Sarah Smith is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet online. I reckon I’ve seen her get everyone’s back, unabashedly vocal and supportive whenever some 280-character ridiculousness takes aim at someone she cares about.
We started chatting a couple years ago, first one one social platform, then another, then another. A few chunky emails later, this disembodied source of text shaped like a half-Filipina has become someone I’m proud to call a friend (even though we haven’t met IRL yet and I’m still not sure where society stands on people being “internet friends”).
Anyway, I’m double proud today, because Sarah’s hot new interracial office romance, Faker, is finally out. While I await my paperback copy arriving in the mail, I thought I’d tell you all about it—or better yet, ask Ms. Smith herself, to do the talking.
Interview with Sarah Smith, author of Faker
JL: Your debut novel, Faker, has just hit the shelves. Tell us a bit about it.
SARAH SMITH: Thank you so much for having me! Faker is a multi-cultural romcom about a half-Filipino woman fighting to establish herself in the power tool industry all the while trying to fight her attraction to a coworker. It’s a hate-to-love romance with loads of banter, steam, and slowburn. And a happily ever after, of course.
JL: Before Faker, you released quite a few titles on your blog and on other platforms. Tell us a bit about them too!
SARAH: I started my romance short story and flashfic blog sarahwritessmut.wordpress.com while I was trying to break into publishing. The stories are steamy romances that explore all those fun romance tropes: office romance, forced proximity, age gap, opposites attract, FWB-to-love. Writing these stories was a fun way to build a readership while developing my writing skills. And it’s also important to me to maintain a platform where I can share my writing for free. Buying books can be expensive and I know not everyone can afford it. Writing a short story or series or flashfic and positing it to my blog periodically is a way I can get my writing to as many people as possible without cost being an issue.
The short stories and flashfic I write are always steamy, there is always an endearing and relatable main character, and there is always a sweet and super hot love interest. And of course, there is always a happy ending.
JL: What themes would you say all your stories have in common? What’s the philosophy that drives what you write?
SARAH: One theme I like to put into my writing is the main character finding strength within herself, in addition to finding love. I think a lot of times people put down romance because they think it’s very one dimensional or sexist, but all of the romance that I love to read–and write–is full of depth and compelling character development. It’s important to me that the main character has built the confidence to stand on her own by the end of the book; she chooses to be with love interest because he’s made himself worthy of her, he’s recognized her as an independent person, and he brings something extra to her life–he doesn’t complete her. Consent and prioritizing female pleasure are also themes I try to drive home.
The philosophy that drives me to write is just that it’s my passion. I like writing more than I like doing just about anything else in the world. I’ll write as long as I’m happy doing it.
JL: What qualities do you like in a love interest, and which of your characters do you reckon comes the closest?
SARAH: Oh good question! First of all, loyalty. A guy who is loyal to you, who will stand up for you when everyone else is against you, be supportive of you, and never question his feelings for you is the absolute hottest thing in the world. Yes, muscles and a sexy smile and all that are fun, but if you don’t have that emotional loyalty, it’s not going to work for me. Also, I adore love interests who are kind. It sounds so simple, but it’s SO DAMN HOT. Like, a guy making you tea in the morning or remembering your favorite condiment when ordering takeout, that stuff. It’s the little things, but they matter so much because they show thoughtfulness.
I have to admit that I wrote Tate, the love interest from Faker, with every intention of making him this fiercely loyal, protective, and kind love interest for the main character Emmie. I loaded up the book with instances of him doing sweet and kind gestures. A lot of them are quiet and unassuming (he’s not really a grand gesture kind of guy), but I hope it makes readers swoon. I don’t want to give anything away to people who haven’t read the book, but a lot of his gestures are food-related and that’s just downright swoonworthy to me!
JL: What inspired the story in Faker? How did you go about researching some of Emmie’s experiences?
SARAH: A bunch of random stuff inspired Faker. I’m a hate-to-love romance super fan and was reading a ton of that genre at the time. I felt inspired to write my own take on that trope. Also, I worked at a power tool distributor for most of my twenties so it was easy to use that as a work setting. It was the least sexy place imaginable (gravel, dust, and cement everywhere…every male employee looked like my grandpa), but I thought it would be unique. I thought it would in a way serve as a fun juxtaposition to the steamy content. Like, “how can such a sexy romance spring from such an unsexy place? Well, read my book and I’ll show you how.” That sort of idea.
As far as Emmie’s experiences go, I took a lot of that from my own life. She’s half-Filipino and half-white, just like I am. She had moments where she struggled with finding her identity growing up, which I modeled after my own. There are a few hurtful memories from childhood that she talks about when she opens to up Tate, and a lot of that is based on what I went through as a kid. And there’s an instance of work place harassment too, and that was also something I took from my past work experiences as a woman in a male-dominated field.
JL: What did you do before choosing a career as an author? Have you ever had to “fake it” for work?
SARAH: Lots of random writing jobs! My longest job was that content writing job at the power tool distributor. Before that I worked in marketing and public relations, which I hated. I was a freelance copywriter for a while too. I also worked at a newspaper for a while. That also wasn’t my cup of tea.
I have absolutely had to “fake it” for work. You know when your boss asks you to take on extra work, and you have to just smile and nod okay? Or you have to work on a project with a coworker you don’t like? Or someone asks how your day is going and it’s a complete dumpster fire, but you can’t say that because professionalism, so you just say, “Oh you know, it’s going!” I have faked it through all of those scenarios and then some, as I’m sure everyone has!
JL: What’s the best feedback you’ve had about your work, and what effect did it have on you?
SARAH: A few people have reached out to me after reading Faker to tell me how much it means to see the main character Emmie share their same racial background, and that they can relate to her experience growing up. Seeing minority main characters is a big deal when you’re a minority and you’ve spent your life reading books, but none of the characters look like you or grew up like you did. It means so much–like, so much that it’s hard to put into words right now–that people have told me they can see themselves in a character I’ve written. And it makes me want to keep writing characters that will make these readers feel seen and represented.
JL: Given what the world is like these days, has anything you’ve written given you pause? Why did you decide to write it anyway?
SARAH: A bit. I think when you’re writing minority characters, even from a minority POV, people can be really critical of how you represent that experience. Sometimes people don’t agree with the way you depict it or they think you could have done a better job of it. I’m Filipino and white, so I’m constantly second-guessing myself, always wondering if I’m being enough of both or too much of either. It can cause a lot of stress for me honestly.
But I’ve finally realized that my writing comes from my experience, and my experience–no matter what it is–is valid, just like everyone else’s. If people don’t like it or don’t enjoy reading about it, that’s okay. They don’t have to. But I decided a while ago that I’m going to write what’s true to me, and that’s the best I can do.
JL: Do you have any parting words for readers?
SARAH: Yes! If you feel so inclined, please read Faker. If free stories are more your thing, check out my blog sarahwritessmut.wordpress.com. Also, thank you! It means so much that anyone would even want to read my words!
Faker by Sarah Smith, published by Berkley, is available pretty much everywhere you can get a good book 🐛
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