Samantha Downing joined us in our Behind the Pages Goodreads group and answers our questions for He Started It. I am excited to share some of the Q & A here with you all!
Lindsay: Welcome to our chat Samantha! Very happy to have you here. How did you come up with the idea for He Started It?
Samantha: Hi Lindsay, thank you so much for having me!
The idea for He Started It came from a friend of mine who was telling me about a road trip she went on with her family. A lot of things went wrong – a flat tire, someone got sick, etc. It got me thinking about road trips, and what a great setting that was for a thriller!
So many options!
Lindsay: What does your typical writing day look like?
Samantha: I am definitely a morning writer. I like to get up early and write first thing, while I’m still fresh. At the end of the day, my mind has too much in it to write clearly! Sometimes I do some editing, but normally I write in the morning and read in the evening. That way the two are separated for me.
Lindsay: How long did it take you to write He Started It vs. My Lovely Wife?
Samantha: I wrote My Lovely Wife in about six and half months. That was before I had an agent or a book contract, so I was doing it for fun and sharing it with my writing group.
He Started It was very different! Originally, I wrote a different book. Normally, I don’t plot my novels but my editor asked for a synopsis for my second book so I wrote one. Then i wrote the book…and it was terrible. Turns out, I should not plot my books!
After a lot of talking, we decided to throw that book out. Completely. At that point, I had three months to come up with a book…so that’s what I did. I wrote He Started It in three months because I had no choice.
But if I had my preference, I would have six months to write each book!
Brenda: What came first for you the idea of the story, the characters or the setting?
Samantha: The idea of a road trip came first, and then I had to think about who would go on the road trip!
I didn’t want to use another family like in My Lovely Wife – husband, wife, and kids. I thought about a group of friends, but it’s hard to take two weeks off from your family for a road trip unless you are very young…and I couldn’t think of a good reason why friends would have to go on a road trip.
Then when I thought of siblings, it seemed perfect. Siblings can be such difficult relationships because you have all grown up together and you certainly know how to push each other’s buttons!
Brenda: You created a few characters here. How did you go about creating their voices and the dynamics between them? Were any of them relatable to you somehow?
Samantha: The narrator of the story is Beth, the middle child. I specifically wanted the middle child because they don’t have a defined role like the youngest or oldest in the family. So I started with her, and I knew she would have more information than just about anybody.
Eddie, the oldest, is definitely based on my brother (only my brother is not evil!) But he definitely a charming guy, the kind of guy everybody likes and makes friends easily.
Krista is 26 and she’s the youngest. I would say I have the most in common with her, because I am also the baby of the family. I was also used to being left out of what my older siblings were up to!
Brenda: How do you go about creating and developing the setting? How important is the setting to you?
Samantha: The road trip was essential to this story for a couple of reasons. First, because it forced them to be together. They had to be in that car, locked in together for hours every day. That can be a real pressure cooker situation if you don’t like the people you are with!
Second, it gave the story movement. You knew how many days were left from the beginning, and you knew it was building up to something
Brenda: What’s a road trip without stopping at some tourist traps!! I love how you added that to the story. How did you come with the idea of adding them to the story? How did you choose the ones you used?
Samantha: This was a lot of fun, and a lot of research! I knew this family wouldn’t go anywhere normal, like the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls, so I chose really out of the way, weird roadside places for them to stop. Roadside America was invaluable for this!
Personally, I have driven across the country before and have seen a few of these places, but not all of them. Maybe one day!
Marilyn: Is the ending of this story in concrete, to you, or do you see it as an ending where the reader is meant to decide what happens next?
Samantha: I absolutely think the book had a concrete ending! Although I understand that others don’t think so. Without giving anything away…this story is about the Morgan siblings. The book ends when you know how each of their stories ends.
I hope that clears it up!
Brenda: As a reader what do you like from a suspense story or thriller? Do you find yourself writing more on what you like or what you think readers like?
Samantha: I try to write the books I would love to read. I grew up reading thrillers, my whole family read them and they were always around the house.
When I first started writing, I think I was writing for me personally. I’m sure a lot of writers do this – they write to process personal things or make sense of their own experiences. But once that was out of my system, I started writing book I actually wanted to read. And it’s a lot more fun!
Thrillers/suspense novels are definitely my favorites. I do read other genres but I always return to thrillers
Brenda: Are you working on anything you can share with us?
Samantha: I am finishing up my third book and yes, it’s a thriller! That’s all I can share for right now!
For more of out Q & A with Samantha can be found here