Sammy HK Smith is the author of the new smash-hit novel Anna. I blackmailed her into giving us this exclusive interview. It’s full of insight and secrets on how to become aninternational fantasy author – or your money back. Enjoy!
1. Sammy, your new book is pretty hefty. How much does size matter in fantasy, do you think?
So ANNA comes in around 100k, so not too hefty in size, but certainly hefty on subject matter. I’ve covered sexual abuse, PTSD, coercive behaviour, narcissism, murder, all in a pretty cover with a pretty name! Looks can definitely be deceiving…
With the actual word count of fantasy, no, I don’t think size does matter. If your story is told and it evokes the emotions/response you want – it’s done. I LOVE long over-arching storylines and worlds that go on and on, but equally those standalone novels and short stories are just as satisfying.
2. Of all your books and short stories, do you have a favourite… or do you love all your children equally?
Hmmm, I think I can comfortably say I love them in different ways! In Search of Gods and Heroes (ISOGAH) was my very first novel and so, as if the way with the eldest, it holds a special place in my heart. ANNA was my second and so vastly different that it’s impossible to say whether I love one more than the other! Technically, I would say ANNA is more focussed as it’s entirely one POV, whereas ISOGAH is told from 8 interweaving viewpoints…
3. Readers always ask authors where they get their ideas or inspiration. Do you have a muse? What’s your secret?
No real muse (God, I’m boring!) but I draw influence from everything around me: real-life work, politics, history, TV, literature, you name it! I love to think ‘what if…’ and mash ideas together.
With In Search of Gods and Heroes I thought ‘What if the goddess of Love was a masochist?’ and started to develop the character that way.
With ANNA, I initially wanted to write a light-hearted dystopia with revenge and romance… but it became something much darker and as I work investigating domestic and sexual abuse I started to realise that I could write something different. I drew on my experiences at work and the story unfolded from there.
4. Who’s your favourite fantasy author now deceased? Why them?
I think I’ll bypass some of the more famous authors and go for Sara Douglass. The Axis Trilogy was released during my teen years, and I think it was around 2000 I picked up the series and fell back in love with fantasy. It’s ‘old school’ in plot and pace, but it’s nostalgic and I love it.
5. Who’s your favourite living fantasy author and why (apart from Tom Lloyd or A J Dalton)?
Hmm, tough one. I have two favourites. Jacqueline Carey and Ian Irvine.
Jacqueline’s use of language is just beautiful and poetic, and her world-building is second to none, whereas I love how Ian can merge science fiction and fantasy seamlessly. They’re both ‘epic’ fantasy writers, though.
6. What’s the best thing about being an author?
Creating new worlds and characters that feel alive. It gives me a mini god complex! Oh the power!!! *evil laugh*
7. And the worst?
The crippling self-doubt, the knock-backs and rejections. It’s tough out there, especially for newish authors like me. I’ve been exceptionally lucky so far in that Rebellion publishing took my novel direct from me as I’m unagented.
8. What are you currently working on that you can tell us about without then having to kill us?
I’ve had loads of projects in various stages of development for years. Having kids stalled all of them! However I’m slowly flexing my writing muscles again and working on a standalone novel in the same world as ANNA but this time we focus on someone who is outwardly strong but inside they’re falling apart. We have drugs, slavery, murder, bit of romance, disabilities and a world of grief.
9. If people want to find out more about you, what sites do you maintain and what’s your handle on Twitter?
So I’m a technological luddite, so my sister has created a cool site for me at www.sammyhksmith.com but I’m on all the usual social media platforms for the @Sammyhksmith handle.
10. What question have I not asked you that I should have done? And what’s the answer?
Why should we read ANNA?
ANNA is unique. I don’t say that out of ego. It really is. I couldn’t find a book to compare it to that covers PTSD and sexual abuse so closely in the fantasy arena. There are some outstanding novels that cover childhood sexual abuse in a fantasy setting, but not many that delve into domestic abuse and the trauma that Anna goes through.
It’s hard-hitting. It’s not an easy read. I make no apologies for that. Rape isn’t easy for a survivor and I want people to think about how Anna behaves and the path she takes. It really is proving to be a Marmite love/hate novel and I find it interesting how it sparks of such strong feelings one way or another.
If you’re looking for something revenge-driven, Rambo style shootings and loud displays of vengeance, then this probably isn’t for you.
If you want something that makes you think, and draws out emotions, then give it a try.