that there was something with me, that I can’t explain or identify, that would help me put my story together. I felt like it would guide me to the right research or just put a word or an idea in my head.”
Smith says a large part of her writing process is listening to, and trusting, her instincts.
Smith also shared one of her “proudest moments”, in regards to The 13th Apostle. “I had just written the book, I put it out, and I launched it on the Rhode Show. And someone wrote to me wanted to thank me for writing The 13th Apostle because of its themes of forgiveness.”
Personal, first-hand experiences serve as inspiration for Smith’s novels. She recalled one story about the power of forgiveness. Many years ago, she encouraged her boyfriend to visit his dying father, despite the fact that her boyfriend and his father were not on speaking terms.
“I encouraged him to go, so we went together. We got there at seven at night, and we each stood on either side of his father, who was lying there in a coma. And my boyfriend told his father everything he thought about him and what a terrible, vile person he was for about 30 minutes. And then for the next 30 minutes, he forgave him, saying ‘Maybe you did the best you could’, and ‘I forgive you, my sister forgives you, my brother forgives you. I want you in peace.’”
Smith then recalls her boyfriend’s father, “opened his eyes, sat up, took a deep breath, looked at the wall, and laid back down and died. All within one hour. It was so powerful.”
Smith turned the serendipitous experience of the power of forgiveness into a scene in her book with the character of Father Joseph. Little did she know just how much of an impact that scene would have on her readers.
“Everyone wants to sell millions and millions of books and make millions and millions of dollars, and that’s great,” said Smith. “But it’s also so rewarding to have a reader write to you and say, I was able to forgive my father, where I couldn’t before I read your book or that chapter. That was a real highlight for me as a writer.”
The other books in Smith’s trilogy include Divine Providence and Thy Kingdom Come, both religious thrillers.
In Divine Providence, Smith drew upon her experiences working in former Secretary of State Ralph Mollis’ office. For this novel, Smith says she really dove into the history of Rhode Island and the history of the State House, which she “really, really loved.”
In Thy Kingdom Come, Smith chose to set the novel in Hell. “But it’s not fire and brimstone, people being tortured, it’s nothing like that,” she said. “Actually, it’s quite beautiful and thrilling to be there, but there’s a sinister reason why.”
Smith’s latest novel, The Vampire, which was published in 2018, is set in Newport and follows the story of Rex, one of the world’s most rare and most powerful vampires. A tortured soul, he lives among unsuspecting mortals and roams Rhode Island’s historic locations, tracking down some of the state’s most detestable human beings to rid the area of those he considers contemptible. Unlike his cold-blooded brethren, Rex is also a lover of the natural world and the arts, and even has the capacity to fall in love with a beautiful woman. Smith uses Rex to convey the complexities of the human experience. While her work is fiction, Smith says she “may have drawn from some people I don’t like in Rhode Island.”
While her books have yet to be turned into films, Smith can already imagine her stories playing out on the big screen.
“I always imagined Mads Mikkelsen from the NBC show Hannibal as the vampire,” said Smith, laughing.
Smith is not only the author of four novels, but her own literary agent and publisher.
When getting ready to publish The 13th Apostle, Smith said she grew “frustrated” at how difficult it was to find someone to represent her to the larger publishing houses.
“I thought my work was good enough, I know it was. So I did it all myself,” said Smith. “I had to research how to convert files so that I could sell it on Amazon paperback, Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble. I had my cousin design the book covers, so that was easy and cheap. And I built my own website, and registered the domain name.”
Smith even wrote her own press releases to get her work noticed. The promoting process, she said, “is a lot harder than writing.”
“But if you love your child, if you truly love your child, you’ll do anything for it. So I don’t have children, but this is my child, and I will do anything to get it where I feel it belongs,” she said.
While nothing has been released yet, Smith does have a new novel in the works. This one, set in Rhode Island, involves extraterrestrial life forces, a concept Smith is “excited” to work on.
“Writing for me is my greatest passion. It’s what I’m most proud of personally and professionally,” she said. “We all have to work for a living and I love my job at Care New England, but if I could do anything, my dream life would be staying home every day just writing novels.”
Smith’s books can be found on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, and at www.rainasmith.com.