Guest writers series: an interview with Sam Schenk

I have another author from the Witchy Fiction project stopping by today. First time author Sam!

Hi Sam, and welcome. Please tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a professional woman in STEM, the other parent of an autistic gayby, and an observer of human behaviour.  I’m a bisexual Xennial.  I watch/read sci-fi and fantasy (and spend a lot of time on Twitch), play video games, scuba dive, and write as a means to relax.

If you were to have a personal familiar, what animal would it be?  

This has changed a lot over the course of my life, if you would have asked 10 years + ago, I would have said a dog or a horse, but these days, it’s probably something small and easy to take care of – like a hummingbird.  That’d be cute and useful!

Where in the world do you live, and what do you like most about it? 

I live in beautiful Wellington, New Zealand.  There are a lot of things that are amazing about this city, not the least that it’s liberal and transport accessible.  If I’m honest, my favourite thing is the lack of humidity – because it all gets blown out to sea.

Self-care is very important for writers, tell us how you look after yourself?

I spend a lot of time on twitch and playing video games as escapism, but I find writing relaxing too.  It’s more recognising when I need some time to myself and taking it.  That’s not always easy with Ms. 5 around, but I try to make it work.

What kind of music do you like to listen to? 

I’ve got an obsession with Bass YouTube at the moment – particularly Charles Berthoud.  Check him out, he’s amazing.  I prefer orchestral/instrumental game music or jazz without words most of the time.

What genres do you like to read in?

 My core genres are dystopian fiction and transhumanism, but I like anything with a speculative angle.  I do a lot of beta reading through facebook groups and I’m not selective with what I read there.  I like to think of it as a broadening experience.  I can read anything as long as it makes me think.

What are you reading right now?

Currently ARC reading The Key to All Things.  Early days, but I like the premise.  I’m also going through and rereading Overdues and Occultism, it’s the first soft copy of the Witchy Fiction collab that I’ve been able to acquire.  I love my signed copy ❤

What’s a book that you have on your shelf which you’re particularly fond of?

I have Gulliver’s Travels.  I know, it’s old, but it’s still one of my favourite books.  The copy that I have I got on my OE trip to Italy, it’s nothing special, but I have some really nice memories of that trip, when I was obsessed with classics and looking forward to visiting Villa Adriana.

What book do you love to recommend to people? 

Daughter of the Forest, by Juliet Mariller.  It’s the only book that I’ve not been able to put down…three times.  She just writes the forest so well – she has a real connection to a type of setting in a way that I wish I had.  Before I moved to NZ, I picked up a hardback copy of her book.  When I realised she was a Kiwi, I was really hoping that I could meet her.  Sadly, I missed my chance at CoNZealand.  I hope there will be another one.

Can you name some formative books for your own writing?

In terms of writing style, I can’t point to any particular piece.  I’ve always loved older characters, and for that I blame tv shows more than books, like STNG and Highlander: the Series.  I always wondered what was going on with the older characters outside even the young adult series I read, and I wrote quite a bit of fanfiction to that effect.

How do you organise your personal library?

I’m mostly digital these days – search engines are my friends.  Most of my physical books I recognise by sight.

Creative writing as a teenager, did you do it?

Definitely.  I started my long term work in progress as a teenager.  Originally, my main character was based on Xena, Warrior Princess, but she’s very much her own person these days.  I still hope to publish it one day.  I did a lot of writing while I was a checkout chick, fanfiction mostly.  I remember a short piece that I wrote around the Go board game which I quite liked.  I have a big bag of receipt paper from those days that I rummage through every so often.

What do you do/where do you go for inspiration? 

Diving is a great inspiration for me.  You really can’t be absent or thinking about work when you’re under the water.  Without a clear aural sense, the world is really different, but for me it doesn’t cause panic.  You move with the current. It makes me feel at peace with the world.  I like to try and find beauty in unusual places, like a plant growing out of a crack in the sidewalk.

Do you have any writerly superstitions? 
I save most of my superstition for dice/cards.

If you had infinite time, opportunity and resources, what’s your absolute dream writing project? 

I would love to do a travel blog – spend months integrating with a different culture and write down my observations, then turn those learnings into a speculative piece.

Any advice for anyone who’s struggling with their own writing? 

Be gentle with yourself.  Struggling with writing rarely causes a good result.  If you need time, give yourself time.  My own journey was to incorporate writing into my occupation, even though it isn’t creative writing.  That has given me the space to rediscover the themes that I want to write about, and given me the freedom to fail.

Do you prefer quiet, ambient sound or music while you write? 

Ambient music for sure.  Something that doesn’t have words, or isn’t recognisable to me (eg music from a game I’ve played, or music in a language I don’t know).  I love running bass with interesting alto or tenor riffs.  Lyrics/Treble are the last part of music that I hear, which is unusual for a writer I suppose.  I was a cellist in high school, and still have my instrument.  I’d love to get back to it at some point.

And now, onto your favourites: 

Hogwarts, Narnia, Neverland or Westeros? 

To live in, or read? Read, Westeros. I’ve never read the original Peter Pan. With Ms. 5 getting into reading, I may soon get an opportunity!

If you were stuck on a desert island with one book, one music album and one podcast, what would they be? 

One book – it would probably be some sort of an encyclopedia of useful things for surviving the wilderness. One music album – orchestral final fantasy 7 most likely.
One podcast – hm. It would probably be a go podcast, maybe by BattsGo because he has so much varied content. Guaranteed I will have made myself a go board within a few months to kill time.

What’s your favourite song to sing at Karaoke? 

Kiss from a Rose, Seal.

Favourite song to sing in the shower when no one else is home?
 I don’t really do that – but it would probably be something from a musical – like Oliver or Les Mis.

Pokemon: if you were a trainer, what pokemon would be in your team?

 I’m not much of a pokemon player – and what I do know is very old school.  Probably Gyrados, Onyx, Machamp, and Charmander as a core with filler of whatever else was good.  I know that’s probably not the strongest team, but they’re the guys that I liked playing with the most.

The weirdest hobby you have, other than writing? 

I do a little bit of streaming on Twitch.  I’m not popular or anything, but I like to talk to people while I’m playing.  I got into it trying to speedrun a puzzle game.

What is your favourite bird?

I’ve always been fond of hawks and eagles. I don’t have a specific one I love, though.

Sam Schenk

 Sam Schenk is a business analyst by day, a mum, writer, and gamer by night.  She was born in Canada, raised in Texas, and matured in New Zealand, where she’s lived for the past 20 years.  She has just released her first publication, A Gap in the Veil, in a collaboration with Contemporary Witchy Fiction.  She loves beta reading, watching great sci fi, and scuba diving when she can get out.

Follow Sam on social media Twitter and Goodreads

Get a copy of A Gap in the Veil on sale now, part of the Witchy Fiction project.


Summer Writers Series: an interview with Lee Murray Pt 1

This is the latest in a series of Guest Posts where I’ve posed some deeply serious questions to some awesome writers who probably deserve better. My questions are in bold. 

[This is in two parts because Lee answered everything in the long damn quiz, and she did it beautifully. ]

Who are you and what have you done with the Real Lee Murray?

The real Lee Murray is currently serving a 25-year prison term for masterminding a £53-million armed raid. I’m the other Lee Murray, the writer. I’m also a short, half-Chinese, 3rd generation New Zealander, a mother, wife, dog owner, scientist, tea drinker, anxiety-sufferer and former marathon runner. I believe in reading, vaccination, family holidays, cheesecake, tolerance, and kindness. Especially kindness. And right now, looking at this 30-question interview, I should probably add terrified to that list.

If you had to describe yourself in terms of a soft drink, which would you be and why?

A Diet Coke. Because my writing is dark and sugarless.

Harry Potter world: what house are you? And what animal would be your patronus?

Ravenclaw all the way! Apparently, like Cho Chang, my patronus is a swan—I took a test. The Results: You may be quiet, but that doesn’t mean you’re antisocial. Constantly surrounded by a group of friends, you can always count on them to act as a support system in times of emotional distress. Keep your head up and enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Do your best not to dwell on the past: the future is bright. [Fingers crossed]

Are you a Think Everything Through Before Acting person or a Great Idea Let’s Try It! Person?

The latter mostly, although not when it comes to moving house. On moving day, I have all the boxes packed and ready to go before the movers arrive.

What got you into writing?

I don’t really know. I’ve always been a scribbler, a prehistoric blogger before they were a thing. Encouraged firstly by my dad, and later by various teachers and mentors, it was always on my mind to write, but it wasn’t until my children were small, and I was at home during their naptimes, that I made a conscious effort to ‘become’ a writer. Completing some masters papers in creative writing at Northtec along with a couple of unfinished novels which had been sitting in boxes. Then, a decade ago, on the advice of a colleague, I started to call myself a writer, and even wrote ‘writer’ against my occupation on my passport, which made it more real somehow.

Why do you write now?

Right now because I have two book contracts to fulfil!

The real reason is because I’m a full-time writer and editor. It’s my job, albeit a poorly paid one. I don’t write simply because I love it. Yes, I do love it, but it annoys me when people say, ‘writers write because they love it’, or ‘we write because we have to’. While those statements are true, they also imply that loving our work should be sufficient recompense, that it makes up for earning pin money. If your lawyer enjoys his work, is it okay not to pay him? What if your plumber whistles while he fixes your sink? Does anyone ask lawyers and plumbers why they do the work they do? [Whoops! She tumbles from the soapbox.]

Reading: What’s the earliest story you can remember reading and loving?

The earliest story? Seven Little Postmen. Sam the Fireman. Angelo the Naughty One. Ferdinand the Bull. Grimm’s Fairy tales. The story from my childhood which resonates for me the most is Horton Hatches the Egg. So many fond memories of bedtimes when Dad would read this to my brother and me. He was so great at doing the voices—I can still hear them in my head, and it’s important because he suffers from Alzheimer’s and is non-verbal now. We used to chime in when he read the mantra: “I meant what I said and I said what I meant, and an elephant’s faithful, 100%”. It’s a saying that sticks with you. And quite apart from the fact that it can be handy to know something about percentages when your royalty cheque comes in, it’s a mantra I’ve tried to live by.

What’s a book you remember reading as a teenager and absolutely loving?

Hmm. My middle grade and early teen years were a bit of a bonanza for classic texts. Here is a selected, and highly-abbreviated, bibliography: The complete CS Lewis series, Peter Pan, Call of the Wild, The Wind in the Willows, Watership Down, The Hobbit, The Owl Service, Children of the Poor by John A Lee, A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, Lord of the Rings (12) The Day of the Triffids, The Chrysalids, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Mother by Pearl Buck (13), The Diary of Anne Frank….The Illiad. Our family used to go to the library every Friday evening and each of us kids (there were four of us) were allowed to bring home twenty books. Twenty! I read everything I could get my hands on, loved everything.

What are you reading right now?

[opens kindle and checks the titles still in progress]. A non-fiction title on poetry, The Witchhunt by Lori R Lopez (an author preview copy), The Strangers by Michaelbrent Collings, Dracula’s Revenge by Charles R, Rutledge, Fountain Dead by Theresa Braun. On audiobook: Alter by Jeremy Robinson. I also have some awards reading still to do.

What’s a book that you have on your shelf that you think might surprise people?

Extremely Embarrassing Dad Jokes: Because Dads don’t know when to stop, by Ian Allen. Surprise! It was my husband’s Christmas present and somehow it has ended up in the office bookshelf.

What book would you like everyone to read?

Preferably one of mine. 😊 Or, failing that, a book by one of our fabulously talented New Zealand speculative fiction writers. Suburban Book of the Dead by Jamie Sands is an excellent read, for example. Read New Zealand works, books written by women, by LGBTQ writers… read widely, read often, read any book that you like, just please, please, if you can, leave a review because it makes a huge difference to the author.

Are you a stop reading at the end of the chapter, mid chapter, or just whenever reader?

Stop reading? What is this thing?

Can you name some formative books for your own writing?

I’m always striving to learn new things. Right now, I’m dipping into non-fiction ebooks on screenwriting, on poetry, and on creating suspense. I’m particularly enjoying It’s Alive: Bringing Your Nightmares to Life (Joe Mynhardt and Eugene Johnson eds), a collection of essays and articles on writing from working writers, many of them my colleagues from the horror community.

How do you organise your personal library? (alphabetical, dewey decimal, what’s your system?)

I squeeze them into the bookcase wherever I can find a space big enough. To be honest, I was forced to cull a few books when we moved a couple of years ago. It was such a painful experience that I am trying to be more discerning about purchasing print books. Now, my rule is to only purchase books with an author’s signature. Oh look over there…. a bookshop!

Tune in soon for the second half of the interview…


Lee Murray is a multi-award-winning writer and editor of science fiction, fantasy and horror (Sir Julius Vogel, Australian Shadows). Her works include the Taine McKenna adventure series, and supernatural crime-noir series The Path of Ra (co-written with Dan Rabarts). She is also the editor of ten dark fiction anthologies, the latest being Hellhole: An Anthology of Subterranean Terror (Adrenalin Press). Lee lives with her family in New Zealand where she conjures up stories from her office overlooking a cow paddock.


Lee’s Website