The Questioning – Samantha M. Bailey and Heather Chavez
Two debut authors, Samantha M. Bailey, author of WOMAN ON THE EDGE, and Heather Chavez, author of NO BAD DEED, interview each other for The Questioning.
Posted on October 21, 2019 in The Questioning
Tags: Heather Chavez, No Bad Deed, Samantha m Bailey, The Questioning, Woman on the Edge, debut authors
Samantha: Hi Heather! It’s been so wonderful getting to know you through the 2020 Debut group, and I’m so excited to read NO BAD DEED. It sounds incredible.
Heather: And I’ll be thrilled to finally get to read WOMAN ON THE EDGE soon. It sounds so intriguing!
Samantha: Thank you! I love that both our debuts are suspense novels featuring mothers and motherhood. Why are you drawn to writing psychological suspense?
Heather: When I was a journalist, I came across so many news stories about people doing horrible things to one another. Sometimes, there was mention of motive, but most often, it was just the facts of the crime. But I always wondered why. Why did that man kill his wife? Why would a mom harm her children? What was going on in their lives on that particular day that they committed such a violent crime against someone they’re supposed to care about? Such acts remind us that we don’t really know what’s going on behind our neighbors’ closed doors, or even everything that’s going on in the heads of those we love. That’s a little terrifying, and also fascinating to write.
Samantha: I completely agree. I, too, am fascinated by psychology and the motivation behind people’s actions. It’s that curiosity, and fear, that fuels my need to know the whys. I’m quite obsessed with true crime, and as a mother, there are so many worries and unknowns that I’m compelled to write about them, maybe as a way of handling that fear and worry. I also love reading psychological suspense, and always have. Which leads to my next question: we’re both mom-writers, and you also have a full-time job outside of writing. How do you balance it all?
Heather: When my children were younger, they didn’t even respect a closed bathroom door. How could I expect them to respect a closed office door? So those early years were hardest, and I managed to write by sleeping less. But by the time I got the book deal, my youngest was a teenager. That part at least became easier. Still, once you have that deal, writing switches from something you do when you have time, to something you have to make time for. I was fortunate that my employer allowed me to drop from five days a week to four – the first time in my adult life I’ve worked part-time. But it’s definitely a challenge juggling all the commitments. I force myself to write even when I’m sick, busy with a big project at work or it’s otherwise inconvenient. Recently, we lost power for three days, so I wrote by lantern light until my laptop battery died. Also, I still don’t get as much sleep as I probably should. That said, it’s totally worth it. This has been my dream since I was a child, and I would find time to write even if I didn’t have a publishing deal. How about you?
Samantha: This has also been my dream since I was ten years old and submitted my first manuscript to a publisher. It was rejected, and immediately I knew I’d just keep going until it happened. It took thirty-six years, but you’re so right. It’s all been worth it.
I, however, need a lot of sleep, and those newborn years are a blur. Now that I can get more sleep, I definitely embrace it. I was a grammar and writing teacher for many, many years, but when my second child, my daughter, was born, I realized how much I wanted to work from home, to write, and be as available as possible for my kids. I opened a freelance editing business, while continuing to write novels, and worked between naps and at night. I quickly realized that wasn’t the healthiest way to live my life, and I work best during the day. Once both my kids were in school, I was able to split my time between editing and writing and be present for my son and daughter. I feel very lucky. There are financial sacrifices for sure, but for me, life is too short not to go after what I really want. But it’s not easy, especially with social media, which I have a love/stress relationship with. I love connecting with readers and authors so much, and I feel guilty if I don’t answer a tweet or Instagram comment as soon as possible. I recently had a great, inspiring conversation with Lisa Unger and J.T. Ellison, who taught me to separate my creative and social media time instead of mixing them. They both recommended the book, DEEP WORK, by Cal Newport, about this very topic, and I plan to read it. I’m trying to write in the morning and do social media a bit later in the day, then hang out with my kids. Trying being the operative word! And then there’s book two…
Heather: What’s book two been like for you?
Samantha: A mix of elation and fear. I’m so excited to work on a new idea. Writing is like breathing for me, so letting my fingers fly over the keyboard with new characters and a new plot is exhilarating. At the same time, it’s scary because I have deadlines, and editors and readers I don’t want to disappoint. But writing as a career has been my goal for as long as I can remember, so the excitement far outweighs the nerves. How do you feel about it?
Heather: I agree about the excitement AND the nerves. For book one, I had an early beta reader and that’s it. My agent was the first person besides me to read the submitted draft. So I wrote in a bubble. This time’s different because I know people will read it and have expectations. That’s the nerves part. The excitement part comes from having the support of publishing professionals and new author friends that I didn’t have with book one. And speaking of book one, where did you get the idea for WOMAN ON THE EDGE?
Samantha: Like all writers, I think, I observe and listen to everyone and everything around me. Six years ago, I was standing on a Toronto subway platform, watching the crowd wait for the train, when I saw a woman with a baby. She was standing so close to the edge, and I thought: What is she thinking? What’s her story? What if she asked me to take her baby then jumped? I scribbled the premise on a gum pack, and WOMAN ON THE EDGE was born. Where did you get the fantastic idea for NO BAD DEED?
Heather: My idea came from a series of “what if’s” too. I was picking up my daughter from afterschool care when suddenly these two boys, probably around 14, attacked a third boy right in front of us. The fight ended in seconds, the three of them scattering before I could decide what to do. Then came the “what if’s”… What if I had gotten out of the car? What if it had been night instead? And what if my daughter wasn’t in the car? That’s how I came up with the first line and ultimately the plot of NO BAD DEED.
Samantha: It’s amazing how a single incident can become the springboard for an entire novel. Since you work almost full-time outside of the house, where do you write?
Heather: I write where I can. I’ve written on my phone, in my car on my lunch break, in the library. Still, my favorite spot is my home office. It’s not big, but it’s my sanctuary. Since I also do a lot of computer work at my day job, I recently bought a sit-stand desk. Such a luxury! Now when I do ten or twelve-hour days, my back doesn’t hate me quite as much as it used to. How about you?
Samantha: I usually write in my cluttered kitchen/office with my desk shoved against a wall, or on my couch with my dog at my feet, a huge cup of coffee waiting for me, six feet from my computer (after once losing a laptop because of a major spill.) It’s cozy, but I’m dying to get a writing shed to put in the backyard. I have this daydream of my own space, with a door that locks. I’m just so grateful, though, and feel so lucky that this is all happening that I’d write standing on my head if I had to.
Heather: Me too. How did you get to this place in your publishing journey?
Samantha: On a long and winding path. I started writing novels when I was 29, and now I’m 46. In those 17 years, I had two agents, wrote five books, and was rejected on queries so many times I was shocked when agents wanted to see more of WOMAN ON THE EDGE (which was not the title then). My current agent actually passed on three other books before she signed me! Looking back, I’m so glad it took me a very long time to see my dreams realized because I met the most supportive, warmest authors and readers who have become so important to me and developed a very thick skin for edits. I so appreciate when my critique partners, agent, and editors are brutally honest on my works-in-progress. I also learned grit and perseverance, which is not only important in publishing, but something my kids can learn from my experiences. I never once considered giving up, and I’m still shocked that WOMAN ON THE EDGE will be on bookshelves all over the world. It’s surreal, quite honestly, and probably always will be. How has your journey been?
Heather: It is surreal, isn’t it? And I totally hear what you’re saying about your kids learning from your experience. When I texted my daughter about my deal, she texted back that I was her role model. High praise from a teenager, right? As far as my journey, it was 20 days from submission to my agent to signing, and it was only on submission in the U.S. for a week. But we know these “overnight” successes really aren’t. I wrote creepy novellas even in my teens, and three and a half “practice” books before this one. It’s been a long road, but I’m so thrilled to be here!
Samantha: I’m so thrilled it’s worked out for both of us! Thank you so much for chatting with me. I’ve pre-ordered NO BAD DEED, and I’m counting the days until February 18, 2020.