Sam Szanto, a compelling short story writer, has published over 50 of her stories and poems in various competitions. In April 2022, she won the Shooter Flash Fiction Contest, placed second in the 2022 Writer’s Mastermind Short Story Contest, third in the 2021 Erewash Open Competition, second in the 2019 Doris Gooderson Competition, and was also a winner in the 2020 Literary Taxidermy Competition. Her short story collection was a finalist in the 2021 St Lawrence Book Awards.
As a poet, she won the 2020 Charroux Prize for Poetry and the First Writers International Poetry Prize, and her poetry has appeared in a number of international literary journals, including “The North.”
Let’s get started with a quick rapid fire.
Q1.If you could be transformed into one animal, which one would you choose?
Q2. Finish the phrase “the way to my heart is…”
Through reading my writing
Q3. Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
A loud introvert
Q4. Do you watch shows one episode at a time or binge whole seasons?
One at a time
Q5. Would you rather travel to the past or to the future?
Q6. What is your last Google search?
An Amazon search for my friend’s new book (Jack Wolf – ‘Mammoth and Crow’)
Q7. What object do you misplace or lose the most?
Q8. What is the kindest thing someone ever did for you?
I feel like all the friends who have bought my book are kind!
Q9. If given the chance to start your life over, would you take it?
Q10. What is the best present you have ever received?
My husband gave me a gorgeous ruby ring on our tenth wedding anniversary this year.
Q11. Describe your style in one word.
Q12. If you were to devote the rest of your life to philanthropy, what cause would you choose?
I’d support independent authors and booksellers, which I’m trying to do at the moment. Also refugees. Sorry, that’s two!
It’s time for a more detailed conversation, Sam.
You’ve answered our rapid fire brilliantly, Sam. Now, it’s time for our readers to know more about the person behind the book.
Q. There’s a grand stage surrounded by fifty thousand people listening to authors introducing themselves. They are bored and restless of listening to introductions all day. It’s your turn. How would you introduce yourself?
I think I’d just start reading! Who cares about the introductions? They’d know who’s reading anyway. Let the stories speak for themselves.
Q. Well, that’s…new. So, what books did you grow up reading?
I grew up reading voraciously. As a young child, I’d sit in my dad’s study and we’d read plays together: Christopher Fry, Shakespeare… I was rather precocious! As a slightly older child, I loved boarding school books, particularly Antonia Forest. Also Sweet Valley High, Judy Blume and all the other eighties/nineties staples! I’m not of the Harry Potter generation, but I loved The Worst Witch.
Q. Interesting. Has writing and publishing a book changed the way you see yourself?
Not really, but superficially it seems to have changed the way people who don’t know me see me – I’ve gone from 1 follower on Facebook to about 1,300 in less than a month, and over 1,000 ‘friends’. I’m not sure why!
Q. Would you share something about yourself that your readers don’t know (yet)?
I’m working on a thriller.
Q. Now comes the most anticipated question that every author must answer. How do you process and deal with negative book reviews?
I’ve never had a negative review. Obviously I’ve had some reviews that are more enthusiastic than others, though. It’s not easy, my ego is made of bone china, but not everyone is going to get your work. I try to think that there are many authors who have done incredibly well who I’m not that enthusiastic about.
Q. What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?
I was taught that it should be character, but initially it’s plot. I find, though, that once I have an idea of the characters they maneuver and change the plot as they wish.
Q. How do you develop your plot and characters?
I just write… I do a very basic plan, but it goes out of the window early on. That’s why I find the short story form and poetry easier, I’m not a planner at heart.
Q. What does literary success look like to you?
My book in airports! Also an agent would be amazing.
Q. Let’s talk about your book. Tell us about it. No major spoilers.
If No One Speaks is a 26 short stories on the themes of voicelessness and displacement. The majority of the stories feature displaced or alienated female protagonists. There are sub-themes of love, loss, incarceration, the forbidden and female solidarity. The protagonists are a variety of ages in diverse situations, in settings spanning the globe, including: a Russian prison, a Bangladeshi brothel, a Thai jail, a Madrid market and the English Lake District.
Q. What part of the book did you have the hardest time writing?
The hardest story to write was ‘125’, as it was written for the Literary Taxidermy Competition – I had to take the first and last lines of the Toni Morrison novel, ‘Beloved’ and create a short story out of them. It was a winner, though, so I must have done something right!
Q. If you could meet your characters, what would you say to them?
I wish I was more like you.
Q. What is your writing process like? Are you more of a plotter or a pantser?
Pantser every time. Although I don’t leave things to the last minute. Let’s say a stressor.
Q. Let’s talk about the process of writing. When you’re writing an emotional or difficult scene, how do you set the mood?
I’m not sure how to answer that – I just write through it. Most of my scenes are emotional. It’s a bit like childbirth, I suppose, you get through the pain because there’s something good at the end.
Q. What has helped or hindered you most when writing a book?
All the feedback I’ve got from fellow writers has helped me. Lack of time will always be a hindrance!
Q. It’s been fun. Now, before we wrap this up, do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
To paraphrase the late great Ruth Rendell, ‘Don’t ask me about how to be a better writer, just write’! Also read. I did find doing an MA in Creative Writing to be enormously helpful as well, but that’s not for everyone.