‘Saving Sophie’, was Sam’s debut psychological thriller, published in September 2016. It became a Kindle eBook bestseller, with the paperback hitting ‘The Bookseller Heatseeker’ chart at #8. Sam was named an Amazon Rising Star of 2016. Her next psychological thriller, ‘Bad Sister’, publishes in October 2017 in ebook and December in paperback.
- To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing
I live in Devon with my husband and three children. I worked for the NHS for 15 years, during which time I qualified as a nurse. Following the completion of a Psychology degree I went to work for the prison service as an Offending Behaviour Programme Facilitator. My experiences within this field inspired my writing. I left the service to spend time with my family, and to follow my dream of being a writer. I began writing short stories, then decided I wanted to move on to novels. The first manuscript I produced is now my ‘novel-in-a-drawer’ one, as although it gained agent interest, it didn’t get published. I entered the opening chapters of my next novel, ’Saving Sophie’, into the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger award and it was longlisted. This novel became my debut psychological thriller, published by Avon, HarperCollins. My second, ‘Bad Sister’ was published in ebook on October 5th and will come out in paperback 14th December.
- If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
I’d love to have authors of varied genres at my book club. I used to only read crime and psychological thrillers before I joined my local book group seven years ago. Now, thanks to the members putting forward an array of books, I have pushed myself and sometimes read out of my comfort zone! So, with that in mind I’d like some crimies – Val McDermid would be great, Sharon Bolton – as she’s one of my favourite authors, then from the psychological genre, Louise Jensen and Lisa Hall (who is hilarious) and from the historical genre, Anna Mazzola, whose novel ‘The Unseeing’ proved to be one of the most-talked about novels in our group (we spent a long time discussing the book club questions, rather than just drinking wine!) I’d love some dark, horror types too – so Stephen King would be fab, alongside Chris Carter, whose novels I found to be pretty scary.
- What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
When I get that germ of an idea that grows and takes shape in my head – then the early excitement of getting the first chapters down on the page (or on screen!) The first draft of a novel takes me about six months – I enjoy this first stage more than editing.
- Was there ever a book that you read, that didn’t live up to the hype that surrounded it and left you disappointed?
I hate mentioning books in a negative way – so won’t name it! But yes, there was a particular book that everyone I knew was raving about and I couldn’t wait to read, then when I did, it kind of fell flat for me. I’m not sure quite what it was, the style of writing, or the ending that didn’t work for me. It was made into a film and it was one of those very rare occasions where I preferred the film to the book.
- If you were starting your writing journey again, would you do anything differently?
No, I don’t think I would. Looking back, the way my journey progressed was about right – I learned about rejections, I wrote a novel that is now in ‘the bottom drawer’ and kept at it until I had written something I was proud of. Everything that happened along the way either made me a better writer, or helped me develop personally. I also had time to learn more about the publishing world along the way. I wouldn’t change it.
- What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
Ooh, I’ll often pick up books in shops and read the first lines, deciding there and then whether I’m going to buy it. So, there have been a lot of favourites, or ones that have gripped me from those opening few words. An example would be:
‘When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily’.
This is the highly shocking and emotive beginning to Alice Seabold’s ‘The Almost Moon’. I was never sure how I felt about the novel, but that opening line stayed with me.
- From books and films, who has been your favourite bad guy?
All-time favourite has to be Hannibal Lecter (from the books, film and TV series!) I think Hannibal’s complex character is pure brilliance and for me, he’s the most chilling character ever written. He is closely followed by Joe Carroll (played by the excellent James Purefoy) from the TV series, ‘The Following’. Charismatic, intelligent, completely creepy – all of which makes for compelling viewing!
- What do you think makes a good crime book?
An unusual crime, lots of red herrings, pacey and suspenseful writing, great characters (I don’t have to like them, but I do need to be intrigued by them/their motives), an ending that leaves some things to the imagination.
- If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
I’d take some from my TBR pile – I have about one hundred on my various shelves at home that I need to read! Three I haven’t got to yet are:
‘The Trouble with Goats and Sheep’ – Joanna Cannon
‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ – Gail Honeyman
‘Broken Monsters’ – Lauren Beukes (Although that might set my nerves on edge if I was alone on a desert island!)
- What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
I think that’s going to be personal and specific to each individual writer. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. For example, one thing I need to develop is my description – I often leave out details in favour of faster pace, however for my reader to build up a picture and visualise the place and characters, this needs to be weaved in. I do have several ‘how to’ books on writing and there are plenty of writing courses to help develop your skills. Ultimately, I feel the more you write, the better you’ll become and if you take on board feedback and constructive criticism, then the process might be quicker!
- When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
- And finally do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website.
I’ve written book three – it is due to go to my publisher very soon! This story follows Alice and Deborah – who are both mothers trying to find their way through a tragic event. Alice is the mother of a young man who is responsible for the death of Deborah’s son, who he came into contact with through an online gaming community. Connie Summers returns as the psychologist who is helping Alice manage her guilt – but Alice is convinced she can help Deborah through her grief, because in her mind they have both lost their sons.