Today I’m pleased to welcome Samantha Beiko as my guest!
Samantha Beiko has worked in the Canadian publishing industry for the past three years in various capacities, first in marketing and publicity, now in editorial and layout design. She has had the opportunity to acquire and edit some remarkable books, and along with Sandra Kasturi, Samantha edited Imaginarium 2013: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing for ChiZine Publications. Samantha is also an emerging author, and her first book, a YA fantasy novel called The Lake and the Library, has recently come out with ECW Press. She currently resides in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and is working to broaden the speculative fiction community there through her writing and publishing work. Samantha also has a few independent projects, namely a blog for a speculative fiction bookstore she would like to one day open called Valkyrie Books (http://valkyriebooks.tumblr.com). She also co-chairs the Winnipeg ChiSeries, a quarterly genre reading series, with Winnipeg urban fantasy author Chadwick Ginther.
Other artistic ventures include drawing, painting, and sculpting, and any kind of craft she can get into. By day Samantha works full-time as the Marketing Coordinator for the Manitoba Conservatory of Music & Arts (in addition to working for ChiZine Publications via telecommute). She takes vocal lessons at the MCMA, and is currently singing a mix of opera and folk song. She loves vintage everything (preferably the 1930s-mid 60s), having just started a collection of animal bones.
SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:
#1: Why do you write?
Well, that’s a new question! I don’t think anyone’s ever asked me why, and come to think of it I’ve never asked myself. It has nothing to do with wanting fame or glamour, because that kind of thing isn’t the reward you aim for, and there isn’t any clear formula to getting there. I just like telling stories, I suppose. And any creative person will tell you that there’s a magic in being able to bring to life something that only exists between you and a fleeting daydream. But the best part is being able to share it with someone else, and have them engage with it—inviting someone else in, turning a solitary experience into a shared one. That’s what I really enjoy. Lots of things have changed for me in my life and career, but the joy of creating and sharing has always been constant.
#2: What was your earliest writing experience:
My brother was big into fantasy RPGs and reading epic fantasy. He was 4 years older than me, and wrote a lot of creative fiction based on video games for his classes, and being a younger sibling, I wanted to do EVERYTHING HE DID. So I decided I would be a writer too, but that my breakthrough piece would be an original scary story a la Are You Afraid of the Dark or Goosebumps (we ordered all those books via our Scholastic Book Orders like addicts.) This first-ever story was done on loose leaf in 2B pencil and was titled “The Black Plague.” Being a seven year old with no concept of the world, I thought the Black Plague was some kind of monster creature–pale, hairless, and wandering around my neighbourhood on Halloween night trying to eat people. It could only be stopped by a courageous girl and her older brother (obviously). When my brother told me the black plague was actually a disease and not a monster, I was crushed. I think I have the original copy somewhere! I even wrote it by candlelight in my kitchen because ‘that’s what authors did.’
#3: Describe a day in your writing life:
It’s definitely difficult to get a lot of work done when you have a full time job, and when you’re working on publishing other people’s books at the same time . . . and also trying to stay in shape or see your loved ones every now and again, or, you know, sleep. But you’ve got to make the time, otherwise the book just won’t happen. My typical day is to spend all my waking hours at work thinking about writing, plotting things in a Hilroy scribbler on my lunch breaks, coming home, continuing publishing work, and finding myself staring down midnight. I try to get in at least 500 words minimum a day though, even when there’s no time for it. I’ve got friends who pump out 3000 words or more a day, which makes me feel very inefficient, but even if I haven’t written a word, I try to plot and plan, which does provide a bit of relief when the writing comes. Sticking to a schedule has always been a challenge for me, but luckily I have a ton of writer friends who are very encouraging and inspire me to just Get It Done. And it’s NaNo month, so everyone needs a solid push—even those of us who’ve already been published! I wish every day was the same, or that I could just stay at home and pump out two books a year, but the reality is that you have to squeeze in the craft in those rare pockets of time . . . and avoid the internet while you’ve got them.
#4: What authors influenced you and how?
Too many to name! Big ones like Diana Gabaldon, Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman, Tolkien, and the less known like Nancy Springer, Caitlin Sweet, Mary Stewart . . . these authors drive home to me some basic values about writing: belief and conviction in the worlds that you create and the characters inhabiting them is a vital part to writing the best story you can. They also taught me that I should never feel limited in what I can write, because there are no hard and fast rules. It’s never ‘can I write this’ or ‘should I write this’, it’s more ‘what’s stopping me?’ Usually it’s ourselves who inhibit our own writing, so constantly finding new authors that are intent on pushing the envelope keeps me wanting to challenge myself more and more.
#5: What are some things you learned to help with your success?
I work in the book publishing industry, which opened my eyes to a lot of things while I was in the midst of signing my contract. I realized very quickly that what I was learning in my program, as far as marketing and publicity went, I would have to do myself, as an author. Being knowledgeable about what’s behind the ‘curtain’ certainly helped, and kept me level in terms of what I could expect from being published.
Writing the book is the easy part. It’s getting it out there and into people’s hands, and connecting with the people who have read it, that takes a lot of work. There’s only so much your publisher can do for you, in terms of publicity and promoting. They have other books to worry about, and can’t put all their eggs in your basket. So there is quite a bit more leg work that is expected on the author’s end: keeping up with Twitter, Facebook, a blog; going out and doing readings and querying your local library or bookstore if they’ll host you, pitching yourself to conventions as a panelist, etc. Whatever ‘success’ I’ve had with my first book has come from making myself present in my community—as a writer, publishing professional, and reader—and being willing to put the time into going to conventions, speaking on panels, or hosting workshops accounts for a lot. Know that from the get-go, be willing to put yourself out there, and keep learning from everyone you meet and everywhere you go. The promoting bit can be like another full-time job, but it’s necessary if you’re going to stand out at all.
#6: Describe your writing method:
I like to plot a rough map of each chapter with snippets of action, dialogue, and most of all intent, before I commit anything to the actual manuscript. I usually write these by hand, because it trains me to only write the bare necessities (because hand cramps suck). I used to plot on a computer, but found I was just getting long-winded and writing more plot than actual story. After I’ve got a rough idea of where the chapter is going, I’ll sit down and throw myself into it. If I know I’m going to call it quits soon, I try to write until I’m in the middle of a chapter or a scene, so that when I come back to it, the mood and tone will already be set, and I can just get right back into it. I always find it difficult to get back into the writing if I’ve just finished a chapter and I’ve got to jump right into a new one without anything set.
I also write linearly (meaning I write from beginning to end). I’ve tried the ‘write whatever scene you feel like’ method and it didn’t really work out for me. I’m a simple point A to B gal. Going all over the map drives me insane. I write until I’ve got a good rough draft, then I’ll go through it with Track Changes on, leaving myself notes all over the MS so that I can track consistency, especially if elements of the plot change throughout. I do this two or three times until I feel that I’ve got a ‘solid’ draft, then I send it off to some readers. After that I’ll polish it up again, and try to find the book a home.
#7: Tips for aspiring writers:
- Never Stop Writing. Write every day if you can, prose or plot. And if you can’t write every day, stare into space for a while. Dream up your story. Keep it on a short leash and close to you; don’t let it fade, especially if you believe strongly in it.
- Read. Read a lot. Read everything. This is your best Writers School, by far. Read books that are great. Read books that are not so great. Learn something from every single one of them. Apply it to your work.
- Writing is a solitary job. You hole yourself up for months, lost in your head, and then you send that story out into the world. Realize now that if you want to be a ‘successful’ author, the book is the easy part. It’s engaging with your audience, local writers, and your community that will get you to ‘success’. Be willing to do readings at your local bookstores and libraries. Attend writers festivals, book fairs, conventions. Meet writers in your neighbourhood and in your genre at large, stay on top of your market, and remember that while writing is All About Being Alone, engaging people with your book is Super Social. So learn how to use Facebook and Twitter. For real.
- Don’t give up on yourself. You can do it! And if you don’t know how to do it, or you need motivation, never be afraid to seek it out.
About Samantha’s book:
The Lake & the Library is a young adult paranormal fantasy published by ECW Press (Toronto) in May, 2013.
Wishing for something more than her adventureless life, 16-year-old Ash eagerly awaits the move she and her mother are taking from their dull, drab life in the prairie town of Treade. But as Ash counts the days, she finds her way into a mysterious, condemned building on the outskirts of town—one that has haunted her entire childhood with secrets and questions. What she finds inside is an untouched library, inhabited by an enchanting mute named Li. Brightened by Li’s charm and his indulgence in her dreams, Ash becomes locked in a world of dusty books and dying memories, with Li becoming the attachment to Treade she never wanted. Soon, Ash must choose between the road ahead or the dream she’s living, before what she wants most consumes her. This haunting and romantic debut novel explores the blurry boundary between the real and imagined with a narrative that illustrates the power and potency of literacy.
Connect with Samantha:
Contact form: http://www.smbeiko.com/#!contact/c16fm