01 Feb 2024 Author of the Month: Daniel A. Smith
By Susan L. Peterson
Daniel A. Smith, the author of “Storykeeper” and “Orb Stones and Geoglyphs,” grew up in Morrilton in the 1950s. Like most kids back then, he’d spend the day playing and exploring in the outdoors. He and his friends would often visit a special place along the river where they found pottery shards and arrowheads in abundance. His finds, coupled with hearing the stories of others he knew who found artifacts across the state, fueled his imagination about the life led by the people who lived there long before European settlers came. He couldn’t help but wonder what their life was like and what happened to them.
Smith’s first job was working for his father servicing refrigeration units around the state. During his travels, he loved being an observer of the natural terrain, admiring its many ridges, peaks and valleys. Following his graduation from Hendrix College with a major in physics, he began working in the audio business, setting up sound for a long list of celebrities that includes four presidents and well-known stars like Dolly Parton, Bob Hope, Presidents Reagan, Clinton and both Bushes, Paul Harvey, Martha Stewart, Ray Charles, Alice Cooper and Jimmy Buffet, just to name a few.
But during his travels around the state and beyond, through deserts and across mountain peaks, he would always regard the lay of the land and wonder about the indigenous peoples who once lived there. He began to read, study and research ancient history and sites, eventually homing in on Hernando De Soto’s 1541 exploration in Arkansas.
For years, Smith studied DeSoto’s travels. He was intrigued by what he learned from reading the conquistador’s journals, which described the many tribes, populous sites, varying cultures, languages and beliefs that they encountered during their travels in the state, and especially along the river.
He continued to wonder what happened to these people and their vibrant cultures, which all but disappeared. Smith knew that there were stories to be told, and the realization hit him one day that he, with his years of research, study and observation, was the only one who could do it. Although the stories came easily to him, transcribing them was difficult. Writing for him is a difficult chore. He admits to being a terrible speller and that he is very likely dyslexic.
He finally completed “Storykeeper” in 2012 and sent out numerous submissions to publishing houses. The topic of his work and the way it was told by three different interweaving narrators was not of interest to the traditional publishers, leading to 80 rejections. Finally, he investigated self-publishing, which was becoming popular at the time. He liked the ownership and independence that self-publishing allowed him.
“Storykeeper” was finally published in 2013, first digitally and then in print. Smith is pleased with its sales and the fact that it has garnered literary awards and praise from its readers.
Smith tells stories through the voices of three different characters, taking the reader back to 1541 and the Casqui tribe that lived near what is now Parkin (Cross County) in Northeast Arkansas. This tribe greeted DeSoto’s 300 explorers, interacting with them peacefully before they moved on. But a century and a half later, when the next band of explorers arrived, nearly everyone had vanished. Smith’s storytellers explain what happened during this gap in time.
His second book, “Orb Stones and Geoglyphs: A Writer’s Journey,” was published in 2017 and is “a soulful mix of writing, geology, rock and roll and ancient lost nations.” It describes his writing process while intermingling his search for artifacts and orb stones, which are found in abundance in Prim (Cleburne County).
Smith continues to work in the sound and recording business and, like the musicians he works with, has no interest in retiring. It is an enjoyable passion for him, one that comes easily. He is the sound engineer for the 18,000-seat Simmons Arena and the 52,000-seat War Memorial Stadium. He and his wife, Sandra Taylor Smith, live in Little Rock and have been married for more than 45 years. It is a good match since she too has a special interest in the past, working as an architectural historian.
This inspired storytelling senior is now working on a follow-up to “Storykeeper.” He has no timeline for completion. Like he says, his stories come when they are ready.
More about Daniel A Smith, including excerpts from his book, his search for orb stones, personal vignettes with celebrities, and work in the sound business, may be found on his website: danielasmith.org. His books are available from Amazon and other online booksellers.