Ian Smith’s novel, Trace, shows us Seattle through the eyes of a young woman who’s trying to navigate the city’s stormy job market and awkward dating scene – while slowly realizing she may have powers beyond imagining. As Joanne makes her rounds through the International District, Pioneer Square, and Queen Anne, Ian’s writing breathes dazzling life into these iconic neighborhoods.
We asked him to tell us his favorite things about Seattle.
1. When did you first come to Seattle? Did it make a good impression?
I first came to Seattle as a senior in high school, checking out a prospective college. It was captivating – the polar opposite in almost every way conceivable from my native Phoenix, Arizona. I ditched out on a couple of the planned informational sessions just so I’d have a chance to walk the streets and soak it in.
2. Do you live in Seattle? How long have you lived in Seattle?
Whether I live in Seattle is a point of some contention. I currently live in White Center, a tiny unincorporated neighborhood on the southern fringe of Seattle. My address is Seattle though, so I’m going to say yes. I have lived in Seattle for a total of 5 years, broken into three chunks.
3. What is the best part of Seattle?
I’d say the people, but I suspect it’s deeper than that. It’s the elemental core that has drawn these people to this place for so many generations. Whatever spiritual thread strings the fishermen, musicians, tech geeks, brewers, and misfits of all creeds together into a mismatched whole. There are cities where I feel like a misanthrope because I barely see the people I walk by on the street. In Seattle I want to sit every goddamn person down and pry the life story out of them. So, whatever makes that true.
4. What place in Seattle holds the most nostalgic power for you? Why?
RIP Minnie’s, 24-hour purveyor of soup and scones. Your jukebox contents will be forever written in my heart, and your plumes of second (and first, admittedly) hand smoke etched on my lungs.
5. If you had to pick a favorite coffee shop in Seattle, which would it be? Favorite bar? Favorite microbrew from Seattle area?
Well, I could fill an issue of Four Windows just on the response to this question. Non-binding, from the top of my head: Caffe Vita, the Knarr, and Maritime, respectively. If I say any more, I’ll second guess myself.
6. What is your favorite place to write or read in Seattle?
Any of a handful of coffee shops that have a split loft, so you can alternate between being immersed in your own world, and soaking in the vicarious joys and woes that pour forth over espresso when honest citizens forget how well sound travels vertically. I really ought to feel worse about that than I do.
7. Do you believe that Setting is a vital part of narrative?
Setting is implicit in narrative – if you don’t supply one the reader will. That said, yes, I believe that “Then, as he hung from the apple bough, she leaned in and kissed him” is fundamentally different from “Then, as he hung from the noose, she leaned in and kissed him.”
8. Why is Seattle a critical part of your life? Why is it your setting? or How does it critically impact your life?
Seattle is where I did a lot of the work of figuring out who I am and who I want to be. It became the home of my soul within months of moving here, and now, for me, all matters of Place are defined relative to Seattle.
9. What is the most important or interesting thing that has happened to you in Seattle?
Without a doubt the most important thing that happened to me in Seattle was meeting my wife. Life without her is incomprehensible to me, she is my best friend, my muse, my gut check all wrapped up in one. I love that we only met because we were both escaping somewhere else to be here.
10. Best Restaurant?
The hot dog vendor at 10th and Pike, weekends after midnight.
11. Where can the cool kids be found on a Saturday night?
The cool kids are smoking cigarettes in the cemetery, of course.
12. What neighborhood is the best in Seattle? Why?
Ok. Seriously, now? I have already picked between favored children for bars and coffeeshops and restaurants. This is too much.
13. What would you say if you had to convince your favorite author to come to Seattle for a reading?
Seattle is a city of readers – in most American cities, the used book shops are closing because they can’t compete with online retailers. Here, they are thriving, and are the pillars of neighborhood culture. Also, I’d try to bribe them with some combination of local coffee, beer, and cupcakes.
14. What is your favorite thing about being a part of Four Windows Books first serial quarterly?
It’s been so good to have fellow writers to share the struggles and triumphs of the process with. I don’t know how anybody gets a book done without that.