The imaginative and enthusiastic Olivia Samms brings us the first installment in her Bea Catcher Chronicles: Sketchy. Meet Bea, a somewhat troubled teen who discovers that she can draw what other people see in their mind’s eye. Pretty cool right? This obsessive writer and proud mother discusses her time spent as an author, and what led to the creation of this story.
Bea’s life has been a mess ever since she got kicked out of private school and sent to rehab. Now clean, Bea is starting over at Packard High School, in a city shaken from two assaults on young women. The latest victim, Willa Pressman–the one who survived–doesn’t remember a thing. But Bea has a disturbing new “skill”: she can see–and then draw–images from other people’s minds. And when she looks at Willa, Bea is shocked by what she sketches. Bea might be the only one who knows Willa’s secrets–and who can take down the killer before he strikes again.
Young Adult: What made you decide to start writing?
Olivia Samms: First off, thank you so much for your interest in my book—wow!
I don’t remember a moment, a point in time when I thought, gee, I’m going to try to write. I think I was writing all along, even as a little girl growing up in Michigan. I built forts in the woods around my house and foraged around for grub, until my mom called me in for dinner; grew gills under the water of small, muddy lakes; acted and sang throughout my teens, and into my twenties, until I started my family. I don’t multi task well, and tend to throw myself fully into things, so when my kids were growing up, it was all about them. But I’ve always carried around a journal, and while waiting in carpools, and watching soccer matches I jotted down ideas, thoughts; would make up stories about the guy who’d bagged my groceries that day, the woman who cut me off on the freeway, I even gave voices and thoughts to passing animals. When the demands of being a mom waned, the kids grew up and needed me less, the journal and stories in my head morphed into something more, and ended up on my computer. And it’s amazing what a little encouragement can do. I remember the day I found the nerve and asked an established writer to read a novel I was tinkering with, and he said yes. I can’t recall the specifics of what he said after he read it (because the manuscript was pretty lame) other than, “You can write, Olivia. Keep going.” There was no stopping me after that.
YA: Tell us a little bit about your latest work. What is different about Sketchy and The Bea Catcher Chronicles?
OS: Have you seen/read what Bea wears? I wish I had her guts and style. Bea, my protagonist, is a seventeen-year-old, artistic, recently sober girl in her senior year of high school. She struggles daily with “the beast” of addiction, but with her newfound sobriety, discovers she has the uncanny ability to draw the truth out of people . . . literally. I love her core imperfections, her willingness to dive in headfirst regardless of the consequences, and that she uses her “power” to solve crimes and “catch” the bad guys. Bea may not always go about things the way we would, in a straight line, but then why would we want her to? She’s not out there to break the rules, but she certainly won’t allow imposed rules to break her.
YA: Take us through a typical writing day for you.
OS: Really, you sure? It’s not pretty. I get rather obsessed (I’m told by husband and friends), and neglect things that I probably shouldn’t. I think they’re planning an intervention, I’m not sure. Thankfully I don’t have young children at home anymore, I don’t know if they’d be fed. . . just kidding. I wake up (always a good start), make my cup of coffee and always, always open the paper to the puzzle page. I first do KenKen, and then attempt the crossword. It’s in that half hour when my head gets screwed on tight—gets me in the zone, and I reread what I wrote the day before, edit (I love the editing process, probably the puzzle nerd in me), and write some more. Sometimes, if it’s a good day, I’ll be in the same place, my bed/desk, still in my pajamas when my husband gets home, and have absolutely no idea of how many hours went by. Some days I just stare at the page, hear the clock ticking, write what I think is gibberish, control the urge to hurl my computer across the room, or eat all the chocolate chips out of the Trader Joe’s trail mix, leaving all the nuts, and eventually throw on my sweats and hike the dusty trails of the Santa Monica foothills.
YA: Can you describe the path to getting this work published? What were the challenges? What was easy about it?
OS: The chocolate chip part was easy, but seriously, this is my first novel, and I had absolutely no expectations, until I landed an agent, a very tenacious one at that. And after honing and shaping it with me, she had the audacity to send it around to people. I mean, come on!!! Strangers reading it? Yeah, some people said no, but looking back, I was a walking sponge, and took every thought, comment, note and tried to incorporate them in the manuscript if I found them pertinent to the story, and the vision. And I truly believe that process made Sketchy richer, toughened me up, and made me a better writer. And now, after working with the unbelievably supportive, incredibly sweet, remarkably sharp team at Amazon Skyscape, (my editor will cringe with all those adverbs), I’m now convinced that stuff happens when it’s supposed to, and with the right people.
YA: What were your specific influences for this book? Films, literature, other stories? Forensics, real-life experience?
OS: I wish I could say something very cultured, like the day I sat with a cup of Earl Grey with a pashmina around my shoulders reading Proust, or that night when I saw that Fellini film. . . but the honest truth was Michael Jackson’s video and song, “Black or White”. Remember how all the faces morphed into one another?
“See, It’s Not About Races
Where Your Blood
Is Where Your Space Is
I’ve Seen The Bright
I’m Not Going To Spend
My Life Being A Color”
Regarding the thriller aspect of The Bea Catcher Chronicles, a few years back while visiting my mom in northern Michigan, a foot washed up on the shores of Lake Huron—still wearing a sock and sandal, and the body it belonged to was never found. Creepy, right? Well I found it fascinating. I’ll leave it at that.
YA: What can we hope to see in the continuation of the series?
OS: Bea, sporting a new ‘do, and of course, fabulous ensembles, will be celebrating her eighteenth birthday with readers! She’ll continue to see, and draw the truth weighing right and wrong, and sorting through truth and lies. I wouldn’t be surprised if she finds herself in a hell of a lot of trouble, frustrating her “confidant” Sergeant Daniels to no end, and worrying her friends and family. But I don’t want to give away too much. Just know that Bea will never lead a boring life, and who knows, maybe she’ll catch the bad guy responsible for the sandaled foot on the shore some day. I’d love it if she did!!!