Author Interview – Samantha Bryant
This week’s interview is with Samantha Bryant. Her new novel, Going Through the Change, is available on pre-order and will be released on 23rd April. It’s a superhero novel with a twist.
How long have you been writing for and what made you start writing?
I’ve always written, starting with little stories and poems as a child. It probably grew from a general love of words and stories. I just get this feeling, I describe as “itchy fingers” and I have to create something out of words. I get darn grumpy when I want to write and can’t.
I’ve been taking it seriously for about two years now. When I was getting ready to turn 42, I had a little talk with myself and we agreed that it was time to try this in earnest or just let it go. That’s when I started finishing things and polishing and submitting them.
Do you write for a living, or do you also do other work?
I’m a middle school Spanish teacher by day, though I hope to someday soon make my living solely as a writer.
How did you get into being a professional writer, and how much effort did it take to be able to write your novel?
The how is just stubborn determination. I kept going, even when the answer was always, “No.” At this point, I no longer have to talk myself into writing. The difficult part is carving that time out of all my other responsibilities without making my husband want to leave or let the children run wild in the streets. I’ve developed a laser focus and the ability to be very productive in sixty minutes or less.
Were you always good at telling stories, or has it come to you as an adult?
I always thought I was good at it, but, when I look back at work I did in my teenage years and even as recently as age thirty, I find it pretty cringe-worthy. I had a lot to learn. I still do, but I’m getting better at it.
Were you good at English in school?
Yes. It was my favorite class because, basically, they just wanted me to read and write and that’s all I wanted to do anyway. I love talking about books. The hardest part of English classes (and I now have a Master’s in English, so I’ve taken a lot of them) for me has been genre snobbery. I believe some of the best writing to be found is in speculative fiction, but there’s still a stigma in some circles that these stories are somehow lowbrow because they entertain or because they include unrealistic elements. I think this is changing (or maybe I’ve just stopped talking to those people).
What advice would you give someone who wants to be a writer?
One word at a time. Just keep writing. It won’t be good at first, but the worst thing you’ve ever written is better than the best thing you only thought about.
What is the most useful advice you’ve been given?
Writers write. Stop talking about it and do it.
What is the strangest advice you’ve been given?
Any advice that tells you that there’s only one right way is screwy. Writing process is as individual and idiosyncratic as sexual preferences. What works for any one person is not guaranteed to work for anyone else at all. All the advice contradicts all the other advice anyway.
The strangest one I’ve gotten personally is the suggestion that I shouldn’t write characters that aren’t like me (different genders, races, etc.). I can’t imagine that I’d enjoy writing (or anyone would enjoy reading) about 43 year old Spanish teachers for very long, so I ignored that advice!
How do you deal with the stranger reviews?
This process is only beginning for me, so this hasn’t really come up so far. I’d like to think I have a pretty thick rhino skin by now. After all, I teach middle school — I’m hard to phase. I’ve also had a lot of years in a very tough critique group. I guess we’ll find out when it happens. The advice that makes sense to me is that the artist should not engage with her critics. Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one. Some stink worse than others. I’ll try not to stress when someone doesn’t like my work and just keep doing the best I can.
Who do you write for?
Myself, though I hope that others will like the work, too.
What sort of things do you write?
I’ve completed drafts of five novels now. The one that’s being published is a superhero novel. The sequel to that one is up for critique at the end of March and I hope to send it it the publisher by May. I’ve got a women’s fiction novel out there on submission and a historical fiction I’m sending out at the end of this month. I wrote a middle grades novel for NaNoWriMo, and hope to get that submission ready by the end of summer. The one unifying thread seems to be strong female characters. Besides novels, I write short stories, essays, blogs, and even some poetry once in a while.
Describe your writing process, what, where, when and how please?
I write every day, come hell or high water. The minimum I can write and have it count is 250 words. My first go at building this habit stalled at 280 days, but my current chain is at more than 500 days. If I’m editing, I give myself 10% of the edited words as my word count. I use a gamification tool called The Magic Spreadsheet to track my progress.
Because I work full time and have a family, carving out even an hour or two a day for writing is difficult. I’ve learned to write in the midst of chaos–sitting on the sofa while my kids play around me, on the sidelines at a soccer match, in the parent waiting area at a martial arts lesson, in the car waiting to pick someone up, wherever I can get a few minutes in a row. I’ve also gotten much better at leaving myself a marker and being able to jump back in when I get interrupted before I can finish a scene.
Generally, I’m a pantser, meaning I don’t work from an outline or plan, but just start writing and see where it takes me. That makes for messy first drafts, so I do a lot of editing and rewriting before anyone else sees my words. I’ve got a great critique group, and I take the stuff I know doesn’t work so they can help me figure out why its not working.
Where can we read your words?
My short horror story, Michael’s Miracle, is available online at Acidic Fiction.
My short weird fiction story, Lawn Wars, can be read in the app-zine The New Acclerator. A preview selection can be read here.
I have an article about publishing in The Insecure Writer’s Support Group Guide to Publishing and Beyond.
I’ve also got a fair number of guest blog posts and old poetry out there in the world, some under my maiden name: Samantha Dunaway.
Links to blog, website, book sales etc.
Because the book is not actually out yet, I don’t have many reviews (though several are in the works). Here’s the one that’s been released so far: http://mllegette.com/2015/03/09/melissa-reads-going-through-the-change-by-samantha-bryant/#like-2843