Q&A with Ian K. Smith, Author of The Unspoken

by Heather Caliendo
ian k. smith author interview - book club chat
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Ian K. Smith is the author of The Unspoken, which is the launch of a new series featuring Chicago private investigator Ashe Cayne.

New York Times bestselling author, television personality and physician Ian K. Smith is one of America’s favorite and most trusted health and medical experts, appearing regularly on national broadcasts to share his expert advice. He is currently the solo host of the nationally-syndicated, Emmy award-winning television show, “The Doctors” and a longtime medical contributor to Emmy award-winning The Rachael Ray Show.

He’s also a storyteller! His critically acclaimed crime novels—The Ancient Nine and The Blackbird Papers, which was a BCALA (Black Caucus American Library Association) fiction Honor Book Award winner

Here’s the synopsis for his new thriller:

Former Chicago detective Ashe Cayne is desperate for redemption. After refusing to participate in a police department cover-up involving the death of a young black man, Cayne is pushed out of the force. But he won’t sit quietly on the sidelines: he’s compelled to fight for justice as a private investigator…even if it means putting himself in jeopardy.

When a young woman, Tinsley Gerrigan, goes missing, her wealthy parents from the North Shore hire Cayne to find her. As Cayne looks into her life and past, he uncovers secrets Tinsley’s been hiding from her family. Cayne fears he may never find Tinsley alive.

His worries spike when Tinsley’s boyfriend is found dead—another black man murdered on the tough Chicago streets. Cayne must navigate his complicated relationships within the Chicago PD, leveraging his contacts and police skills to find the missing young woman, see justice done, and earn his redemption.

He’s also a storyteller! His critically acclaimed crime novels—The Ancient Nine and The Blackbird Papers, which was a BCALA (Black Caucus American Library Association) fiction Honor Book Award winnerHere’s the synopsis for his new thriller, The Unspoken.

Get to know Ian more with the below Q&A where he talks favorite novels, balancing his medical career with writing fiction, writing inspirations and much more!

What are some of your favorite novels?

A Separate Peace by John Knowles; The Firm by John Grisham; Standing at the Scratch Line by Guy Johnson; An Inconvenient Woman by Dominick Dunne; Black Betty by Walter Mosley and The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell.

When did you know you wanted to become an author?

I’ve always been a lover of books and stories. I remember winning the MS readathon when I was in elementary school, a competition for who could read the most books in a defined period of time. I find good stories to be transformative. They rattle all the emotions and challenge your brain. They grab and catch you and even when the story is over, they don’t let you go. As much as I enjoyed reading these types of books, I always had a desire to write my own and engender those feelings in others. When I was in college, I made the decision that I would write fiction with the hopes of one day getting published. I was determined that despite my pursuit for a career in medicine, I could also pursue a career as an author.

How do you balance your high-profile medical career with writing both nonfiction and fiction?

I am very organized when I am writing and creating balance in my writing life. I publish my health nonfiction work in the spring and my novels in the fall. My current plan is to write 2 books a year in that sequence. So far so good, but we’ll see how long I can keep up that pace. It’s challenging, but I enjoy the pleasures both genres bring me. Nonfiction and fiction have similarities and dissimilarities, obviously. The biggest difference for me as a writer is the constriction of the imagination. Yes, there’s an element of creativity in nonfiction, but it tends to be very linear and predominantly based on factual findings that tend to be the discovery of others and not yours. If you write about the science of happiness, for example, you will find tons of research articles and papers from which you draw information and conclusions to expound upon in your book. When you write fiction, you have and own a blank canvas and you can write whatever you want and go wherever you want, and you can determine how much of it is tethered by facts.

What inspired you to write The Unspoken?

I had always wanted to write a character like Ashe Cayne, but one night I was watching the news and heard about the “bad shooting” of Laquan McDonald in Chicago. There were just so many elements in that case that were disturbing, including the attempt to suppress the bodycam video that clearly shows a young, unarmed man walking away from several police cruisers and being shot several times although he posed no threat to anyone. It just made me think, had it not been for that bodycam video, we might never have learned the truth of what happened that night. Ashe Cayne, my main character, is a former detective with CPD who resigns his position after refusing to participate in a departmental coverup. He hangs up his own shingle and becomes a private investigator and takes on select cases around the city. There’s something embedded in his moral fiber that makes him determined to pursue justice at all costs.

What type of research did you conduct for the book?

I am fortunate enough to have conducted many fitness training classes with the Chicago Police Department.  I met many officers in different roles of the department. After class we would talk shop a lot and I learned the intricacies and protocols of being a police officer. I was most intrigued with the work of the detectives and even went on a ride-along that inspired me even more to pursue a private investigator series that I had already been working on in my head. I still have great relationships with many of these officers and they provide spectacular background research that proves invaluable in my stories.

Can you give any hints about what’s in store for the next book in the series?

The next book is called Wolf Point. The body of the president of the Chicago Board of Education is found partially submerged in the Chicago River. It has been ruled a homicide. His children don’t believe for one second that their gregarious, upbeat, bon vivant father committed suicide. They hire our man Ashe Cayne to find out what really happened.

What are you currently reading and what’s on your TBR (to be read) list?

I am really behind in my reading, because I don’t like to read other authors’ books while writing my own as I don’t want to have any subconscious influence. This means I have a lot of books to read since I’ve been writing like crazy the last six months. A few of them are: Blue Moon by Lee Child, The Night Fire by Michael Connelly, and I’m going to re-read a book by Henning Mankell, one of my favorite authors.

Click here to order The Unspoken by Ian K. Smith on Amazon.

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