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Couple releases pharmaceutical thriller

Right now, Newport authors Matt and Erin Smith's debut novel ranks 832,858 amongst online book-selling behemoth's best sellers, but the married first-time writers have some big designs for their debut novel.

Silver screen big.

"We have people tell us it would make a great movie," Matt said of the couple's first fictional foray, a "pharmaceutical thriller" entitled Trials: The Risk/Benefit Ratio under pen name M.E. Smith, which will be released to bookstores early next year. "Right now, obviously, that's just a dream."

The simple fact that the Smiths, married seven-and-a-half years after meeting in college in Eau Claire, Wis., now find their 264-page paperback opus in print is like a dream in itself, though. Neither are professional authors and had to find time to tap away on the keyboard between career and family after years of reading books, watching movies and fantasizing that one day they would be creating the story entertaining others.

It is a story borne out of the couple's varied -- and interesting -- backgrounds. Matt, a clinical research associate at a pharmaceutical company and Erin, a former federal law enforcement official and FBI investigator, had kicked around countless story ideas until one day, when a story of "unauthorized research, unethical science and murder" struck like a lighting bolt.

The husband and wife team took just five months to finish the manuscript that eventually became Trials, after a half-year of "cleaning it up" and another year of receiving feedback and polishing. And after a handful of literary agents returned the authors' work unopened, the couple received interest from an Edina publisher -- the first to whom they had submitted their manuscript.

Now, Matt and Erin are busy scheduling book signings, publicity events and doing radio interviews, trying to drum up support for the first of what they hope to be many literary works. And, they said, it's still all a little unbelievable.

"It's surreal, Erin said on a busy Monday morning of the preparations for Trials' wide-spread January release. "I use that word a lot, because it doesn't seem like it's us."

But it's thanks to their grounding in investigations and pharmaceuticals that such a story was so easy to write, the Smiths said.

"We followed the adage 'write what you know,' " Erin said.

The pharmaceutical industry is what Matt knows, and with it's billions of dollars and high-stakes research, it's ripe for a story like the thriller in Trials, he said. Though he stressed the book's intrigue is purely fiction.

In the locally set book, the father of a gravely ill girl takes a job at a pharmaceutical company, hoping to get his daughter included in a clinical trial that could save her life. According to the Smiths' Web site,, what he discovers is a web of deception and a frightening secret that could risk the life of his little girl.

It has the makings of a page-turner, Matt and Erin said. And maybe, just maybe, of a feature film.

"I see a lot of movies and I think, 'Our (story) is better than that,' " Matt said.

For now, they'll be content knowing people read and enjoyed the novel they wrote in their spare time. When Erin sees a stranger reading their novel it will be "exciting, motivating, surreal, overwhelming," she said.

"For me it would be more exciting to talk to them and say, 'Hey, what'd you think about it?' "

Jon Avise can be reached at