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Maggie Smith

Novelist, Podcaster

Debut novel Truth and Other Lies

Out now

Follow Maggie on Instagram @maggiesmithwrites

Eleanor Ray: Features

I’ve had various careers through the years, including journalist, teacher, psychologist, and business owner, but it looks like writer is where I’ve wound up. I’m also a podcaster (Hear Us Roar, 128+ episodes) and managing editor of an on-line literary magazine.

My debut novel, Truth and Other Lies is the story of Megan Barnes, a reporter looking to reboot her career after being fired for trusting a source she shouldn’t have. But at its heart, it’s about a young woman on the cusp of adulthood searching for who she wants to become and the two older women who serve as possible role models for her—a Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist whose reputation is threatened when an accusation against her surfaces on Twitter, and a neophyte politician tapped to run for Congress based on her visibility as a pro-choice activist. The first is Megan’s boss; the second is her mother. As she searches for the internet troll, she realizes the scoop of her career could destroy the two women she loves most.

I’m a full-time writer living in the midwestern United States in a pocket of land called Wisconsin. Turns out we’re pretty well isolated from rising sea levels, devastating brush fires, and deadly tornados. About all we have to contend with are cold and snow but with global warming, that’s becoming less of an issue. 

Tell us about yourself?

Are you working on something now? Can you tell us about it?

My next book falls into the domestic suspense genre. It’s about an ambitious district attorney searching for the stalker who’s harassing herself and her teenage daughter only to wind up arrested for murder when he turns up dead. I’d love to have a publisher waiting impatiently for me to give them pages because I work best on deadline but alas, any pressure to produce has to come from me. Which exposes one of my worst traits—procrastination. The last six months I’ve had a ready excuse because I’m busy marketing my debut. After that, it will be butt in the chair to finish my first draft.

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Which six books will you take to the Island?

I debated whether to pack the equivalent of comfort reads (books I’ve read and loved and know I would enjoy again) or to tackle new narratives that might be more of a crap-shoot. So I compromised and took a bit of both.

Eleanor Ray: Text

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell.

I discovered this book three years ago when an entire table of writer friends voted it “the best book no one ever heard of.” Released in 1996, we’ve blown past 2019, the year it’s set, but the story of an 8-person crew organized by the Jesuits and sent to explore a distant planet is timeless in its examination of what it means to be human, the effects one civilization can wreck on another, and the meaning of faith.

Eleanor Ray: About
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The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

This is one I haven’t read though I’ve started it half a dozen times and never made it past page fifty. Maybe it’s the feeling I should read it that’s turned me off. Maybe it’s the 560 pages. But I love a good mystery/morality play and this novel, which takes place in snowy New England and which started the whole dark academia trend, seems a good choice for passing the time.


The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai.

This Pulitzer Prize finalist from 2018 is as close to the Great American Novel as we’re likely to get in my lifetime. So heartfelt, so nuanced, so well-written with both lyrical passages that break your heart, historical context that helped me better understand the 1980's and the AIDS crisis in America, a love letter to the great cities of Chicago and Paris, and a bunch of true-to-life human beings it was my great honor to spend time with a few years ago and who I’d love to see again. 


I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being A Woman by Nora Ephron.

Something tells me I’ll have some down days as I wander my island with not much to do and no one to talk to. So I’m bringing this short, punchy set of essays to lighten my mood when I need it and so I don’t forget how to laugh.

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The Lord of the Rings Book #1: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien.

I first read this in my early tweens and can still remember being swept away by the story of Frodo Baggins, humble Hobbit, and his perilous journey across Middle Earth to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord. After a while on a deserted island, retreating into a rich, layered fantasy might be a welcome change of pace.

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A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.

And speaking earlier of big books, this one clocks in at 550 pages, too. But boy, does every one of those pages deliver. It’s packed full of factoids about, well, everything—from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization. I wasn’t a fan of science in school, but this fascinating glimpse into how we got to where we are today is endlessly fascinating, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, and totally immersive. Something tells me being all alone on a desert island is going to dredge up soul-searching questions and this book just might give me some answers.

Which disc will you take to the Island?

Linda Ronstadt’s “When Will I Be Loved”, one of the tracks on her ground-breaking fifth studio album Heart Like a Wheel, released in 1975. This was the song I remember singing over and over again to myself the first time someone broke my heart. Ah, to be that naïve again. That vulnerable. That young.

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What will be your luxury item?
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A high-powered telescope. Because of all the lights from our cities, there’s hardly a place on earth where a layman can look at the stars and see more than a tenth of the total. But on a desert island, away from all of civilization, the night sky should be brilliant. What better use of my time than to gaze up at the universe and ponder the deep questions of existence? Plus I think imagining all the other entities that no doubt exist out in the vast galaxies would put my isolation in perspective and bring me peace.

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Which fictional character will you meet? 
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James Bond. What fascinating tales that guy could tell. Plus I’m not sure how hard people would be looking for me, but I know there’d be a bunch of people on both sides looking for him, so rescue would definitely be more likely. And hey, in the meantime? I’m stuck on a small island with someone who looks like Sean Connery. Or better yet, Daniel Craig.

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Thank You Maggie

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