Samantha M. Bailey is a Toronto-based novelist, freelance editor, and journalist who has written extensively for Now Magazine, Oxford University Press, and many other publications. She is the co-founder of “BookBuzz,” a promotional and interactive author event held in New York City and Toronto. She holds a Master of Education in Applied Linguistics and credits that degree with her writing career because she wrote her first (unpublished) novel after taking a course on imagination. Now her imagination leads her to create dark and twisty stories. Her #1 bestselling debut psychological thriller, WOMAN ON THE EDGE, is published by Simon and Schuster Canada and Headline UK, and will be translated into seven languages. She loves reading as much as writing, so when not tapping away on her computer, she’s probably curled up with a really good book.
1) First, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me! When did you know that writing is what you were called to do? What is it about being a writer that you love the most?
Thank you so much for inviting me! I’ve wanted to be a writer since I first learned to read. In books, both reading and writing them, I found my voice. When I was ten years old, I submitted my first manuscript to a publishing house. It was rejected, but the fire to write was ignited, and I haven’t stopped since.
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
My debut, Woman on the Edge, is a pulse-pounding, propulsive thriller about the lengths to which a woman will go to protect her baby—even if that means sacrificing her own life. It’s published in North America with Simon & Schuster Canada, in the UK with Headline, and will be translated into seven languages.
You can find out more about me and my novel by visiting my website at: https://samanthambailey.com/, and connect with me on Instagram and Twitter at: @sbaileybooks. I love engaging with my readers, and I’m grateful to all of them.
3) Where do you draw your inspiration from for the stories that you manage to weave together and the characters that you create?
For me, it’s luck and timing. I find my best ideas come when I’m not looking so hard for them. The premise for Woman on the Edge was inspired by an afternoon subway commute. Like most writers, all probably, I’m fascinated by what people are really thinking and what their stories are. One cold winter day as I waited on a Toronto platform for the train, I saw a woman holding a newborn, standing too close to the edge. Like a lightning bolt, the premise for the book hit me, and I scribbled it down on an empty gum pack I found in my purse.
4) Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel? What projects are you currently working on?
I have a new schedule that is a recent change for me. Until a few months ago, I was a night owl and craved the “me” time when my kids were asleep, and I’d watch TV and read until late. But when Woman on the Edge was published, I didn’t have enough time during the day to write because I’m happily doing promotional events. I started waking up at 5 or 6 am to write, and it’s changed my life. I’ve fallen in love with the dark silence before sunrise, before I answer emails or hop on social media, when it’s just me and my words.
I’m a former pantser-turned-plotter. I used to draft and put words on the page right after solidifying the premise, but as I revised Woman on the Edge with my agent, I learned to outline and now I make an entire scene-by-scene map before I even begin to write. I’ve done that, as well, for my next book, also a thriller. This one centers on middle-aged motherhood, dangerous secrets…and murder. Every novel is different, and my process has changed now that I have deadlines. Woman on the Edge took three and a half years to revise with my agent, and about six months with my editors. Like everyone else right now, I’m juggling my kids at home, and I’m also a freelance manuscript editor, so my early morning writing is helping me so much. I’m hoping to have a draft completed in a few months. That might be wishful thinking, though.
5) What’s the first book you ever read that really moved you emotionally? Who is your favorite author to read? What book are you currently reading?
The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson completely destroyed me, and I loved it so much. I still think about it often and feel the same heartbreak I felt when I read it as a child.
I have so many favorite authors that it would take a whole book for me to talk about them. But some of my biggest inspirations are Jennifer Weiner, Sue Grafton, Jonathan Kellerman, Stephen King, Lisa Unger, Mary Kubica, Ruth Ware, Liz Nugent, Gillian Flynn, Heather Gudenkauf, Patricia Highsmith, Karin Slaughter, and so many others.
One of the very best parts of being an author is the advanced reader copies I receive and being asked to blurb other authors’ books. It’s a dream! I just finished the very compelling and captivating Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle, out June 9, 2020.
6) What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
My most significant achievement was the day I could finally walk into a bookstore with my children, point to my novel on the shelf, and say, “There’s Mommy’s book.” It took seventeen years, five fully written novels, two agents, and years of rejections and revisions to see my dreams come true, and I feel so lucky. To be able to show my children that anything is possible if you believe in yourself, really listen to feedback, and don’t give up is a gift.
In the next five years, I hope to have written a few more books, to continue supporting other authors and being a part of the beautiful book community, and a film or TV series based on Woman on the Edge would be wonderful. I have two fantastic film agents at UTA, so we shall see!
7) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career? What are your thoughts about how the publishing industry is drastically changing in terms of traditional and self-publishing?
Rejection is a necessary part of any artistic endeavor. Art is subjective, and it’s also a business. So, every rejection I’ve received has taught me something about myself and my work. I’ve learned how invaluable critical feedback is, how many drafts it takes to make my books the best they can possibly be, and to forge ahead one sentence at a time.
I actually self-published the second novel I wrote, an edgy Rom com, after it was passed on by traditional publishers. I wanted a traditional publishing deal more than anything, but I also loved that book and wanted to see what would happen. It received a wonderful response from readers, but even more valuable to me are the connections I made with other authors, readers, and bloggers, many of whom have become close friends. Self-publishing was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made because I also learned the ins and outs of publishing, and the grit it takes to persist. I tried to find an agent with every subsequent book I wrote, but it wasn’t until I wrote Woman on the Edge that I signed with the fierce, dedicated goddess who now represents me. As much as I appreciate my self-publishing experience, I longed for partners, a team of people who could work with me on my career. And I finally found that, my home with the most incredible editors, publicists, and marketing experts.
I think every author has to follow the path that’s right for them. For some that means self-publishing; some; a small press experience; and for others; one of the big five houses. Wherever your journey takes you, it’s your own road.
8) So many writers say that they hate reading their own work. Do you ever enjoy reading your own work back to yourself?
I enjoy reading my own work when I’m drafting and revising. I love finding all the things I can still fix, and I especially enjoy printing out a hard copy in a different font because it allows me to read my work as though someone else has written it. But once my work is published, it belongs to my readers, and I don’t read it again. I move forward with the next story.
9) Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?
I truly believe it is never ever too late, and I’m proof of that. I was twenty-nine when I finished writing my first novel and signed with my first agent. I was forty-six when my book finally hit shelves. While of course sometimes I wish it had happened when I was younger and had fewer responsibilities to balance, the wait, and the wisdom I think I’ve gleaned with age, makes my accomplishment that much sweeter to me.
10) I feel like writing is a remarkable tool to help people not only express themselves, but also to cope emotionally and mentally. I know for me I write to be and feel more authentic. What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity? How does writing help you to be more empowered in your purpose?
This resonates deeply with me. I am a worrier, and writing gives me a place to put all my fears so I can be as positive and optimistic in my day-to-day life, for myself and my family. I think because I have such a fascination with psychology and I do worry, I use that to inform and develop my characters so they’re as real as possible. That is my ultimate purpose—to create a story that readers connect to, and to present my characters as flawed, authentically human, complex people.
What Some People Are Saying About Woman on the Edge:
“[A] nail-biting debut. . . . The tension becomes unrelenting . . . Fans of psychological suspense are in for a treat.”
— Publisher’s Weekly (Starred review)
“One woman’s struggles with motherhood and another’s desperate desire to be a mother collide in this explosive debut. Woman on the Edge is a white-knuckle read that welcomes a bright new talent to the world of psychological suspense.”
— MARY KUBICA, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl
“Writing with compassion for her characters and a keen eye on her carefully woven plot, Samantha Bailey’s Woman on the Edge is a page turning delight!”
— WENDY WALKER, international bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten