IN CONVERSATION WITH: Samantha Atkins, author of The Wing Thief.
With multiple lockdowns keeping people at home this year, creativity has flourished. Writers have finished their novels and new independent publishers have emerged in the face of great challenges. Smashbear Publishing is one of those very publishers. We had a chance to talk to Samantha Atkins, whose debut YA novel, The Wing Thief, arrives in late January.
Samantha felt that her collaboration with Smashbear “worked out really well.” She was able to have a great deal of input in the process, which is also their mission as an indie publisher:
“It’s been a really good experience. I’ve always got somebody there. Even at 5am in the morning, there’s always somebody who can answer a question. I’ve been a part of everything. When the cover was brought up, I was asked about every aspect of it. It really feels like you’re part of a team.”
For Samantha, becoming a writer has always been a dream of hers but never something she thought she’d be able to do. The story of her journey as a writer began in a hospital waiting room:
“A few years ago, I was waiting for a hospital appointment for my son. As he was getting bored, he asked me to tell him a story. So, I started making up a story on the spot about a fairy who lost her wings and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s quite a good idea.’ So, I quickly saved it on my phone and the rest of the story just started coming.”
Then lockdown began, providing her with the opportunity to go ahead with the project. Although it wasn’t easy writing from home, Samantha explained. “I write around the kids and I also write into the night when they are sleeping.” The lack of a study or office at home made it difficult for her to find a quiet space because her family were always around somewhere.
Fantasy has always been Samantha’s favourite genre. It has never left her, she said, “that love of escaping to another world where everything seems possible.” She shares her passion for imaginary worlds with her children:
“Me and my children have sleepover nights in the living room every week and we pull all the mattresses down and watch a film like The Spiderwick Chronicles and Harry Potter.”
Samantha thinks that children’s and YA fiction is hugely important for adults and children alike. Imagination is key, she believes, and adults often forget that, along with the fact that during childhood the imagination is what makes the world “so magical and exciting.” As people grow old, they “get swamped down in the stress of everyday life and forget about all the little things.”
The Wing Thief is written for young people, so we were interested to hear Samantha’s hopes on what readers will take from the book. She wishes that Vista, the main character, will resonate with children because she’s different. “She’s very small, she hasn’t got any magic. There’s no power to her but she’s ultimately the one that can come across and save the day.”
Writing against male hero tropes was important for Samantha too. “I always like things with powerful female lead roles,” she explained. She’s tired of stories in which “the male hero comes in and saves the day. I didn’t want that.” It is widely known that the industry is held back by problems regarding representation, but on this, Samantha was “pleasantly surprised.” When she was originally looking around for literary agents and publishers, she found “quite a few looking specifically for diverse voices,” which she sees as “a massive step forward.”
“It was considered for a while whether I should use a different name for my book because as a gay woman, would it affect me and my children too much? Would people not buy my book if they found out I was gay? But I think the world is slowly turning in the right direction.”
It seems The Wing Thief will be the first step in an exciting writing career for Samantha. When we asked what’s next, Samantha revealed she has ideas for a second book. “I said in the first meeting that my goal is to get a Vista style theme park like Harry Potter has.” In other words, The Wing Thief will be the first book in a series. “In the meantime, I’d like to start writing children books like the Gruffalo.”
The Wing Thief by Samantha Atkins will arrive in late January, published by Smashbear Publishing. Our thanks go to Samantha for talking to us.