I’ve always loved reading, so writing, for me, is an amazing extension of this. I can disappear in to my imagination for hours when writing, except I get to pick the characters, the setting and the plot, which is more fun, but sometimes exasperating.
How did you come to writing?
I started writing about seven years ago, when my animal-mad daughter ran out of appropriate books to read. While searching for plot ideas, I was confronted by the terrible koala habitat destruction in the Redlands, and decided a story about saving wildlife would be the perfect start to my writing journey. My daughter’s all grown up now, but I’m still writing wildlife stories.
What were your greatest obstacles starting out? How did you overcome them?
I have a science background rather than a creative one, so although I could bang out a research paper, I didn’t have a clue how to write a novel. So, I enrolled in the Year of the Novel at the Queensland Writer’s Centre, and that’s when I fell in love. The wealth of information, peer support and monthly follow-up during the course was perfect to keep me motivated and I was thrilled when I finished my first story.
How do you keep yourself motivated and disciplined?
To be honest, I’m not sure. Writing a novel is a lot tougher than I thought it would be, plus it’s pretty hard on the bank balance. I find endings trickiest to write, and sometimes get so frustrated, I wish I’d never begun writing. Just ask my husband, who has to listen to me whinge. I think hearing young children say they love reading after picking up one of my books is my best motivator. Also, when I’m in my story and really feeling it, it’s definitely all worthwhile.
How do you manage your writing time with everything else you do? How has that changed from when you were starting out?
My creative brain doesn’t work well too early in the morning, so I’m not one for 4am rises. I’m not great late at night either. So on writing days, I usually get stuck in around 7am, write till lunch, take my dogs for a walk to sort out my brain and then write again till I’ve had enough. I don’t worry too much about daily word count, I just keep writing till I’ve said enough. With lots of tea breaks in between. The tricky part is getting enough writing days. Being an author is like running a small business, with an employee of one. School visits, emails, website updates and marketing all take up time, and it’s a juggle to make sure there are enough creative days in between. Nowadays, I set aside writing months, usually around Nov-Jan when school visits are a little quieter.
Where do you write? How do you arrange your working space?
Well, I’d love to say it’s a nice home-library lined with inspirational books, but mostly it’s wherever I can plonk my laptop. The kitchen bench, the car, a cosy café. My stories don’t seem to care much about a work space – they just pop out wherever. I’m not that great with too much noise though, so am pretty anti-social while writing.
What are your essential writing tools?
My Apple Mac, my Kogan laptop stand and keyboard so that I can set my screen at eye level and save my neck, an A4 notepad to write important notes, a quiet corner to write in and an endless supply of Dilmah tea.
What’s the one thing you wish you’d known when you were starting out as a writer?
I wish I’d known how to touch type. I still fumble around with three fingers and make so many mistakes. It drives me insane. I really wish I would stop and learn to type properly, but I just keep plugging on.
What do you read and how do you read as a writer?
As a child, I loved Harry the Dirty Dog. I always wished I could be a bit naughtier, like him (I am way too much of a goody-two-shoes.) I still read lots of children’s books, enjoying seeing how others develop their plots, but also love YA, adult books and biographies. I try to support Australian writers by always buying home-grown first. As a writer, I notice and love great verbs, and enjoying seeing how great writers say so much in a few cleverly chosen words.
How do you overcome ‘writer’s block’?
I take a long walk or drive and pretty much talk out loud to myself the whole way, discussing the plot with my inner self (not to be done in highly populated areas, as you get funny looks). I also search the internet for pictures or news stories that might tweak my brain and jog it back into action. Pictures especially help. And finally, I might corner a long suffering friend or family member and ‘ask’ them for advice about my story, but end up telling them what I’m going to do.
What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Don’t be daunted by that big empty page. Fill it up with what’s inside you. Write from the heart. And most of all – finish it! So many aspiring writers say they have five manuscripts in the drawer, none of them finished. Do it. Believe in your story.
Samantha worked with dairy farmers and taught science before turning to writing in 2009. Her children’s books: Smooch & Rose, Spud & Charli and Mister Cassowary are packed with animals and adventure, and have been shortlisted for numerous awards. Samantha hopes her stories will inspire everyone to make a difference.