Write and Keep Writing: An Interview with Samantha Downing


Madison Tovey, Writer, Editor-in-Chief

Samantha Downing is a best-selling author with 4 published novels and a movie deal under her belt. She has spent the majority of her life committing herself to writing and has succeeded in creating a beautiful oeuvre of works.

I think many young writers wonder where authors started out, or if anything want to find advice on how to get started. So, imagine, you as a teenage writer get to ask one of your favorite authors any question that comes to your mind. Well—the ones you come up with in the day and a half you have to draft them…

Q: How much did you write while you were in high school?

A: I spent more of my time reading than writing in high school. I was always a big reader, my mom used to take me to the library every two weeks to return my books and get a new stack of them. It wasn’t a chore, going to the library was a fun thing for me to do. I was that kid who always had her nose stuck in a book whenever I had the chance. I did some writing back then, but it really didn’t start until I got my first computer in college. That was the first time I thought of writing my own stories.


Q: Was there a teacher in school that pushed you to pursue writing?

A: No, it wasn’t something I was particularly focused on in high school and I did not study writing in college. I am completely self-taught.


Q: Did you always feel an inclination toward the mystery/ thriller genre or did you discover a love for it along the way?

A: A lot of people in my family read mysteries and thrillers, they were always lying around the house. I grew up reading them. I tried writing in a lot of different genres before writing my first published novel, My Lovely Wife. I wrote eleven books before that, only a couple of them were thrillers.


Q: Do you think your reason/motivation for writing has changed over the years?

A: I write because I love it. Now that I’m published, some things about it have changed. I have deadlines to meet and I only write thrillers, I can’t really change genres on a whim anymore. But I love to sit down and write. One thing I’ve learned is that if I’m writing something I don’t love, it comes through to the reader. And if I love the book I’m writing, that also comes through. Readers can tell the difference. So now I’ve learned to throw out an idea if I don’t love writing it.


Q: Is there any character you’ve written about that you’ve related to?

A: I’ve related to a lot of characters in small ways. For example, both Millicent in My Lovely Wife and Teddy in For Your Own Good are very organized and meticulous. So am I. Not necessarily in my writing, but definitely in the way I live my life. I also related to the character of Portia in He Started It, she was the youngest sibling in the story and I was the same in my family.


Q: What is the most gratifying aspect of being an author?

A: Being able to create for a living. Now that I’m a full-time writer, part of my job is to turn my imagination into a novel. That’s incredibly gratifying.


Q: How do you know when a book is done?

A: When I can’t find a way to make it better. I write the book and revise it a few times before turning it into my editor. I make sure it’s the best book I can create. She will then read it and make further suggestions, which starts the editing process of the book. But for me, the book gets to the point where I don’t have any other ideas for it and it needs an outside view to continue with the edits and revisions.


Q: Do you have an ending in mind while writing a story?

A: Sometimes I do, other times I don’t. In two of my published books, I had an ending in mind. One of them ended up being similar, the other was completely different by the time I finished writing. So even if I have something in mind, it may change.


Q: Who are your personal inspirations, for writing or otherwise, and why?

A: There are so many amazing women writing thrillers right now, and I’m inspired by so many of them. Starting with Gillian Flynn, but also Caroline Kepnes, Mary Kubica, Tana French, Robyn Harding, Rachel Howzell Hall, Kellye Garrett, Hannah Morrissey, and so many others! Reading their books inspires me to try harder. In terms of classic literature, one of my favorite books of all time is Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca. For a work ethic inspiration, no one does it better than Stephen King. He has a specific schedule that he sticks to every day, which is how he manages to write so many books.


Q: What is your least favorite part of the writing process?

A: My least favorite part is probably the revisions with my editor. Sometimes it can be difficult to hear that something doesn’t work in the book, especially if it’s a part I really loved. But editors are usually right–it’s their job to make a book better–so I try not to take it personally. I just want to put out the best book I can.


Q: If you could give any piece of advice to a high schooler that wants to pursue writing, what would that advice be?

A: I have two pieces of advice. The first is to write and keep writing. I wrote for twenty years, as a hobby, before my first book was published. No one is truly an overnight success. One way or another, everybody pays their dues. Mine were paid by concentrating on the craft of writing for so long. When the opportunity came to get an agent and get published, they thought my writing was where it needed to be in order for that to happen. My second piece of advice is to keep reading. You can’t be a writer if you aren’t a reader. If you don’t like to read, there are other ways to express yourself other than through writing.