Welcome to the second part of my stop for the Small Places book tour. For this tour, in addition to reading and reviewing the book itself, I got the chance to conduct an interview with Matthew Samuels, the author of Small Places. So, a massive thank you to Matthew for taking the time to answer my questions! And, of course, a big thank you to Storytellers on Tour, as well, for organizing both parts of the tour.
What inspired you to become an author?
I don’t know if this is interesting, but what inspired me to write and what inspired me to become an author are two relatively separate things. I’ve always written; I’ve still got some of my early works from when I was six years old, either inventing adventures for me and my friends, or bouncing off other books I’d read, TV shows I’d seen, or games I’d played. If I was feeling charitable, I’d call it fanfic; but ‘derivative’ is probably a better word!
At some point, I decided to ‘make a proper go’ of writing, and planned out a book in excruciating detail, edited it, and sent it off to agents. I didn’t get anything back, and decided to give it another go, this time writing a sci-fi novel instead of a YA fantasy story. Again, I had no response from agents, but I was rather fond of the book, so I decided to become a self-published author. That began a fascinating learning curve on cover design, editing, beta readers, reviewers, and the world of book Twitter / bookstagram. That book was Parasites, my (sort of) first novel.
How did you come up with the idea for Small Places? What inspired you to write this book?
If you’ve read Parasites, you’ll know that it’s a bit free-flowing; it’s kind of like a road-trip novel at the end of the universe. I’d historically been impressed with the narrative structure of Brandon Sanderson’s Final Empire and had just read Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight on a holiday in the New Forest, UK, and wanted to write something narratively a bit tighter. Being amongst all the woods plucked a few faery / urban fantasy chords in my brain, and gradually, things started to come together.
What is your writing process like?
I’m a bit of a planner; I don’t really enjoy the detail process, but I also write much more slowly and enjoy it a lot less if I feel like I’m just meandering along. I’ll jot themes and ideas down, and gradually try to condense it into a plot, before actually writing a chapter-by-chapter plan. That plan is usually quite plot-heavy, so I’ll then try to overlay what needs to happen in terms of worldbuilding, character progression, and so on.
What was different in your writing process for your second book compared to your first?
Small Places is (I hope!) narratively a lot tighter than Parasites. A fair amount of Parasites was written quite freely and without plan, and some of it came out really well – I wrote the opening chapter with very little planning and still really love it, but there are definitely parts and themes that I’d change. Small Places was a lot more tightly plotted from the get-go.
Did you learn anything from your first book that helped you this time around?
I guess that I had absolutely no idea if people would enjoy my work, the first time around, so writing a second book was much easier because I had a bit more confidence about it! I think it’s also helpful to understand your own weaknesses a bit, and often that only comes out when you’ve really worked on something a lot. I do tend to struggle with character, so made that a real focus for Small Places.
What advice would you give to other writers for staying motivated?
I’d always say to write because you love what you’re writing, not because you want to be published or a huge success. There are undoubtedly writers who can churn out commercially successful books day after day and not enjoy it, but have the skill to do it, but I don’t think that’s a path to motivation. If you’re not feeling motivated, go and find some inspiration, some newness somewhere else, and maybe take a break. Write something else, something frivolous or just a bit different!
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring authors, what would it be?
Do it sooner rather than later. John Jarrold mentioned to me a while ago that Iain M Banks wrote six books before he got picked up by a publisher, and today the bar is higher than it ever has been. I’m not saying it’s too late for anyone, but – in the words of another author – unless you’re really lucky or amazing, your first book probably won’t go anywhere, so get it done and move onto the next one!
On a more fun note, what are some of your favorite books?
Where to start? I do love SFF; my favourite book of all time is probably Against a Dark Background by Iain M Banks. A few more favourites include William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition, Carol Berg’s Transformation, Julian May’s Galactic Milieu series, Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel and Imriel series (for wont of their ‘real’ names!) Clive Barker’s Weaveworld, Steph Swainston’s Fourlands series, Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman, and anything by Becky Chambers as a palate cleanser from the world in general.
Is there anything else you’d like to say? Anything at all!
Thanks for having me on the blog – I really appreciate it and hope you enjoy Small Places!
So, there you have it! Honestly, I’ve been meaning to start doing author interviews here for a while, now, and I’m happy to say that this interview with Matthew Samuels was a successful first time. So, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!
And if you haven’t read my review of Small Places yet, definitely head over and check that out! The short story is that it was an excellent book, but you can find a lot more detail in the review.