I’m always looking out for new books on the subject of bigfoot, whether it be fiction or non fiction. While I looking last month I stumbled on a true gem. My Neighbors From the Woods by Donna Campbell Smith. It’s a wonderful tale about a woman living alone in her cabin that starts to notice strange happenings around her property. At first it’s just a large print, then missing chickens, and eventually she has to come to terms that a bigfoot is habitually visiting her property.
When I was looking up some information on the author I realized I stumbled on this amazing woman who was just as interesting to me as her book. I reached out to her in hopes that she might share a bit of her life with all of us. So here is a Q&A with Donna Campbell Smith…
Q. Can you tell me a little bit about your childhood? What you liked to do, family life etc.
A. I grew up in a small town at a time when it was perfectly safe to skate, ride bikes, and play all over the neighborhood. My parents were both good story tellers (we didn’t have tv back then). I loved to read from the time I learned how. My sister was sick a lot, she had chronic asthma. So, I played alone a lot when I was little and developed a great imagination.
Q. Did you have any hobbies you enjoyed?
A. The first hobby I can remember was stamp collecting. I liked collecting things which included a 4-H project of learning about insects. I kept “specimens” in empty medicine bottles and jars. My mother was afraid to come in my rom for fear of what I might have in the closet shelves. Neighbors would bring any weird bugs they found to me for my collection. I’d go to the library for insect books to identify them.
Q. Were you often outdoors? Did you enjoy outdoor activities?
A. I loved playing outdoors: climbing trees, playing with neighborhood children, making “playhouses” by drawing the rooms in the dirt with a stick, and riding my bike and roller skating.
Q. How old were you when you got bit by the writing bug?
A. I think I was a young teen, or maybe 12, when I decided I wanted to write a book. I didn’t get very far with that. But, in school I loved writing assignments, even term papers. I still enjoy researching and writing both fiction and non-fiction. In high school I especially enjoyed learning to write poetry. I still do.
Q. What was the first subject you wrote about?
A. Professionally, I started out writing about horses and horse care. I have an associate degree in equine technology, so I relied on what I’d learned in school and in my own horse business. I wrote for some magazines and was youth editor for an equine website back when dot-com was a big deal. The site eventually when out of business. I continued freelance writing, primarily for horse magazines.
Q. What is your favorite topic to write about?
A. I like to write about nature, travel, history (NC in particular) and people. But as a freelancer I’ve written about a wide variety of subjects. Give me a deadline with the promise of a check at the end and I’ll write it.
Q. For decades you worked in the equine industry. breeding, training etc. What was your favorite part about working with horses? And what made you choose that career?
A. I especially loved working with horses and children. Horses are a great equalizer for kids – especially those who are not athletic or are shy. I dreamed of having my own horse when I was a child. I had an imaginary horse, like most kids had imaginary playmates. I was an adult before I had my own horse. Actually, my husband started it all. He was invited to ride with some of his workmates. Soon he bought a horse, then another for me, then ponies for the children. There was no going back for me. The business was motivated by a need to pay for my horse-habit!
Q. What is the very first book you wrote?
A. My first published book was Pale as the Moon. It is based on the legend of the Lost Colony from a Native American perspective and inspired by the wild horses that roam to this day on NC’s coast. It was originally published by Coastal Carolina Press. When they went out of business I self-published it and it is still my best seller.
Q. Some of your earlier books are used in the school system where you live, what got that started? What are you hoping the students take away from them?
A. Coastal Carolina was a non-profit press and they were very invested in education. They suggested I add a teachers guide to the book (and my 2nd book, An Independent Spirit). They also were first to book me for author visits to elementary schools. In my state 4th graders study North Carolina history and my books were used in some classes for supplemental reading. It was always fun to share what I wrote about with the children. I hoped they would fine reading and learning about our state’s history fun.
Q. Your latest book, “My Neighbors from the Woods” is a book about Bigfoot. What made you pick this topic?
A. I have always been fascinated by bigfoot. During the covid shut down I spent a lot of time watching YouTube channels and started watching ones that shared bigfoot stories. Then I remembered a story I’d read online years ago. It was about a woman who lived in an isolated place and claimed to have befriended a family of bigfoot. I started looking for the story only to find out there were several stories like it. My fictional tale about Maggie and her friends from the woods began to form in my imagination as I heard more of those accounts.
Q. You mentioned hearing tales of them through your dad, can you share one of his tales here?
A. I can’t remember specifics, but Daddy listened to talk radio when he went to bed at night. He also read magazines like True and Argosy which sometimes published stories about bigfoot. I do remember him saying there was a “wild man” that lived in the hills when he was a youngster. He grew up in upstate NY. I don’t think he ever saw this wild man; I am sure I would remember if he said so. I do know the stories about this wild man made an impact. That is because he had reoccurring nightmares about wrestling with one even until I was a child. I remember Mama telling that once when he was dreaming,he woke Mama with his groans and movements in his sleep. She shook his shoulder to wake him up. Instead of waking up he grabbed Mama’s arm and was about to put her in a half-nelson. Her outcry woke him. Mama said she told him, “See if I ever try to wake you up from a nightmare again!” The good thing is that put a stop to his dream.
Q. Are you a Bigfoot believer? If so, what is your theory of his makeup, flesh and blood or a paranormal creature?
A. Yes, I see no good reason not to believe in the existence of an ape-like creature such as bigfoot. I think it is a flesh and blood animal like a bear or deer. There is plenty of wilderness left to provide habitat for such an animal.
Q. Have you ever been out in the woods searching for him yourself?
A. No, I haven’t gone looking. Too old and arthritic now even if I dared. We have a couple of wildlife refuges in eastern NC that have a large bear population. I love going there to drive around looking for and photographing bears. We almost always see bears, but getting good photographs isn’t easy. Part of my inspiration for My Neighbors from the Woods was a woman called The Bear Lady, her name was Kay Grayson. She lived in the coastal wilderness of eastern NC with no running water or electric, in an old trailer, literally in the middle of nowhere. She developed a relationship with bears living in the area. It may seem unbelievable, but I have four hours of video tapes, so I know. She made the videos and sold copies to pay taxes on her land. I often think, “If I were a bigfoot, this area would be a good place to hide out.
I share this, because in addition to helping me visualize my character, Maggie, I know from my experience bear-watching and Ms. Grayson’s tapes, that probably a lot of what folks think are bigfoot could be bears. Not all, but some.
Q. Have you been to Bigfoot Conventions? If so, what do you think about them? And who is someone you met or would like to at these events?
A. I haven’t yet, but I am signed up for a vendor space at the Western North Carolina Bigfoot Festival in Marion, NC September 18th. On Friday, the 17th I will be doing a reading and signing at Maples Coffee Shop in Burnsville, NC (not far from Marion). I am so excited! I hope to be signing a book for Bigfoot! Maybe I can get my picture taken with him, too.
Q. What is next for you? Do you have a new book in the works for us?
A. I have pulled a novel out of my files for my next book. I wrote it at least 20 years ago. It’s a “coming of age story” of a woman who married as a teenager in the 60s, raises three children and experiences hard times in doing so. It’s a time of conflict, both personally and in the environment of that decade of war, racial unrest and change within the confines of a small Southern town.
Donna Campbell Smith has been a published author and freelance writer for over thirty years. Her titles include three historical fiction novels for young readers: Pale as the Moon, An Independent Spirit, and Bear Song. Pale as the Moon was recommended by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and selected by Renaissance Learning’s Accelerated Reader Program.
She also has published four adult non-fiction books: The Book of Miniature Horses, The Book of Draft Horses, The Book of Mules and The Book of Donkeys. She has since added two cozy mystery novels, In the Garden with the Pruning Shears and In the Library with the Dictionary. Her newest book My Neighbors from the Woods, is about a woman who discovers shocking new neighbors living in the woods near her home.
In addition to authoring over a dozen books, Donna works as a freelance writer and photographer for various print and online publications including Carolina Country, Back Home Magazine, Grit Gazette, Our State, Boys Life, Young Rider, The Horse, and Western Mule.
Donna Campbell Smith writes from her home in central North Carolina where she lives in the country surrounded by woods and pastures with her cat named PITT, (an acronym for Pain In The Tail).
You can reach Donna on her website: