Celebrity physician-turned-writer Dr. Ian Smith misses his Conn. hometown

Danbury native, celebrity doctor and author Dr. Ian Smith is best known for his best-selling non-fiction books, including “Shred and Super Shred” and “The Clean 20.” But this 49-year-old physician and Harvard grad, a TV and radio celebrity thanks to his stints on NBC News, “The View,” “Celebrity Fit Club” and the nationally syndicated radio show, “HealthWatch,” has tapped his university experience to write a novel. His new thriller is called “The Ancient Nine,” a look into the dark intrigue of one of the nation’s oldest secret societies. Smith took time out from a very busy schedule to talk about his newest book, his career goals and his cherished memories of his hometown.

Q: This new book is a far cry from your others like “Shred and Super Shred” and “The Clean 20” that focused on healthy eating and making good food choices. And it has a bit of a wait since your only other novel, “The Blackbird Papers,” was published. What finally prompted this thriller?

A: I have been writing this book for 25 plus years. I started it as senior in college because as a student at Harvard, I wanted my experience of the university to be fresh in my mind. I wanted it to be accurate. I have tweaked it and done more research since graduating. What prompted me to finally finish it is that I always wanted to publish it and it was the perfect time.

Q: You are a graduate of Harvard, so the obvious question is were you punched by the Delphic? And what was the appeal of writing about the clubs?

A: I was and I am a real member of the Delphic. Most of this book is very true. There are a lot of secrets attached to all the clubs. Some I do share and say in the book that not sharing would not be fair to those who have been excluded from the clubs. I do find the club culture extremely fascinating. There is a level of power and privilege and wealth that has been infused into these clubs through the centuries. I just really thought this was such an intriguing story, especially with the historical component of an important book from the John Harvard collection that survived the fire. Getting on the other side of the wall and the mystery of the history and made for a good story.

Q: Now these pedigree clubs are all about the mystery of it all. Wouldn’t some members be a little less than pleased with your book, the secrets you share and just the fact that the story is a less-than-flattering look at such exclusivity?

A: I don’t know if I will be excommunicated for it. I have heard from some fellow club members who have read it and they have given me good feedback. It’s not supposed to be a ‘hit’ piece, but I think it is important for people to understand that these all male clubs were built in the 17th century and the world has changed.

Q: There has been an edict issued by Harvard banning what is termed these “pernicious social clubs,” including “final” clubs like Delphic. How likely is that to happen?

A: These clubs will never disband. The university does not own the club. It is privately owned and operated by students and graduates. The university is trying to apply pressure to shut them down, but it’s a decision to by the club. My hope personally is that the clubs will become more diverse socially, economically, and in gender and race. As an alum and now someone who delved into these secret societies, I think the exclusivity and intrigue are going to keep them going, no matter who says what.

Q: You are a celebrity doctor what with your TV resume that include The View, The Doctors, the NBC Nightly News. It seems more and more people are turning to tv or the internet for their medical information rather than seeing a doctor. Do you see a danger in that?

A: I think in most cases it’s good if there is balance. A more informed patient, a properly informed patient, is better for the doctor and patient relationship. Where you run into trouble is when a person goes to unreliable sources, gets misinformation and acts on it without discussing it further with his or her doctor. Do some research on-line but don’t believe all of it. Take it and then talk to your health care professional. It will result in a more collaborative relationship.

Q: You grew up in Danbury! Best memories and do you ever visit?

A: It is hard for me to say what’s best. I loved growing up in Danbury. I would say that what I miss most is driving by my old haunts and seeing people and places that I met and walked by as a child. I love walking past the places where I played, the YMCA where I learned how to swim, playing football at Rogers Park and Parloa Field in Bethel, my Park Avenue School, going to church with my grandparents. It is so dear to me that I kicked off my book tour at the library in Danbury a few weeks ago.

Q: What do you consider yourself first, a doctor or a writer?

A: I want to be everything at once. People can be multi-dimensional and have different places in their hearts for different things. Life is not linear. You don’t have to be left or right brained. I see the world as a multifaceted situation. I still want to be an actor someday. Work on Broadway or be in a film or be a musician. My plan is to do all of those things. But, if I have to choose something, I would have to choose being a doctor.

Q: I thought it was interesting that everyone in your new book eats so badly. And yet you are such a stellar advocate of eating right, especially given the bestsellers you have written on good health. What is your daily diet of and as a dad, how do you convince your youngsters to eat right?

A: I am a lover of food and believe that you can almost eat anything in moderation. Personally, I try to eat healthy most of the time. I try to have tastes for new things. I try to eat minimally processed foods that are high in nutrients and fiber. But I do like my pizza and hamburgers and just make sure I don’t overindulge. We have two boys and although I am supposedly the healthy food guru, my wife is the most influential one when it comes to their eating style, which means fruits and vegetables and clean foods. My kids will grab a pepper or an apple before a cupcake. Parents set the example.

Q: What’s next, book wise?

A: I want to write 15 more novels, a crimes series. I just finished the first. The main character is Ashe Cayne, a former police officer who takes on selective private investigation cases in Chicago. My dream is to write these novels and turn them into Netflix series. A younger, better looking guy will be the lead on the TV series, but I would take a role as an extra. You know, that actor dream. And actually, my agent loved “The Ancient Nine” and is shopping around for someone to produce it as a movie.

Q: What is something most people don’t know about you?

A: I am political animal. I won’t comment publicly on politics, but love what goes into it. If I didn’t have a family I would run office.

MaryEllen Fillo is a freelance writer based in Connecticut.