Monday, April 15, 2013

Niki Smart, author of Hell Camp

Author Bio:
I work at a Crisis Intervention youth shelter (have done for 14 years), dealing with severely emotionally disturbed teenagers – once you’ve read “Hell Camp”, you’ll understand why I’m so drawn to this work. I also get to teach them yoga, which I love doing.

Additionally, I write for a local paper in Laguna Beach, CA (where I live), doing reviews on local events and happenings. And I was a musician for many years and still play out every now and then, but mainly perform songs in Sanskrit (weird, I know :)

Title: Hell Camp
Author: Niki Smart
ISBN: 978-0-9856166-0-1
Page count: 288
Genre: Memoir
Price: $15

Tell us about your book:
Hell Camp is a fast-paced, slap-you-in-the-face journey through a bizarre childhood with a crazy mother. A mother who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. A mother, who crashes cars, beats up the maid, extinguishes cigarettes on her arms, sleeps with the neighborhood, attempts suicide and eventually kidnaps the author’s toddler.

And all this takes place within the violent upheaval of the “end of Apartheid” era in South Africa. “Hell Camp” is laugh-out loud funny and heartbreakingly sad – a tragicomedy of momentous proportions. A story of love, determination, betrayal, violence, sex, abuse and utter madness – ultimately ending in forgiveness and healing.

How long did it take to write the book?
Four years

What inspired you to write the book?
My inner demons.

Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?
I prefer writing at a coffee shop to writing at home - the hubbub helps me feel less isolated, plus I enjoy the caffeine kick-start. I write almost every day for at least an hour - usually more - and can sit for up to 5 hours deeply immersed without noticing the time fly by. For research I used my old journals that I've been writing in since I was 13 years old. These proved invaluable in helping me to flesh out my story.

What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
“Hell Camp” deals with a lot of abuse and violence, steering through the chaos to end with healing and forgiveness. Therefore I hope “Hell Camp” is cathartic for readers. I’ve received amazing emails from readers, which fill me with profound gratitude. One man said he went home for Thanksgiving for the first time in 25 years after reading Hell Camp - and that completely warms my heart.

Excerpt from book:
Three sheets (or possibly four or five) to the wind, I sailed triumphant. Drunk me trumped sober me in every arena – the most important factor emerging as: drunk, I held no fear. Having adults probe my insides (in more ways than one), I was constantly worried. What if people found out I was bad? What if they thought me disagreeable? What if they deemed me worthless? Adding to my anxiety were my mother’s constant warnings of my imminent death.
“You do know black terrorists are coming in the middle of the night to slit our throats,” she would calmly remind me.
Seriously? Do you have to keep telling me that?
I don’t think she meant to scare me or my siblings with her doomsday premonitions; it’s just that death was a thing of hers. Her world loomed dark and dangerous, a volatile place where nothing good ever happened; and I? I was the nervous outcome of my mother’s doom and gloom…and womb (apologies - I simply had to add that).
Overflowing with unplumbed fears and blighted with the occasional full-blown panic attack, I suffered from fear of elevators, crossing streets, heights, flying, roller coasters, airplanes, darkness, big dogs, sheep (all cattle really – it’s the unblinking eyes) and general anesthetic.
I envy people who can sky dive and horse ride, hang glide and parasail. Luckies!
I trust you can understand how the drinking helped to mollify my nerves. Indeed it filled my tank with eye-blistering Dutch courage. I could face anything drunk. Give me enough wine and I braved to invincible. Give me enough vodka and I bolstered to unbeatable. Give me enough Jägermeister and I blanked to unemotional. Give me enough alcohol and my throat beefed up to solidly un-slit-able.

Where can we go to buy your book?
“Hell Camp” is available at B&N and Amazon as an ebook, or you can order it at most bookstores, as it is part of the Ingram's catalog. Here is a link to places where they already have copies

Any other links or info you'd like to share?

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