Sunday, 5 February 2017

Fab Firsts - Q&A with Samantha Wood

Fab Firsts is my new regular Sunday feature, that is going to be highlighting books that are firsts. When interviewing authors, it will be about their first book, as well as other firsts in their lives. When reviewing books for this feature, there will be a mix of debuts, first books in a series, the first time I read an author, and possibly other firsts depending on what I can think of!

If you are an author wanting to take part in Fab Firsts then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you.

I hope you enjoy this look at a variety of hopefully fabulous firsts, while making some sort of dent in my review and paperback TBRs which are my current main focus!

Hi, there.  My name is Samantha, and I live in a sleepy little coastal town in Victoria.  I have just published my first novel 'The Bay of Shadows' (in keeping with my love of the sea).  My other great love is reading, because long before I was a writer I was a reader!  It all started in primary school when I read Jack London's White Fang, and since then I have been completely hooked.
I love all stories, but have a special place for Australian ones; stories that capture our voice, our culture, and just immerse you in another world.

Answers to the questions I asked! 

1. This is my first novel, but my first book was published back in 2003.  It was a memoir called Culua:  My Other Life in Mexico, and was essentially a love letter to my mother’s country.  Part search for identity, part travel tale, it was my first foray into writing, and I’ve never been the same since.

2. I don’t even know what my original inspiration was to become a writer.  I think most authors would say that it just “kind of happened” and I would have to say the same; I’ve always loved reading so it felt like a natural progression.  The inspiration to write my debut was more a fortuitous turn of events than any concrete decision.  Around 2000, I wrote a travel article about Mexico for the Qantas in-flight magazine The Australian Way, and thought, rather ambitiously, “Hmm, I think there might be a book in this.”  And so I kept writing…and writing.

3. It took about three years to write my first book, although I would be the first to admit that I had no idea what I was doing so that probably contributed to my glacial pace.

4. I don’t know that I would do anything differently in retrospect, what I would change about my debut, or how I went about writing it.  Perhaps I would have liked for it to not take so long to write but I think everything I’ve learned over the many years I’ve been writing has added to my understanding of the craft, including all the frustrations and the hard times.  But like the Italians say, “Piano, piano, va lontano.”  Slowly, slowly, you’ll go far.  Or something like that.

5. My first book was traditionally published as a result of securing a book deal with Random House Australia through an agent.  Back in 2003 there weren’t many options for self-publishing so that was my only option; I just remember printing out a bunch of copies of the manuscript and sending them off to a bunch of agents and publishers.  And then I waited for a reply…

6. My tip for other first-time authors is the same one I have used to keep myself going when things got hard:  “Never give up.”  If you have the talent and the passion for writing you will succeed.

Firsts in my life -

1. The first book I bought – not actually a purchase but I won it in a reading completion in primary school:  White Fang by Jack London.  The beauty of the language, the way the story captivated me, have stayed with me since.

2. Pushing my brother down the stairs when I was about 18 months old.  He still has the scar on his forehead.  Sorry!

3. George Michael.  I was 13.

4. Edinburgh when I was about two.  I still have the photo of me rocking a pair of teeny tiny tartan pants.

5. Corinella – a colouring competition in the newspaper – when I was about five.  They sent me a packet of pencils, which I loved.

6. Wham! Of course.

7. I am horribly uncoordinated so sport has always been a nightmare!  Can’t catch, can’t throw, can’t run in a straight line, but growing up by the beach, boy, can I swim…  At the school swimming carnivals I left everyone in my foamy wake which, even to me, was surprising.

8. See previous answer.  When you’re a bit of a klutz life is one big embarrassing moment.

9. Charlie the rabbit.

10. Eating a dog biscuit at the neighbour’s house when I was about six; it looked like a human one!

11. Ooh, in a parallel universe I’d be a heart surgeon.  I’m so fascinated by the human body.

12. When I took off for Europe when I was 19.  Suddenly the world was my oyster.

13. Big Ted.  He was a giant bear, and a gift from our neighbour when we lived in England.  I was only about 18 months old but I loved him, and dragged him behind me everywhere.  I still have him.  Gorgeous chap.

14. When I started paying bills!

15. Probably Grade 3, when I started getting bored in reading class because the words were too easy.

16. There have been many cooking disasters in my lifetime, but the first dish I mastered was a roast chicken with lemon and tarragon stuffing.

17. Probably all through primary school.  I was a really shy kid so anybody looking at me was enough to terrify me.

18. Back at university, my flatmates gave me a bunch of flowers after I fell over rollerblading and sprained my wrist.  They were the deadest flowers I’ve ever seen but the gesture made my whole year!

Thank you so much Samantha for sharing those firsts with us.

About Samantha Wood

Samantha Wood was born in Victoria in 1971.  Her first book, the memoir, Culua: My Other Life in Mexico was published in 2003 after extended visits to Mexico, and was essentially a love letter to her mother's country.

Samantha graduated from Monash University in 2005 with a Master's degree in Translation Studies (Spanish) focusing on the translations of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's little-known children's stories where angels crash landed in chicken coops and the world's handsomest man washed ashore.  It was this love of the magic of language and words that inspired the story for her first novel, The Bay of Shadows.

In 2007, she joined Ai-Media, a world-leading broadcast captioning service that provides access for the Deaf and hard of hearing.  She lives in Melbourne.

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