My guest today writes spine chilling horror, page turning crime fiction and fast paced spy fiction. If you’re looking for your next great read, then look no further!
Hi Sam, welcome to my blog! Firstly, please introduce yourself and your books.
Hi everyone, I’m Samantha Lee Howe and I am the USA TODAY bestselling author of The Stranger In Our Bed, The House of Killers, Kill Or Die and Kill A Spy. I’m a novelist and screenwriter. I also write Horror, Fantasy, SF and Supernatural fiction under the pen name Sam Stone.
When did you start writing? Can you tell me about your journey to publication?
I’ve always been a writer since a very young age. I had some poetry and short stories published in the mid to late 1990s (which seems like a very long time ago now!). And on the back of that I earned a place at Bolton University to do my English degree which was joint Writing for Performance. When I qualified, I gained a place at Manchester University to do a PGCE and I became an English teacher in 2003. But my dream to be a writer didn’t go away and so I took an MA in Creative Writing – specialising in prose – at Bolton part time and I ended up writing my first novel for my dissertation. My professional writing career began in 2007 when I was published by a small press called The House of Murky Depths. After that it was an uphill climb, where I’d write before and after the school day while I was teaching. Murky Depths published the first 5 of the Vampire Gene Series with a great deal of success.
So far you have written 27 novels, three novellas, three collections, more than 60 short stories, an audio drama, a Doctor Who spin-off drama as well as the screenplay for The Stranger in our Bed. How do you fit it all in? What is your writing routine like?
I’m lucky enough these days to be able to write full time and I do treat it very much as job. I start almost as soon as I wake at 7.30am. I write until mid-morning, then, I shower etc. I do this because I set the tone for the day and I get my best work done in the morning if I don’t allow anything else to be a distraction. I write all day with a few breaks and usually stop around 3-4pm. At which time I switch to editing mode and I work on books I’m editing for Telos Publishing or sometimes for friends I’m helping or mentoring. By doing this I structure my day and don’t waste any time. I work until 5pm usually, then I go and make dinner!
My evenings are always resting watching TV with my husband and cuddling our very demanding cats!
Sometimes my day is different, it depends on other factors, such as what I have to prioritise. At the moment, I’m working on two different projects simultaneously, a new Crime collection of short stories and a first book of a potential series with another writer – but I can’t say more about that as it’s all NDA’d!
How I work this is I choose set days when I’m writing stories and set days to work on the other project. I will work 7 days a week when I need to, but I try to get Sundays off to spend with my husband. And sometimes we are attending events at weekends so that’s an enforced writing rest of sorts!
As well as writing crime fiction, you also write horror fiction under the name Sam Stone. How do the two genres compare and have you ever been tempted to combine the two?
I think that horror and crime do work very closely together. Looking back now, I realise that most of my horror, fantasy and SF books were all mysteries but usually with some supernatural explanation. Writing mainstream thrillers, crime and mysteries is actually a lot harder for me than supernatural fiction. You have to get your facts and research right and you can’t solve the problem with a supernatural excuse, it has to be plausible. Having said that I do love writing thrillers, especially exploring the psychological aspect of characters as I’m fascinated with the way psychopaths, narcissists and sociopaths think and what motivates their actions. When you study people there is a wealth of stories you can tell. Besides, I think real people can be far more dangerous and frightening than supernatural monsters!
Your book The Stranger in Our Bed has recently been made into a film which must have been very exciting. How was the experience of adapting your own work for the screen? Would you do it again?
It’s quite rare that the author of a book gets the opportunity to write the screenplay, so I was very lucky to have the chance to do this. Fortunately, I had written for screen before and my BA specialism was screenwriting so I did have knowledge of how to approach it. I was also aware that you do have to make changes in order for somethings to work on screen that might work differently in a novel.
This was a very pleasant and positive experience for me, particularly because actress and producer Terri Dwyer made it so. She was incredibly supportive throughout the process and I was really willing to work with everyone and listen to their opinions and suggestions as I’m not precious at all. I just wanted the film to work in its own right as a great thriller because that was what was really important.
I would definitely do it again, given the chance and I am also working on original screenplays too, that I might one day do the reverse and novelise.
My favourite books of yours are The House of Killers trilogy. One of your characters is an assassin and the other an MI5 operative. The research must have been fascinating! How did you go about it?
Wow! The research I had to do for these books was fascinating. I had a consultant who worked for the government that helped me a lot. And I also reached out to a weapons manufacturer who was incredibly helpful. There were somethings I learnt that I wished I could unlearn but spies and spying and assassins are always fascinating material. Hiding in plain sight is one of my key take aways and I’m very observant in my every day life. Is the person wearing a construction orange jacket and carrying a clipboard, who we often ignore, really meant to be there? We often taken official-looking people on face value but …
What advice would you give to other people wanting to write?
Firstly, you never see half-finished books in bookstores. So always finish everything. This will give you the mental stamina needed to keep writing. I always liken the creative muscle to any muscle. You don’t go into a gym and lift heavy weights on the first visit – you have to build up to it. And the writing stamina is exactly the same, the more you practise though, the easier is gets. People often say start small, short stories perhaps? But I must admit I always swayed more towards novel writing initially than stories. So – the most important thing is write what you like. Write what excites you. Write what you’d really like to read. Write from the heart and you’ll always engage with your readers. And of course, read a lot, always.
Finally, what are you working on now?
I’m currently in the middle of writing a complete short story collection called CRIMES OF PASSION which is hopefully going to be published later this year. The collection can be pre-ordered from Telos Publishing and all pre-orders will be signed by me and receive a thank you in the dedications page of the book. For more information you can visit https://telos.co.uk/shop/crime-mystery-and-thriller/criminal-pursuits/crimes-of-passion/
Sam’s books are always a great read and her first novel Killing Kiss is available for just 99p at the moment (2 June 2023) on Amazon.
Check out Sam’s other books on Amazon: