Samantha Tonge has not only published 14 novels, (each with the most beautiful jackets, might I add) but has won The Jackie Collins Award in 2020 for her romantic thriller novel, Knowing You. She is an award winning , Top Ten bestselling Amazon author AND her books have been known to stay at #5 in the UK Kindle charts! So as you can see, Sam is a pretty popular author with fans who adore her writing and story telling.
I first heard about Sam through Darley Anderson Literary Agency. I followed Sam’s progress as she wrote her latest novel and was in awe, watching her writing goals and word count creep up each week. Writing 50,000 in 50 days for instant, or 80,000 in 80 days were the two set by Sam. I was so interested to see if she could achieve it. And yes, she could! It got me thinking about the way I should write and set my own writing goals. So thanks for that, Sam! Not only that, books aside, Samantha is a great cook and often posts her delicious baking skills. But what she teaches us (me) here, is that even if the first, second, third book doesn’t work out,
How long have you been writing?
I attempted a novel in my 20s based on my experiences working at EuroDisney (Disneyland Paris, now), but never completed it and then life took over and I didn’t start writing again until 2005, when I focused seriously. I landed my first publishing deal in 2013.
What led to your contract with your agent (or publisher if you went that way around first?).
My first agent sighed me on the basis of my third book, Mistletoe Mansion. I met Kate Nash at a writers’ event and it was very exciting to be signed, Kate specialized in romance and understood the genre and what I was aiming for completely. However in 2011, when I signed with her, that book didn’t land me a deal, so I wrote Doubting Abbey, loving the series Downton Abbey at the time! With Kate’s help Carina (now HarperCollins) signed me in 2013.
I met my current agent, Clare Wallace, via someone who was working temporarily at the Darley Anderson Literary Agency. My book Game of Scones was doing incredibly well at the time. We arranged a meeting, talked about the new project I was working on, and where I wanted my career to go, and eventually (not straightaway) she took me on! It is not uncommon for authors to change agents for lots of reasons, and there are many different avenues to getting signed – by submitting, by having one to ones at conferences, by random meetings…
How long did you have to wait until they offered to represent you?
I think it was a few weeks with Kate after she read Mistletoe Mansion, hard to remember now! With Clare it was a different process that happened over a period of months. I think the most difficult thing, as an aspiring writer, is to have patience. I have a folder full of almost 100 rejection letters and had to wait months sometimes, to hear back from agents. My process was to send submissions out in small batches, wait maybe 6-8 weeks and then submit another round to others, gently nudging agencies after the period of time stated on their websites that it would take to get back. The important thing, if I was just getting standard rejections back, was to know when to give up on a book and move on. No manuscript is ever wasted, you learn something from each one, and shelved manuscripts are important stepping stones in your career.
Any advice for submitting writers?
My best piece of advice is to submit and get on with the next project, to take your mind off it. That’s what I do now when my agent subs to publishers – I just keep on writing.
How did you feel and react when you got the contract?
So excited! I’d worked so hard to get signed. It was eight years of writing and submitting before my first agent took me on. During that time I wrote 5 novels and it was heartbreaking when I had to shelve each one – but now I am so glad I did because looking back the standard of my work back then just wasn’t good enough. There were lots of tears, I often said I was going to give up, but I got huge support from my family and also a brilliant online writing community called WriteWords. Out of the friends I made there, ALL of the ones who didn’t give up are now published.
What’s next for you?
I am now taking my writing in a different direction permanently. Summer Secrets at Streamside Cottage is more emotional, very slightly darker but still uplifting and my current project is more uplit and not a romance. I believe in challenging yourself continually as a writer, complacency is your worst enemy.
What I love about this interview is Sam reminding us to stay determined. Even if the first novel doesn’t work out, there are still plenty of other stories in you to continue with. Sam had to shelf her first one, but has now published 14! If she’d given up…
Thanks for stopping by,