Author Spotlight: Sam Hawke
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is Sam Hawke!
Sam has wanted to write books ever since realising as a child that they didn’t just breed between themselves in libraries. Having contemplated careers as varied as engineer, tax accountant and zookeeper, she eventually settled on the law. After marrying her jujitsu training partner and travelling to as many countries as possible on very little budget, she now lives in Canberra, Australia, raising two small ninjas and two idiot dogs.
Sam’s debut novel, City of Lies, is available in hardcover now. The Kindle edition will be released on August 23rd 2018.
Welcome to the Hive, Sam, and thanks for joining us! Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently.
I haven’t done as much reading this year as I’d like because of deadlines but probably my favourite of recent times is Nicholas Eames’ Kings of the Wyld. I just loved it. Fun fantasy adventure with great fights, some genuinely hilarious lines and a really good heart. In a completely different vein, if you like a good fairy tale retelling, Leife Shallcross’s The Beast’s Heart is a gorgeously written Beauty and the Beast from the Beast’s POV. Both these two have a real flavour of goodness and optimism in people that I’m currently very drawn to.
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
I’m little and sneaky and I have my own set of lock picks already* so DEFINITELY a thief. I’m also a jujitsu girl so close quarters fighting, open handed, if I can’t sneak my way out of it.
*sisters who know you really well give the best presents
When you’re not trawling through dungeons, do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Why?
Oh god type, only type. I can’t write by hand to save my life. My hands cramp and my handwriting is, to be generous, like the panicked scribblings of a drunk squirrel. I’m just about to start signing the first edition hardbacks for some stores in the UK and I am already wincing in advance. Pre-wincing.
And how do you like to work – in silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps?
I have small children so I frequently work to the tuneful sounds of their latest Star Wars Harry Potter Pokémon mashup (lightsaber battle against pikachu at Hogwarts, anyone?)
Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit? Tell us something unusual about your writing method!
I have what I like to call the ‘annoying arsehole’ method, which is a hybrid of normal people’s styles whereby I take out the useful, helpful parts and instead combine the irritating bits. So I love having an outline done but I don’t love doing one, and my best ideas I tend to work out as I go. There is a constant tension in my dumb brain between the subconscious and conscious – essentially, I think my subconscious likes to leave breadcrumbs as I write and then my conscious has to go back and try to work out what the clues mean. It’s a weird feeling when you come up with a way to bring a bunch of threads cleverly together and then you realise you’ve got the seeds for it already there and you have to wonder whether this was what Subconscious Sam had in mind all along (in which case maybe she could do me a solid and sometimes share some of her insight earlier?!!). Basically I have to be a detective solving crimes by my past self and most of the time I wish I could just be in on the secret earlier.
What are your most significant non-book fantasy influences?
Ooh, non-book, tricky. I guess a lot of my favourite TV and films growing up were essentially SFF – I was utterly obsessed with the Princess Bride, which came out on video the year my family got a VCR and I watched pretty much every day for an entire summer. But I also loved Labyrinth and Willow and the Dark Crystal and Ladyhawke and Star Wars, so I had a lot of the fantasy aesthetic from them too, I guess. I played a bit of D&D with my older brother when I was young and then with friends as a teenager a few times, and I had a weakness for old text adventure games on my Amstrad which were often fantasy based. I think it was just always part of my entertainment from all angles.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
I am not watching much right now because all my free time has been devoted to finishing the second book, but I do still have TV night with my kids on weekends and we have finally been watching Avatar the last Airbender together. We chose that because I picked it and made them! (Everyone has kids so that they can breathlessly wait to imbue them with all our own tastes, right? Right?!) I’ve been waiting for them to be the right age to enjoy it and we are loving watching it as a family. There’s a lot of bending going on in our house at the moment and we are all obsessed with Uncle Iroh.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write or otherwise do any work. How do you choose to spend the day?
Right now? It sounds like a waste but I would sleep! Maybe do a bjj class or go for a run with my dogs. Play with my kids. Read a book! I have such a leisure time deficit at the moment you’re making me cry thinking about how good it’d be.
If you could choose one punctuation mark to be made illegal, which would it be and why?
I am against the criminalisation of innocent punctuation. Punctuation is our friend and it’s there to help us. It’s not a comma’s fault when it’s spliced by a careless writer or an apostrophe’s fault when it is haphazardly used for a plural. Now I’m having visions of helpless commas stamped on the page unable to move while they weep. Please, someone, just give me one more dot and I’ll be a helpful semicolon correctly breaking up this sentence!
In no more than three sentences, tell us a little something about your current work in progress!
It’s the sequel to City of Lies and this time round you can expect witches and drugs and gangs and people who aren’t what they seem, and a whole lot of other trouble for Jov et al. Oh, and of course moooooar poison!
If you could co-write or co-create a series (like The Expanse, or the Malazan Book of the Fallen), who would you choose to work with and why?
I think I would cause myself an aneurysm with the pressure of trying to make my weird process gel with someone else’s world. Maybe one day I’ll feel confident enough to collaborate but this is not that day.
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Sam Sykes said you have to eat a dozen pinecones a day and I think that is bloody terrible advice because if you eat them without adding live bees as well, you just don’t improve. Irresponsible.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
Oh, man, that’s too hard. I’m going to assume I’m lurking like a ghost rather than actively there? So many options, but maybe Alexandria in Ptolemaic Egypt, when it was at peace and at the height of its power as a cultural and artistic capital. I’d love to see the library and the lighthouse and observe the court and the mishmash of Egyptian, Greek and Macedonian cultures during the period.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
Well, nothing gets my refrigerator cleaned or my pantry organised better than trying to avoid writing! Honestly I don’t have a magic way of motivating myself – getting out of a funk is often fuelled by panic and deadlines and I certainly don’t recommend that as a method. I guess I try to do something that moves my writing career forward even if I can’t think of what to write. So maybe if I’m having a bit of a creative slump it’s time to update the blog, etc. Sometimes reading other people who I admire is very inspiring but that can really backfire if I’m too embroiled in self-loathing because I can descend into ‘I will never be 1/10th as good as this’ etc etc.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
I would have said Robert Jackson Bennett’s Divine Cities trilogy was underappreciated until recently but then it got nominated for a Hugo this year, haha, so I guess it’s appreciated plenty after all. (I do think that is an utter masterpiece of modern fantasy though).
Going back in time a bit I would say my favourite urban fantasy, Wizard of the Pigeons, isn’t as well known as it should be (it’s a Megan Lindholm title which gets lost among the Robin Hobb ones). I love the Wizard’s very social, city-based magic, and it’s just the kind of quiet, character based story that I wish I saw more of.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with what we like to call a ‘shark elevator pitch’? (It’s exactly the same as an elevator pitch, but with sharks.) (Well, one shark. Which, by the way, is currently picking between its rows of teeth to try and dislodge the remains of the last author who stepped onto its elevator.)
Ahem. So: why should readers check out your work? A shark elevator pitch of your own book(s) in no more than three sentences – go!
*panic sweats* uh uh imagine Helm’s Deep only the walls are being manned by poets and merchants and the attacking army is made up of your own people too and also there’s a traitor inside trying to poison your best friend and the magic you thought was just the old superstition of your ancestors is now being deployed against you. Does that sound like fun? 🙂 It’s probably suited to readers who like fantasy on the character, mystery/suspense, low magic side more than quests and detailed magic systems and classic fantasy archetypes.
It sounds amazing, Sam. I can’t wait to read it myself!
Sam Hawke is the author of City of Lies, out now in hardback and releasing in ebook on August 23rd 2018.