My special guest today is the lovely Sam Hawke! I originally met Sam on Twitter, then a couple of years ago in person at a Continuum Convention in Melbourne. More recently we were on the November Supanova tour, where we had a great time! I’m currently reading Sam’s debut novel, City of Lies, and it’s fantastic. Needless to say, I had to get her on the blog so you can find out more about her.
So, Sam, how did you come to be a writer. Was it always something you were interested in or did you fall into it?
I started writing stories as soon as I realised that was a thing you could do. I used to run around the garden narrating these elaborate games, and it was always in prose form, with speech tags and everything (“What is that?” she gasped, as she turned over the stone to reveal a set of strange markings). I remember my brother exasperatedly telling me I had better be a writer. I also used to staple together a whole bunch of paper and write chapter names and a sentence or two for each chapter (“Sally gets a rude shock”, “A surprise in the attic”, “Ben learns his lesson” — I was very into Enid Blyton in early primary school)*, though my follow-through was pretty dreadful and I never got much further than that. I wrote my first (bad) fantasy novel in high school but was never foolish enough to try to get that one published!
* I was just talking to Jodi McAlister about this on the weekend and it turns out that she too wrote novels at this age with hilarious chapter names also inspired by Enid Blyton, which I found very amusing – I’m not the only one!!
What were your favourite books/films/shows growing up? What kick-started your creativity?
Argh, I loved so many things! I’m going to stick to very early (primary school) ones because otherwise the list gets too out of control.
Books: Enid Blyton was certainly an early favourite (especially the adventure/mystery and circus ones), as was Roald Dahl, but I loved so many books. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery), When Marnie Was There (Joan Robinson), Space Demons (Gillian Rubenstein), Fear is the Key (Alastair McLean) and Megan’s Star (Alan Baillie) were some I remember rereading dozens of times.
In terms of TV I remember being more obsessed with Mysterious Cities of Gold than any other show in primary school, but I loved all the standard 80s lineup – Star Blazers, Inspector Gadget, Astro Boy, the Goodies, Blackadder, Maid Marion and her Merry Men… and for movies, I saw the Princess Bride on my 8th birthday and watched it approximately 400 times over the subsequent years, and it remains my favourite movie of all time. I was also very into Highlander and Dirty Dancing.
Your novel ‘City of Lies’ has been garnering all kinds of wonderful reviews and making lists all over the place – congrats! Can you tell readers a little bit about the story and what inspired you to write it?
Thank you! City of Lies is about a brother and sister who are poison testers responsible for protecting the royal family of a very wealthy, sophisticated city. At the beginning of the story everything basically goes to crap for them – their uncle and the current Chancellor are poisoned by an unknown poison and the city is besieged by what appears to be its own countrymen rising in rebellion. My main characters have to try to find the traitor in the city and before the new Chancellor (their best childhood friend) is murdered as well, or the city falls.
It’s kind of my homage to some of the things that I always loved reading about – fantasy settings with mysterious poorly-understood magic, closed room mysteries, siblings and friendship, and characters who are more the Sam Gamgees than the central stage heroes of the story.
The sequel ‘Hollow Empire’ comes out in December. How did you find writing this one? Was it easier or harder to write than the first?
Ahahahahahahaha *deep breath* ahahhahahahahahahahaha *hollow laugh* (I’m sorry for the pun. It was there, and I took it).
Yeah, no, it was a lot harder. For a whole bunch of reasons. Much tighter deadline, trying to plan it so that it would function as both the middle book in a trilogy or the end of the series (I am only contracted for 2 books currently), and a whole bunch of lame psychological stuff worrying that people wouldn’t like it as much as CoL. I also made it waaaay too long then had to cut out a literal THIRD of it, which I do not recommend, you know, as a writing plan.
Can you give us a little teaser as to what to expect from Hollow Empire?
Hmm, how about gangs and drugs and witches and politics and hard choices.
Oooh. I see…..
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
Robin Hobb blurbed my book. There is an actual book, in actual bookstores, that has my name on it, with my absolute idol recommending it. That was the literal dream of my teenage years, and I still can’t really believe it came true.
If you weren’t a writer, what would your dream job be? Do you have a secret passion that we don’t know about?
Dream job? In my dreams, I don’t work! Hehe. Nah, I’m fundamentally lazy so while there’s lots of things I like doing, I don’t really dream about doing any of them as a job (except writing, and that doesn’t really pay the ole bills). I really wanted to be a zookeeper, for a while, but then again the sun is my natural enemy so I probably wouldn’t like that as much as I think. My day job is as a lawyer and I do like it as much as I like anything, but if I was suddenly independently wealthy I’d be out of there like the Road Runner, honestly.
What’s the one piece of advice you wish someone had told you when starting your writing career? What do you know now, that you wished you knew then?
To be honest, I probably did get told all the good stuff. Trouble is, you don’t always know which bits to listen to and sometimes things that you know are good advice (stay off Goodreads!!) you still fail to comply with. I think maybe ‘don’t read anything into silence, it is inherently meaningless’ would have been useful, if I’d properly accepted it.
What can we expect from you next?
Hollow Empire should be out in December, if all goes to plan. After that, it will largely depend on whether my publishers are willing to let me write a third book in the Poison Wars series. If not, there’s another fantasy that’s been lurking in the back of my head for many years that I’d like to finally do justice to!
Follow Sam here:
If you’d like to check out Sam’s book, here’s where you can find it: