Almost all my writing is done in the evening, after a hard day’s work at the Copywriting Mill. I’ll settle into the armchair with my computer on a cushion on my lap, and type away with some really bland, wordless music on in the background. Someone kind will normally bring me something to eat, which I’ll inhale, then keep typing, unmoving from my super-soft armchair, one eye always on the word count. I want a desk like you would not believe.
When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
Yes, I think about J. K. Rowling’s enormous diamond and unicorn-horn house.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
Three books written by women, all funny in different ways, and all heartbreaking too: The Fountain Overflows, by Rebecca West, I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith, and Rachel’s Holiday, by Marian Keyes. The Fountain Overflows is about a late-nineteenth, early-twentieth century family, the love and the tensions between them. There are bits in there I can’t even think about without laughing aloud, yet it’s also some of the saddest fiction I’ve ever read. It’s a perfect book, and the first in a trilogy, which makes it even better, to have two more of them to read. I Capture the Castle is just beautiful – true, sad, funny, gorgeous and intelligent, and I read it every summer. Rachel’s Holiday was recommended to me by so many people, and I loved it just as much I as thought I would: clever, hilarious and heartbreaking.
All of them make me ache with the thought I shall never write as well as these women.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
The format of a diary makes things awfully easy – as Sue Townsend says, “You just plod on, day by day, week by week, month by month, until you’ve written a book.” So I just planned what would roughly happen each month, and where it was going when, and I could just write away. In the end, I probably did about seven drafts, between feedback from my agent, my editor, my writing gang, and my husband (checking for any potentially litigious similarities).
What was your journey to being a published author?
I’d mentioned very, very vague ideas of the book with my writing gang, who urged me to get the hell out of the pub and go and do it. It percolated in my brain for a while, then I wrote it, passed it to my friend (an agent) who, thank goodness, liked it. Then, even better, a publisher bought it. It was fairly horribly simple, but I’d worked in publishing for seven years so knew all the right people to blackmail.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That you can live off it. Hahahahaahaaaahahaa. Although I did get myself a rather nice (ie. actually functioning) washing machine with some of my advance (you’re welcome, Mary Wollstonecraft).
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Get on with it, really. If you think it might be dire, it’s never going to be improved by it sitting in your brain, but if it’s down on paper (or whatever) you can edit. Plus, getting a whole book done is a really great feeling. I also found setting myself a daily target was really helpful.
What are you working on at the moment?
Book two, The Baby Diaries. I love all the characters, so am glad I get to spend more time with them.
We have 10 copies of Sam's debut novel The Wedding Diaries to give away to you UK based readers. To enter, just send us your name and full address to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject header 'The Wedding Diaries Giveaway'. We'll pick 10 winners on the 5th September. Good luck!