#295 – Writing a Domestic Thriller with Samantha M. Bailey

In this episode, we are joined by Samantha M. Bailey, USA Today and #1 nationally bestselling author of Woman on the Edge. We discussed Samantha’s next thriller, Watch Out for Her, her experiences finding a traditional publishing platform, following up a successful debut during a global pandemic, how curiosity can drive the creative process of writing a thriller, the importance of editing, of community, of her readers, and much more!

In this episode, we are joined by Samantha M. Bailey, USA Today and #1 nationally bestselling author of Woman on the Edge. Today, Samantha discusses her second book, the recently released domestic suspense novel/psychological thriller, Watch Out for Her.

We discussed Samantha’s experiences finding a traditional publishing platform, following up a successful debut during a global pandemic, how curiosity can drive the creative process of writing a thriller, the importance of editing, of community, of her readers, and much more!

  • First, we hear about Samantha’s twenty-year journey from aspiring author to her best-selling debut, and the ups and downs of launching a book available in 11 countries right before the world shut down due to the pandemic.
  • Samantha also talks to us about writing her second book during the pandemic, and how that may have contributed to the tone and themes of claustrophobia, paranoia, and general unease that work together to create a tense, exciting thriller.
  • We ask about Samantha’s inspiration for Watch Out for Her, the detailed writing process behind it, what it was like to inhabit the minds of her characters, and how for her, it was “torturous fun” and a joy to be able to “let it all out on the page.”
  • Samantha tells us about her time as an editor, how she works with her friends (who are also fellow writers), and how helpful it is to have honest conversations, critiques, and community.
  • Likewise, Samantha talks about her interactions with readers, and how important it is to engage with your community of readers, too.
  • We hear about Samantha’s experiences connecting to other thriller and chick lit writers, and touch upon the importance of community among women writers.
  • And lots more!

Useful links

Samantha M. Bailey’s website

Samantha on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

Watch Out for Her

Mentioned in this episode:

Woman on the Edge

J. T. Ellison

Lisa Unger

The Shit No One Tells You About Writing podcast

Things We Do in the Dark by Jennifer Hillier

Breathless by Amy McCulloch

The Swell by Allie Reynolds

Shiver by Allie Reynolds

It Could Be Anyone by Jamie Lyn Hendricks

My Summer Darlings by May Cobbs

Never Coming Home by Hannah Mary McKinnon

Last One Alive by Amber Cowie

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Woman on Fire by Lisa Barr

Genevieve Graham

Natalie Jenner

Samantha M. Bailey is the USA TODAY and #1 nationally bestselling author of WOMAN ON THE EDGE, which has sold in eleven countries to date. Her psychological thriller debut received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly and was a PW Best Books Pick of the Week. It was also the December Fiction Book of the Month at Indigo Books and the Shopper’s Drug Mart January Book Lover’s Pick. She is also a journalist and freelance editor; her work has appeared in NOW Magazine, The Village PostThe Thrill Begins, and The Crime Hub, among other publications. WATCH OUT FOR HER is her second novel. Samantha lives in Toronto, where she can usually be found tapping away at her computer or curled up on her couch with a book.

Episode Transcript

Transcription by www.speechpad.com

Joni: Hey, writers. You’re listening to “The Kobo Writing Life Podcast,” where we bring you insights and inspiration for growing your self-publishing business. We’re your hosts: I’m Joni, author relations manager at Kobo Writing Life.

Rachel: And I’m Rachel, promotion specialist at Kobo Writing Life.

Joni: On today’s episode, we are chatting to Samantha M. Bailey, who is the USA Today and number one nationally bestselling author of Woman on the Edge, which is sold in 11 countries to date. She’s also a journalist and freelance editor, and she chatted to us about her second novel, Watch Out for Her.

Rachel: We had such a great conversation with Samantha talking about her writing process and creating Watch Out for Her. She wrote most of the book during the pandemic, so we talked a lot about how that affected her writing. We talked about how she inhabited the paranoid headspace with her characters. And we chatted about how she moved from writing dark romcoms into psychological thrillers, which was really interesting.

Samantha also told us about her writing community and how important it is to her and how she found this community. And she also talked to us about how she keeps in touch with her readers. So it was a great conversation. We covered a lot. And we really hope you enjoy.

Joni: We are excited to welcome Samantha Bailey to the podcast today. She’s talking to us about her new book, Watch Out for Her. Thank you so much for coming, Samantha.

Samantha: Thanks for having me.

Joni: Can you start by telling our listeners a little bit about yourself and about your books?

Samantha: Sure. So I was born and raised in Toronto, and I still live here now. And I have a Bachelor of Education from McGill University. And I have a Master’s of Education in Applied Linguistics from the University of Toronto.

And while I wanted to be a writer my whole life, I was also a freelance manuscript editor for a long time with my own business, on hiatus now. I am a voracious reader. And Watch Out for Her is my second traditionally-published novel. And it is the sixth book, though, that I have written. And Watch Out for Her is, you can call it domestic suspense. You can call it psychological thriller. I would say it’s probably both.

And it is the story of a mother named Sarah Goldman, who is a middle-aged mother, who has a six, almost seven-year-old son, and has been a stay-at-home mother for his entire life. And she wants to find a piece of herself again. She wants to find her own identity, and she wants to return to her first love, which is photography. And so she hires a babysitter for the son named Holly Monroe, a 22-year-old med student.

And Holly and Jacob, Sarah’s son, adore each other. And Sarah and Holly create a very special bond between them as well, until Sarah sees something that she can’t unsee. And she feels that she needs to escape from Holly. And so they leave from Vancouver to Toronto, she comes with her family to Toronto to a new home, only to find hidden cameras in this new home when they arrive. And she has to wonder if perhaps she hasn’t left Holly so far behind after all.

Rachel: So before we get into the nitty and gritty of the book and writing the book, which was a lot of fun to read, I want to talk a little more about your journey to publishing. You said this is the sixth book you’ve written. So how did you go from studying linguistics and education to writing four books, two of which have now been published?

Samantha: Will try to do this in a nutshell. I’ve been writing since I was ten years old. I submitted my first manuscript to publishers when I was ten. And I was rejected for the first time when I was ten.

And then I wanted to write and I wrote in my teenage years and I wrote at 29 and decided I was going to attempt a full-length novel. It was an edgy romcom. I used to write edgy romcoms.

And I signed with an agent in New York City very quickly. And I thought all my dreams would come true. I thought, “This is it.” I thought I was that overnight success story. And I thought, you know, I was going to be in New York City, and I was going to be drinking my cosmos at my book signings and I was basically Carrie Bradshaw. That’s who I thought I was going to be.

And we went on submission with that first book, and it was resoundingly rejected. So I wrote another edgy romcom. And it too was resoundingly rejected. And at that time, my agent and I amicably parted ways. And I kept writing. So I wrote two more books and they increasingly became darker and darker and darker. I wrote two more books.

There was nothing in me, I was never going to give up. I wanted a traditional publishing deal, almost more than anything in the world. I wanted a publishing partner. I wanted to see my book on shelves in the bookstore. And I just kept going. And I looked for another agent for quite a while for these books.

And then I wrote Woman on the Edge, my debut. And I signed with my incredible agent. And we then actually spent three and a half years revising it. And not three and a half years of, you know, three and a half years of constant writing. There’s, you know, waiting in between. I send it to her, she sends it to me, we get through it. But we wanted to get it into the best shape possible. So that this time, I would see my dreams come true.

And I did. It’s sold in 11 countries. It hits number one on the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail bestseller lists. It became a USA Today bestseller. And it’s unbelievable and surreal. And after twenty years, it will be twenty years, I’ll be 49 at the end of May, you know, from the time I started this to the time of now with my second novel coming out, and I am the luckiest person in the world.

Joni: I have so many questions, starting with, what was your book when you were ten about? What was your first ever?

Samantha: Oh, my gosh, it was called Freddie the Flame. It was based on like the Mr. Men series at that time. That’s where I got the inspiration from. It was about, supposed to be, so I wrote this flame, who, whatever he touched, would blow up, would burn. And so he was lonely. This poor little flame, Freddie, was so lonely and couldn’t get a job because he was looking for a job. I don’t know how old he was. And nobody wanted to go near him because they basically turned to ash.

And he finally got a job on a train, pushing the coal into the train. I don’t even know if that was a possibility. I didn’t know if trains ran on coal even. So he pushed the coal into the train. And he met his ex-“flame,” Frida, who also had the same special quality that Freddie had. And they lived happily ever after.

Joni: That’s adorable. And they should have not rejected it.

Samantha: Oh, I don’t know.

Joni: So, as you said, your first book Woman on the Edge was super successful right out of the gate pretty much. How do you feel coming up into the release of book number two? Does it feel like a lot of pressure? Or is it just exciting to get this book out to readers?

Samantha: I have all the feels, all the feels. And I think any author putting out a second novel does, any author putting out a book does. We are now putting our heart and soul into readers’ hands. You know, we bled, we sweat, we cried, we put everything we’ve got on that page. And now it doesn’t belong to us anymore. So we all, I think, feel that.

And then if you’ve had success with a debut, definitely, there’s pressure. I don’t want to disappoint my readers who loved my first book. I don’t want to disappoint anyone who’s expecting something. And it’s not Woman on the Edge because it’s not Woman on the Edge. It’s a totally different story. It’s my voice. Absolutely, it is my writing style. But it’s a completely different story.

I am very, very, very proud of that book. I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard on anything in my life, actually, as Watch Out for Her as I did during the pandemic and gave it my all. I always do, but during the pandemic, it’s a whole different ballgame. So I’m also really excited. I am really hopeful and full of joy.

And as I said, I’m just, I’m so full of gratitude. I have gotten the most amazing early reviews, the most incredible support from bookstagrammers and booksellers and librarians. And I have a phenomenal publishing team behind me. I have an amazing agent and I have the best author friends in the world who know exactly what I’m going through. And so here we go.

Rachel: And just to kind of touch on what you said about writing during the pandemic, Woman on the Edge came out in November 2019. So from my understanding of time, your entire Watch Out for Her experience has kind of been under the umbrella of the pandemic. What was writing a book during 2020 like for you?

Samantha: Hell. But I’ll go back for one second to Woman on the Edge. It came out in Canada in November 2019. And so I got the launch of my dreams and I got everything that debut authors with books out in 2020 didn’t get. But it came out in the U.S. March 3rd, one week before the world shut down and everything changed. So all those dreams turned to dust for a short time and then everybody came and banded together and created a whole different world.

And what was it like writing during the pandemic? I have two kids, who now are almost fifteen and almost twelve. But they were nine and twelve at that time. And the most important thing to me was to make sure that they were mentally and physically healthy and happy. I have parents who are older. So I now was on deadline for the second book. And my kids were home and in school, online. I started getting up at 4 or 5am so that I could have space just to myself to write. I don’t have an office with a door. I don’t have an office at all. I work in the kitchen, with the desk pressed up against the wall. And so whenever it was recess, or it was lunchtime, or after school, then of course, everybody comes downstairs. And I’m shocked that on every page of Watch Out for Her, I didn’t write “mom, mom, mom, mom!”

Joni: Yes, I should say that the kitchen is a high-traffic area.

Samantha: Yeah. And it’s the only place I can go. My husband is, you know, working from home in our bedroom. And so it is what it is. So it was very hard to be able to focus. And to find the time. I had to learn to write in shorter increments. I had to learn to write in chaos.

I had to really try to explain that I needed my own time, which was hard because everybody needed everybody, especially at the beginning because no one knew what was going on. We’re all so frightened. But it was also extremely cathartic and therapeutic.

When I started writing Watch Out for Her, and I started writing Sarah and I started writing Holly. I love them, I love them. People can call them likable, unlikable. I love how messy and complicated and complex and imperfect and flawed they are.

And especially with Sarah, I appreciated a mother trying to find her own identity separate from motherhood because I felt that I had achieved that balance. You know, I’d achieved it. My kids were, finally, you know, in school full time. I had a career and I had, you know, what I thought was this just amazing, amazing balance.

And then suddenly, that balance was gone. And there was no separate space and time for me anymore. There was no separate sense of self. And I really started to identify with her and to connect with her on a very different level than I anticipated. And that felt really good. And it felt really good to put all my fears and my worries and my anxieties into this novel.

Joni: One of the things that Rachel and I were talking about is that there is a feeling of kind of claustrophobia and being closed in and that sort of anxiety that builds throughout the book. And now that you’ve talked about writing it at home during a pandemic, actually does make a lot of sense. Did that sort of contribute to the atmosphere that you were building in the book?

Samantha: It’s funny, I think that was almost unintentional or subconscious. It’s interesting you say that. I’m so happy to hear that. And it’s sometimes very hard as the writer. Reading is such a subjective experience. It belongs to you. And, you know, both of your experiences will be so different from each other’s.

And from my experience writing it, that I… Maybe I did, maybe I did put all of that in there. And what I wanted was to create a very tense, uncomfortable feel in the book. I wanted to entertain and I wanted to make people think and feel and I wanted to make it extremely, extremely tense.

Rachel: And building that tension and kind of the paranoid headspace that both Sarah and Holly exist in in very different ways, how was it like inhabiting that headspace, while also existing in a world that was full of paranoia for various reasons during 2020?

Samantha: I don’t know who said it. I think someone said that writing is torturous fun. So it was torturous fun. It was great to be able to, again, put my own paranoia and anxieties onto other people so that I didn’t put them on to anybody I know in real life, you know, so that I could do that.

And, of course, in the book, I mean, they’re dealing with something so different, and it’s paranoia and anxieties in a very different way, and to a different level. I do not place cameras on other people. I am not a voyeur. I definitely people watch. But so it was, it felt really good.

But there were times where I think the lines got a little blurred, where the things that were bothering Sarah were bothering me. And I couldn’t tell if it was from the book or from the situation of being isolated in a small, cramped house for months on end with no ability to go anywhere to see anybody. And in the end, it allowed me, though, to completely crack my soul open. And really, just let it all out on the page.

Joni: I’m always curious. What was the initial seed that was planted when you started this story? Was it like you wanted to explore the babysitter idea? Or was it a particular relationship or something more general?

Samantha: It was more general. Yeah, a Woman on the Edge was this lightning bolt moment, whereas this one was more a combination of thoughts and discussions with my agents and my editor, and, you know, trying to figure out how do we follow Women on the Edge and how do we do that so I’m true to myself, true to my voice. And I told the story I wanted to tell.

Because it has to be a story, I want to tell the story that readers want to read. I love the babysitter-mother dynamic. I find that fascinating when you’ve hired a stranger to come into your home, or you’ve allowed a stranger to take care of your child. I love the idea of not being able to watch the people who watch your children, you know, trying to control the uncontrollable is a very difficult thing to accept that you cannot control the uncontrollable.

I love the concept of what goes on behind closed doors. The expectations that are placed on us that sometimes cause us to hide who we truly are from other people, and even from ourselves, because we’re so afraid to disappoint anybody. And that, I think, is what leads to anxieties and secrets and lies. And then very much the concept of motherhood, identity, all of that, you know, guilt and worry, and all of the feelings we mothers have of where is the space for us to separate people. And where’s the space, as you know, be everything for our children, who are everything for us. But they can’t be our everything because we also need something that is ours alone.

Rachel: And how do you take these like big concepts and like big, emotionally impactful ideas, and kind of funnel them into an entertaining thriller?

Samantha: Interesting question.

Rachel: And how do you plot out all of the beats that let you hit the emotional mark while also, like I said, like, it’s really entertaining?

Samantha: A really detailed outline. So I write really detailed outlines that I have to be careful not to get stifled by. But I write really detailed outlines beforehand, so that I know the characters’ motivations, their arcs, their backstories, the clues, you know, the plot beats, all the elements that will drive the story forward.

So I have a map, before I start writing, of what doesn’t work and what does work, what slows the story down, what doesn’t need to be there. And then, I’ll write a first draft. And then I’ll have to rewrite the whole thing in my book. No matter what my first draft, I always have to rewrite. For me, the magic is in the revision, and it is in somebody else reading my work and critiquing it. Because I often can’t see when I’ve put way too much of this thought process in there. And I need to chop away at it.

I love when someone like cuts my work. I love red lines. The more red lines, I just, I get really excited about red lines, because I know that the next draft will be so much better. It gives me something to work toward. It’s a challenge. So yeah, so I would say editing is a major part of that.

Joni: So you have a background in manuscript editing, you said, is that what you do in fiction?

Samantha: Yes. Fiction. Yeah, mostly fiction, mostly fiction. I was a grammar and writing teacher for a very long time, for over 15 years. And then, when my daughter was born, she’s my second child, I decided I wanted to work at home so that I can be available more. So I can, you know, volunteer at the school at that time. I could, you know, be on the parent council. I could be there if anybody needed me. That I could really present for them while also having my own life. So I opened my own editing business about a year after she was born.

And I did everything, you know, resumes, academic essays, scripts, nonfiction. And then, over time, I really narrowed it to fiction manuscripts. And I love it. I miss it. I haven’t had time to be able to do it and I love the editing process. I, you know, critique for friends who critique for me. We critique each other’s work. And I love it so much because it uses such a different part of my brain and I learn so much from them.

Joni: And it sounds like it helps you as an author, because I think it can go both ways. You can either feel kind of sensitive about it because you know about this kind of thing and having someone else go into it for you, I think, can be challenging. Or it sounds like, for you, it’s, you know, exactly how beneficial a second set of eyes is, and how important it is to have someone else give you critiques that you can’t always see.

Samantha: Yeah. It’s also I’m a tough editor. I’m a tough editor. And I’m going to be honest because if I’m not honest, I’m not helping you, not me. You know, I will point at all the things I love, but I would really, really focus on the things that I think need to work and give suggestions on what perhaps might improve it. I’m only one set of eyes. It’s just a subjective opinion. And then I want to be nailed to the wall.

My critique partner always laughs because she’s, you know, she can’t believe… She said she loves editing for me or critiquing me because she never has to worry that I’m going to be upset or I’m going to, you know, get mad at her. I would be upset if she didn’t give it all the honesty that she has. Because unless she does that, I can’t get better. And my whole goal is to get better and to create the very, very, very best book that I possibly can.

Joni: You definitely sound like a dream author to work with from an editorial perspective.

Samantha: Except I don’t know anything about tech. So that’s where, I think, I drive my team nuts, where I’m like, “Okay, I don’t know how to this. I don’t know how to do that. Help, help, help.”

Rachel: I was gonna say, Joni and I both have a background in editorial. And I don’t know about you, Joni, but when I was in school for it, we actually had to… It wasn’t like a full class but there was definitely a good section of a class about communicating with authors and helping them accept critique, because, like, at the end of the day, it’s your baby that you’re handing to somebody else and asking to eviscerate, which the imagery of baby is probably the wrong one to go with there.

Samantha: But it’s true. No, it’s true.

Rachel: But it’s true. Do you have any advice for first-time authors who are handing over that manuscript that they’ve been slaving over to a stranger and how to take in that critique without taking it too personally?

Samantha: For sure, it’s totally natural to feel like you’ve been punched in the stomach. Of course, you have put so much work into this. And it’s your heart and it’s your soul. And it’s everything. And if you’re not published yet, it’s also all these hopes and dreams that you want so much that you’re so scared you won’t be able to fulfill because it is a very hard business. And there’s so much rejection. Sometimes that comes before the success.

I think, for any author who is in the process of trying to get published, know that none of this is fast. It may not be. For some people, it is very fast. I do know overnight successes. For nobody, it isn’t easy, for nobody. Nobody finds this easy. Publishing is a brutal, gut-wrenching, soul-destroying business. You need a really thick skin. You need to know that your first draft will not be your final draft, that the magic is in the rewrites and revisions.

And the first draft is generally for you, just to get it all out, to get the story out, to put the words on paper. And it can be total garbage. And that’s okay. Do not hand your first draft to anyone. That’s a really good piece of advice. Do not send it to anyone. Do not hand it to anyone. Let it marinate, let it sit, walk away from it, and come back to it with fresh eyes. Come back to it, if you can, as a reader.

And when you hand it over, hand it to somebody that you trust to be honest, hand it to somebody who, perhaps, understands the genre, understands your goals, understands that publishing is a business as well as an art. And if your goal is to have a sustainable career as an author, then there is a different mindset that you probably need to accept as well.

Joni: Yeah, that leads us into talking a little bit about actually selling your books. And I know that you are particularly engaged with your readers. And I wanted to ask you about that. I know that on your website, you’ve invited book clubs to reach out to you directly, which is so generous to talk about your book, because I don’t know how many responses you get from that. But I can imagine it’s a lot. Can you talk a little bit about how you engage with readers?

Samantha: Well, first, the idea that anybody wants me to appear at their book club, on their podcast, you know, these events at their bookstores boggles my mind. That anyone would line up for me to sign books for them is… You know, to me, authors are rock stars. They’re rock stars. Even some of my close author friends, to me, are, you know, they’re my idols. So I still get all giddy when I see their emails and they’re, you know, people who have, you know, gone for drinks with.

I am so appreciative of anyone who’s taken a chance on me, who has paid money to, you know, buy my books, who spends time with my words. So I really do want to show my appreciation for that. I love people. I really love people. I’m an ambivert. So, you know, I do like to be home in my own little space. But I do very much also love to connect with people and talk to them.

The book community is really a wonderful, warm, genuine, safe space with people I truly enjoy connecting with. So it’s a pleasure for me to connect with my readers and to talk about my books with them, to talk about whatever comes up. I really, really enjoy that aspect.

It’s not always easy because I have a lot to keep up with. And there are, you know, there are a lot of comments and a lot of posts and tags. And I always want to be able to respond to everybody. I can’t respond immediately. And then, I feel guilty that I can’t respond immediately. I’m trying hard not to be. But it is something if it really means a lot to me to connect with readers.

Joni: And how do you find the balance of, I guess, time management, between having the time to write and revise and work on what you’re working on now or next, as well as keeping up with readers who have read your past work?

Samantha: It’s a work in progress for me. It’s really, I’ll be totally honest. So like I said, I get up at 4 or 5, and I try to save that time for writing. I do my best writing early in the morning when everyone else is asleep, and it’s dark, and it’s quiet, and it’s a little eerie.

So I try really hard not to look at social media. I try really hard to put my phone somewhere where I’ll forget where I’ve put it. Yeah, I find it hard to resist social media. I find it hard to resist not responding to people. So it is something I am working on and trying to dedicate separate time.

I remember, I had a brief talk with JT Ellison and Lisa Unger, two absolutely incredible, hugely successful authors, about this, about protecting writing time. And they were talking about how you protect the writing time. So I did try. I do try. But it does sometimes blur together, especially as my book is coming out on Tuesday. I find I’m kind of, you know, all over the place and trying to answer this and answer that and get work done for my next book.

And then, unfortunately, what will happen to me is I’ll run on adrenaline, passion, and caffeine for so long. That I’d feel like I’d been hit by a truck. And I’ll have like an afternoon where I’m just flat out on the couch. Watching you know, TikTok so I can’t move.

Joni: I think Rachel would agree that that’s one of the most relatable things ever. We’ve both done that.

Rachel: I spend a lot of time on the couch on TikTok. That is true.

Samantha: Yes. Oh, god, it’s so. It’s like, oh, it’s a drug.

Rachel: Oh, time doesn’t exist once you open that out. It’s gone. Do you have your own TikTok account? Or are you just like me and a TikTok voyeur?

Samantha: I’m a TikTok voyeur. I thought of it and I can’t take on another platform. I’m really heavily active on Facebook and Instagram. And I knew if I took that on, it was over. It was over. It was over. And also, it’s just not my comfortable space. And I think my kids would really hate me if I got an account. I just don’t think they’d ever… Yeah, I think they would just really not enjoy that. So I am aware.

Joni: Although, you know, we have talked to, I think, more than one author who has utilized the youth of their kids to help them on TikTok.

Samantha: Mine are not interested.

Rachel: I don’t think I would have done that.

Samantha: No, no, the look of horror that crosses their face, especially, yes, my daughter.

Rachel: Fair enough.

Joni: So I wanted to ask you about, you mentioned the author community. And something I always wonder about, particularly with trad… Because we know with indie authors, the author community part is really important. But with trad, because writing is so solitary and you really are on your own journey and you’re working directly with your publisher, typically, how do you find your author community in that space? Is it very welcoming? Like, how does it work? How do you even get in there?

Samantha: It is the most beautiful group of people I’ve ever encountered in my whole life. You know, people might think that there’s competition and we want to one-up each other. I have never ever, ever, ever felt that.

Joni: Because there’s space for so many books. Like, there’s no…

Samantha: A thousand percent. We all love to read. And we all love to read each other’s books.

First, there’s admiration and respect for each other’s work and talent. We love each other’s work and talent. And so a lot of those, you know, friendships are based on that. It’s just that we’re in awe of each other, and we are in awe of each other. You know, we write a lot of the same kind of material, but when you read someone else’s, “How did you do that?”

It is just a sense of family. It is family. It is people who are helping each other to achieve the very best they can out of life, to celebrate each other, to promote each other’s work, to have each other’s backs, to be each other’s confidantes. Only a writer understands what another writer is going through. So, to be able to honestly and openly talk with each other means everything.

Yeah, the authors who are my community, and that would be in Canada and across the world. And in Canada, I actually get to see, or I did get to see the authors. And we have a really close-knit tight group. You know, in the thriller community, we email each other. You know, we just send out mass email when we need help promoting something. And everyone drops everything and they’re on it. And they’re on it. It is magic.

Rachel: And I’m just kind of curious, how do you find one another? Do you just like cold email like the thriller authors that you admire within your sphere? How does this work? I’m so curious.

Samantha: It’s a really good question. Because it is hard, it is really intimidating to reach out to other people, especially when you admire them so much. So there are groups on Facebook and on Instagram. There are debut groups, so debut 2020, debut 2021, debut 2022. Those are the actual handles. And within those groups, you can find your people. You can find the ones who you connect with the most. You can do that.

You know, I think online is probably right now the easiest way to do it. So those groups are fantastic. If you’re an aspiring author and you’re not, you know, yet in that space, The Shit About Writing podcast, Bianca Marais, Carly Watters, and Cecilia Lyra. I’m pronouncing Cecilia’s name incorrectly. It is an incredible podcast that actually has a writer match, you know, almost like speed dating for writers. And also, Bianca and Carly and Cecilia have the most wonderful podcast for all writers, not just aspiring, any writer, no matter how much experience you have or don’t have, this is one of the best podcasts that I can recommend.

And I would say start there. Because I know that they’ve been very successful at matching writers together for critique partners, and then as friends, and, you know, just to get people who are in right at the same moment in your journey.

Rachel: That’s really great advice because I think it can probably be a little bit intimidating when you start out and you don’t know where to find these people. And you’re sitting at home with your manuscript going, but, “Where is everyone?”

Samantha: And I think, yeah, there’s so much fear involved in putting yourself out there. And I was so scared. I was so scared. When social media first started, I was always really frightened to put myself out there.

And then I found my, we call ourselves Beach Babes, there are there are seven of us. They’re all in the U.S. I’m the only Canadian. And every January, until the last couple years, we would spend a week at a beach house in California writing, laughing, and talking. And I met them in a Facebook group.

It was a Facebook group of chick lit writers, because this was way back when I used to write at the chick lit. I do chick lit. And from that group, I found some of my best friend in the world.

Rachel: Awesome. And one of the things that we’ve talked about on here before, which I really love about writing and the writing community is that… Particularly for women in other industries, there’s this kind of idea that, you know, there’s one space and there’s one woman who’s gonna get that one spot for the woman at the top. And with writing, it’s just not like that, because if somebody loves your books, they’re gonna love the other author who writes books in the same genre or whatever.

There’s so many readers with so much appetite for books that it’s bigger than any author can write to fill, you know. So that you don’t have to worry about that there’s one space. There’s, like, maybe there’s some competition, but there’s space for everyone.

Samantha: Yeah, I’ve never actually worked in any book with other women where I felt there was any sense of competition ever, ever. It’s not me to even… I don’t even understand it. I don’t understand it. We’re a sisterhood. I believe in women supporting women. I believe in and I love women. I love my female friends, you know, with my whole heart.

So any sense of, yeah, that kind of competition or trauma, or any…. Like I don’t, I just, I have no part in it. I don’t even listen to it, pay attention to any of it. So with female authors, we’re going through exactly the same thing. We write about… Well, our books are all very different. Our plots are different. Sometimes our purpose for writing them is different. Even within the genre, there are sub-genres that are so different.

What we’re all trying to do is write compelling women that, you know, so people want to follow their journeys. And I think the world, compelling women, you know, have so much to learn from each other and to give to each other.

Joni: Coming out of that, like the plot of Watch Out for Her really circles around the relationship between Holly and Sarah, like we talked about, is there another kind of female relationship dynamic that you want to explore in your work without giving any spoilers for what’s coming next?

Samantha: Yes. Yes. Tons. And I am in my next one. I’m working on another thriller, domestic suspense. I can’t give too much away. And it’s in the very beginning stages. But it is, yes, a relationship between women and men and family, and a relationship more, I would say, women. It is about women who are separately seeking a life different than what they currently have. And the dangers and the risks involved with that.

Rachel: You did a very good job avoiding giving anything away, while also keeping us intrigued. So 10 out of 10.

Samantha: Thank you.

Rachel: And just this is kind of taking a little bit of a left turn. But you’ve mentioned a couple of times that you started writing, like romcoms, and kind of like chick lit. How did you shift from that tone into thrillers?

Samantha: Also a great question. My chick lit was edgy. It’s definitely edgy. The shift felt very natural to me. I’ve always been drawn to really dark material. When I was younger, I would read everything and anything I could get my hands on that was dark and twisted. I loved it. I loved it. I think I, myself, you know, a very happy, positive person, I have a really kind of positive outlook on life. And I’m so intrigued by the dark side. So intrigued by it.

So I’d always read it. And I And I’d always written it as a teenager. I wrote some dark stuff as a teenager had to do. It felt like a very natural progression as I went into dark women’s fiction. And actually, Woman on the Edge was a dark women’s fiction. When I signed with my agent, and it was my agent who said, “I think this needs to be a thriller.” And it was my agent who helped me every step of the way to make sure that we turned that book into the best thriller we could.

And when she said it to me, it was like she saw into my soul. Because I think I was really scared to write a thriller because of the structure of it. And the research of it seemed very daunting to me. And every genre, I think, is difficult to write in some way, and it has its own challenges.

Rachel: No, but I agree with you. I think thrillers do seem quite intimidating.

Samantha: Yes. And it is. And it is. It was a departure from what I had done before. It is intimidating. But there’s such a challenge in that. And it means, as a writer, I get to keep growing, and I want that so much. I want to keep growing and keep learning. And so, in the end, it was the best thing I think I ever did.

Joni: And you mentioned you’re a voracious reader. Do you still read thrillers while you’re in the process of writing them?

Samantha: Constantly. I do actually. It’s funny. So Jennifer Hillier, who is just one of the most phenomenal authors in the genre, also Canadian. And her next book, Things We Do in the Dark is coming out. I purposely, I asked her to send me early copies of her books if I’m struggling because I think she is such… Well, she’s so talented. She’s remarkably talented. She’s an exceptional writer. And I learn from her.

And so I have asked her, “You know, hey.” She doesn’t believe me that I learned from her, but I learned from her. So I do definitely read. I don’t take anyone’s ideas and I don’t steal them. It’s more just, I just want, I just learn the structure maybe or I’m just learning a way of teasing out a clue. If there’s something I’m finding that I’m having a challenge with, I definitely will read other authors’ work. And then I also read it for pure pleasure and pure entertainment value because I need a break.

Joni: So I take it, you’re able to kind of switch from writer brain to reader brain to editor, critique brain as needed. You never really get caught up.

Samantha: No, I think I compartmentalize really well. I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing. But no, yeah, I can switch off. When I write, I’m so consumed and immersed in this entirely different world. And it’s like I’m a different person. Almost like I become them in some ways. So I’m in their head, not in my own, if that makes sense. Maybe that sounds completely bonkers. But my characters, yeah, they completely take over. So it’s not, yeah, it’s not me. It’s another Sam.

Rachel: I would love to hear a little bit more about what you’ve been reading lately. I feel like you’re gonna give us a good recommendations.

Samantha: Well, I’m very, very lucky to be asked to blurb a lot of books. That too, what a feeling, what an ego boost that anybody wants my name on their cover. I read Breathless by Amy McCulloch, which is coming out in May, I think. I thought that was a fantastic thriller. It takes place on a mountain. It’s very chilling, both in the setting and in the story.

I read The Swell by Allie Reynolds, which, she wrote Shiver, it also took place on a mountain. And this one take place in a surfing, like in a remote bay, where characters are surfers. I’m reading It Could Be Anyone by Jamie Lyn Hendricks right now, and it’s delicious. It’s just delicious, fun thriller. My Summer Darlings by May Cobb, whoa, steamy and just salacious and sizzling. Never Coming Home by Hannah Mary McKinnon, devious, devious, devious, and brilliant. Last One Alive by Amber Cowie, hunting, very Agatha Christie-esque. I could go on for like the rest of this episode with all the books that I read.

Joni: I love it.

Rachel: I’m curious, just speaking of books you’ve read is there a thriller with a twist that has just completely blown you away? Just to put you right on the spot.

Samantha: No, it doesn’t. What I always worry about is I’m afraid to give spoilers in my books. And I don’t want to give spoilers in anyone else’s books. So I’m going to say, to keep it safe, and also because this was the book for so many of us that I think made us maybe want to write domestic suspense or did actually… It was OG domestic suspense of this time because there are ones that came up before, but, Gone Girl. Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl.

Rachel: I love Gone Girl. It’s so good.

Samantha: It’s so good. It is genius.

Rachel: Maybe you’ve already answered this. Do you have a number one most recommended book of all time?

Samantha: Same thing. Also, because I don’t really have a favorite book. I think I just have a book I’m loving at the moment. So a book that really… Did you say thriller or any book?

Rachel: Any book.

Samantha: Woman on Fire by Lisa Barr. It is a New York Times bestseller. Sharon Stone optioned the book. It’s both historical fiction and contemporary. It is about art theft during the Holocaust and in current time and then in the present time. The amount of research… First, Lisa Barr is one of the most amazing people I know. She is just such a wonderful, generous, kind, wonderful person.

The amount of research she had to do to seamlessly structure this novel is astonishing to me, astonishing to me. Historical fiction writers, in general, like Genevieve Graham, you know, one of the most beloved Canadian historical fiction writers, Natalie Jenner. The amount of work that goes into structuring historical fiction and the research and the accuracy blows my mind. And Woman on Fire is such a phenomenal book. I will never forget it. And it’s a New York Times bestseller. So nobody else will either.

Rachel: Awesome. Thank you. And before we let you go, where can readers find you online?

Samantha: So readers can find me online @sbaileybooks on Instagram and Twitter. I don’t know why I said Twitter that way. But I am not on Twitter as often as I am on Instagram and Facebook. So on Facebook, it’s SamanthaBaileyAuthor. My website is samanthambailey.com. It is currently being redesigned. It should be live very, very soon. And that’s basically where you can find me much of the day.

Joni: Fantastic, we will make sure we share those links and link to your books. Thank you so much for doing this. This has been really, really great.

Samantha: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

Rachel: Thank you for listening to “The Kobo Writing Life” podcast. If you’re interested in picking up Samantha’s books, we will include a link to those in our show notes. If you are enjoying this podcast, please be sure to rate, review, and subscribe. And if you’re looking for more tips on growing your self-publishing business, you can find us at kobowritinglife.com. And be sure you are following us on socials. We are @KoboWritingLife on Facebook and Twitter, and @kobo.writing.life on Instagram.

Joni: This episode was produced by Joni Di Placido and Rachel Warden with production assistance from Terrence Abrahams. Our editors Kelly Robottom. Our music is composed by Tear Jerker. And a huge thank you to Samantha M. Bailey for being our guest today.

If you’re ready to start your self-publishing journey, sign up for free at kobo.com/writinglife. Until next time, happy writing.

%d bloggers like this: