In our world, tattoos express a person’s past and present; in the world of Inked, tattoos represent a person’s future. In Inked, every person is given tattoos once they turn eighteen, ones that decide your future occupation and lifestyle.
“Back when I was a teenager, it felt like there was this enormous pressure to have my life together once I hit eighteen,” explained Smith, noting that a lot of his friends at the time had full-time jobs and nice cars. “[It] can be scary, because hey, you’re technically and adult now.”
The book follows Caenum, an almost-eighteen year old that is ready to run away from his family and friends to avoid getting the tattoos that determine his fate. But before Caenum gets the chance to act, he inadvertently causes The Citadel to go after himself and the people he loves. In order make things right, Caenum, his best friend Dreya, and their new acquaintance Kenzi, must travel on their own to a secret town called the Sanctuary, where people with magic are safe. Along the way, the three not only encounter secrets about ink, but also about their own destinies.
Another difference between the tattoos in our world and the tattoos in Inked is that the ones in Inked move. Their movements mirror a person’s emotions or mental state. When the idea for Inked popped into Smith’s head, he first imagined Dreya’s moving flower tattoos. “I feel like those are the kind of tattoos you spot on people and think, ‘wow, those look so real.’”
While Smith does not have flower tattoos that move, he is inked. “I have quotation marks on my wrists,” said Smith. “They’re my favorite punctuation mark, though my editors will tell you my favorite punctuation mark is an ellipsis, as I put them everywhere.” He also currently has an in–progress Jules Verne on his left arm, which consists of a diver and a “Nautilus battling a giant squid.”
“Verne was one of my favorite authors growing up, and was one of the major influences that got me into writing as a kid.”
Smith’s friend Brian, a tattoo artist, was actually the one to give Smith his first quotation mark tattoos. Brian was actually a large influence when it came to Inked.
“A lot of [the novel]was inspired by [Brian] and his casual off-comment he made once while we were out and about, on how having so many tattoos meant he’d probably always be a tattoo artist,” said Smith. “Now, he was joking… but the idea stuck with me. What if tattoos did determine what you did forever? And it kept playing over and over in my head.”
In addition to that, a lot of Inked’s characters are named off of Smith’s friends. “Rausch is based off a good friend of mine, whose last name is actually Rauscher, because I’m very creative, who is a fantastic cook, obnoxiously handsome, and an incredibly sweet, giving person.”
“My favorite name though, is Molivar,” admitted Smith, talking about murder-villain in his book. Back in 2013, Smith published a book called The Geek’s Guide to Dating, which he dedicated to a few of his friends. One friend, Miguel Bolivar was taking a while to read it. “I threatened him with some nonsense about how I’d name a villain after him in a future book if he didn’t read the book soon. … Well, he took a little too long.”
“Miguel + Bolivar = Molivar.”
Although a lot of characters in Inked are named after people he knows, Smith didn’t let on about friend-influences for the sequel that he is working on. “Right now, I can say it picks up after the events of the first one, a few years later,” exclaimed Smith. “Caenum finds himself shouldering some massive responsibilities, while the consequences of the first book are reverberating through the world. People are mad. There’s unrest, uprisings. New characters and new magic finds its way into the book, as well as higher stakes… Hopefully I’ll get to share it with you all soon!”