Hillary Smith poses with her labor of love, “Nebraska Tea,” available as an e-book. She and her father Henry designed the cover. Photo by Patricia Morrison Coate
You won’t see teens Hillary Smith and her best friend Rebecca Lorenton hanging out — and it’s not because Rebecca lives in Nebraska. And even though they’ve been inseparable for the past five years, Hillary said she was glad to see Rebecca go — to the world of e-books.
Smith, 17, and a senior at Sequim High School, has been working on her novel “Nebraska Tea” since she was 12 and created the character of Rebecca as a small-town girl from the Midwest who has adventures in London, England.
“Over Christmas 2006, my family went to London and it was awesome. It seemed like a really cool story line to have a character do what I did,” Smith said. “’Write what you know’ is the first rule in writing. I chose Nebraska because I’d just finished a state report on Nebraska for school.”
The novel’s teaser reads, “An impromptu London holiday launches one teenage girl out of her ordinary, small-town life and into an exhilarating cross-cultural journey in which she discovers beauty, love, heartbreak, danger … and ultimately … herself.” After querying literary agents and receiving electronic rejection slips, Smith researched self-publishing and realized an e-book format was the perfect avenue for her novel. It’s available for download now on Amazon and Smashwords, with other e-publishers pending approval.
“I had her be in the seventh grade because I was but I kept making her older because what I knew changed over the years. I decided her being 16 and a sophomore was a good age, not too old but not too young,” Smith said. “The first part of the book is about her living in her small town and being insecure. She’s a big worrier and there are mean girls and a boy she likes. She has a friend whose parents are always fighting, so there was the dysfunctional family part. The second part is in London — she meets a really cool boy on the plane — and I reveal an international plot bit by bit, with the climax at St. Paul’s Cathedral. It’s about her growing as a person. She realizes she’s not so insecure and has found a part of herself she didn’t think was there.”
Smith said she patterned much of Rebecca’s teenage angst on her own, clarifying though she’s been much more happy and secure in her own life in Sequim than her alter ego.
“In writing her, I was exploring myself, too, and I felt myself getting close to her. As I made her grow, I felt myself growing as a person. I think that’s kind of the bottom line,” Smith said.
As an honor student, a varsity tennis player and saxophonist with the high school bands, Stardust Big Band and Sequim City Band, and a seasonal employee at Olympic Lavender Farm, Smith only has had time to write her novel during the summers.
“When I finished it, I felt really good. There definitely were points when I felt I was slogging through chapters but I stuck with it and I’m really glad I stuck with it,” Smith said. “It’s kind of a sentimental thing for me. I want people to read it and enjoy it because I’ve worked so hard and I’ve always have had the dream to be a published author.”
The teen gives much credit to her father, Henry Smith, who served as editor, proofreader and “everything else manager.” The duo also designed the e-book cover with family photos from the London trip.
“I don’t think I could have tackled this without him — he’s been awesome!” Their family also includes her mother, Betsy Smith, and older sister Heather.
One day she visualizes “Hillary R. Smith” on the dust jacket of a hardcover novel and as for returning to London, she brightened considerably, declaring, “Yes I will! I would love to live there!”