MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Samantha Downing Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

Samantha Downing
photo: Jacqueline Dallimore

Samantha Downing

An interview with Samantha Downing

Samantha Downing talks about her first published novel, My Lovely Wife, a domestic thriller

You and your agent, Barbara Poelle, clicked during your first conversation because you told her you were sick and disturbed. So, exactly how disturbed are you?

Great question! The best way I know to answer is with a story. Not long ago, I went on vacation with some friends. We saw an old motor home sitting in front of a nearby house. I made the mistake of wondering out loud if someone was being held captive inside of it, and said if we stared at it long enough, I bet we'd see someone's hand pressed up against the window or something. One of my friends said, "It must be terrible to be inside your head." I'm disturbed enough to make people say things like that.

Writers sometimes say all their characters contain parts of them. Which parts of which characters from My Lovely Wife do you identify with most?

Millicent is certainly a control freak. I am, too. Maybe as much as she is. For Millicent's husband, I think the part of him I identify with is his ability to draw a line. Once he makes that decision, it's final. Jenna, their daughter, is a strong girl, trying to figure out how to protect herself in a chaotic situation. I hope I am half as clever as she is. And their son, Rory, is a smart aleck. I am definitely that.

Millicent is strikingly unapologetic; she has no tragic explanation for her behavior. Do you think she, and people like her, are born that way, i.e., it's nature over nurture?

Absolutely. People are born with a variety of personalities, looks and brain chemistries. People do wonderful things and horrible things, often for what seems like no reason. I believe someone like Millicent can be born, not made.

Why do Millicent and her husband find murder so sexy? And while some targets are chosen for specific purposes, why does the couple consider only female victims, even when fantasizing? 

Their murders were a progression. The first was unplanned; the second, a result of the first. Both were women, and what happened in those murders is the feeling [Millicent and her husband] continually try to re-create. The excitement of doing it--and of getting away with it--all links back to the original murder.

I thought about male victims, both in this book and as the topic of another novel. One of my dream projects is to write a book very similar to so many movies we've seen--with a man who keeps young women locked in a basement--but with the genders reversed--a woman who captures young men and locks them up the same way.

There are practicalities to it that must be addressed. The disparity in strength, for one. If a woman knocked out a man and had to drag that amount of dead weight into a basement... well, it's possible, but not without mechanical or human help. Also, one or more young men can easily overpower the average woman. Technology can help (cameras, stun guns, etc.), but all those complications would have to be addressed to make it believable.

That was probably too much information, wasn't it?

Your bio states you'd like to write books that make people walk into walls. Which books have made you crash into walls the hardest, and what made them so captivating?

I love this feeling. When a book is so compelling, so enthralling, that you cannot put it down for even a second. There's something about this that is so personal between the reader and writer. Sometimes it's because of a character; other times it's the pace of the story. Or it could be that a particular story at a particular moment of my life resonates strongly enough to make me forget everything else.

My crash-into-walls-books that stand out over the years:

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
The First Deadly Sin by Lawrence Sanders
The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
In the Woods by Tana French
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Writing has always been a hobby for you. Will this change with publication and a two-book deal?

At this point, it has moved from hobby to a second job--and I'm not complaining one bit! I still love it more than anything.

Tease us with tidbits about your next book.

My next book is a thriller. Without giving away too much, I'll say it's about a terrible night, the choices made and the consequences of them.

This interview by Elyse Dinh-McCrillis first ran in Shelf Awareness and is reproduced with permission.

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

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