Samantha grew up all over the world and still travels whenever she can. She lives in the corner of a living room in North Carolina with a neurotic cat and a stack of books. She’s currently revising her first novel, due to be shopped next spring. She reads too much, reviews books for The New York Journal of Books, reviews TV sporadically and commits random acts of academia.
The working title is Married to the Wind, and I hope I get to keep it when it goes to editors! It’s an epic fantasy about a twinned princess, each half with its own destiny, a boy who falls from the sky and must return there, a walled country with an entire history based on a lie, and what happens when gods get tired of waiting on humans and start moving around the world on their own.
Samantha took time out from her busy schedule to answer my Top 5 burning questions. Here’s what she had to say:
MN: Writers are often told, “Write what you know.” How much of what you write stems from your experience?
SH: I write fantasy, so, well, I don’t have a lot of experience with magic or dragons or first-hand interactions with old resurrected gods, but I do know a lot about how it feels to grow up displaced, which works well with stories about people who have to rise above uncertainty to save the world. And I know a lot about mythology and the systems of myth and legend inform stories that come later–which, again, works well in Fantasy. I grew up in Turkey, Italy, Japan and Scotland, so I’ve got a pretty wide view of cultures that I can draw on, and I’ve lived them, so I know the little details you might not get from research–what the air smells like at different times of the year, what plants are there, how outsiders and natives deal with the same things differently.
And I always thought ‘write what you know’ was more like ‘write what you know about what it feels like’ or ‘write what you would want to be if you were in this position’ anyway.
MN: Once you have your premise, what’s your process? Are you a plotter or a “pantser” going with your instincts as you write?
SH: I refuse to formally plot, and cling tenaciously to the idea of being a pantser. To me, once a story is already told–say, though mapping it out–I don’t need to tell it again, and there’s always a new idea I could be chasing down. And, there’s the issue that I never really know what I think about something until I write it down anyway, so the few times–like in a writing class or something–when I’ve been forced, kicking and screaming, to plot something first, the final product is always a totally different story, even if the first paragraph or first page is the same.
But I will admit this: Since beginning school at SHU, I’ve taken to mini-plotting. I’ll take notes and brainstorm along the way to clear up fogginess or solve problems, and I’ll end each day’s writing with three or five things I want to do next. But mostly, I’m writing the first draft to see where it goes, and I’m always surprised!
MN: What or who inspires you to write fantasy? Science fiction?
SH: Everything inspires me! But what inspired me originally was a combination of boredom, needing new books to read, and my dad’s bookshelf. See, I was about eleven or twelve in the cold dark years before YA had blossomed, and I was bored after reading about sixty chapter books in a row–Babysitter’s Club, The Boxcar Children, a few children’s novelizations of a show I used to watch when we were in the UK. Mom told me I’d used up my weekly book allowance and I was home sick and restless, but I knew I dad had this big bookshelf full of classic SciFi–Bradbury, Asimov, Clarke, a little Heinlein. And Anne McCaffrey. I picked up Dragonflight. I read it cover to cover faster than I’d read anything over 120 pages in my life, and when it was done, I wanted more. I started writing before I realized there WAS more–about ten more at that point, and she was still writing them!
From there, I devoured everything I could find with her name on it, and I read through the rest of the shelf, alternating dragons and telepaths in towers with the Bradbury anthologies–written by him and edited by him–and some of the Asimov and a big swath of the Clarke. On my own, I consumed all the Robin McKinley I could find. And comic books. And 80s fantasy movies. I was amazed that books existed that were like those movies!
McCaffrey is a good jumping-off point for both Fantasy and SciFi because the Pern series walks the line between them, especially at the beginning, and I didn’t make much distinction between them anyway, when I was a kid. I started out writing fantasy, went through a SciFi phase that was primarily inspired by TV and movies, and came back to Fantasy before I joined the program. Now, my thesis is Epic Fantasy, and my next project is Urban Fantasy, so we’ll have to wait until after that one to see how I do with SciFi!
MN: Plum-Kitten Baroque Rose – that’s an incredibly inventive and usual name. Please tell us how you got it.
SH: Haha, that’s a silly story. My real name is Samantha. I was looking for a neat name that I could put on Facebook to separate my personal page from my writing page, and I’d already started writing under Samantha Holloway, so I changed my personal name instead! It’s the name of a shoe that one of my friends used to sell in the shop he worked at–not even all that interesting a shoe, but I love the sound of the name. I think, if I ever need a new penname, I might write under Plum-Kitten Baroque Rose; think of how awesome the stories could be coming from her! Or, you know, I could write under that name if my editor or agent insists I pick a more interesting one…I’d have to do a lot of rebranding, though…
But it IS a great name, so now you’ve got me thinking…
MN: George Clooney or Brad Pitt. Why?
SH: George Clooney. He’s endlessly charming, and he seems like he’d be more fun to just be around; Brad Pitt has gotten so serious these last few years…
Thank you! This has been great!
To get in touch with and/or follow Samantha:
Blog: Writing – herdingthedragon.blogspot.com and Personal – makeshiftsurfaces.blogspot.com