I'm a born and bred southern girl who grew up reading Toni Morrison, Archie Comics, Christopher Pike, Octavia Butler, Dean Koontz and Stephen King. When I'm not thinking of what to write I'm napping or eating, going to church, wishing I could sing, dreaming of owning a tiny house, watching A Different World reruns, trying to perfect my grandma’s biscuit recipe, or reading a book. I'd love to hear from you if you've read my book! You can contact me via me website at www.booksbysamreed.com.
SIX MINUTES WITH SAM REED:
Joining LitPick for Six Minutes with an author is Sam Reed. She is the author of Fair to Hope, which is available for students to review.
***How did you get started writing?
I’m pretty sure I got started writing by reading. Books were the things that made me feel the most okay. Internally, I felt like a strange kid. I don’t know if I actually was one, but I often felt on the outskirts of things. Words on pages that I could hold were the places where I saw reflections of myself - characters I could relate to, situations I could be invested in and my reactions were my own - meaning however I felt while reading was okay. So then, for me, writing became a natural outlet. I felt safe on paper; I felt like the truest me on paper, so writing was where I got to learn myself.
First it was just journals, and then, probably again, because of the reading, my crazy imagination started leaking through and it became about telling stories. I tried to make sense of things I didn’t understand by giving them fantastical foundations, by writing characters who were strong where I was weak and who lived and saw and grew in the ways I wanted to. Sometimes it was even the re-telling of things, reworking the past into something that if it was negative, would no longer have any power over me, and if it was positive, that could be made gloriously larger, worth sharing and celebrating. So I guess, if boiled down to the basics, for me, writing started by not just falling in love with words, but in realizing I could trust the world words allowed me to live in and create.
***Who influenced you?
My mom. She was a writer but let it go when she had kids in order to provide for us. But she had notebooks of short stories and poems, and reading them was confidence for me, because they were good, and I would think, some of that lady is in my DNA - so I should be able to do that, too.
And then there are all the writers who I felt like were amazing at showing the subtle savagery of people coupled with our unbelievable ability to rally and hope and show up - folks like Stephen King, and Octavia Butler, Toni Morrison, Dean Koontz, Christopher Pike. Pike’s young adult books for me growing up were epic. They always had such strong female characters that had very little to do with a girl navigating a life around a boy and the idea that ‘relationship’ defines you - you weren’t okay until you met him, you won’t be okay without him. That is so short-sighted for not just girls but boys too - relationships are beautiful, love is a blessing, but love yourself first. There was also George Orwell, Zora Neale Hurston, and Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.
***Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?
It’s impossible for me to answer the favorite book question. It’s ever changing and evolving. In high school I read 1984 and The Invisible Man and was struck by being pulled along by the hand towards the evolution of something…does that make sense? Watching this thing unfold, often tragically, and being so invested that it becomes more than a story, it becomes something that shapes how you view life in general. Toni Morrison's Beloved did that for me as well.
Stephen King’s IT was the first book to truly scare me, and I grew up on horror movies, so it was unexpectedly exhilarating. Everything by Toni Morrison, literally everything, shaped how I categorized myself as a black woman, but the novel that probably most affected me in high school was Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. I read it as a young southern teenager who’d just moved to the “big city,” and it gave me all these new definitions of love and security and self-awareness, vulnerability, strength, carelessness and hope. Though my favorites list is always revolving, that book stays in my top 3.
My favorite setting is the South; it’s in my blood. I love the slowness and the sly calculation of the people and the observations, the food, the heat. Heat can be a character in and of itself. When it’s hot enough, people are inclined to do crazy things! And food too, what a person eats, how they eat, the memories surrounding what they use to nourish themselves can be one of the most telling character traits.
***What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
Be one. That seems like easy throw-away advice, but it’s the truth. Just be one. Commit to it like you would anything else. You’ll see things that say write every day, and that’s good advice, because as a concept, being a writer is romantic and artsy, but that makes it easy to forget that it is also a job, one that requires some dedication and routine. You must write to be an author, you must write enough words to make a book, and most likely you’ll have to be able to do that over and over again.
That said, I don’t write every day. Sometimes I can’t; the words just won’t come, and so I don’t beat myself up about that. I take it as a day of inspiration, I look around me, I pay attention, I watch people, I think things out, and now when I get back in front of the page, that bank of “prompts” will help the words come…and when they do, it’s usually a long winded tumble of things that need to be edited and rearranged and completely reworked and that’s ok. The most important thing is to just get it out - get the words out. Then as you start to work with them and mold them into a story, they’ll work with you. It’ll be a partnership, and that’s when the magic happens.
***Where is your favorite place to write?
In my dreams, it would be someplace outside - preferably near water because water relaxes me. But in real life it’s anywhere where I can be guaranteed a few hours of quiet, so coffee shops and parks are always nice. Almost never my house. Even though that’s where I most often write, it’s too easy for me to get distracted there by things that need to get done, so I try to write outside of my house as often as possible.
***What else would you like to tell us?
Being a writer and having people spend their valuable time becoming a part of the world you create is really someone giving you the upmost trust, to allow your world to become their world. They may hate it or love it. It may resonate with them for a lifetime or drop out of remembrance as soon as the book is closed, but either way, it still feels like an immense honor to be given the opportunity.
Thanks, Sam, for joining LitPick for an interview. We have enjoyed getting to learn more about your inspiration behind writing.