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An Interview with David Bruce Smith

By Kristin Masters. Feb 29, 2012. 5:27 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Rare Book Gift Ideas

Books Tell You Why is proud to introduce David Bruce Smith. He specializes in creating, designing, and writing limited-edition books on a variety of subjects: authors, historic figures, artists, and leaders. You’ll find his books Tennessee: Three Plays by Tennessee Williams and Thirteen Miles from Providence: A Tale of Abraham Lincoln and the Soldiers’ Home featured on our website. David recently sat down with us to discuss his inspiration, working with his mom, and even his thoughts on e-books.

Q:How long have you been creating your own books?

Smith: For over twenty years. I started out in the family real estate business, but all the while I had a magazine, wrote book reviews, and even published several books. After the family business was sold, I was delighted to devote myself fully to writing and publishing.

Q: Why fine press books? Why not more traditional authorship and publishing?

Smith: These books are more works of art. It’s different than just going to the bookstore and buying a paperback. Especially now, these kinds of books are less common. I wanted to create an experience, where someone could actually feel, touch, and learn something about the craft as they read. It’s about so much more than simply creating a book. This is what I think people lose when they go to e-readers—there’s no record of the actual experience. You read, and then you’re done. People are being desensitized to the true experience of reading.

Q: What inspired Three Miles from Providence?

Smith: My parents are involved in the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and I went with them to visit the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois. This was Fall, 2006, and the Lincoln cottage was about to be re-inaugurated. This was where Lincoln wrote the third draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, so it’s an important but little-known landmark. I wanted to create a book to commemorate and publicize this event. Meanwhile it dovetails nicely with the 151st anniversary of the Civil War.

That book really is an experience, especially a tactile experience. I wanted the book itself to look like something a soldier would carry, so I did quite a bit of research on that, too.

Q: What inspired you to create Tennessee?

Smith: Back in 2004, there was a true revival of Tennessee Williams’ works across the country, including here in DC. I approached Michael Kahn, Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theater Company, about collaborating on a new edition of Tennessee’s plays, and he was very supportive. This year would be Tennessee Williams’ 101st birthday, and as Michael says, Tennessee Williams “is the American Shakespeare.”

Q: Your mom, Clarice Smith, illustrated Thirteen Miles from Providence  and Tennessee. Tell us a little about that collaboration.

Smith: We’ve been working together for 20 years, and she’s by far my favorite illustrator to work with. In the beginning, there was a bit of that mother-son dynamic. But now it’s just two people who happen to be mother and son. There really isn’t anybody I’d rather work with.

Q: How has Clarice influenced your work?

Smith: She does a variety of genres, and whatever she paints, draws, whatever, you want to be in that place. Her art has this warmth, and I always try to translate that warmth into my prose. I try to keep the language simple and memorable, without lots of fancy words.

Look for more articles by David soon on our blog! Have questions for him? Post them here or visit him online.

Kristin Masters
Master Content Brain. You think it, she writes it, no good thought remains unposted. Sprinkles pixie dust on Google+, newsletters, blog, facebook, twitter and just about everything else.


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