Interview with young author Samantha Gilbert
PUBLISHED: 17:18 24 October 2012 | UPDATED: 22:13 20 February 2013
Samantha Gilbert, 18, grew up in East Sussex and attended Heathfield Community College. Her first novel, What Lies Beneath, was published last year but written when she was 15. She is now in her second year at Royal Holloway, University of London
When did you start writing?
I was always interested in English but I only began to write seriously when I was ten. I had always enjoyed creating complicated adventure stories and characters for my toys, but as I grew older, I found that I needed to find a more mature substitute in which I could lose myself in my imagination.
Summarise the plot of What Lies Beneath.
What Lies Beneath follows Elijah-Blue through the last years of his troubled childhood as he struggles to establish a sense of identity. He faces the blame for the death of his disabled brother, Jamie, and thus endures the brunt of his mothers resentment and his fathers hatred throughout his childhood. Armed with two friends and a strong will to prove himself different from his cruel father and elder brother, Blue sets out to find out who (or even what) he is beneath the surface, but discovers that this is as dangerous a journey as it is difficult.
What gave you the idea for the story, and how did the book come about?
I first came up with the idea for a story following a troubled teenager when I was fifteen. I was frustrated with all the fiction aimed at people of that age and how teenagers were portrayed on television. In the classroom, I saw no selfish tantrums, random slamming of doors or obsession with being cool.
I wanted to write something that would show the complicated truth of teenagers.
How did you go about getting your book published?
I spoke to my Creative Writing teacher who had published before. I bought The Artists and Writers Yearbook, and went through the list of publishers in the UK, circling all those who would accept unsolicited manuscripts. I sent extracts of my book along with a cover letter to all those circled and simply waited. After many rejection emails, I found myself reading an email from Pegasus expressing interest in my work.
Do you have any tips for other young authors?
First and foremost, to succeed you must have a good deal of self-belief. Down the road to publishing a writer will encounter endless rejections and words of doubt. You must have the strength to assure yourself that you are right and everyone else is wrong.
Explore. Try different styles and genres. For example, poetry may work for some but that does not mean that it works for you. Find your own style and your own voice because everyone elses is taken.
Are you currently writing? If so, what?
Of course! I absolutely must always write!
I am writing the sequel to What Lies Beneath right now and once this is completed there will be a third to finish the story. It is going very well and I am looking forward to giving it to people to read.
What is your greatest ambition?
To see my writing succeed. Nothing could beat the feeling that I would get from seeing my work read and enjoyed by people.