Tuesday, March 11, 2014

An Interview with Samantha Charles

As part of Samantha Charles' tour with her book Redemption, she is doing some interviews, and has come by Shelf Full of Books to talk with us today. Welcome Samantha.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in your book?
Like my protagonist Lindy, I grew up as a minister's daughter in a slow-paced coal mining community in Virginia. Lindy and I have had similar experiences, she just happens to be a lot tougher than I am. Stephen King once said “Fiction is the truth inside the lie.” You could say Lindy and I share a lot of truths.

How much of a story did you have in mind before you started writing?
I am a character writer, so before I spent too much time crafting the plot, I created a memorable small southern town and populated it with intriguing people who have distinctly different personalities. After that, I spent a great deal of time developing a back story for the major characters, and even some of the minor ones whom I felt were integral to the plot. Then I try to stay out of their way and let them tell my story.

How do you cope with writer's block? What writer influences you the most?
I read! And then I read some more. I love to read Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series if I am working on a humorous piece of the story. Her wit and total lack of inhibition inspire me to take chances I wouldn’t normally take. If I am stuck on a more serious part of the book, or need to be reminded that my job is to create intriguing, well 
developed characters and a carefully crafted plot, I read Lee Child novel or Harlan Coben. Both of these gifted authors create compelling stories and unforgettable characters. I preorder everything they write because between releases I miss spending time in the worlds they build. As an author, I believe I have a responsibility to my readers to continue to produce something they will enjoy. That obligation draws me back to the blank page.

Can you tell us what genre you write?
The novel is a work of contemporary women's fiction inspired by the courage of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and infused with the elements of a modern day mystery and romance found in the works of Sandra Brown. The quaint hospitable charm of the setting gives the work a distinctive southern voice, yet the timbre lacks the cultured polish of the Low Country cadence found in Anne River Siddons work.

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
Again, I spend a great deal of time on backstory and background for each character. By the time I’ve finished, they speak with their own voice and behave in a way that is consistent with their personalities. I will admit, sometimes I wish I didn’t give them so much power. When I sketched the storyline for Redemption, the murderer was chosen and primed for the crime he would commit. By the time I reached that section of the book, he refused to do the kill. I put every weapon in his hands I could think of, but he continued to refuse to do the deed. I was so angry with him I did contemplate making him the victim of a horrible crime during the weeks I spent reworking the plot, but eventually he was right, and the book turned out a much better read thanks to his obstinance.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?
Some writers swear by outlines, but they just don’t work for me. I find them too inhibiting. I need the creative flow to be fluid rather than controlled by a detailed plan for the plot. I truly believe that if Redemption is a much better book than it would have been if I had stuck to my original plot. I just keep typing until it sounds, feels and reads like the story it was meant to be, rather than the one I had planned.

How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?
Knowing when the story was finished was the one thing that was predestined from the opening chapter. Even throughout all the plot twists and changes, he ending of Redemption never deviated from my original version. Once the story reached the point where that scene was a natural conclusion to the action, I simply stopped writing.

Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?
The message in Redemption is not intended to be didactic. I tried to share with the reader the beauty of the South, and give them the opportunity to feel the strength and determination of the people who inhabit the Appalachian region, as well as to expose the ugliness of the ingrained intolerance spanning generations of prejudice based in cultural hatred and ignorance.

What are you working on right now?
I am currently working on the sequel to Redemption called Salvation. My approach to subsequent novels, however, does not focus on the protagonist Lindy Harrington, but rather centers around the people of Parson’s Gap. I spent years with these characters, and plan to tell each of their stories. Frankly, I miss them, and I hope the reader will as well. The sequel tells Jack Savage’s story. Although he was only a minor character in Redemption is back, he has a starring role in the sequel.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Want and need are two different things. I have always had a love affair with books. I have read voraciously since I learned how, however I didn’t consider becoming a writer until graduate school, when I took a class under a very talented author named Joel Goldman, who writes mysteries and thriller. He encouraged me to pursue writing as a career, and I’ve never looked back. I love what I do.

At what age did you discover your love of writing? What was the first story that you wrote?
I wrote my first book, A Man and His Dog, at age five. My mother had refused to allow me to have a dog, so I wrote a book about about a man who was totally miserable and lost in life until he found a canine companion to love. The plot was basically a seven page rant written on alphabet paper, stapled into a cut up cereal box used for a cover. She did finally relent, and I did get the dog soon after. The dog I will always remember, the book I had forgotten until my father died recently. When my brother and I were sorting through his files, we found the book. He had kept it all these years.

When were you first published? How were you discovered?
I published an article in a music magazine in 2008, but my first credit in fiction came in 2012, when I wrote some short stories in a different genre, under a pseudonym.

What is the most difficult part of the whole writing process?
Editing is extremely painful. I edited Redemption five times before I hired a professional editor. It is tough to take out entire sections; sometimes cutting whole chapters or characters that I had spent time crafting that I felt were essential to the plot in the beginning and then realize they were not necessary. Having said that, I believe the most difficult part of the writing process is submitting your work to agents, and or publishers. The wait is unbearable.

What do you like to read?
I read what I write, for the most part. Mysteries or thrillers, with memorable characters and at least a hint of romance or sexual tension would have to be my “go to” escapist fiction.

If your book was made into a TV series or Movie, which actors would you like to see playing your characters?
So far, everyone who has read Redemption has thought it would make a great movie. I am not familiar with many actors or actresses in the business today. When I do have free time, I usually grab a book.

Where can people learn more about you?
I am working on a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/author.samantha.charles?ref=hl, where I will share some back story on the people of Parson’s Gap, as well as release dates etc, and sneak previews of Salvation. I am really looking forward to readers joining the page and providing feedback of any sort. I can’t wait to hear what they loved, who they hate, and even what they wish I had done differently. I do not currently have a web page, but readers can go to my publisher’s website: http://www.blackrosewriting.com/, to learn more about me or to order a copy of Redemption. The novel is also available through all major retail outlets for print or Kindle.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself?
I really this appreciate the opportunity to introduce myself and to connect with readers everywhere. Thank you for taking the time to interview me, and I am grateful for the time your readers have invested in learning more about me and my work.

200About the Book

Lindy Carver Harrington loses her unborn child during a violent altercation with her husband. On the same day, her closest friend Sara careens off a mountainside to her death. Lindy is devastated. Imprisoned by grief, and paralyzed by fear, she is easy prey to her husband’s abuse. She is unable to summon the strength to fight back, until now…

A brutal confrontation forces Lindy to choose to either end her husband’s life, or save her own. Escaping, she returns home to Parson’s Gap to rebuild her shattered life. Still haunted by the cryptic message Sara left moments before she died, Lindy becomes determined to answer the voice from the grave and unravel the mystery surrounding Sara’s death.

On a perilous journey into the final days of her friend’s life, Lindy’s quest for truth will expose shocking secrets that will shake a small southern town to its roots. Confronting the demons of her past, she strips away layers of lies buried beneath the magnificent mountains she calls home. When the past and present collide, the truth may set Lindy free, if she can only live long enough to take her last shot at redemption.

200About the Author

Samantha Charles is a southern writer. She grew up in the Appalachian region of the Southeast in small towns that are somewhat isolated from modern-day society by geography, and choice. She remains passionate about the magnificence, as well as the malevolence, of the southern culture.

She now resides in the Midwest, with her husband and three children. She attended Baker University in Kansas where she earned her Master of Arts degree. When she isn’t busy creating new worlds, she teaches English as a professor at a local college. he is currently creating a series of short stories about Parson’s Gap; a coal mining town inspired by the people and places she grew to love as a child. She is also hard at work on Salvation, the sequel to Redemption.

Redemption is her first novel.

If you would like to learn more, please visit her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/author.samantha.charles

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