Patrick “Not the Starfish” Samphire on His Novel, Secrets of the Dragon Tomb, Building a Career as an Author, and Supporting a Family in an All Author Home
Patrick Samphire has already had a long and impressive career as a short story author. Now he’s got his first novel out, Secrets of the Dragon Tomb. This pulp adventure is set in the Regency era, in a British colony on Mars. It’s got high adventure, action, mystery, dinosaurs, and of course, dragons. What more do you need?
These days both Patrick and his wife, Stephanie Burgis, work full time as authors and support their young family in Wales.
He and I sat down to talk over Skype about his new book, and also about building a life as an author. In this interview, he details his journey from his childhood in Africa, to his earning a doctorate in physics, to his being accepted to and attending Clarion West.
I’ve been reading Patrick’s work for over a decade, now, and highly recommend it to anyone!
Interview with Patrick Samphire
Conducted and edited by Emily Mah, January, 2016
As with all my interviews, there is a list of timestamps below the video, should you prefer to jump to specific parts.
Secrets of the Dragon Tomb
We begin by introducing Patrick
2:16 The setting and genre of Secrets of the Dragon Tomb.
3:25 His cool, alternative history of Mars and Earth.
4:30 A capsule summary of the protagonist and plot.
6:00 A British colony on Mars!
6:35 And a teaser about the dragons.
6:55 How this book differs from traditional pulp adventure science fiction.
9:32 A new take on British colonialism, written by a Brit who’s spent a lot of time living abroad.
11:20 On Patrick’s unfair research advantage, being married to Stephanie Burgis.
13:00 The alternative history of the world of Dragon Tomb.
13:57 A discussion of the sequels and where to get Secrets of the Dragon Tomb.
58:30 The book itself, including the pretty pictures!
Patrick’s career to date
0:53 The genres Patrick specializes in – mainly fantasy.
1:40 A brief discussion of the novels he’s written to date.
15:10 Patrick discusses the different publishing regions, and how the rights are sold.
16:48 Finding the right agent for this book, exploring options in both the UK and US.
19:00 Patrick’s career, from physicist, to teacher, to professional writer.
21:38 How long it takes to launch a writing career, or even just publish one book.
22:44 The number of agents Patrick has had, the number of trunk novels he’s written, and the number of publishers who passed on Dragon Tomb.
25:23 Self doubt and the need for a supportive writing community.
27:33 Balancing writing with a day job to keep up an income stream.
Making a Living in an All Writer Household
30:22 Writing work-for-hire for book packagers.
34:28 The practicalities of managing a writing income.
37:34 Marketing middle grade books.
39:28 Some numbers, how much an author can expect to earn.
44:00 Other important perks of being a writer.
45:48 A case study: George RR Martin. Careers can take a long time to take off.
46:39 Supporting a family in an all-writer household.
49:57 Other practical pitfalls of living off a freelance income and the need for a fallback.
52:53 A typical day in the life of a full time writer household.
53:33 Establishing a workable writing routine and planning out deadlines.
55:35 Keeping it all in perspective.
59:00 What it’s all about.
Emily Mah is a writer and the owner of E.M. Tippetts Book Designs, a company that provides formatting, cover design, and editing services for independent authors and publishers. Her last interview for Black Gate was with actor, Elias Toufexis.