Author Interview: Samara Shanker
How did you become a writer?
I’ve always been a big reader, to the point where my mother would ground me from reading until I finished my chores and other homework, so it seemed like a natural progression to write down my own stories. I started writing every story idea I had in my notebooks when I was in elementary school, and just never stopped. I still have notebooks full of first drafts and plot ideas, and half-baked scenes scribbled in the margins of grad school notes that I have to collect and type up when I start to put things together.
What inspires you to write?
While all of my writing is heavily influenced my by own Jewish heritage and the rich history of storytelling to be found there, I tend to find inspiration everywhere. I am often inspired by the people in my life, questions that have been nagging at me, or other art I encounter. One of my biggest projects to date was inspired by a snippet of a song lyric I caught on the radio while flipping through stations. Other times it’s not so cut and dry. A friend once asked me to write her a story about bats, and I returned days later with a sci-fi thriller pondering some philosophical questions about the function of the human soul. It’s a bit of a mixed bag.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
In the vernacular, I’m definitely more of a “pantser” than a “plotter.” I tend to start out with an idea for the shape of a story, and let it grow organically as I go. Characters usually find their shape as the plot does, but once they have shape and I know they’re going to stick around, I do like to create a page for them with what they want, what they need, what their goals are, and what’s stopping them.
Could you share some of your challenges as a writer?
My biggest challenge as a writer is knowing when to stop writing. I tend to be over aware of potential plot holes and go out of my way to explain details of world building and background information. More often than not this means I end up with manuscripts far and away over the standard word count for the genre.
Tell me about your protagonist. What's your favorite trait and/or weakness?
Naomi is a 13-year-old soon-to-be Bat Mitzvah girl living in LA with her moms and her older sister. She has two best friends, Eitan and Becca, and is loyal to a fault. Naomi fiercely believes in fairness and social justice—a byproduct of her family environment—but sometimes has trouble knowing how to take responsibility for the things she wants to change. Often overwhelmed by the weight of the world, Naomi sometimes hides behind her words and sense of righteous anger. This can make her seem abrasive or disingenuous, but she has a good heart and good friends who can always be counted upon to gently remind her of what really matters.
How does your antagonist create conflict?
Naomi’s antagonist can be tricky to pin down. Her story doesn't have a mustache twirling bad guy, or a wicked witch with a plan to be thwarted. Instead, Naomi and her friends are confronted with the much stickier task of facing the world as it is and finding their power within it. Desperate to see change happen quickly, Naomi grabs at the first chance she has to make a difference, and is forced to reckon with the consequences of her actions.
What are your current/future projects?
This is a dangerous question for me. It’s rare that I ever have just one iron in the fire. Right now, I have completed manuscripts for an LBGTQ+ teen urban fantasy adventure with the working title Dreams and Other Stolen Gifts, and a picture book titled Dad’s Not Bad (he’s just misunderstood), a superhero adventure from a child’s perspective that helps young readers see the value in approaching conflicts from multiple points of view and seeking compromise when we can. I am also currently reworking a series titled Multiversal Rules, or: How to Succeed in Ruling the Multiverse Without Really Selling Your Soul. It is a serial story written in seven installments that span approximately seventeen years of the Character’s lives. As a collection, it is complete, but it’s particularly near to my heart, and I would like to rework it into a format more easily submitted for publication.
Do you have a routine you follow when writing?
My writing routine shifts a bit depending on my environment. Mostly, I make sure there is space in my schedule at least four times a week to work on my writing, I make sure I have a good playlist queued up, and I try not to forget my computer charger.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
Patience. Always patience. The world can feel like it’s moving too quickly, and everyone else is taking off on their own successes, but every success and every project has its own time.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
I think my advice for aspiring writers would look a lot like my advice for my younger self. It can come off as a bit cliche, but it’s so important to remember that your pace and your expectations aren’t universal. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re racing ahead and waiting for others to catch up, and sometimes you’ll feel like you can just barely see the cloud of dust they’re leaving behind them. Either way you’re journey is your own, and it will take you where you need to go.
* What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you?
Probably Twitter as of right now.