Friday, 12 August 2016

Debut Spotlight: Sam Carrington

Today it's my pleasure to shine the spotlight on author Sam Carrington, her debut novel Saving Sophie is published today as an eBook with the paperback to follow in December.  

Sam Carrington lives in Devon with her husband and three children. She worked for the NHS for 15 years, during which time she qualified as a nurse. Following the completion of a Psychology degree she went to work for the prison service as an Offending Behaviour Programme Facilitator. Her experiences within this field inspired her writing. She left the service to spend time with her family and to follow her dream of being a novelist. SAVING SOPHIE is her debut psychological thriller novel.

You can follow Sam's publication journey via her website, Twitter sam_carrington1 or Facebook Sam Carrington - Writer

Can you tell us a little bit about your debut novel Saving Sophie?
The novel opens with seventeen-year-old Sophie being escorted home by police after a drunken night where she’d become separated from her friends. Her parents are angry, but concerned about how she came to be found wandering the streets alone and why she is rambling incoherently about her friend, Amy. Unable to get answers, they wait until the next day to seek explanation for her behaviour. But, the following morning Sophie remembers nothing about how she got into such a state or why she left her group of friends. To complicate matters, they find out that Amy didn’t return home. When a body is found the family is thrown into a nightmare of loss, lies and secrets - and Karen, Sophie’s mother, begins to think that Sophie knows more than she is letting on. But Karen has her own demons to fight. She struggles to go beyond her own door without a panic attack. As she becomes convinced that Sophie is not only involved in her friend’s death, but also in danger, Karen must confront her own anxieties to stop whoever killed one young girl moving on to another – Sophie.

The story revolves around a missing teenager and an agoraphobic mother trying to protect her own daughter, where did the idea for this storyline come from?
I am a mum to teenage boys and a daughter who is now twenty-two. The initial nugget of the idea came from a real-life incident and my reaction to it. For us, all ended well - but it was really hard not to think of the ‘what ifs’. These questions filled my head for a long while afterwards and I began to form the plot for Saving Sophie by using them. The anxiety that I experienced each time my daughter was out clubbing until the early hours informed much of the underlying fears that Karen had in the story. I can’t put my finger on when I decided to make Karen agoraphobic, but at some point I questioned how awful it would be to have such a debilitating condition and feel helpless when awful things started to unfold. It also helped me explore how friendships and family relationships can become strained and challenging. Although I have no direct experience of agoraphobia, I do suffer claustrophobia and so some of the reactions and fear it generates are similar to Karen’s - albeit about enclosed spaces rather than open ones!

Saving Sophie was longlisted for the 2015 CWA Debut Dagger Award, how did it feel to make this prestigious list?  And how did the whole experience help you with regards to finally getting your debut novel published? 
How did it feel? Oh, goodness - I thought my heart was going to stop beating when I received the email that said ‘Congratulations, you have been longlisted…’ Then I felt sick, and shook for about an hour! I went through the ‘are they sure?’ and ‘they might have made a mistake’ reactions and it wasn’t until I received another confirmation email that I allowed myself to celebrate. For me, it was a massive achievement and one that definitely got the attention of my agent, Anne Williams. She had already requested the full manuscript of my first novel and although had liked aspects of my writing, she didn’t connect with the story overall. However, when I informed her of my longlisting, she asked to see the opening chapters… and the rest, as they say, is history. The competition gave me a huge confidence boost and being able to say that I’ve been longlisted for the Debut Dagger is amazing, and it really opens doors for a new writer! 

If you had to describe Saving Sophie in one sentence, what would it be?
A family struggles to cope with loss, lies and secrets, and a mother fights her own dark past to protect her daughter from a vengeful killer. 

The psychological thriller market is proving really popular at the moment, what do you think is its appeal to both writers and readers? 
Psychological thrillers have been around a long time, so I’m not sure as to why they are SO popular right now. Do we attribute it to the success of the much talked about Gone Girl? I’m not sure. But whatever the reason, I think people are generally fascinated by what makes people tick and they want to read about how ordinary, every-day people cope with being placed into really bad situations! I particularly like the mind games that are played out in psychological thrillers, and the twists and turns which make you unsure who to trust. It can leave your head in a spin. It’s SUCH fun to write – and building tension and creating those twists are really satisfying. I also think their appeal to writers is that you yourself aren’t always sure of what is going to happen next. Although I plotted carefully, some twists came about organically and were character-led … and when the characters take over, it’s an exciting moment for a writer!

How did your writing journey start?   
I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to write. I began a writing course many years ago, but with one thing or another (mainly having children!) I never completed it. I wrote my very first short story at the end of 2010 and sent it off to a woman’s magazine. I was shocked and thrilled that it was accepted, and it was published in June 2011. I tried a few times after that to repeat this success, but failed. Because I was working full-time for the prison service, my writing ceased for a while, but it was always niggling me that I should try again. In 2012 I wrote a story that was included in a charity anthology and I then had a few more acceptances in woman’s magazines. By the end of 2013, after a very challenging year, I decided I wanted to make writing my career. I began writing my first novel and finished it in 2014 then began submitting it to agents. I had some excellent feedback and some agent interest, but it wasn’t until my second novel was longlisted in the Debut Dagger in May 2015 that things really took off!

Have you treated yourself to something special to celebrate your publishing your debut novel? 
Not yet! But I do want a summer house in the garden so that I can escape the confines of my house. I would really love my own space to write in peace! Oh, and I do have a bottle of champagnes waiting in the fridge for me… 

Finally, what can we expect from you next? 
My next novel focuses on forensic psychologist, Connie Summers. After she recommends a prisoner’s release, he commits a serious offence which Connie feels responsible for, so she trades her role working with offenders for running her own counselling consultancy helping the victims of crime. One of her newest clients is Steph, a troubled young woman relocated by the Protected Persons Service, who is fearful for her and her son’s life. When Connie begins to unpick these fears, she uncovers the tragic circumstances that led to the death of Steph’s dad sixteen years ago. Meanwhile, DI Wade and DS Mack pay Connie a visit to tell her that an absconded prisoner has been murdered and his body dumped outside the prison gates. Initially, Connie thinks they are asking for her expert opinion and help in profiling the perpetrator. But then they tell her who the victim is, and that her name is written on the dead man’s hand. Suddenly the past catches up, threatening to reveal Steph’s true identity and ruin Connie’s new career – possibly even her life.

A teenage girl is missing. Is your daughter involved, or is she next?

Your daughter is in danger. But can you trust her?

When Karen Finch’s seventeen-year-old daughter Sophie arrives home after a night out, drunk and accompanied by police officers, no one is smiling the morning after. But Sophie remembers nothing about how she got into such a state.

Twelve hours later, Sophie’s friend Amy has still not returned home. Then the body of a young woman is found.

Karen is sure that Sophie knows more than she is letting on. But Karen has her own demons to fight. She struggles to go beyond her own door without a panic attack.

As she becomes convinced that Sophie is not only involved but also in danger, Karen must confront her own anxieties to stop whoever killed one young girl moving on to another – Sophie.

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