Success Story with Samara Parish
Samara Parish has been escaping into fictional worlds since she was a child. When she picked up her first historical romance book, she found a fantasy universe she never wanted to leave and the inspiration to write her own stories. She lives in Australia with her own hero and their many fur-babies in a house with an obscenely large garden, despite historically being unable to keep a cactus alive. How to Survive a Scandal, out May 25th, 2021, is her debut novel. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram and her website SamaraParish.com.
Photo credit: Amanda Hardwick
The big thing they forgot to teach me.
I should have used the back of my university degree as notepaper. At least then it would have been useful…
For as long as I’ve been able to read, I’ve wanted to write. I was that kid publishing their first book using a crayon, scrap paper, and staples. I was the teenager so immersed in books and English assignments that I rarely made it to gym class. And when high school was over, I didn’t hesitate to enroll in a Bachelor of Creative Writing at my local university. I was seventeen years old and my future was set. I was going to be an author.
And to be fair, I did learn a lot about the craft of writing poetry and prose in those five years I spent as an arts students.
But you know what I didn’t learn? How to actually write a novel.
After my graduation I spent a decade “writing” my first book. It was a stop-start process that had my poor heroine almost die by drowning, hypothermia, and a fire—all in just the thirty thousand words I managed to write. The truth was, I had no idea what I was doing and that complete lack of direction caused me to go one step in dozens of different directions yet nowhere near an actual, complete manuscript.
I didn’t understand structure; I hadn’t even heard of goal, motivation, and conflict. That 30k collection of words was a hodge-podge of vignettes with no coherence at all.
In 2014, almost ten years after graduating, I was introduced to the Melbourne Romance Writers’ Guild and my life changed. Not only had I suddenly found my people (shout out to writing buddies who totally get your weirdness) but for the bargain price of $40 a year I was learning how to plot a novel, how to develop characters, how to create tension.
In 2015, I joined the Romance Writers of Australia and attended my first writing conference. I began to enter their competitions and get feedback on my work. Without a doubt, the women in those organizations have taught me more in the past 7 years than I learned during my time earning my writing degree.
In 2016, I scrapped the manuscript I’d been working on all those years and started fresh—this time with a bit of a roadmap. I entered the first 10k words into an RWAus writing competition and came a less-than-impressive 56th out of 60. But I believed in the story and went back through my notes, applying every bit of craft knowledge I could get my hands on. I read every bit of feedback those competition entries gave me—let them sting for a moment—then made changes. The next year I came around 15th. The following year I was a finalist. Three months later I had an agent. Five months after that, I had a three-book deal with Hachette.
Looking back, I know that nothing that I have achieved would have been possible without the generosity of other authors. There are so many romance writers who willingly give away their ‘secrets of the craft’ to any aspiring author who crosses their path. And I was so eager to learn from them. You’ll find a large part of the acknowledgments in my first published novel are to those incredible souls.
It would have been easy to give up on How to Survive a Scandal the day I received that first score sheet. But I believed in the story. I knew that putting a high society darling out in some god-forsaken backwater with no luxuries, no servants, and no company had the makings of something fresh and funny. I knew that the class conflict gave me space to explore some themes of prejudice that are still so relevant today. I wanted to watch Lady Amelia evolve from a spoiled, self-indulgent girl to a confident, kind, caring young woman.
And let’s face it, my hero—Benedict—was hot. I wanted to spend more time with him too ;)
How to Survive a Scandal releases on May 25th, 2021. Check it out if you’re a fan of snarky humor, crackling tension, and romance with a side of social commentary.