One career path is typically enough for most people, but Raina Smith is on her third.
Smith is a former broadcast journalist at WPRI-TV, ABC-6 News, and co-host on WPRO radio. She was the Director of Communications for former Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis and is currently the Director of Communications for the minority party of the Rhode Island House of Representatives. Somehow, she’s also found the time to write two novels.
Divine Providence, the second in a trilogy, grapples with themes of good versus evil, religion and spirituality, and the status of mankind. So far, readers love it as much as they did her first book, The 13th Apostle. Dr. Patrick T. Conley, Historian Laureate of Rhode Island, called it a “fast-paced,” “intriguing blend of skillfully woven history, geography, theology, legend, and fantasy.”
The page-turning quality of Smith’s books comes from her own need to be entertained, she said. Just speaking with her about her work is indeed entertaining, and considering the life she has led, it isn’t difficult to understand why.
Smith, a native of North Scituate and current Cranston resident, was inspired to capture her experiences in creative form after years of documenting facts as a reporter. She combined a vast array of influences from memories of working on a family farm in Johnston to things she saw during her broadcast career; sometimes she’d cover stories about people working to better Rhode Island and then find herself at a murder scene soon after. The contrast got her thinking about her own ideas on God, human nature, and what makes people take certain actions.
"I'm interested in who people really are and where they come from," she said.
Since she has so many concepts to juggle, Smith never forces herself to create - she didn't write for a year at one point, and it took her four and a half years to complete Divine Providence. She admitted she’d sometimes worry the long wait would disappoint eager readers.
"When people asked when the next book was coming, I started to think 'what if I can't finish it this time?'" she said.
Thankfully though, patience is a virtue of Smith’s. She knew she needed time, especially when it came to extensive research. While the book has scenes in familiar Rhode Island locations like the State House and public library, other portions ventured to places Smith has never visited, like Scotland. This had her researching everything about these locations from geography to native birds and trees. Plus, she said, her work will only be good if she is “in the mood” to write. When she is, she shacks up in a pair of sweatpants and lets her ideas flow as they come.
Occasionally, said ideas wake her up in the middle of the night. She leaves herself voice memos during these moments of spontaneity, but also has plenty else planned. Some of her characters are inspired by people she knows, including her mentor and friend Glenn Laxton (she dedicated Divine Providence to the late Rhode Island broadcaster’s memory) and former boss Secretary Mollis. Writing acquaintances into a book might seem awkward for some, but Smith wasn’t bothered.
"It's a compliment! I think they were honored to be a part of it," she said. "Nobody dies a violent death or anything," she added with a laugh.
Smith says she's going to take some time off before writing the third installment in the trilogy, but already knows what the first and final chapters will entail. Eventually, she’d love for her work to be made into a movie and has some ideas about casting - she's a fan of Hannibal's Mads Mikkelsen and House of Cards' Kevin Spacey. But in the meantime, she'll continue promoting Divine Providence and making connections that could inspire her next story. She strives to keep writing stories that are reflective of her own interests, something she thinks is important for young writers to do.
"Be true to yourself. You might start wondering what people will think of you or worrying about making a mistake, but you just have to plow through it all," she said. "You are a gift to the world and you are unique. Everyone has their own stories to tell."
Divine Providence is available to purchase on Amazon. Readers can meet Smith and hear her read a chapter from the book at a book signing on Oct. 15 at 2 p.m. at the Cranston Public Library.