Name: Samantha Bryant
Where are you from: Originally from Bellevue, Kentucky; currently from Hillsborough, North Carolina; in my heart from Nome, Alaska.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc: I am a middle school Spanish schoolteacher by day and writer by night. I have a master’s degree in English from the Bread Loaf School of English of Middlebury College in Vermont, and a bachelor’s in English, Education, Creative Writing, and Spanish from Morehead State University in Kentucky. I’ve lived in a variety of places including Kentucky, Kansas, Vermont, Spain, England, and Alaska, but now I live in North Carolina. I have two daughters (one a teenager and one a second grader) an awesomely supportive husband, and a very fuzzy dog. We all live in a nice little suburban neighbourhood that I’m writing a series of weird short stories about.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My debut novel is coming out in just a few months now! Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel will be published by Curiosity Quills in April 2015.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Pretty much as soon I could handle a pencil, I began writing. I wrote a poem in first grade (“Beauty”) that garnered me all kinds of classroom praise, and was hooked. Throughout my childhood, I wrote poems, stories, and parts of novels. It’s always been a part of who I am.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
As I said, I’ve always written, but I didn’t take myself seriously until about two years ago. When I turned 42, I decided it was time to give it a real go. After all, Douglas Adams said that 42 was the answer to life, the universe and everything. So, I committed to a daily writing habit and began finishing things and submitting them.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
The first book I wrote isn’t published (yet!). It grew out of my unreasonable fears related to becoming a mother again and took me four years to write. It was emotionally difficult to write, so I promised myself I could write something fun after I finished it. The idea of menopausal superheroes came from a rambling conversation with my husband about the relationship between hormones and superpowers in comic book universes. Like a lot of women, I have a fair amount of anxiety about going through menopause, so I guess this book really came from my own unreasonable fears, too.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I tend to write in two distinct genres: women’s issues fiction and speculative fiction. The tone for each is really different, but I see similarities in that I always write complex women with personal challenges. I’m serious even when I’m playing.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
This was one case where the book’s title was sitting there waiting in my brain from the moment I conceived the idea. I wish that would happen for the sequel! People often refer to menopause as “The Change” and I liked the idea that my women were going through unusual changes.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I try to save my pedantic nature for the classroom, but I would say that the novel explores themes of friendship, family, aging, and personal boundaries.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
These women are all very real to me, but the situation they find themselves in is very comic book with a mad scientist and crazy superpowers. So, I guess it’s all in how you look at it.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I started with menopause stories of my friends and family, but I don’t write quite that autobiographically. I usually only realize afterwards that there might be reflections of myself or the people in my life in the characters on my pages.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women was extremely important to me when I was a child. I loved Jo March, and, to my mind, Jo was just an analogue for her creator: an independent, strong, thinking woman who loved to write. I read all of Alcott’s books. When I was in graduate school, I got to visit the Alcott homestead and I feel she and I are friends across time. We think alike.
These days, my most important mentors are the members of my critique group. I learn so much from the comments they give me on my work and from providing useful feedback to all of them. My books would certainly not be nearly as good as they are without their kind support and high standards.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I always have multiple books going. I like how the disparate ideas bounce around in my head and feed my own creativity. I love participating in books clubs, too, for the opportunity to find works I might not have found on my own.
For my library reading club, I’m reading The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. For my community reading club, I’m reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. For fun, I’m reading Spellbound by Larry Correia, the second of his Grimnoir Chronicles. I just got some new books for Chanukah and Christmas, too, so there’s a lot of reading in my future.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Larry Correia is not a new writer, but I hadn’t read him before until this year, so he’s new to me. It’s been an education in how to write action. He’s a master!
I’ve also been exploring some middle grades works because my NaNoWriMo book this year was a middle grades piece. Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick really impressed me for its sympathetic portrayals of the friends. In that same vein, I enjoyed Anne Ursu’s Breadcrumbs. She really captured the heart of a middle schooler.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’m finishing the first draft of the sequel to Going Through the Change (still untitled) over Christmas break, so I can get my critique group to give it a read in February or March. After that, I’ve got two other in-progress pieces to tackle: a historical fiction novel (working title Cold Spring) and a middle grades novel (working title: Rat Jones is a Lacrosse Witch). Besides all of that, I’m upping my social media presence to try and get the word out there about my upcoming book, blogging, and writing short stories.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
I’ve already mentioned my critique group earlier, so I’ll talk about my online writing community. I’m a big fan of online writing communities like Writer’s Discussion Group and Saturday Scenes on Google+ and my publisher’s Literary Marauder’s (closed) group on Facebook. Through blogging, I’ve also made contact with a lot of great people. Writers are often so open and willing to help. I’ve learned so much from the journeys of others!
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I’m hoping to. I teach middle school, so it’s not as if I’m accustomed to rolling in dollars. If I could replace my teaching income with writing income, I’d write full time for sure! In the meantime, I’m still bringing my A game and producing the best work I can in hopes of getting there someday.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
It’s probably too soon to have regrets. I’m still riding that balloon of having it accepted for publication! I do still like Going Through the Change when I read it, so that’s probably a good sign. I do know that, in working on the sequel, I wish I had kept better character and timeline notes so it was easier to keep consistent in the second book and beyond.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Probably in reading. I love stories. I love words. I always have. My mother and I spent hours and hours in the library and reading together when I was small. The urge to create my own poems and stories came early, too. I call it “itchy fingers”–that feeling that I have to get some words on the page. (The feeling still applies even though I write on a keyboard now).
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I’m happy to! Here’s a bit from the untitled sequel. Linda/Leonel Alvarez is at her first physical training session with The Department, a covert agency within the government. The only background you might need is the knowledge that in Going Through the Change, Linda was transformed into a man with superstrength.
“Heavy bag. This one is fitted with a sensor to detect the level of force you bring to bear in a punch. Here. Put these on.” He handed Linda a set of fingerless gloves with leather padding over the fist. She slid her hands in and flexed them. She thought she might enjoy this part. It would feel good to work out some of her bad feelings in an honest sweat. “You ready?”
“Mike, please. No need to be so formal.” His smile was certainly winning. Linda felt a little tingle of response in her pants and told herself to focus. She’d be working with a lot of handsome men here at the Department, after all. She couldn’t go all weak-kneed every time one of them smiled at her.
“I’m ready, Mike.”
For the next few minutes, she followed Mike’s directions and jabbed at the punching bag gently from several different angles and with several different kinds of thrusts. When she seemed to have the motions down, he said, “Alrighty then, let’s see what you can do, Killer.”
The word jarred her. Killer? It’s just a word, she told herself. Just something guys say to pump each other up. Focus. So, focus she did.
Her next punch threw the heavy bag through the cinderblock gymnasium wall and out the other side, wedging it in a soda machine in an alcove across from the gym. Sparks flew out of the crumpled machine, now visible through the gaping hole in the gymnasium wall. People were running to see what had just happened. Linda cringed. “I’m so sorry, Mike. I know a guy who can fix this.”
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Balancing exposition and action. In early drafts, everyone is thinking and talking and not doing a darn thing. That doesn’t fly in speculative fiction. I think training myself to have my characters do more is also going to improve my more literary work.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Neil Gaiman. I like his absolute empathy for his characters. His worlds are not black and white rigid constructions, but messy in the same way life is, where doing the “right” thing might be wrong and the villain might be the real hero of the piece.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not yet. The book comes out in April 2015, so I’ll be spending summer vacation on promotional activities like readings and conventions. It’s all still being planned right now.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Curiosity Quills, my publisher, hired Polina Sapershteyn. I think it’s perfect!
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Carving the writing time out of all the other demands of life. I’m a mom and a teacher, so in some respects, I have 140 or so kids at any given moment. I’ve had to learn to be more selfish about the time I set aside for writing and not let anyone take it for other uses.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned that a daily writing habit is essential to my process. I joined a Facebook group called The Magic Spreadsheet after reading about the tool somewhere. It’s a gamification tool, where you earn points and levels for writing a certain number of words every day. At first, I struggled to do the minimum of 250 words per day, now my minimum is 800 words. I make better use of my limited time, too, when I don’t have to work my way back into the story–I was just there yesterday!
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Don’t just talk about writing–do it. You can’t revise a blank page (or screen).
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Um, buy my book? LOL.
Of course, I am biased, but I think it’s a good read–and a story aimed at grown women with families and jobs. Even if you don’t usually read superhero fiction, I think you’ll find something to connect with in one of my characters.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
It was a collection of Mother Goose’s Nursery Rhymes. It was big–a tall, thin book with a blue cover with a somewhat grumpy looking goose on the cover. I think I memorized it before I could actually read.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Other people. Especially the ones I love. Sometimes they make me laugh and cry all in the same day.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
I’d love to have tea with some of my favorite iconic women writers of the past: Louisa May Alcott, Charlotte Brontë, Patricia Clapp, Emily Dickinson, Sojourner Truth, Shirley Jackson, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Mary Shelley, Helen Keller. That would be quite a tea party! We should meet at the Pump Room in Bath and see if Jane Austen is available to show us around.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
I find the idea of burial kind of creepy. So, I hope not to have a headstone.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
The hubby and I study German longsword with a local HEMA (Historic European Martial Arts) group. I bake with the smaller daughter. We’re not so great at decorating beautifully, but our treats taste really good. I watch old movies. I read.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
My husband and I are watching Arrow on Netflix right now. It’s a nice popcorn sort of show. My favorites are old movies though–anything with Barbara Stanwyck or Humphrey Bogart. One of the local movie theaters, The Carolina, does an old movie festival called “Retrofantasma.” I’d go to every show if my life and budget allowed.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
I’m much too fond of chocolate for my own good, but I also like some less fattening things like sushi and salmon. My favorite color is green, a nice leafy green. As for music, I’m an odd duck. Music comes into my life much like books do: from the people around me. So, my ipod holds music ranging from classical to heavy metal, from every decade in between. My favorite band here of late has been Cake, but that changes regularly.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I also teach, so I suppose I would still do that. I also enjoyed a brief stint as a librarian in my twenties. There needs to be books.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Yes! Right now, I only have a blog. I’m hoping to expand it into a fuller site over the next few months and provide links to my work. It’s called Balancing Act: http://samanthabryant.com
You can also find my author page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/samanthadunawaybryant
And on my publisher’s website: https://curiosityquills.com/authors/samantha-bryant/
Or follow me on Google+ https://plus.google.com/u/0/+SamanthaDunawayBryant/posts or Twitter https://twitter.com/mirymom1