Thursday, February 19, 2015

Author Interview: Sam Thomas of The Witch Hunter's Tale

Check out my review of The Witch Hunter's Tale from yesterday!
Today, Sam Thomas visits the Back Porch to discuss his book, "The Witch Hunter's Tale".  Huzzah!

1.  Is it easier to write characters that have similar traits (religion, gender, etc.) to you or different from you?

Great question! I don’t think I have much in common with any of my characters, even the men! The world of the seventeenth century was so different from our own time, that while there are some similarities, I would be very nervous if I saw too many.

My characters believe in witches (and that they should be hanged), that the Pope is Anti-Christ, and the Irish are savages. I don’t believe any of these things! My goal as an author is to understand these people and portray them in as realistic way as possible to my readers.

2.  What draws you to the time period in which Witch Hunter's Tale is set?

I decided to set the series during the English Civil War for a few reasons. Most obviously, it is a time of high drama. The first book in the series, The Midwife’s Tale, is set during the siege of the city – what more could you want than that?

It is also the time when radical political and religious ideas were everywhere. People argued that people should choose their own religious leaders, and some wanted women have the right to vote! Then you’ve got the trial of King Charles for treason, and the establishment of a (short-lived)’s a crazy time, to be sure!

3.  Can you tell us a little about the first book in the series for readers who are new to your work?

The Midwife’s Tale introduces my narrator Bridget Hodgson. Bridget is a wealthy and powerful midwife, but she has recently been widowed and lost both her children – she is almost entirely alone.

Early in the book a woman named Martha Hawkins appears at Bridget’s door, looking for work. Bridget takes her in, and ultimately the two become involved in a series of murders that may (or may not!) involve one of Bridget’s friends.

As it happens, Bridget is based on a real midwife who practiced in England at this time. I stumbled across her when I was working on my doctoral thesis, and she really stayed with me. Readers can learn more about the “historical” Bridget by going to my website:

4.  Which writers have influenced your work?
Oddly enough, most of them are historians. I loved Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s book, A Midwife’s Tale, and would recommend it to anyone interested in colonial America. I’ve also been reading Cormac McCarthy: his work is incredibly violent, but the language is quite amazing.

Oh, and I’m about to read Anthonly Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. He graduated from the same high school where I teach!

5.  Does your family have any pets?

One cat, named Snickers. Here is a picture of him trying to keep me from doing any work.

6.  Can you tell us something on your bookish bucket list and why it's there?

Reading or writing? For reading, I’d like to find the time to read Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries. But at 848 pages, it’s so imposing! Do I want to read that, or 3-4 other books?

As for writing, I’ve got a few projects on my list. I’m working on a stand-alone novel set in colonial New England, and looks at the relationship between wars between colonists and Native Americans, as well as witch-hunting.
7.  If you could time travel to any place in history, where would you go?

Civil War England, of course! Sure, the roads are mostly mud, but I can put up with that.

8.  What are your thoughts on the traditional vs indie publishing routes?

That’s a tough one simply because indie books can be beautifully written and carefully edited, or they can be something that an author threw together over the weekend, and it can be very hard for excellent books to distinguish themselves from ordinary ones.

My lone concern with indie publishing is that excellent authors might stop one draft too soon and publish something that is not quite done. If you believe in your work and want a traditional publisher, be patient. Set the book aside for a month or two and then revise it again. Write a short story, and then come back. And remember: most writers have a book in the drawer that has not yet come together, and that’s okay.
9.  What kind of advice would you give to young people who like to write?

Read, read, read! Write, write, write! And remember that right off the bat you won’t be very good, and that’s okay. Writing is a skill that takes years of practice to master. (I’d been writing more or less full time for nearly a decade before I started The Midwife’s Tale.)
Author Links:
Click the logo link just above to follow the tour, featuring more reviews and interviews!  (You an also apply to review books of HFVBT while you are there!)


  1. I am fascinated by the time period Sam writes about. I bet his research was fascinating. It was great to read this interview- I always like to get to know authors through things like this. I totally agree with his advice for authors! Thanks for sharing and wishing Sam the best of luck. :)

  2. The Luminaries is on my list too! So glad to see a fellow IBA blogger taking part in the #atozchallenge. Looking forward to April!

  3. Very interesting and insightful Q & As! Loved the advice to the young writers! :)

  4. The indie vs. traditional debate is always a tough one, but I've always believed writers need to set their own career plans. For me, traditional was the only option, but publishing was different when I started. Indie wasn't a thing in 1995!!! I definitely agree that those who go the indie route should invest heavily in professional editing.