I send over a huge questionnaire, and tell my guests that they don't have to answer them all! Just pick and choose. Samantha was concerned her answers were too long! However, I've let this one run, as she's given some fab answers.
So I'll hand over to Samantha...
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes, ever since I was little—my mum says I picked up a pen when I was three and I haven’t stopped since! I tried acting for a long time too—I trained as an actress from ages 13 to 18, and acted right up until I was 21—but there came a point where I had to make a choice. I chose writing for all sorts of reasons. Not being funny, but I feel like it’s a part of me: I’m that annoying person who twitches when they see apostrophes in the wrong place on restaurant menus—I can’t help it! Writing is how I’ve always expressed myself best, and when I was younger I used it to escape from the world and get the way I felt down on the page, or even just to fantasise about having a more eventful love life! Now I do it for the sheer love of it: I feel like it’s something I can be confident I’m good at, and I hope I can use it to help other people take some time out when real life gets a bit much—give them somewhere fun to be, and somewhere with a lot of hope.
Did you manage to get the first book you wrote published, or is it tucked in a drawer somewhere?
The first full-length book I ever wrote—80,000 words—is buried in a box at the bottom of our storage cupboard! I sent it out to one publisher, got rejected and gave up. It wasn’t so much about the rejection as it was about the fact I didn’t believe in the book anymore. Don’t get me wrong, it was really important that I wrote it—without it I wouldn’t have felt capable of writing The High-Street Bride’s Guide or the fiction I’m working on now—but it was something I wrote between the ages of 16 and 18, and when I got to the end it showed. Big-time. It was like a teenage fantasy of life and it would have taken a major overhaul to kick it into any kind of publishable shape. I just wasn’t interested in telling that story anymore—I wanted to do something different, but I didn’t know what that was yet.
What do you do with a paperback once you’ve read it?
I know I should do something meaningful with it—pass it on to a friend, give it to a charity shop—but honestly I put it on my bookshelf and admire it until I feel like reading it again! I don’t think that’s so bad—at least if I’m recommending it to my friends and not giving it to them it’s one more sale for the struggling writer!
What advice would you give to new writers?
Trust yourself, and enjoy yourself. Trusting your judgement can be the hardest thing to do when you’re so close to something, but you have to or you’ll never finish the book. If you feel in your heart of hearts that it’s funny, chances are you won’t be the only one. If it moves you, it’s likely to move the reader. But you have to listen to yourself, to write the book you want to read, and not write what you think is popular or what you think the reader wants to hear. That’s not to say you shouldn’t ask people to read it and give you feedback, just that you don’t always have to agree with all that feedback. The only tool you have to make your book stand out from all the other ones on the shelves is your own personality—you and your originality—and the only way to get that is to listen to your gut. So stop criticising yourself, watch, do or listen to something that makes you feel happy and relaxed, and give yourself the headspace to enjoy the writing.
What is next on your agenda after publishing your (first) book?
The next one! The one I’m working on right now is a fiction—the ‘something different’ I’ve been looking for all these years! It’s a steampunk fantasy and it’s got me genuinely excited, which I’m taking as a sign that the whole thing needs to be written, edited, passed on to my good friend and trusted adviser, sent to my editor and—fingers crossed!—published!
Are you nervous about friends reading your book?
Not my friends, no—it’s everyone else I’m nervous about: the reviewers and the readers! I really want the book to genuinely help people to plan beautiful weddings that they can be proud of without bankrupting themselves. It’s such a special day and it means so much to people, but they shouldn’t have to pay for it for the next five to ten years of their lives!
How would your best friend describe you in 140 characters? (A Twitter question).
I decided not to speculate. I got my actual best friend to actually do it, and this is what she said… ‘A surprisingly short germ-a-phobe. She is smart, loyal, and kind. She makes me laugh and gives excellent advice. She’s my favorite.’ Aw, shucks.
Do you love or hate Facebook?
Er… I’m gonna go with ‘necessary evil’. I got onto it at uni when it was essential for my social life. Now it’s essential for my working life. Don’t get me wrong, I love that it’s connected me to a lot of really lovely people, but it also haunts my waking hours with all its updates and messages… Gah!
Tea or coffee?
Tea. Decaf Earl Grey. I had to give up caffeine after I realised it was making me stressed. I’d get all anxious and try to work out what was getting at me, and it turned out it was just the caffeine making me twitchy. Weird, I know!
Dogs or cats?
Cats. We had them growing up and I miss them! I wish we could have kittens now but it wouldn’t be fair on them while we’re living in a tiny first-floor flat!
Thank you, Samantha, for telling us a bit about yourself - and some great writing advice there.
About The High-Street Bride's Guide
Brides-to-be, this one’s for you!
You can say your vows in a catwalk gown so beautiful it reduces your mum to tears (and not because she paid for it).
You can style a reception so stunning your guests won’t believe you didn’t hire an A-list planner.
And you can sprinkle the day with personal touches that make everyone feel like you gave them special attention before they even got there. Without spending a house deposit on it. Honest.
About Samantha Birch
So far I’m the author of one book: The High-Street Bride’s Guide. I’ve written about dresses, bridesmaids and cake toppers for Brides and You & Your Wedding, and regularly contribute to the likes of GLAMOUR and Love Baking – often while eating cake in my pyjamas. I live with my husband in a chaotically untidy flat in Letchworth, which I pretend is an artfully unkempt writer’s loft in St. Albans.
Twitter (me): @SamBirchWriter
Twitter (the book): @HighStreetBride
Buy link: http://smarturl.it/highstbride