Frank O. Smith and the Railroad Tramp

Author recalls some key guidance from Lonesome Walt

DreamSingerCoverJournalists sometimes get grief for asking an actor what drew them to a role, or querying an author about the inspiration for a book.

But you know what? Every once in a while, that generic set-up produces a spectacular payoff. From the top of a Q&A by South Maine weekly newspaper reporter Kate Irish Collins with locally based author Frank O. Smith.

Q: What gave you the idea for Dream Singer and what is it about?

A: I wrote two freelance magazine feature stories about riding freight trains. The first was about crossing the continent by train. The second was about riding freights in the Pacific Northwest where I met a tramp who was a Modoc Indian. I traveled with him for two weeks. He told me a story about a murder in a rail yard, which became the seed for Dream Singer. But it was the tramp, whose rail name was Lonesome Walt, who became the real inspiration for the book…

Smith spoke with Collins on the heels of Dream Singer being named a “Notable Book of the Year” by respected independent book review magazine Shelf Unbound and being in the running for the latest Bellwether Prize. The author and Maine College of Art professor tells Collins he has four-five other novels in “the drawer” and has been deciding at the beginning of this new year which one to get back to work on.

Smith’s answer to Collins’ second question, relating to how long it took him to write the book, is equally memorable. Read the full Q&A here.

[Jacket cover courtesy: Artisan Island Press]