Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Crime Fiction Week Interview: Samantha Hayes

When I was planning this crime fiction feature week I was anticipating maybe a couple of interviews during the week, I certainly did not expect the fantastic response that I got which means that there will be at least one interview a day, sometimes two.  My interview guest today is Samantha Hayes who writes psychological thrillers that include Until You're Mine which has just been published.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be a crime writer?
I was born in Coventry and have lived in Warwickshire most of my life, apart from a few years in Australia and the USA. I’ve always written stories, right from when I was eight or nine. As a kid, it was kind of an escape. My parents were divorced and sometimes life at home was difficult. Writing took me away from all that. I always wrote about the darker side of life, which has translated into writing crime fiction now. Having left school aged sixteen and trying my hand at a raft of other jobs, I never really wanted to anything else but write. In 2003 I won a short story competition, hich gave me the confidence to try longer fiction.

Tell us something about yourself that your readers probably don’t already know?
I could fly a plane before I could drive a car. I had to sit on a cushion to see out of the cockpit window. I was fifteen when I first spun a two-seater Cessna aircraft from 5000 feet. I’m now very scared of heights. And flying.

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book?  
UNTIL YOU'RE MINE is a psychological thriller set in Birmingham and the first in a series featuring married Detective Inspectors Lorraine Fisher and Adam Scott. In this novel, they are investigating a series of brutal attacks on pregnant women as well as dealing with family issues of their own.

Claudia seems to have the perfect life. She's heavily pregnant with a much-wanted baby. She has a loving husband, a beautiful home and a good career. And then Zoe steps into her life. Zoe is a nanny and has moved in to help Claudia when her baby arrives. But there's something about Zoe that Claudia doesn't like. Or trust. And when she finds Zoe in her bedroom, Claudia's anxiety turns to real fear.

Where do you get your ideas from for your stories?
All over the place! Newspapers, overheard conversations, the internet, the television… Mostly, the idea for a novel will develop over time and is a patchwork of many different ideas collected together. I always make a note of things I think that could be used in a book, even if it’s just a single word or a sentence that’s caught my attention. I think it’s important to be aware and on the lookout constantly for ideas.

Percentage-wise, how much time do you spend researching and how much time do you spend writing?

I research the validity of an idea before I begin writing – to make sure the idea will hold up. Then I research the finer details as I go along. Much of it is internet-based, but not all by any means. I am in touch with two detectives who have helped me greatly with the police side of things (they are partners just like the couple in my novel!). And I think it’s very important to get a sense of place by visiting an area. No two days are the same, but typically, I might spend thirty per cent of a day researching then the rest writing – though often only a small part of what I find out in my research gets used. It’s important not to ‘info dump’ on a reader.

Are there any writers that have influenced you as a writer?
In terms of wanting to become a writer, Richard Bach influenced and inspired me. I read ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’ aged thirteen and it sealed my desire to be a writer. My English teacher got us to write what we thought the opening paragraph might be after telling us a little about the book. I’d never heard of the author before but my paragraph was uncannily like Richard Bach’s. As a kid, I took it as a sign that I must become a writer, given the nature of the story about following your dreams!

How hard is it to keep coming up with different/alternative ways to kill someone off?
It’s a grim reality that people are murdered in many horrific ways. If you can think of it, you can pretty much assume that it’s been done somewhere in the world. I think it’s more a matter of taking a certain type of murder, however unusual or gory, and handling it sensitively and plausibly. I don’t think I’ll ever run out of new ways to kill my victims!

How do you relax/unwind after writing gruesome scenes?
I like to run. Loud, upbeat music on my ipod and a 5k run usually does the trick! If I’m not feeling too energetic, I’ll take to my sewing machine for some relaxation. I like making clothes, though my teenage daughters are often wary of what I produce for them!

Are you one of those writers who wake in the middle of the night with ideas for plots, new story etc.?
I have been known to flick on the bedside lamp and scribble down ideas in my notepad! Thankfully ideas usually come to me during the day, especially when my mind wanders – like when I’m on a long drive or doing the ironing. And running is a great way to get the creative juices flowing. Ideas usually come to me when they’re not forced.

Have you ever had writer’s block? 
I don’t really believe in writer’s block. I sometimes find writing hard if I’m not sure where I’m going with a story or if my characters have pulled me off course. Then it’s a matter of taking control and going back to fix where things went wrong. Once that’s sorted, the words usually flow.

If you weren’t a writer, what career path would you have chosen to follow?
When I was much younger, I went through a phase of wanting to be a pilot, but now I’m the world’s most terrified flyer! If I had my time again and couldn’t be an author, I think I’d like to study English at university and then go on to teach at high school level. Or open a bookshop.

How long did it take you to get your first book published?
Given that I actually wrote to a publisher aged twelve asking how to get published (they replied a year later!) and that my first novel was published in 2005 (under another name), then the answer is twenty-seven years!

I wrote my first crime thriller during 2005/06. I’d already submitted work over the years to lots of agents, and the feedback got more positive as I went on. Finally, in 2006, an agent took me on and sold my first crime novel, Blood Ties, in a two book deal a couple of weeks later. It was published in 2007, so that particular ‘attempt’ was only a couple of years. I think the moral of the story is never give up!

Do you have a set daily writing routine?

‘Other things’ permitting, I’ll be at my desk by 9am generally. I’ll stay there until about 5pm and, on a writing-only day, this will have been filled with lots of words, lots of research, and lots of tea. But it rarely happens that way as there are always emails to be answered, accounts or admin type affairs to deal with, social media and websites to check, pieces for magazines to write…that kind of thing. And the nearer to a book’s publication date, there are signings and talks and events to attend. It’s all quite varied, although can often be a lonely job.

If you could write another style of genre, what would it be and why?

I’d like to trying writing a young adult novel. Possibly having three young adults myself might have something to do with that! I used to write horror/supernatural fiction years ago and still hanker for that sometimes, especially a fulllength novel.

 If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
If you want to write a novel, make sure you have an actual story to tell! You’d be surprised at how often that’s overlooked.

Are there any crime fiction books that you wish you’d written?
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn springs to mind.

When you’ve finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward?

Yes. I take a week off and catch up on all the housework I’ve let go!

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