The Summer House in Santorini
One summer in Greece will change everything…
Anna’s running away. From a failed relationship, a dead-end career and a complicated family life.
On the island of Santorini, with its picturesque villas, blue-tiled roofs, and the turquoise waters of the Aegean lapping at the white sand beaches, Anna inherits a less-than-picturesque summer house from her estranged father. As she rebuilds the house, she rebuilds her life, uncovering family secrets along the way that change everything. She starts to fall for her little slice of paradise, as well as for gorgeous, charming Nikos.
Will Anna lose her heart in more ways than one?
Samantha Parks is the pen name of Sam Gale. Her pen name comes from her late grandmother Velma Hobbs nee Parks, who was one of Sam’s greatest role models. Sam was born in North Carolina but now resides in Bournemouth, UK with her husband Alex. She owns a successful marketing company and is enjoying her slow descent into “crazy plant lady” status.
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- Tell me about your book / series? What do you want readers to most remember after reading it/them?
The Summer House in Santorini is an escapist beach read about a young gallery assistant named Anna whose life is upended when her estranged father leaves her a house in Greece when he dies. While she’s there, she falls in love with the island and the people who love it, especially one handsome young man named Nikos.
The most important thing for me about the book is that it makes people happy. That they are rooting for the characters, and the ending leaves them satisfied whether they want Anna and Nikos to get their happily ever after or they would rather Anna prioritize her career.
With Santorini as a backdrop, this is a perfect summer read – happiness guaranteed!
- Does writing energize or exhaust you?
BOTH. When I have an idea, I feel like I could go all night until it’s done, and I feel excited afterward. But because I’m an excited writer, I end up physically exhausted. My shoulders ache, my eyes are tired, and I never get a better night’s sleep than I do after a marathon writing session.
- Have you ever got reader’s block? What’s your favourite genre to read?
All the time! I will read four books in a week and then not pick up another book for months. It depends on my mood, but my general fav is high concept science fiction. If I need to bust a slump though, sometimes I’ll just go for YA romance because I know it will get me back in the groove.
- If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
To let go of the need to feel intellectually superior. No one actually likes that person. It took me way too many years to figure this out, and I’m so much happier now that I have. Life is way more fun when you can appreciate both pop culture and classic literature, and not shame other people for not knowing things or for appreciating less intellectually stimulating material.
- What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel? Why?
I absolutely love Mary Jayne Baker. I edited her first novel The Honey Trap, which I found in a slush pile and HAD to have because it made me roll on the floor laughing. No book since has disappointed. She is a hilarious and prolific writer, and she writes a mean sex scene too, which is way harder than you might think.
I have to check her out. Thanks!
- Is there a famous novel you didn’t finish reading? Why?
SO MANY. I gave myself permission during college to leave “classics” unfinished. A place in the literary canon does not an engaging novel make, unfortunately. I’m looking at you, Don Quixote.
I have a feeling you’re not alone in this. Just sayin’ 😉
- As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I always say that my patronus should be a Golden Retriever. I just want people to be happy. I don’t care about being pretentious or seeming sophisticated or clever. If I can make someone smile or improve their day even a tiny bit, that makes me happier than anything else.
Aww! I can see your doggy smile from here!
- How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have my next book that I’m working on, which is only about a quarter of the way through the first draft. I also have a third of a Christmas novel, two-thirds of a YA sci-fi novel and outlines for half a dozen more! Anytime I have an idea, I try to plan out as much as possible while I’m feeling inspired so that I have more to come back to later.
Sounds like you have a lot of writing ahead. What fun!
- What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I only do base-level research beforehand, but I do a lot of research along the way! I had never been to Santorini when I started this book, so I had to do loads of research, even down to walking the island on Google Street View so I could make sure I had landmarks and details correct.
Google Street View – That’s such a great idea!
- How many hours a day do you write?
I’m a binger in everything in life: TV, sweets, reading… and writing is no exception. I’ll usually spend every free moment writing for a few days (sometimes up to 12 hours a day since I’m self employed) and then not again for a couple of weeks.
As long as you dedicate time to sweets, that sounds like a great plan.
- What did you edit out of this book that you really wanted to keep? Will you reuse it at a later stage?
The relationship between Anna and her grandmother is a much smaller part of the final version than it was at the beginning, and it was that original relationship that inspired me to use my grandmother’s maiden name as my pen name. This story idea worked particularly well with that relationship, so I don’t foresee myself having a grandmother feature so prominently again, though I do plan to have some form of nod to her in every book. But never say never, I suppose! Maybe one down the line will have a main character who’s a grandmother!
- How do you select the names of your characters?
Well, most of these characters were Greek, so I spoke to my Greek friend Evelyn for a lot of them! It was hard because I didn’t want them to be stereotypical names, and I didn’t want them to be the Greek equivalent of John Smith, but I also didn’t want them to be too obscure. The trouble with Greek names is that a lot of people are named things like Adonis or Aphrodite, and I didn’t want to use those because I was afraid English readers would think I was taking the piss.
For Anna’s name, I actually had named her Ellie Linton in my mind before I realised that’s the name of the protagonist from Tomorrow, When the War Began, which I love. I decided to keep the surname and go for a new first name, so it was just a matter of finding something that sounded good!
Names are tricky, aren’t they?
- Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
This is my first novel, but I imagine I will be reading all of them. Good ones will be thanked and appreciated, of course. For bad ones, I think it’s important to distinguish between someone who’s not your target reader and was always going to struggle with liking your book and someone who is your target reader yet still came away disappointed. The former should be ignored, but the latter present valuable learning moments. You can usually tell from the review which one is which.
- What comes first for you, character or plot?
They both sort of happen simultaneously. I guess the first thing is usually a piece of the plot, but really more of a situation. A prompt, if you will. And then I ask myself, “what characters would find themselves in this situation?” Then the characters are fleshed out to the point where I can begin connecting the dots, and then more so as things come up in the story that need some background.
- What was your hardest scene to write? Why?
I really struggled with the climactic scene. I can’t tell you too much about it, but things don’t go too well for our lovebirds, and I struggled to figure out what Anna would say in response. You’ll have to let me know if you would react the same way.
- Do you Google yourself? What did you find that pleased you most?
No, but you’d better bet I just did! I just saw that Waterstones is offering a pre-order for the paperback, and I didn’t realise that, so I’m well chuffed now! Thank you for that, haha.
Well, there you go. Glad to have helped! Congrats.
- What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
I would probably give up most things. But the thing I probably should give up is excuses, because they’re the only thing that keeps me from being more productive.
But, excuses are real … nah, you’re right!
- Have any of your books been translated? If not, would you consider it?
This is my first novel, and so far no! But I would be honoured to have my book translated.
- If you could speak to any author – past or present – who would you like to meet and what would you ask them?
I would love to speak to Agatha Christie! Her books are so brilliant. Clever plots, great characters and masterful building and diffusing of tension. I would ask her about her planning process.
I’m with you on this. Agatha Christie’s stories are awesome.
- What are you writing now?
I’m working on my next book, which is another beach read about a woman who splits up with her husband and goes on a journey to find herself, but despite her intentions it doesn’t end up anything like Eat Pray Love.
I like the sound of that. Good luck, and thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.
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