Friday, June 10, 2011

Lights Out by April Smith

April Smith is the author of the critically acclaimed FBI Special Agent Ana Grey novels -- NORTH OF MONTANA (featured in TIME), GOOD MORNING, KILLER (“Critic’s Choice” -- PEOPLE Magazine), JUDAS HORSE (starred reviews, KIRKUS and PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY), and WHITE SHOTGUN, to be published in hardcover June 21, 2011.  She has also written a standalone thriller, BE THE ONE, about the only female baseball scout in the major leagues.  

April is currently working on another Ana Grey novel.  She is published by Alfred A. Knopf and Vintage Crime/Black Lizard.  Her books are also available as e-books.  Visit
April Smith was born and raised in the Bronx, New York.  She graduated from the Bronx High School of Science, Boston University cum laude and With Distinction in English Literature, and Stanford University, from which she holds a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing.  Aside from writing novels, April is a successful television writer/producer, having produced and written for award-winning dramatic series such as CAGNEY AND LACEY and CHICAGO HOPE, mini-series, and movies of the week, including TV adaptations of THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE, TWO, THREE and Anna Quindlen’s BLACK AND BLUE.  Her most recent credit is the Stephen King mini-series, NIGHTMARES AND DREAMSCAPES, for TNT.  She has received three Emmy Award nominations and two Writer’s Guild Award nominations.  For more information, go to

Lights Out
By April Smith

I’m not a writer who gets up in the middle of the night obsessed with an idea.

My novels are hopefully dramatic, but my life is regulated.  I swim or work out in the morning, get to the office, which is two miles from my house, by 10:30 AM, and stay there until 6 or 7 PM. Recently I’d been doing this seven days a week, writing a screenplay on deadline – until the power went out.
It was 6:59 AM on Saturday, just after my nineteen year-old daughter, Emma, microwaved some veggie sausages to take to the barn.  I was going to watch her ride a friend’s Andalusian and we were late. The microwave was dead, so I grabbed some cereal for the car. We don’t get many power outages in Santa Monica, California and we expected this one to be over by the time we got home a few hours later -- but discovered  that my husband’s morning shake was still in the dark refrigerator( unshaken),  and the house was eerily silent without the subliminal hum of appliances.

What to do without electricity?  Fold those clothes we were planning to send to the tornado victims in Joplin, Missouri? I confess: I took a nap and it was glorious.  Emma, too, had fallen asleep with the cat, and we didn’t meet up again until the afternoon when she walked the dog to my office (on a different part of the grid not affected by the outage) with her computer on her back.  I put in my writing hours, and we all rendezvoused back at the house as night was falling.

We cooked by candlelight.  My husband had assembled plates of burrata cheese and tomatoes, but making the rest of dinner was a race against fading daylight.  He hacked out the last of the melted ice cubes to make grapefruit Martinis (ask me for the recipe) and we put out candles, grilled garlic bread on the barbecue (have you noticed it takes a long time to toast bread?) made pesto pasta, and discovered how tricky it is to pour boiling water from an open pot – as opposed to an electric kettle – into a coffee filter.

In the darkness, we recalled other times when the lights went out.  I told  of being maybe ten years old and stranded during the great New York City blackout in the sixties.  From my bedroom window in the Bronx, it looked like the city had disappeared, along with my parents who were somewhere out there.  In the streets, brave grown-ups tried to direct traffic in the midst of terrifying crisscrossing headlights.  We learned that Emma once literally walked into a horse on a pitch black trail.  Meanwhile, the power company had become her new best friend.   She was receiving automated calls on her cell every ten minutes, asking if the lights were back on.  They weren’t.  We left the dishes, went upstairs, read a few pages of The Prospector by J.M. G. Le Clezio by flashlight (appropriate, since the family loses everything in a failed attempt to bring electricity to a primitive island) and were asleep by 9:30 PM. 

Sunday morning at 3 AM, I was woken by the sound of heavy trucks in the alley and men shouting.   Moments later, my bedside light went on.  The darkness was over.  The hum was back.   I went down to the kitchen.  The dog was awake, but smartly went back to sleep.  The gas stove lit automatically, and I and heated up a bowl of lentil soup, knowing I’d want to tell you about it.   I noticed that although we thought we’d blown them all out, one candle was still burning.


Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

April, Welcome!

LOVED your post, thank you for sharing this story with us. And oh my, I covet your pup. WHAT a sweet face that is!

Mason Canyon said...

April, great post. Life without lights does make one stop and ponder things. Your books sound intriguing.

Kaye, thanks for the introduction to a 'new-to-me' author.

Thoughts in Progress
Freelance Editing By Mason

Donna White Glaser said...

Loved this post, April. Thank you. I spend most of my time during blackouts flipping on non-responsive light switches and getting halfway to the computer to check emails before remembering that the electricity is O-U-T! Frequently being in a state of denial works for me, but not in blackouts.