Q&A with Sam Carrington, author of Saving Sophie.


A teenage girl is missing. Is your daughter involved, or is she next? Your daughter is in danger. But can you trust her?

When Karen Finch's seventeen-year-old daughter Sophie arrives home after a night out, drunk and accompanied by police officers, no one is smiling the morning after. But Sophie remembers nothing about how she got into such a state.

Twelve hours later, Sophie's friend Amy has still not returned home. Then the body of a young woman is found.

Karen is sure that Sophie knows no more than she is letting on. But Karen has her own demons to fight. She struggles to go beyond her own door without a panic attack.

As she becomes convinced that Sophie is not only involved but also in danger, Karen must confront her own anxieties to stop whoever killed one young girl moving onto another - Sophie.


Please introduce yourself. Where are you from? What do you do? And what's your shoe size?
Hi! I'm Sam Carrington, a full-time writer from Devon. I have one husband, three children (22, 19 and 17!), two dogs and one cat. Oh, and my shoe size is a very common 5!

What was your most recent book published?
My debut psychological thriller, SAVING SOPHIE, was published as an eBook in August 2016 and paperback and audio-book in December 2016.

What is SAVING SOPHIE about?
The story follows anxious mother Karen Finch, whose seventeen-year-old daughter Sophie is brought home drunk by the police one night with no recollection of the past evening. Sophie's friend, Amy, does not return home however, and then a body is found...

How do you hope readers will feel while reading it?
Hopefully tense! If they are parents, I also imagine they might relate to some of the themes, particularly the mother-teenage daughter one!

If you were to describe this book in the same way you'd describe the weather, what would you say?
Cloudy with a high chance of storms.

When did you begin writing, and what was your first book about?
I began writing short stories in 2011 but had in the back of my mind that I wanted to write a novel. My first attempt - which gained initial interest from my agent - was written in 2014 and was a prison-based psychological thriller, but this is now my 'in the bottom drawer' one. Saving Sophie is my first published novel - I had entered the opening chapters into the CWA Debut Dagger competition in 2015 and it was longlisted. I was then signed by my lovely agent, Anne Williams, and completed the novel late 2015. It was picked up by Avon in early 2016.

Do you have any goals for your writing/writing career?
My main goal now is to continue to write novels year after year - and hopefully continue to have them published and received well by readers!

Which authors inspire you?
SO many authors inspire me every day I'd feel it unfair to single any out. I'm very fortunate to have a number of writers who are also friends. Hopefully, we inspire each other!

Describe your writing style in three words.
Hmm. Interesting question. Entertaining, suspenseful and compelling?

What themes do you focus on within your books? Is it different with each one?
Revenge seems to figure heavily. Not sure why! I have completed my second novel and have begun the third and I realised this was within all of them. Other themes are different in each book, though - in SAVING SOPHIE the mother-daughter relationship was key, in my next book BAD SISTER (out in October) the themes are mistrust, family secrets, and the relationships between siblings... (Oh, ahem... and revenge of course).

Once you've an idea firmly in place, what's the next step for you?
My faithful corkboard! I have index cards and character sheets that I fill out and pin to the board. I often find pictures, too, so that I can begin to think of my characters as real people.

Do you have a favourite part of the writing process?
I love the buzz I get from beginning a new novel; those first chapters that start to bring the story to life.

Are there any techniques/methods you favour when it comes to plotting?
I make notes on characters' motivations and goals and then begin to weave in how they are going to interact with each other. I always have a synopsis written before I start writing, this helps me to get the basic storyline straight.

Have you ever come face to face with writer's block? If so, how did you overcome it?
I have found that at around 30,000 words into the novel I will have a complete "I can't do this, it's all rubbish" moment. This might last a day, or weeks! Having a chat to my writer friends often helps and they have given me advice such as 'write some bullet points of what needs to happen'. That usually helps me to get going again.

Where do you find inspiration?
Inspiration can come from anywhere. Anytime! However, I do find that it helps to walk. Or shower. Or drive. These are the times that something will come to me out of the blue.

What does a typical day in your life look like?
Coffee. Facebook. Twitter. Amazon. Food. Gaze at unopened manuscript file. Re-read previous day's writing efforts. Edit previous day's writing efforts. Write new words. Have lunch (and it might be 3pm lunch!) Take dogs for walk. Write some more. Blog posts (reading others or writing my own) Twitter. Amazon. Coffee. Chocolate... etc.

What part of the writing process do you find most difficult?
Without doubt, editing. I just don't enjoy it. I edit as I go (that part's OK), so at the end of the first draft it should be in pretty good shape. But once the edits from my agent/editor come in, that's when I begin hating the process! Their suggestions are always spot-on though, and I know it will make a better book. But I don't like editing. End of! ;)

How do you come up with your titles?
It can take ages, and ages... OR, I think of something straight off and I think it's brilliant. For my second book I had the title in mind first, before even beginning the novel. Whether that title remains is another matter! [Update: it didn't!] I think it's incredibly hard to come up with a title that encapsulates the story nicely and is catchy, and fits with the genre and current market. SAVING SOPHIE had two previous titles and many other suggestions. In the end it was a collaboration between myself, my agent and my publisher.

When it comes to creating your characters, what's the first step you take?
I've usually had the main characters brewing in mind when I first think of the story idea. Once I have thought about where I want each character 'placed' within the story, then I'll start giving them a name. Then I fill out a character sheet which will include a bio, their background, physical appearance, what their goals are, what/who is preventing them from reaching the goals, etc. until I have built up a good picture.

Have you ever taken a research trip? If so, where did you and for which book?
I live in the area in which I've set my books, but, it's amazing how little you take in when it's somewhere you live. So, for SAVING SOPHIE, I did go to Dartmoor and I took a lot of photos so that I could capture more than I would usually. My second novel is set in the historic town of Totnes, again, local to me - but the last few times I've been, I've tried to be more observant than usual!

Do you set yourself word-count goals?
Yes, I set a goal of 1000 words a day. Sometimes I don't hit that target, but might write more the next day. I think it averages out over the week.

What is your definition of 'success'?
Finishing things I start.

What is your definition of 'happiness'?
My definition of happiness probably changes daily. I might feel ecstatically happy that I've finished my edit one day, then the next my reason for happiness will be a few hours spent with my children out walking the dogs, laughing and chatting about everything and nothing.

Which do you find hardest, the beginning or the end?
Hmmm. I don't think I find either particularly hard. If I had to choose, I'd say the ending as this is more likely to alter during the writing process. But honestly, if we're talking 'difficult' then it's the mid-way point that's more likely to cause sleepless nights!

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
I've read and received so many pieces of advice it's hard to know what the best is! I think it depends on where you are in your writing journey as well. In terms of writing a novel, I think the best advice was: to be a writer, you must write. Sounds ridiculously obvious, but actually, I wasted considerable time buying and reading 'How to' books and forever thinking 'yes, I want to write a book!' but never putting pen to paper, fingers to keyboard. I got lost in the notion of writing.

What one piece of advice would you pass on to another writer?
Well, I feel it has to be: Don't just think about it, do it. I've lost count of the people who have told me they want to write a book and then go on to make every excuse as to why they haven't been able to start yet. Sorry folks, there is no excuse. And, while it will undoubtedly be useful to read some 'How to' books (I do have one that I continue to use) the only way you're going to become a writer is to get on and write. Get anything down - once you begin the rest will follow if you keep at it. The first piece of writing you produce might be awful, but you will learn through doing it again and again.

Tell us an author on your auto-buy list.
Sharon Bolton.

If you were to write in another genre, which would you choose and why?
Tough one... The only other genre I've attempted is chick-lit. I wrote 10,000 words for the first Richard and Judy Search for a bestseller competition, 2014! Seems a life time ago now and it's strange to think I then went straight on to write a psychological/crime novel! Anyway, I enjoyed writing in a funny, light-hearted style, so maybe one day I might resurrect that 10K and finish it. Haha!

What are you working on at the moment?
I've just finished the final edits for my second novel, now titled, BAD SISTER, which is due for publication in October and I'm also in that wonderfully exciting 'beginning' stage of writing novel three!

Now for some quick-fire questions:
Coffee or tea? Coffee.
Summer or winter? Winter.
Bath or shower? Shower.
Sweet or savoury? Sweet.
Holiday in the city or countryside? Country.
Text or call? Text.
Facebook or Twitter? Twitter.
Sunrise or sunset? Sunset.
TV or movies? Movies.
Wine or beer? Wine.
Cats or dogs? CAN'T CHOOSE - I have both.
Chinese or Indian food? Chinese.
Pasta or cheese? Cheese.


About the author

Sam Carrington lives in Devon with her husband and three children. She worked for the NHS for fifteen years, during which time she qualified as a nurse.

Following the completion of a psychology degree she worked for the prison service as an Offending Behaviour Programme Facilitator. Her experiences within this field inspired her writing.

She left the service to spend time with her family and to follow her dream of being a novelist.

SAVING SOPHIE is her debut psychological thriller novel.

You can find Sam Carrington on Facebook & Twitter.
You can purchase your copy of SAVING SOPHIE here.
You can pre-order your copy of BAD SISTER here.

3 comments :

  1. Thanks so much for having me, Rebecca! Really enjoyed answering your questions :) x

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  2. Loved loved loved this interview! Fab questions! Fab answers!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for reading, Katherine! :)

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