I'm really excited to have the gorgeous Samantha Birch stop by my blog today! And if you're getting married/thinking about getting married/know someone who's getting married... if weddings feature anywhere in your world right now, then you might just be interested in Samantha's new book - The High Street Bride's Guide - which is released through HarperImpulse tomorrow, April 24th!
And you can find out more about the book, and a little bit more about Samantha, too, by checking out her brilliant Meet the Author interview!
The floor's yours, Samantha!
The floor's yours, Samantha!
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.
When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always wanted to write books, ever since I was little. My mum says I picked up a pen when I was three, wrote my name backwards – I was 2am for a while – and I haven’t stopped since!
Was it always your intention to find an agent/publisher, or did you ever think about, or indeed go down, the self-publishing route?
I self-published The High-Street Bride’s Guide on Amazon before I ever sent it in to HarperCollins, because I wanted to get it out there as soon as possible – I only started writing it last January and I knew from working at You & Your Wedding magazine that November to Valentine’s Day is peak proposal time every year. It turned out marketing a book on your own is really hard – even with my contacts at Y&YW and Brides – and I needed a proper publisher behind me to stop the book getting lost in the ether.
What was the inspiration for your current book?
The High-Street Bride’s Guide was inspired by mine and my now-husband’s struggle to plan and pay for our wedding, which finally happened last November (hooray!). We were engaged for four years while we saved up, during which time I spent a year working in-house at You & Your Wedding and then went freelance for them and Brides, so between work and our own wedding research I became a bit of a wedding expert. I realised there are ways to save on your big day that not a lot of people talk about, and I wanted to get those strategies out there so other couples don’t have to wait as long as we did to get married.
Do you listen to music while you write, or are you someone who needs complete silence to work?
I really wish I could listen to music while I work, but I find the lyrics mess with the sentences forming in my head. I can listen to instrumental stuff like movie soundtracks sometimes, but mostly I’m better off in total silence. That’s why I end up shutting myself away in our spare room for eight hours a day!
Do you have a designated “work space”, and if so, can you describe it?
Yes, it’s our spare room, though I do work from a laptop so sometimes I migrate to the living room or the bedroom for a change of scene. To be honest, our spare room is a bit chaotic – there’s a bookcase (essential!), two desks from when my husband and I tried to work in the same room (he taps… and hums… and talks out loud…), the spare bed which has a totally bargainous memory-foam mattress on it that we got from Pound Stretcher and that’s actually more comfortable than our own bed, a printer, a chest of drawers and lots and lots of paperwork.
Do you get nervous reading reviews of your books?
Absolutely! I get so nervous just letting people I love read excerpts of my writing I can’t stay in the same room as them – I make a lot of noise making them a coffee so I can’t hear whether they’re laughing or not, and then I go and hide in the bedroom or the bathroom until they’re finished! So you can imagine reading reviews by strangers who have no reason to be gentle with me requires a very sugary cup of tea and my husband being not too far away!
Is there a particular time of the day in which you prefer to write?
Mornings, hands down. If I get distracted by emails and Twitter and Facebook first thing I can pretty much kiss goodbye to inspiration for the rest of the day. I’ve occasionally had an epiphany in the afternoon, but they’re really rare, so even though I’m naturally a night owl, I’m better off forcing myself to get up to early to write.
Paperback or ebooks – do you have a preference?
I know I shouldn’t say this when my book is an eBook, but I love the feel of a good paperback. I’ve always dreamed of having a book out in print, and seeing it in WHSmith or stumbling across it in an independent bookshop… As much as I like the idea of carrying your whole library with you on your Kindle, which makes sense because it’s thinner and lighter and very probably easier to read from than a real book – honestly, there are so many eBooks on my reading list I’ll probably have to succumb to one at some point soon! – I’ll always feel like nothing beats the smell of a new paperback, and I think a really good read is worth all the wriggling around to stay comfy!
Do you plan your stories before you start writing them, or do you just “wing” it?
I planned The High-Street Bride’s Guide because it’s non-fiction, but when I’m writing fiction I get bored if I’ve planned every detail out, so I just have a character or a single scene in my head and if I really love writing it and reading it back I wing it from there. It can be scary, not knowing where the story is going, and frustrating sometimes when you have to backtrack, but that’s what makes it so exciting and rewarding when you do make some headway.
Can you tell us anything about any future projects you’re working on?
Ooh, yes! I’m really excited about my next book, even though it’s a total departure from The High-Street Bride’s Guide. It’s a fictional novel, a steampunk fantasy (I admit it: I’m a nerd!) that I’m almost 20,000 words through now. I’m loving the challenge, getting to know the characters, writing my first battle scenes, the epic scope of the story… And so far everyone I’ve dared to let read it has enjoyed it, which is really spurring me on to write more!
You’ve just won a few million on the lottery, what’s the first thing you do?
Buy a house. With an attic conversion. And make it into my dream writer’s room. I’d have pictures by some of my favourite artists on the walls – one by Peter Weevers from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, some steampunk stuff by Brian Kesinger from Walking Your Octopus – I’d put up framed prints of some of the articles I’ve written that I’m proud of, like the first one I ever did for GLAMOUR (I’ve been reading it since I was seventeen), and I’d have a pretty white vintage desk and matching reading armchair, a bookcase filled with all my favourite books and a skylight so I can get a breath of fresh air and a new perspective every now and again. Ahhh…
Favourite sitcom, past or present.
It’s a tie between New Girl and The Big Bang Theory. I love how relatable the characters in New Girl are – that they’re not all 2D and they’re not perfect but you still love them – as well as the relationship between Nick and Jess, which feels so honest and real and includes, in season two, possibly the best on-screen kiss I’ve ever seen! The Big Bang Theory appeals to the massive nerd in me – I love a bit of science and I always buy New Scientist for long train journeys. Plus it just has one of the best laughs-per-scene ratios of anything I’ve ever watched!
The High Street Bride's Guide
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.
Samantha Birch has written for GLAMOUR, Brides, You & Your Wedding and Cosmopolitan Bride. She knows a thing or two about planning a wedding on a budget, how much you can expect to pay for everything and where to go to get it for less. And she's put it all down here.
Samantha, thank you so much for an absolutely brilliant Meet the Author interview! And you're another Big Bang Theory fan!
Wishing you loads of success with the release of The High Street Bride's Guide! Anyone out there plannign a wedding... what are you waiting for? Go get your copy here NOW!