I am thrilled to have Samantha Priestley on my blog today. Her new book, ‘Rose Villa’ is out in paperback and as an eBook on the 29th March 2019, published by ASJ Publishing.
Samantha has kindly answered some questions for me. I hope you enjoy reading this interview.
Firstly, can you tell me about your new novel.
It’s called Rose Villa and is about a house that was cursed on being built in 1843. I wanted to write a book where the house itself becomes a character along with the people who live in it. In Rose Villa the curse affects everyone who comes into contact with the house and ultimately drives them mad. I also wanted to write about how social media and technology allows us to present a version of ourselves we want others to believe, and that we never really know anyone fully.
How long did it take you to write it?
Gosh, ages! A first draft usually takes me around 3 months, but with this one I went back and re-wrote whole sections of it and shifted quite a lot from my original draft, so the re-writes probably took me closer to 3 years!
Can you relate to any of the characters in your book?
Yes, I can probably relate to most of them in one or another. The main female character, Kirsty, is a bit of a passenger in her own life until she’s forced into taking action, but I think a lot of us do go through life allowing things to happen until one day we are faced with something that makes us wake up.
You answer the door to find one of your characters standing on the doorstep. What would your first reaction be?
Depends which one it is! I’d probably be quite alarmed, and not only because a character I’d written was on my doorstep! Most of my characters are a bit…unstable, so I’d probably be worried about where this was going and what they might do!
What do you hope readers will get from your book?
I suppose I was trying to make a point about our connections to others and how we assume we know someone just because we’ve known them a long time or we spend a lot of time with them, or because we spend time with them online, when really we don’t. I’m endlessly fascinated by people and people lie about who they are all the time, even if it’s only in small ways. But mostly I want people to enjoy the story. If readers just enjoy reading the book, I’ve done my job!
Do you have any other writing projects on the go?
Yes, I’ve just finished writing my first non fiction book for Pen and Sword Books, The History of Gibbeting, and I also write plays. I have a play, The Devil is in the Timing, on at The Bread and Roses Theatre in London 2-6 April (come along!). I’m working on a couple of novels and I’m working with another theatre producer on my next play.
Will you be doing any book signings?
I am, yes! I’ll be signing at W H Smith in Sheffield on 30th March and at W H Smith Meadowhall (date to be confirmed). I’ll also be at the Derby Book festival Book fair on Saturday 8th June.
Did you always want to write?
When I was growing up I always thought I’d do art, though I did always write. I just didn’t think writing was something ordinary people did. It was only when I worked for Blackwells bookshop and met a few authors that I realised some of them are actually ordinary people! I think it was when I worked at the bookshop that I realised I wanted to be on the other side of the business. I wanted to be writing the books rather than selling them. I don’t think I’d thought of it as a job before then, or as a possibility.
How has social media helped you?
Social media is great for getting your name out there and for reaching people, but it can also be a massive time drain! I used to be much more active on social media than I am now. I try to keep up, but the busier I get with work then less time I have for checking social media. I think in your early days it is hugely helpful, but you have to be careful you don’t get too sucked in by it! I have met a lot of fantastic people and made some important contacts through social media, so it’s very useful for that. And of course, it can be a lot of fun.
What has the publishing process been like?
I’m published by various independent presses, so it does differ depending who is dealing with it, but on the whole I’ve found it to a very positive experience. The more experienced editors are more brutal, but once you’ve got over the initial shock of opening up the manuscript to see line after line of red notes, it’s actually quite satisfying. You certainly come out with a better book after a thorough edit. The most exciting bit is still holding the physical copy at the end of it all. I love seeing the cover designs and how the inside is laid out. The finished product always makes all the time and effort worth it.
What advice have you got for anyone wanting to write their first novel?
You need a lot of patience and you must be able to take criticism and rejection. The first novel I ever wrote was awful, but I took every piece of advice every agent and publisher ever gave me when they read it, and I learned from it. It’s a slow process at times, but writing is all about experience. The most important advice is to read a lot, write a lot and submit a lot. That’s the only way you’re really going to learn how to do this and make a success of it.
What do you like doing in your spare time?
I like going for walks, going to the cinema and eating out, shopping with my daughters, and simple things like cooking and watching endless crime documentaries! And I love a good stately home tour. ‘Spare time’ is a weird concept when you write for a living. There isn’t a lot of it and when there is you’re usually still working in your head. I do love seeing new places and discovering new things. My partner always jokes what a tourist I am wherever we go, but I still get excited about seeing places I’ve never been before.
Approximately how many books do you read a year?
Oh, nowhere near enough! I’m a really slow reader. Literally everybody I know reads more than me. I struggle to make one a month, it’s nearer one every two months, so I’d have to say a miserable six a year. I used to read a lot more than I do now and I’m always trying to make time for it.
Rose Villa has held a curse in its bricks since 1843, and the Yorkshire village it stands in has held the secret of a murder since 1987. In 2007, Jonathan and Kirsty meet on Facebook twenty years after they last saw each other and Kirsty visits Jonathan in his home, Rose Villa, only to find the house has affected him and he’s no longer the person she once knew.
In 1843 in a Yorkshire village two gypsy women are evicted from their home by men planning to build new houses. The youngest gypsy, Matilda, curses the land, anything built on it, and those who live there.
In 2007 Jonathan is coming to terms with his girlfriend leaving him and Kirsty is facing the break-up of her marriage. Old school friends, and former boyfriend and girlfriend, the two meet again on Facebook and Jonathan invites Kirsty to his house, Rose Villa. Rose Villa was built on the cursed land and has caused its inhabitants over the years to go mad and become violent.
When Kirsty goes to Jonathan’s house he talks about his girlfriend in an increasingly resentful way. Kirsty begins to remember the last time she was in this village, 20 years ago, when she came to find her grandmother’s grave. That day she saw a girl crying over a letter down behind the church, and she met an older woman in the graveyard who seemed to know Kirsty.
Kirsty is finding Jonathan’s behaviour more and more erratic and he doesn’t seem like the same person she knew twenty years ago. She asks his neighbour, Mrs Daniels, what she knows about Kirsty’s family, and she receives a shock, and a warning.
Back in 1987 violence lay beneath the surface in Rose Villa and on the day Kirsty was in the village all those years ago, it finally found its way out.
Jonathan is getting more unstable and as Rose Villa takes over completely, dark secrets emerge from its walls and from Jonathan.
Rose Villa’ can be pre-ordered from Amazon UK:-
About Samantha Priestley
Samantha is a writer based in Sheffield, England. She won the H E Bates competition and The Tacchi-Morris Prize for short stories. Her chapbooks, Dreamers and Orange Balloon, are published by Folded Word. Her novels Reliability of Rope and A Bad Winter, are published by Armley Press and her latest novel, Rose Villa, is published by ASJ. She has also written two plays, Greenwood and The Devil is in the Timing, to be staged this year.
Website – www.samanthapriestley.co.uk
Twitter – https://twitter.com/sampriestley
Instagram – @sampriestleybooks