In school I wrote a play, set in medieval times, at the request of the teacher. When it came to exams I would always write three times more than required, especially in subjects that captured my interest, and from my school days I have always read at least four books at a time. However, I had no thought of becoming a writer until I started to take the novels I was reading in a different direction; to make up my own stories, so to speak. Then I thought, why not write a story of your own? And the ideas developed from there.
How did you come up with your stories?
My stories are based on the characters. First, I create a theme and premise for the book, then I develop the characters to suit that theme and premise. The characters write the story, I just hold their hands.
You have created great characters. Which one is your favourite?
Sam is my narrator, so she is my favourite character. I like all the characters, for different reasons, even the obnoxious ones. People who contact me seem to like the ‘larger than life’ characters, like Woody or Mac. I like them too, but I also like the more subtle characters because they are more of a challenge to create.
Who would you cast to play the characters in a movie?
Difficult! I like movies from the past, the 1940s – 1970s, so I would select actors from that period, if it were possible. Physically, Dr Alan Storey is based on James Garner, so he would be my ideal choice for that role.
Are you like any of the characters (and how so)?
I guess the characters represent different strands of my personality. When I look at some of the unpleasant characters I’ve created that can offer pause for thought. Because I write in the first person, people sometimes assume that I’m Sam. We do share similar traits, such as a similar sense of humour and a commitment to social justice and the underdog. But I am not Sam. Sam is prettier and braver than me, far braver. I admire her and, maybe subconsciously, wish I could be like her.
Were the plot and subplots completely planned from the start or did they change during the process, and if so, how?
I plan each chapter on sheets of A3 paper filled with notes and squiggles. This technique goes back to the medieval play I mentioned, the one I wrote in school. The main plot is mapped out and rarely changes, though some of the subplots can develop and move in different directions as the story unfolds.
What is your main reason for writing?
The love of the story. I write what I want to read.
I ‘ve only read one of the books so far. What is the idea behind your series?
The idea behind the Sam Smith Mystery Series is to follow Sam on her life’s journey, to see a woman develop from the depths of difficulties and despair to…who knows where. Each book represents Sam at a moment in time. She is a different woman in book six, Secrets and Lies (which I’m currently writing) to the woman in book one, Sam’s Song. And the main reason for that difference is her developing relationship with Dr Alan Storey. He is the anchor in her life, the calming influence. He is the first person in her life to offer sincere love and respect. And although Sam finds that difficult to accept at first, she develops as a person as she gets used to the idea of sharing mutual love.
What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?
The best aspects of writing are capturing the initial idea then seeing that idea develop through the storyboard and written novel. The worst aspect is editing. Arrrgh!
I will be honest with you, I’m useless at marketing. I’m a private person and for my sake and my family’s sake I dislike pushing myself forward. Because the Sam books are a series I often find myself working on three or four at the same time. I can be marketing one book, working on the audio book of another, writing and editing a third book while developing ideas for a fourth book. That means I can place items in books one – three that will crop up in book four, for example, and hopefully that helps with the continuity of the series.
What do you do when you don’t write?
The main strands of my life are my family, my writing and my reading.
Tell us one odd thing about you and one really mundane thing.
I’m related to someone who was deputy prime minister; I’m not sure if that’s odd or mundane; maybe it covers both?
What else would you like us to know about yourself and your books?
Forget me, read my books. Enjoy them for what they are, then please give them a moment’s thought after you have turned the final page.
Who are your editors and how do you quality control your books?
My books are published by a small, independent publisher, Goylake Publishing. They offer me total artistic control. Goylake Publishing oversee the proofreading, production and publishing of the books through various book industry contacts.
How have you found the experience of self-publishing? What were your highs and lows?
Independent publishing offers great advantages and great disadvantages. One advantage is artistic control. A ‘major publisher’ did show an interest in an early manuscript, not a Sam Smith book, but they wanted to alter that manuscript to such an extent I failed to recognise it as my own. I didn’t want that to happen with the Sam Smith books. I don’t write for fortune or fame, I write for the love of the story. The disadvantages are, the book industry offers you little respect and your books are often dismissed out of hand. The book industry is just that, an industry, and their top and bottom line is money. Independent authors often write purely for love, and that love is evident in their prose.
What is your advice to new writers?
Be true to yourself; write about subjects that interest you.
Who are your favourite independent writers?
Through a reading group I have discovered many new authors who write with quality and have interesting stories to tell. Currently, I’m reading Erin Riley’s Viking sagas and loving them. Erin is one of many fine independent authors who deserve a wider readership.
Who are your favourite authors?
I love private detective novels, so my favourites are Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Robert B. Parker and Marcia Muller. I also enjoy the books of Mary Stewart, Winston Graham, Peter O’Donnell and Francis Durbridge, amongst others.
What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?
I’m currently reading Marie by Winston Graham (eBook), Conditions of Love by John Armstrong (paperback), Till the Butchers Cut Him Down by Marcia Muller (eBook) and Trouble is My Business by Raymond Chandler (audio book).
What makes you laugh?
My family (sometimes!). I have a Pythonesque sense of humour and my favourite TV programme is QI.
What (not who) would you like to take to a lonely island?
My reading and music libraries.
Hot or cold?
Hot, every time!
Salty or sweet?
Pass the chocolate, please…
What would your friends say are your best and your oddest quality?
I’m a writer, I don’t have any friends!
What song would you pick to go with your book?
I usually write with a theme song in mind. In Sam’s Song that song was Love Hurts. In The Hermit of Hisarya, my latest book, the theme song is Roll Away the Stone. If you read the book, maybe you will understand why.http://hannah-howe.com
“The first word that comes to my mind when I met Sam Smith is “spunky.” This petite woman is hell-bent on pleasing her clients: first by tracking a stalker,then by finding a murderer. Then she stumbles upon something even more sinister.
Although she has it together in her occupation, she has psychological issues brought on by an abusive, alcoholic mother and ex-husband. She can fight the toughest criminals, but lets her hair fall into her face, hiding her emotions, when it comes to personal matters.
Sam is an endearing character. Her assessments of some of the people she encounters will make you laugh at her wicked mind. At other times, you’ll cry at the pain she’s suffered.
The story is worth reading for the events that unfold. But it has more. It delves into the effects drugs and alcohol have on people–not only those abusing the substances, but also the people they know. It results in domestic abuse, negative psychological perceptions of oneself, and so much more hurt and pain.”
An audio book of Sam’s Song, narrated by Suzan Lynn Lorraine, is now available from Amazon, Audible and iTunes.Love Hurts. For Derwena de Caro, songstress, female icon, teenage dream, success brought drugs, alcohol and a philandering boyfriend. It also brought wealth, fame and a stalker, or so she claimed. And that’s where I came in, to investigate the identity of the stalker, little realising that the trail would lead to murder and a scandal that would make the newspaper headlines for months on end.
Love Hurts. For me, Samantha Smith, Enquiry Agent, love arrived at the end of a fist. First, I had to contend with an alcoholic mother, who took her frustrations out on me throughout my childhood, then my husband, Dan, who regarded domestic violence as an integral part of marriage. But I survived. I obtained a divorce, kept my sense of humour and retained an air of optimism. I established my business and gained the respect of my peers. However, I was not prepared for Dan when he re-entered my life, or for the affection showered on me by Dr Alan Storey, a compassionate and rather handsome psychologist.
Sam’s Song. This is the story of a week that changed my life forever.