This week’s interview is with New York Times bestselling author, Simone St. James whose book THE SUN DOWN MOTEL is out now! Congratulations Simone! Read below about her proudest writing moment, the talent she wished she had, her twisty road to publication, and the best money she ever spent as a writer.
Simone St. James is the USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls, Lost Among the Living, and The Haunting of Maddy Clare. She wrote her first ghost story, about a haunted library, when she was in high school, and spent twenty years behind the scenes in the television business before leaving to write full-time.
Which talent do you wish you had?
I’ve actually thought about this. I wish I could draw really well. I can make a passable human figure, but that’s about it. I’d like to be talented enough to draw my characters the way I see them in my head. The other talent I wish I had is songwriting. I think that writing a truly great song, one that people still play and cover decades later, would be an incredible accomplishment.
The road to publication is twisty at best – tell us about some of your twists.
Oh, there are a few. Every author has them, I promise. I was rejected for six years before I was signed by an agent. I wrote three entire novels that went into the “never see the light of day” pile. When I finally sold my first book, Borders closed a few months before release day, which seemed like a publishing apocalypse. Ebooks had a huge rise just as my first books were coming out, which made everyone nervous. There have been mergers and editor changes and books that didn’t sell as hoped. You learn to roll with it and keep writing, keep your options open, and never quit. Or maybe I’m just stubborn.
Tell us about one of your proudest writing moments.
It sounds cliché, but it was honestly the day I went to my favorite bookstore and found my first book on the shelf. I’d spent hundreds of hours in that bookstore, dreaming about being one of those authors. To see my book there actually choked me up as I stood in the aisle. That bookstore has since closed, and the building sold to build condos. I still mourn it.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I was so happy when I could finally afford a laptop (in my case a Macbook) so I could work easily, because before that I was working between spiral notebooks and a desktop computer. A proper backup system is a must. I’ve also used Scrivener software to write every book starting with The Broken Girls, and it’s a lifesaver when you’re trying to figure out complicated timelines, chapter order, and character POV’s, as well as keep your research in one place. It’s inexpensive and it gives you a ton of functions.
Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?
Well, since we just went through a pandemic lockdown, I think every author can answer this question. Writing during this time has been HARD. Those who were actually able to focus and be creative are in the minority right now. There’s no easy way to get past that. Limiting social media helps. I’ve made it a project to read more – I’ve never actually had to force myself to read before 2020, but this year I had to make an effort. Shutting everything out, even for an hour, and getting done whatever you can get done, even if it’s a few hundred words—if you do that every day, eventually you have something on the page. Nurses and other essential workers have had to go do their jobs every day, so we writers can do our jobs, too. And if you’re lucky, traveling into your own world for a little while can be an escape.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Welcome to Fell, NY. It’s no usual place.
For decades, the small town of Fell has been a place where girls grow up being warned by their mothers to be careful or they’ll end up like Cathy Caldwell, the girl who was murdered and found under an overpass, or Victoria Lee who was killed and dumped on a jogging trail on the edge of town. There are a lot of dead girls in Fell.
One particular unsolved missing persons case is the reason behind Carly Kirk’s visit to town. Carly has always been fascinated by her aunt Viv, who disappeared in the 80’s while working at the Sun Down Motel before Carly was born. Using a small inheritance from her deceased mother, Carly leaves college to go to Fell and figure out what happened to her aunt thirty-five years ago.
Soon Carly is mirroring her aunt’s life, working the same night shift at the motel, which hasn’t changed since 1982. The guest book is still handwritten, the rooms still have actual keys, and the Wifi is spotty at best. But that’s not the only unsettling thing about the Sun Down Motel. Doors are opening themselves. Someone prank calls the front desk every night with only static on the other end of the line. Lights go out. And then there’s the mysterious smell of cigarette smoke with no smokers in sight.
As Carly uncovers more about the mysterious happenings at the motel and Fell’s secrets, she discovers that Viv had been trying to unravel mysteries of her own—including a possible serial killer working in Fell targeting women. If Carly can find the answers Viv was searching for, she might be able to solve the mystery that has haunted her family for years. But as Carly digs deeper, she puts herself in front of the same dangers that faced her aunt all those years ago.
The story moves between Carly Kirk in 2017 and her aunt Viv Delaney in 1982—two equally fearless women determined to uncover the truth. James seamlessly weaves together both time periods and crafts a novel so scary and propulsive that readers will find themselves at the edge of their seats, ripping through the pages to connect the dots while simultaneously never wanting the ride to end.