Two West MI authors fall on near-opposite ends of spectrum


By Cynthia Price

Author Andrew Allen Smith, of North Muskegon, writes hard-hitting action novels about fast-moving people who seem to think nothing of using lethal violence when circumstances force them to do so.

Barbara Bull, owner of Cherry Point Farm in Silver Lake, writes stories of people who discover and appreciate more about their homes as time moves gently on.

But maybe they are not so different after all. In Smith’s three-novel (so far) Masterson series, it seems that the primary lesson is the beauty and grounding of love. And the protagonist of Bull’s Katherine MacLeod novels, the fourth of which just came out in early July, is strong and resourceful.

Smith is fairly new to this area. As a child whose parents were divorced, Smith moved around almost yearly within a range of Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky, but his summers were spent at Big Rapids where his grandfather was a Ferris State University professor.

When he was able to find a very satisfying job at a technology company in Coopersville, Smith was happy to move back. He is very close friends with Gary and Lorene Samples, owners of the Lakeside Emporium, and he relished being close to him. He and his wife have a blended family of six, but the children are all grown and out of the house. They too enjoy coming to this area, and Smith is happy to settle here.

An interesting person in any number of ways, Smith has always had one outstanding characteristic: he dreams in complete, novel-like plots. “They’d be full technicolor movies. Each night I’d have a different full story, so I started writing them down, and I decided that I’d share some as I got older,” Smith says.

Smith continues to have different dreams about the same cast of characters.

His first three novels are about a man named Michael Masterson, who came out of a complicated childhood with skills that made him a very good assassin. When we first see him in Vengeful Son, he has retired from that business, and is trying to live quietly with the love of his life, Abby. But people from his past are much less willing to let him forget.

As danger comes his way, a team forms to protect and help him and Abby: some are old friends who have been in that role for years, some are new and not-so-friendly, and some even operate in secrecy. As the series progresses to Sinful Father and Deadly Daughter, there are many scenes of violence, so the books are not for everyone.

However, Smith says he has been very pleased to find out that he has a number of fans.

He does meticulous research to ensure that the details  both feel and are correct. One of the compliments he passes on is a knowledgeable reviewer who commented, “He got the weapons right.” Smith is also intellectually curious and a “voracious reader” on subjects that may never see the light of day in his books (unless they make their way into his dreams).

The current three books are self-published; having written them, Smith did not want to take the time to seek out an agent and publisher. He intends to do so for his next novels, two of which are pretty close to ready. And while he attends a number of promotional events and is grateful for the support of other writers – a support Smith returns by reading their books and referring non-action-oriented readers to them – he would rather spend his time writing than promoting.

Smith’s books may be purchased through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, his Facebook page, and many other sources.

Barbara Bull has lived on Cherry Point Farm her entire life with the exception of attending Mt. Holyoke, one of the “Seven Sisters” colleges, in Massachusetts.

Her parents began selling the farm’s products through its own market in the 1950s, but it is some of Barbara’s innovations which make it a must-visit site. These include a lavender labyrinth, fishboils and other meal-based events, and an expansion of the merchandise available in the market.

The third book in the MacLeod series, Whispers on the Wind, won the Silver Medal in the 22nd Annual Independent Publisher Book Awards, Great Lakes Region, which she was given in a ceremony in New York City.

Whispers, along with Cloud Cottage, Gray Clouds Blue Skye, ?and the latest, Still Waters, are also self-published, and sold through the Cherry Point Market and its website, among other places. She has also published a couple of “historical tributes” to the Farm – one is a collection of pieces a journalist and former inhabitant (in the 1870s and 1880s) wrote to the local newspaper – and a children’s book, Benjamin’s Gift, with illustrator Deb Hoeffner.

Bull, though she too has acquired quite a following, never wrote until 2012. “I’ve always enjoyed writing.” she says, “but eventually I just reached a point where I needed to take the leap and just do it. I asked, ‘If not now, when?’ For me, it was when I turned 60 and asked myself, how many more years are you going to wait?”

Because she is extremely busy with the farm and the market, supervising employees, greeting customers, overseeing the cooking of its luscious pies and baked goods herself, Bull says she does most of her writing in the months of January and February, when she “hibernates.” She adds that she’s constantly developing characters and research ideas, all year long. She also says that she often starts out writing without knowing where the characters will take her.

“”If a reader comes back and tells me they were so involved with the characters that they were in tears, that make it worthwhile for me,” Bull says. “And yet I’m a cherry farmer born and raised; this is my bread and butter.

“But I love the challenge of writing, and every time I’m out there baking a streudel, I’m also thinking about my characters and what I’m writing.”