Dickinson College Alumnus Launches Second Career as Author of Thrillers

smith alumni in action photo

Ashley Harrison Smith ’92

After being an actor and theatre professor for over 20 years, former dramatic arts major Ashley Harrison Smith ’92 discovered his passion for fiction writing. Now in a competitive literary world, he has earned the Capital Crime/DHH Literary Agency New Voices Award for his work as an author of thrillers.

Can you speak to how Dickinson’s useful liberal-arts education helped you along your career path?

I came from a very conservative Midwestern upbringing, where I wasn’t exposed to ideologies and cultures that differed very much from my own. Dickinson is where I began to learn the values of tolerance and curiosity.

What was your favorite activity/organization at Dickinson?

I was a Mermaid Player from day one to graduation. I lived and breathed that world. On stage and off.

What jumps out as a great memory from your time at Dickinson?

Taking Professor of English & Environmental Studies Ashton Nichols’ course on romantic and postmodern literature. Mind. Blown.

How do you stay involved with/support Dickinson?

I’ve come back to campus to teach theatre workshops and attend reunions.

How did you get interested in your work, and what about it excites you most?  

After graduating from Dickinson, I went straight into an MFA acting program, followed by 20 years of living life as an actor and theatre professor. Then, two years ago, I discovered a passion for writing fiction. Now I’m a thriller author, writing as Ashley Harrison. I love it because I get to sit in a room all by myself and play God.

What comes to mind as something unforgettable that you’ve done since you graduated?

Recently, I received the Capital Crime/DHH Literary Agency New Voices Award in London. As a result, I’m now represented by the DHH Literary Agency. I couldn’t be more thrilled.

If you could have dinner with anyone famous, living or dead, who would it be?

William Shakespeare

You just built a time machine: where and when do you go?

I would love to go back and be a fly on the wall in Madison, Wisconsin, on the day in 1955 when my parents first met.

If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?

I would get in that time machine, go back to my days as a Dickinson student and take fuller advantage of the amazing education I had at my fingertips.


Published December 17, 2019