Author Spotlight Interview: Samantha A. Cole
Today, we continue our series of author interviews by speaking to USA Today Bestselling Author Samantha A. Cole, creator of Knot a Chance, Don’t Shoot the Messenger, and Entertaining Distraction. We spoke to her about the path that led her to publication, her inspirations, and the process behind crafting her bestselling books.
HG: So, WHO IS Samantha A. Cole? How do you describe yourself? Obviously, we can read your bio on Amazon – but who is Samantha A. Cole to readers who might not have heard of you before?
SC: I’m an extroverted introvert lol. I’m a bit of a homebody. My favorite adventures are when I’m traveling, especially to places with history, but then I love to come home to my two pups and just chill.
HG: You sound EXACTLY like me. I’ve been traveling a lot recently, but it drains you and you long to come home. So, where was the last place you traveled to?
SC: Well, I was at signings in several states over the last few months of last year, last February I was in Sydney, AU, and this April, I’ll be in York, UK.
HG: That’s so amazing! I’m from the UK originally. York is amazing (although in the whole War of the Roses thing, I’m the House of Lancaster so I shouldn’t say such things!) How was Australia? How does it feel to have touched so many lives on so many distant places?
SC: Australia was amazing and I can’t wait to go back in September. I’ll be in Newcastle. In the beginning, it was really weird having readers from other countries contacting me, but now I feel like I have friends all around the world. It’s so cool.
HG: When did you first want to be a writer? I remember my parents buying me an electronic typewriter at the age of twelve (I’m very old) because I’d decided then. What was that moment for you?
SC: Age 44 – I was sitting on the couch, recovering from my third or fourth knee surgery (after a car accident), and there was nothing on TV, and none of the books on my Kindle were grabbing my attention. I always had all these story lines and characters running through my head, so I decided to try and write a book. While the story line was good, my writing sucked big time! I gave up after 2 1/2 books. Fast forward to 2015, and I had 6 Navy SEALs who wouldn’t get out of my head. One of them “demanded” I write his story, otherwise he wasn’t going to leave me alone. It was then I knew I wanted to be a writer, because the only other option was I was insane.
HG: Oh, my God! That resonates with me so much! Writing is like therapy! Okay, so why Navy SEALS? I write about veterans and just wrote about a Navy SEAL and they’re a rare kind of animal.
SC: Well, they sort of told me they were Navy SEALs – retired actually, and now in the private sector. But I think it was mainly because a lot of my favorite authors write romance/suspense with military/law enforcement characters. The first big R/S series I got into that had special ops characters was back in the early 2000s. Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooter series started my love of the genre.
HG: Ooooh, she’s good.
SC: Yes, she is! Love her!
HG: So tell me about the writing process. Are you a plotter or a pantster?
SC: I’m a total pantster when it comes to actually putting the words down, but I plot in my head while I’m walking the dogs, driving, food shopping, etc. But those are just general plots for a scene or conversation. When I’m writing, those only take up a small portion of what the scene ends up being.
HG: Okay, so tell me about the writing process. Do you have an office? Or are you a laptop-at-Starbucks kind of a writer?
SC: LOL – I’ve been known to sit at IHOP and write for a bit. I do have an office that I can’t wait to start using, but I just moved so it’s still a mess. I also need to get a gaming chair because the desk chair I have is uncomfortable after a while. Currently, I’ve been using my adjustable bed to sit up on and write. I have to have the TV on too. That’s how I started writing while recovering from a knee surgery, so I need the background noise.
HG: I think getting the writing space right is so important. My wife made me this incredible space with soothing purple walls and old prints of typewriter patents. I put on some chillhop and some fresh, black coffee and descend into the zone. But I also find I get into the flow on airplanes or in cafes. So, how did you get into the headspace of your characters?
SC: LOL – How do I not? 90% of my day is them talking to me or each other. Sometimes they get into arguments at the worst times – especially when I can’t take notes or leave myself a voice memo on my phone.
HG: It’s amazing how real they are.
SC: Yup! And I’m so happy when my readers tell me my characters feel like people they know or want to know.
HG: In my more metaphysical moments, I wonder if we writers are just conduits for another reality in which they exist.
HG: Haah, sorry, went hippy there for a second. So, what books, authors, movies, TV shows etc. have inspired you?
SC: I’m a huge fan of M*A*S*H and have seen every episode at least 200 times each. Every once in a while, something in an episode sparks an idea for my books. I also enjoy drama shows – NCIS, Chicago PD, and Law & Order. While I try not to write the same plot line of those shows, they do give me ideas of how to start a story and then completely rewrite it. I’ve also gotten plot ideas from real life news and experiences.
HG: I think it’s not so much about copying them, as learning from them. There was that one scene in M*A*S*H that still gives me chills – of the woman on the bus trying to silence her chicken so the Viet Cong don’t hear them, and she ends up suffocating the chicken. And then later you learn it wasn’t a chicken, but it was her baby. Wow, I just got chills writing that. As a parent it’s like the most visceral and powerful thing you can imagine.
SC: Totally never expected that scene in the finale!
HG: So, taking the power of that moment and using it in your own storytelling isn’t copying – any more so than learning to do a corner joint in woodworking is ‘copying’. Law & Order is powerful, too, with the cold opens. BOOM – my wife and I once watched 18 episodes straight because the cold open hooks you. Okay, so what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received about writing?
SC: Best advice received? Get a good editor and don’t freak about 1-star reviews. Go over to your favorite authors’ books and read their 1-stars. You’ll feel much better.
HG: And what’s the advice you’d give to other authors?
SC: What advice do I give other authors? I ended up putting a lot of my advice on my blog – One Author to Another. But one of the top things I tell new authors is leave your ego at the door. Take advice from other authors and really think about it before deciding whether or not to use it for yourself. What works for one author, doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for another. If another author points out something they think you’re doing wrong in your writing, don’t simply discard it as the other author “doesn’t get” your style. Most indie authors want to see all authors succeed. We don’t point out stuff to make newer authors feel bad. We’ve all screwed up in the beginning, but those who have succeeded didn’t let egos get in the way of fixing those errors.
HG: That’s great advice about the 1-star reviews! So, where can readers find you if they want to learn more?
SC: Well, there’s my Sexy Six-Pack’s Sirens Group on Facebook. Subscribe to my newsletter. I have a website, Facebook, Twitter, my Amazon author page, plus Allauthor, Book Bub, Youtube, Instagram, Pinterest and Goodreads.