Today, Paul’s Fantasy Writings is privileged to have an interview with author Samantha Goodwin. Murder at Macbeth is her first novel, and it was longlisted for the international Flash 500 Novel Award.
In recent months, I have been lucky enough to get to know Samantha via the online writing community, and she kindly agreed to an interview.
Where do you come from and has this place influenced your writings at all?
I live in Leeds in England. I’ve certainly been influenced by some of the classic British crime authors that I’ve grown up with, including Agatha Christie (Poirot) and Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes). In fact, the world class Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival takes place less than an hour away from where I live! Attending writing workshops there massively shaped the development of my own novel. It was incredibly helpful discussing my ideas with really respected crime authors, such as Lesley Thomson and Elly Griffiths.
What was the spark that made you write your novel, Murder At Macbeth? And after you got this initial spark, when did you actually start writing your novel?
For Murder at Macbeth, I was inspired by a newspaper article about a London West End actor who was accidentally stabbed live on stage. That got me thinking – what if that had been intentional? What a dramatic way to murder someone and believe you could get away with it!
Moreover, I’ve always been fascinated by the superstitions surrounding Macbeth, about it being cursed, and the fact that the play itself is about corruption and deception provided an interesting parallel to the murder mystery. Plus, I found the concept of interviewing suspects who are also actors really interesting – they could so easily be playing a part to hide the truth.
I’ve always dreamed of writing a book, and it was my husband who finally convinced me to pick up the pen and go for it.
This blogger: I didn’t know that that happened at a West End play! That’s so interesting and sad at the same time.
On another note, it never ceases to amaze me where authors get their imagination from. It sounds like you have all the right ingredients for an intriguing mystery in your novel. And I am very glad that your husband convinced you to write it!
Your novel – Murder At Macbeth – is in the crime genre. What three books, movies or TV series would you say are the biggest sources of inspiration for your novel?
I was hugely influenced by the TV shows Criminal Minds and CSI; in particular, how they incorporate flashbacks to gradually reveal the full story, with clues being discovered slowly to bring new evidence to light.
In terms of books, my biggest influence would have to be Paula Hawkins, the author of The Girl on The Train and Into The Water. I love how her books are modern murder mysteries that feature different characters’ perspectives to keep the reader on edge. Also, Hawkins’ writing style definitely informed how I structured my own novel.
This blogger: First, my parents used to watch Criminal Minds and CSI most nights lol, so I am very familiar with those shows. Second, I agree with you about Paula Hawkins and her style. She is a terrific writer, and Please God may you enjoy success like she’s had.
What are your pet peeves with the crime genre? What two or three things would you suggest crime writers should not do?
My two biggest pet peeves in the crime genre are:
- When storylines are left unresolved; and
- When there doesn’t seem to be a clear motive to explain someone’s actions.
I think it’s so important to ensure that all the various storylines you weave into a novel come to a natural conclusion. That way, the reader doesn’t feel short-changed.
Also, I would advise writers to take time to properly explore potential motives to help the different characters be better understood. Everyone has their pressure points. So, it makes it a much more satisfying read if you can grasp what triggered someone to go over the edge.
Not too long ago, I wrote four blog pieces about how to write an emotionally impactful death scene. In your opinion, what makes an emotionally impactful death scene in the crime genre?
I think the key to an emotionally impactful death scene is ensuring that the reader really cares about what happens to the character and those left behind.
In the crime genre, you usually have to switch round the order in which you create this emotional investment. For example, in Murder at Macbeth the death scene of the leading actress happens very early on. But then the rest of the novel focuses on building up the reader’s understanding of who she was as a person, so that they care about finding out what happened to her.
I think the best stories are always the character-driven ones, regardless of genre.
This blogger: Your last point is absolutely spot on. Plus, I like your idea on how to create emotional investment in a character for a death scene in the crime genre. I had not thought of it.
Your novel was longlisted for the international Flash 500 Novel Award in 2017. Well done! That is quite a feat. Why do you think your novel got nominated?
Thank you! I think the reason my novel was longlisted was because of how the first chapter launches straight into action. It means that, immediately, the reader feels invested in the story and is keen to read on to discover what happened.
The main award judge was Lorraine Mace, the bestselling crime author of the D.I. Sterling series. Her endorsement for Murder at Macbeth was that it had “excellent writing, with a strong, compelling hook.”
This blogger: That is a massive compliment! Again, congratulations, as such endorsements do not come around lightly or often. Moreover, you should give suggestions on how to start a book as a career. Getting a reader hooked from the get-go is vital.
You’ve been a Marketing Manager for over a decade. How has your experience in the workplace helped you market your book?
In my marketing career I have always worked to the strongly held principle that the customer should be central to all of your communications. Therefore, you really need to consider what works for them. I take a similar approach to book marketing in the sense that I try to put potential readers at the forefront of all of my activities and consider what type of content they would appreciate. That’s helped me to develop innovative campaigns that have really resonated with readers.
My favourite is an Instagram World Book Tour, which encourages people to share photographs of my book from where they are reading. As a UK author it has been absolutely thrilling to see my book travel to a myriad of far-flung exotic locations that I haven’t even visited myself, such as Australia, Hawaii, Mexico, Estonia and Lebanon. To date there has been 33 countries and 21 US states on the tour, which I find overwhelming!
What would you say is the most important thing for authors to do in order to successfully market their novels?
I’d say the three most important things to do are to raise awareness about your book. Go for the soft sell approach and create engaging content. Ultimately no one can buy your book if they don’t know about it, so spread the word across as many channels should always be your first step, such as by organising a book blog tour, doing author interviews, speaking to the press or investing in advertising.
Personally, I don’t believe the hard sell approach works particularly well for authors. I’ve actually unfollowed writers who only ever post about their book. As a reader, I prefer a much more subtle approach with engaging content, such as sharing excerpts or reviews, which help to inform you as to whether you would like a book without feeling like it is being rammed down your throat.
On social media, it’s important to consider other worthy content too that people would find interesting, such as reviews of other books or bookstagram photos. Only ever talking about your own book becomes boring very quickly.
This blogger: This is excellent advice! Thank you.
If you could go back in time and speak to a younger Samantha Goodwin, what advice would you give her about the writing process?
I would say not to squander small snippets of time but instead to make the most of them, and you will be surprised what can be achieved. When I was younger, I wholeheartedly believed that I would never have enough time to write a book because I thought the writing process should always be a lengthy chunk of time. Therefore, it would only be possible for full-time authors. In reality, I ended up writing my debut novel in 30 minute to 1 hour bursts, usually during my lunch break, as I was working full time and pregnant!
Also, I’d say to have a one-page summary sheet of the whole storyline arc, so you can quickly pick up writing from where you left off. That way, you won’t worry about what people think and it means you can simply write the book you want to write.
How has writing changed you?
Releasing my first book has definitely made me more confident as a person. For a long time, I put off writing because I became too fixated on what other people would think and worried about getting negative feedback. Being in a book club made me realise that you can never please everybody, which was really liberating as a new author.
Over-all, I feel a lot more self-assured now and am less worried about pleasing everyone all the time. That means I can take a really chilled approach to things like social media. Plus, it means I can simply focus on putting out the content that I enjoy creating.
This blogger: Honestly, it is so wonderful to hear that. I love to hear that writing brings out the best in people and I am really happy for you.
Are you writing another novel at the moment? If so, could you tell us a bit about it please?
Actually, I’m in the very early stages of working on a non-fiction book that I’m hoping will be really beneficial to other writers. I plan to share more details about the project later on in the year.
In the meantime, I will shortly be launching a new FREE Indie Book Cover Competition. Ths will celebrate all the fantastic book covers out there and help raise the profile of a huge number of indie books. The competition opens for entries on 1st March, so keep an eye on my Instagram account (@samanthagoodwinauthor) for more details that will be announced really soon…
This blogger: This is so nice of you to do! And so important as well!
Lastly, outside of writing, what do you like to do?
Unsurprisingly I love reading and I’m a huge movie fan, particularly the Marvel ones. Also, I love going for walks in the countryside, eating almost all kinds of chocolate (*chuckles*), and I love going to the theatre; especially, to see musicals – my favourites are Rent, Wicked and The Lion King, all of which I’ve seen multiple times!
End of Interview
Thus, our interview with author Samantha Goodwin comes to an end. I would like to thank Samanatha for her time, and to say that it has been wonderful and highly informative talking to her. I wish her all the best in her future writings, her fantastic initiatives to support indie authors, her walks in the countryside, and her love for musicals (*winks*).
You can purchase Samatha’s book on Amazon. Those who love the crime genre will be hooked by Murder At Macbeth from the off! So, check it out now!
Otherwise, follow Samanatha on Instagram, and visit her Goodreads page and website. That way, you will be able to keep up to date with her all her initiatives and will be the first to know when her new book will be launched!
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