Kicking off this month of introducing writers to my readers, Sam is joining us from Ireland with a tale or two that may thrill.
When did you start writing, and why?
Back in 1999 my husband went sailing across the Atlantic for eight weeks – I was sitting at home on my own (no children then and it was November), and I had an idea for a book. It was called The Poison Tree and was based loosely on the poem of the same name by William Blake. At the time I wrote long hand, and I didn’t have a computer, so I went into the office in the evenings and at the weekends – at the Events management company where I was working – to transfer it to the screen. I was completely convinced it would be a best seller. I made all the rookie mistakes and it was rejected everywhere, but the bug had bitten and I had started onto the next book by then. It was actually my 5th book Little Bones that was my first published – and it did become a bestseller, it was No 1 in Ireland for 4 weeks and stayed in the top 10 for another 4.
What motivates you to write?
I get very grumpy when I’m not writing – but I think the stories themselves and characters are what keep me hooked, I have stories to tell – their stories – and that keeps me moving. I’m really interested in motivation, what makes people behave in a particular way, and I always want to get to the bottom of that.
Which do you like to write, series or standalones? If you write both, what do you find the difference?
My first 3 books were a police procedural trilogy featuring a Detective Garda called Cat Connolly, a 24-year-old kick boxing champion. Cat is the one who finds a baby’s bones hidden in the hem of a wedding dress and kicks off the first in the series Little Bones. She’s feisty and tends to let her heart rule her head, so she doesn’t always make the safest decisions, but she’s brilliant to write- she’s sassy and can be funny (I’m neither!)
My last book Keep Your Eyes on Me and the one just out, The Dark Room are both standalones. Writing a series is like going into a pub with a set of old friends – I know my characters’ personal stories so well. Writing a standalone means starting from scratch with character and I’ve really enjoyed that process, I think characters are vital even in plot driven crime, and for me location is as much of a character as the people themselves. Standalones stretch my writing and I love that. I love writing strong women characters and there are a lot in my books!
Who is your favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?
I think I love them all equally, for different reasons, they are like my children. I really like Rachel in The Dark Room, she’s Irish but lives in London, on a houseboat with her partner Hunter McKenzie who is a documentary director. He’s West Indian and although they come from different islands, they have a lot in common. Rachel is a film location scout and her job is all about detail – something that pays off as the story progresses. Rachel also has a fabulous dog (well he’s Hunter’s really) a German Shepherd called Jasper who is an ex-police dog. He plays a very important role when they find themselves at Hare’s Landing, a country house hotel in West Cork – Rachel’s there to find out what happened to a homeless man who has been found dead in London, but the house has its own ideas and all sorts of spooky things happen as a thirty-year-old missing persons case is suddenly resurrected. I love Rachel’s relationship with Caroline Kelly, an Irish crime journalist who lives in New York and also winds up in Hare’s Landing, and with Jasper. She’s brave and focused but also frightened off the things that are happening around her – she’s very real to me.
Who is your least favourite of your characters, why and in which books do they appear?
There’s a really awful housekeeper in The Dark Room called Mrs Travers who owes a lot to Mrs Danvers in Rebecca. She looks a bit like her and she’s very nasty, she’s bitter and lonely despite everyone around her trying their best, not someone I’d want to meet!
Tell us about your last book…
The Dark Room is just out and set in West Cork, Ireland, in a country house hotel called Hare’s Landing – it’s literally a house full of secrets where the past never dies.
Rachel Lambert leaves London afraid for her personal safety after her houseboat is broken into and Hunter is knocked off his bike in a hit and run. He’s been making a documentary about a homeless man called Alfie Bows, trying to get to the bottom of why he was on the street. Alfie dies mysteriously and Rachel wants to find out his story – and who he really is. The only thing she knows is that he has links to Hare’s Landing which has recently been opened as a hotel.
New York based crime reporter Caroline Kelly’s career is threatened by a lawsuit that she thinks is ridiculous, but for reasons she later discovers, her editor isn’t backing her up. She needs some thinking space away from her job, so books two weeks in The Boathouse, a serviced cottage on the Hare’s Landing estate.
But almost as soon as the two women arrive, Hare’s Landing begins to reveal its own stories – a 30-year-old missing person’s case and the mysterious death of the hotel’s former owner. As Rachel and Caroline join forces, it becomes clear that their investigations are intertwined. The ghostly smell of perfume and the sound of violins guide them as they try to find out what happened at the house. But that there is nothing more dangerous than the truth…
It’s been described as:
‘Laced with creepy menace and dark characters that live in the mind… gets under the skin very quickly.’ Daily Mail
‘Thriller fans won’t be able to resist this ingenious thriller that is deftly crafted and beautifully plotted. Rich in atmosphere, intensity and suspense, Sam Blake’s The Dark Room is a gripping and tense chiller where the pages just turn themselves sure to go down a treat with fans of Lisa Jewell and C L Taylor.’ Bookish Jottings
What’s coming next…
Another standalone called Remember My Name, which is with my agent, due out January 2022, and I’m working on a new series idea too.
Links to books:
Sam Blake has been writing fiction since her husband set sail across the Atlantic for eight weeks and she had an idea for a book. Her debut novel ‘Little Bones’ was a No 1 bestseller and was nominated for Irish Crime Novel of the Year.
Sam is originally from St. Albans in Hertfordshire but has lived at the foot of the Wicklow mountains for more years that she lived in the UK. She has two teenagers, three cats and lives in a 200-year-old cottage with an occasional poltergeist who moves things at the most inconvenient moments.
Follow her on social @samblakebooks.
I’d like to thank Sam for joining us and kicking off the month in style. I total understand the grumpiness of not writing – as I’m sure my family would testify.
Come back tomorrow to met Helena Dixon.