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20 Questions with Samantha Bryant

Q1: What is your name?
Samantha Bryant

Q2: When did you decide to be a writer?
As a child. When I was in first grade and doing a poetry project for class, my teacher told me that I could write my own poems, if I wanted. Up until then, it hadn't really occurred to me that "writer" was an option, even though I had been a reader even before I could read. I've written ever since.

Q3: What did you most recently publish (title and genre)?
Change of Life come out April 20, 2016. It's the second book in my Menopausal Superheroes series which launched last April with Going Through the Change. It's usually shelves as sci-fi or fantasy, which one varies, according to who is shelving the books. Superhero is a niche genre in itself, that pulls from both fantasy and sci-fi. The series also gets boxed as women's fiction, since the protagonists are all women.

Q4: What is your next project?
I'm writing book three, and have promised two novellas in the Menopausal Superhero series (working title: Face the Change). To keep from getting burnt out by too much focus on one project, I've also started writing a memoir of my years as a teacher in Alaska. The working title is Eskimo Knees.

Q5: Which path(s) have you taken: traditional publishing, self-publishing, or both?
I'm a hybrid author now. My novels are published with a small, independent press, which, I guess, is traditional, but not "big six" traditional. I've got some stories out in anthologies, some of which are also small press. My critique group just put out an anthology independently, and I learned a lot through that process. I'm finding that I like the small press experience, for the feeling of having a team around to support my endeavors, but that, if I can develop some stronger skills in certain areas, I might be able to do this indie as well.

Q6: Why should people consider reading your work?
My superhero novels are something different. They are women-focused, and pull from both superhero-action traditions and women's fiction techniques. I've worked hard to make them as good as I can, and many readers have really enjoyed them.

Q7: How do you describe your writing style?
Sincere and straightforward, but with an ear for a literary turn of phrase and an appreciation for the chapter-ending hook.

Q8: Where and when do you like to write?
I'm a full time schoolteacher and mother, so I write where and whenever I can. I'm lucky to live in the age of wifi and laptops, so I write on the mom couch at my daughter's lessons and events, on the couch in the living room and in the kitchen while cooking. I write in coffeeshops and sometimes in my car. With google docs allowing me access to my work on other computers as well, I sometimes even write at school, during my prep period or after school. It's not the ideal creative situation, but it's what's realistic for this time in my life.

Q9: At what time, day or night, do you feel the most creative?
Late morning, after coffee, but before the day has taken my brain and squashed it to mush.

Q10: Which authors inspire you the most, and how?
There's an author who lives in the same town as me, who has been a great support and sounding board for me. James Maxey. I admire his ability to put his work out there without becoming pushy about his marketing, and admire his writing for his mix of literary quality and pulp sensibilities.

The other writers in my critique group, some published and some not yet, inspire me with their determination to get there and their willingness to help each other get there, anyway we can.

Gail Z Martin, whom I know through Broad Universe inspires me by living the life of a full time writer that I aspire to live myself someday. She's generous and kind and absolutely reliable, a quality which can be rare among artistic types.

Q11: How do you overcome the writer’s demons: Procrastination and Self-Doubt?
Procrastination is not a problem for me. I feel like I did that in the first 42 years of my life, before I started taking this seriously. Now, the problem is carving out enough hours to get it all done.

Self-doubt, on the other hand, is trickier. I've had some pretty serious bouts of self-doubt in writing the second book. I needed a lot more affirmation from my critique partners, editor and family than I did for the first book. I don't want to be a one-hit wonder. I want a career as a writer, and that adds stress to the endeavor, for sure. I deal with it by finding folks who understand and talking about it. I have some touchstones that I turn to, things that remind me that I am good at this: positive reviews, book sale numbers, kind words from others, and the Jacquis Award given to my book by Legendary Women. When I need to, I go look at those, and try to let the positivity thicken my skin against the harder things like poor reviews and rejections.

Q12: What aspect of your writing do you feel is strongest, and what needs the most improvement?
I think I am good at creating sympathetic characters that readers care about and empathize with.

Sometimes, I'm a slow-starter, so I'm working on stronger beginnings for my stories, trying to find the right moment to start each story in. I'm getting there. I've also learned that I should just plan on writing the beginning last and that whatever I put there in the first draft is just a place-holder. I have to know the trajectory of the whole story before I know where it should begin.

Q13: What was the best part of the worst thing you’ve ever written?
The fact that I finished it. The worst thing you've ever written is still better than the best thing you've only dreamed of writing.

Q14: What advice do you have for others who want to be writers?
Stop talking about it and just do it! You get better at writing by writing.

Be realistic in your expectations: no one has ever heard of you, and making a life as a writer is a slow build.

Be kind and forthright in all your dealings. You need other people to do this with you. Don't burn bridges or people.

Q15: What form of marketing works best for promoting your work(s)?
If I knew that for certain, I'd probably have more sales! But my gut instinct is that personal interaction is key. When I'm part of a panel at a con, or doing a reading or event at a bookstore or library, I'm making connections and connections ripple outward. You never know how far. Whatever I'm doing, I try to put the best version of me out there.

Q16: If life is a bowl of cherries, what does your life as a bowl of cherries look like?
It's mixed. I imagine the cherries are the books, stories, poems, blogs, etc. The pieces of art. Some of them are perfect and whole. Some have been nibbled on. Some have gotten over-ripe and mushy. Some are still hard and under-ripe and hurt your teeth if you try to bite them. There are a few pits in one corner of the bowl, the remnants of work that didn't really come to fruition (pun intended). The bowl, which must be my career, is blue glass, because blue glass makes me happy when I see light shining through it and more durable than it seems at first. You can still use it even though it has some hairline fractures and you had to glue the base back on more than once.

Q17: Who is your rock, the one who encourages you the most to keep writing, and why?
My husband. Carving writing time out of a busy life with house, jobs, children, dog, etc. is no easy endeavor, but he supports me and takes on extra work when he needs to so I can have the time I need. He does it because he loves me, of course! I'm a very lucky girl.

Q18: What do you do apart from writing?
I teach middle school Spanish, raise daughters, manage a household, care for a dog, day dream, watch old movies, plan to lose weight and fail to do so, and try to be a good person.

Q19: Where can people find more about you and your work(s)?
My website is http://samanthabryant.com There's a lot of stuff there. I'm also active on Google Plus (Samantha Dunaway Bryant), on Twitter (@mirymom1), and have an author Facebook page: http://facebook.com/samanthadunawaybryant

Q20: What one question should this interviewer have asked, and how would you answer it?
Q: Why do you write what you write?

A: I write feminist superhero fiction because it pulls from the heart of who I am: a dreamer who loves heroic characters and hopes for equality for all people.

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If you are an author who would like to participate, you can find the 20 Question interview here.
Tags: 20 questions, author interview, samantha bryant
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