This is the third post of a brand new blog series, as I dip my toes into the mysterious waters of author interviews.
Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring…but here goes!
One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.
To kick off the Distant Worlds strand, over the next few weeks I will be focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends. Grimbold Books are also doing a fabulous ‘Summer Promotion’ from 31st July – 4th August, where ALL of its wonderful titles will be priced at only 79p/99c across Amazon platforms. Check it out guys, awesome fiction at awesome prices!!!!
Right, now to our third author interview…the galactically cool…
Sammy HK Smith
Sammy, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…
What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?
Oxygen canister and mask, Food replicator (a la Star Trek), my husband’s collection of tools (he has so many!), some sort of weapon, chocolate.
What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?
Bumbles my lion teddy bear (don’t laugh!), my wedding and engagement rings, photograph of my grandparents, my favourite pair of bum-minimising jeans!, my baby boy’s first teddy bear, Logan-bear.
Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?
Go it alone.
What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?
- Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey – beautifully written and exquisite fantasy that shows love in all its glory and with no limits.
- Geomancer by Ian Irvine – the first fantasy book to truly blow me away. Mr Irvine’s worldbuilding is some of the best I’ve ever come across.
- White Mountains by John Christopher – the first sci-fi book I read and loved as a child.
- Rhapsody – Elizabeth Haydon – high fantasy with strong plot and well-executed story. Ok, the love aspect is a bit hackneyed, but it’s a guilty pleasure.
- Shadowfall – James Clemens – I can’t explain why I love this book so much, but I do. Gods, magic, politics, treachery, betrayal… it’s amazing.
What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?
- August and Everything After – Counting Crows. I know all the words to every song on that album. Adore it.
- Come Find Yourself – Fun Lovin’ Criminals
- Hello Nasty – Beastie Boys
- 1989 – Taylor Swift
- The Phantom of the Opera Soundtrack
You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?
Water. I’d like to survive for as long as possible!
Random comet questions: Sammy, as well as being an awesomely talented writer yourself, you are also a multi-tasking police officer, soon to be mum and the Creative Director and Co-founder of uber-cool publishing house, Grimbold Books, and it’s imprint, Kristell Ink!
How do you manage to juggle so many different and contrasting areas of your life?
Good question! Sometimes I don’t think I do manage to successfully juggle stuff, but then my friends politely remind me that I’m human and therefore allowed a day or week off now and then! I like being kept busy, and because I love our books and authors, it drives me on to want to help them (and us!) succeed. Small baby steps,I guess! I’m very very lucky to have a supportive husband who doesn’t mind me beavering away online late at night as well!
Have any of your experiences as either a police officer, soon to be mum or publisher informed your own creative writing?
Absolutely! Not so much with my fantasy novel, but I guess you can say that was spurred on by escapism…I haven’t met any dragons at work…
Definitely with my soon-to-be-released novel, Anna. The book is about strength of a woman, degradation, rape and abuse and how we, as humans, react differently to scenarios. It’s ok people saying ‘well I wouldn’t do that, I’d fight back and scream’. I want to actually make people think ‘would you, would you really?’ It’s proven that the amygdala side of our brain works on the 5 F’s – fight, flee, freeze, flop, friend – and so we wouldn’t necessarily react in the way we think we might. I set Anna in a dystopic world because, well, I love dystopia!
As an author-friendly UK publisher who focuses on quality, what are you looking for in new authors/submissions?
Enthusiasm, team spirit, a good social media/online presence and obviously, great work! It’s a hard industry and it doesn’t matter if you’re signed to a big publisher or a small publisher, there is an expectation for you to market yourself and your work. We work very much as a team as well and support one another across the board. It’s a very ‘co-operative’ focused set up.
We love working with new writers and if there’s a submission that isn’t quite publication ready but we love it, we’ll often work with the writer to polish it up.
You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go!
Anna is graceful, Anna is meek, Anna submits. I am not Anna, but I must pretend to be her to survive.
Anna is a literary dystopian tale described as a cross between ‘The Road’ and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. A story of identity and strength in the face of abject humiliation and abuse, Anna explores the similarities between human nature vs nurture.
How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?
Reading, sleeping, and writing. 3 things I’ve barely got time to do at the moment!
What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?
Vast varying cultures (inc foods!), Scenery and landscapes, Our beautiful sky on a clear night Animals/Wildlife, Chocolate.
What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?
Government, War, Famine, Religion, Spiders.
Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?
I honestly don’t know. Maybe if I could take my loved ones with me, but if not, I doubt it. I’d miss too many people! Also, I’m a bit of a wuss and love my creature comforts…
What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?
In my personal life, I regret not telling my Nanny how much I loved her more. She knew (of course) but she was the most important female figure in my life and I wish I told her just how inspirational I found her.
What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?
Songs of Seraphina – Jude Houghton (Tenebris Books) – my first choice is the beautifully written YA split worlds novel by Jude. It’s simply gorgeous. The prose, the stylisation and story, everything. The first time I read this novel I wanted to *be* one of the characters, and nowadays that doesn’t happen to me often! Fantasy that has the charm of Lewis, but the intelligence of Pullman and Gaiman. Breed – K.T Davies (Fox Spirit) – Full of twists and turns, this is clever fantasy with a fresh voice. It follows the ‘quest’ story, but instead makes it original and new. Magic paradoxes are great fun too… The Sun Shard – Rob Bayliss – Epic fantasy tale that I found was written in a very unique voice. It felt quite ominous in places and as though a bard or storyteller was weaving through the scenes. So this gets on the list for unique stylisation and great worldbuilding. Under My Skin – Zoe Markham (Carina) – Described as re-imagining of Frankenstein, this is one I bought recently and read almost in one sitting. YA/Gothic with bits of fantasy and even sci-fi nods, I was really impressed as to how Zoe brought all the genres together. It’s wonderfully written. What The Town Knew – C.W.Farley – I first read this on the author’s blog as they released sections bit by bit. Not my usual genre of choice, but written in the second person tense it drags you into a world of domestic violence, murder, broken relationships and lies. It’s simply excellent.
What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?
Read and write what you enjoy and love, not what you think other people want you to do. Passion shines through. If you get knocked down, get straight back up and keep going. Times are hard for writers, but persevere and push.
Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself, your inspirations and your publishers!
Ahhh, you’ve probably realised I’m quite a ‘straight to the point’ person with my responses to this interview, so here goes: I’m a full-time detective in the police, part-time uni student and soon-to-be first time mummy. I live in the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside with my very patient husband, 14 cats and 2 dogs. I write in lots of genres, but my favourite is fantasy and sci-fi. My debut novel ‘In Search of Gods and Heroes’ is a mythological and metaphysical multiple POV story of gods and mortals set over three worlds. It even has a talking cat… If you like complex characters, dragons, twists and turns and rather unlikeable protagonists, this might be the book for you! I co-run Grimbold Books and Kristell Ink and love to read and promote new authors and writers. I’m inspired by all things, positive and negative, and believe that through literature and stories you can help heal the deepest hurts.
Buried in the scriptures of Ibea lies a story of rivalry, betrayal, stolen love, and the bitter division of the gods into two factions. This rift forced the lesser deities to pledge their divine loyalty either to the shining Eternal Kingdom or the darkness of the Underworld.
When a demon sneaks into the mortal world and murders an innocent girl to get to her sister Chaeli, all pretence of peace between the gods is shattered. For Chaeli is no ordinary mortal, she is a demi-goddess, in hiding for centuries, even from herself. But there are two divine brothers who may have fathered her, and the fate of Ibea rests on the source of her blood.
Chaeli embarks on a journey that tests her heart, her courage, and her humanity. Her only guides are a man who died a thousand years ago in the Dragon Wars, a former assassin for the Underworld, and a changeling who prefers the form of a cat.
The lives of many others – the hideously scarred Anya and her gaoler; the enigmatic and cruel Captain Kerne; the dissolute Prince Dal; and gentle seer Hana – all become entwined. The gods will once more walk the mortal plane spreading love, luck, disease, and despair as they prepare for the final, inevitable battle.
In Search of Gods and Heroes, Book One of Children of Nalowyn, is a true epic of sweeping proportions which becomes progressively darker as the baser side of human nature is explored, the failings and ambitions of the gods is revealed, and lines between sensuality and sadism, love and lust are blurred.
Book Blurb for Latest Book – Anna:
There is an old lie: dulce est decorum est. In a post-apocalyptic world where societal regression has left women branded like prized chattel, one woman fights for the only thing she has left: herself. Stripped of her identity she becomes ‘Anna’, a persona she adopts to protect her true self, and she must learn to accept the loss of everything and everyone she ever loved in the war that tore the world apart. Anna is gracious. Anna is submissive. But Anna is also strong. Kidnapped, raped, and forced into a subservient role by a man who claims to love her, she watches people turn on each other for food, for fuel, for sex, for status and, for fun. Strength comes in many forms, and ANNA tells the story of one woman who becomes someone else in order to free herself.
Thank you. Congratulations, Sammy, you are survivor! A passing Starfury and its pilot, Kara Thrace, have honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!
Happy Horizons! 😀 xx