DHS grad Smith publishes first novel

Ever since he read “Witch of Blackbird Pond” back in seventh grade at U.S. Jones, Jason Smith has been fascinated by the Salem witch trials.

His interest has resulted in the publication of his first novel, a young-adult thriller set in modern-day Salem, but with ties to its grim past. “Awakening: The Book Rock Prophecy” promises to bring readers mystery, action, love and tragedy.

Its abrupt ending has Smith hoping people will be eager for the second book in the series.

Smith will hold a book-signing at the Demopolis Public Library from 5-6 p.m. on Friday, May 8.

“The Blood Rock Prophecy” is being published by Mascot Books, a small publisher in Virginia.

While this is his first novel, Smith wrote and self-published a book of poetry in Spanish in 2013. He teaches French and Spanish in Atlanta.

The son of Chuck Smith and the late Carolyn Smith, the new author said he always had a lot of ideas, but the unexpected death of his mother in 2012 “provided the spark” that pushed him to write.

“You’re not promised another day,” he said.

Smith borrowed several themes from his own life that found their way into his book. He is adopted, and adoption plays a role in the story.

On one of his visits to his son, Chuck Smith brought Jason a box of keepsakes his mother had stored since he was a child in Wee School. He discovered in that box that he had been writing from an early age and remembered that writing had “always been a passion for me. Writing has always been my way to express myself.”

Smith began the novel about 1 ½ years ago. “It all just started flowing and coming out,” although he admits there were days when he stared at a blank screen.

The story is peopled with many different characters, but each of them “has some part of me.”

His friend and editor, Jennifer Bradford, told him, “I can see you in every character, but every character is unique and different.”

Smith called on people whose views he respected to read the book as he wrote it, some of whom were very harsh critics. Smith calls himself a perfectionist, but he has come to realize that things aren’t going to be perfect.

He tags two of his favorite quotes at the end of his emails that sum up his philosophy. The first, from Eleanor Roosevelt, is “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

The second, from the French philosopher Voltaire, when translated reads, “Doubt may be troubling but absolute certainty is absurd.”

“Awakening” centers around two cousins and best friends, Addy and Ethan, who are about to start their senior year in high school. They descend from families that were among the first to settle in the area, but as the story unfolds, the cousins discover what they thought was the truth about their families is anything but. Their ancestry includes witches and Native Americans, and the two teens learn they, too, have powers.

The murder of twin boys is the catalyst for the story. Fleeing the villain who is “hellbent” on taking their powers, the two escape – with their high school principal – to the White Mountains of New Hampshire where they meet new friends, but the story ends abruptly, said Smith. It sets the stage for the second of at least three books he plans for the series, which he is writing now. “I have an end point I want to reach.”

“Unfortunately everyone who was there at the beginning of the story is not there at the end. All my characters serve a very important purpose,” he said, but added, “it is tough to get rid of characters who have served their purpose.”

A 1996 graduate of Demopolis High School, Smith earned undergraduate degrees from Auburn in marketing and French. He received his master’s degree in Spanish from Auburn in 2005 and now is working on his master’s in French, studying at New York University and Paris. He plans to complete his studies in the summer of 2016.

“Awakening” is 281 pages long. It retails for $19.95 retail, but at the book signing on May 8, patrons can purchase it for $15.95.