I first got acquainted with Sam Hawke through Janet Reid’s blog on publishing, often referred to as “the reef.” And when I first heard the premise for Sam’s book, CITY OF LIES, I knew a feature was in order:

I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me… 

Outwardly, Jovan is the lifelong friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible Heir. Quiet. Forgettable. In secret, he’s a master of poisons and chemicals, trained to protect the Chancellor’s family from treachery. When the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army lays siege to the city, Jovan and his sister Kalina must protect the Heir and save their city-state.

But treachery lurks in every corner, and the ancient spirits of the land are rising…and angry.

According to your bio, you have a deep fear and distrust of ducks. What is the worst duck encounter you’ve had?

Oh boy. This hatred and distrust runs deep. As a teenager I used to house/dogsit for a school friend’s parents in the holidays. One year they built a massive duck enclosure in their garden too. I’d had chickens most of my life, mostly little silkies, so I wasn’t bothered and assumed it would be a similar experience. Boy. Boy was I wrong.

Chickens are affectionate little things. They come running when they hear you, they’ll sit on your lap for stroking. Ducks … ducks are not your friends. Those things are little feathered psychopaths. And when I say little I actually mean ‘substantially bigger than you previously realised’ and by ‘feathered’ I mean ‘except for the one they’ve torn all the feathers off and pecked into a bleeding husk of a bird’. And look maybe they just walked into the shelter at dusk when my friend’s Mum clapped at them like she claimed, but they sure as hell didn’t do it for me. Their house was basically a box in the middle of the back third of the enclosure, with sharp scratchy bushes behind and on either side of it but – critically – a big enough gap both ways that ducks could easily divert from the ramp at the last second and dart left or right to run around behind instead of going in. There was no way to block off those exits, as I learned only too well while chasing aggressive belligerent feathered demons around in the increasing dark, getting scratched and filthy and filthy, swearing and crying with frustration. Even with three people (eventually I admitted defeat and begged help from my family) it was a complex and stressful military campaign to get them in every night. I looked after those ducks for many years but I never stopped hating them.

I don’t blame you! Not sure I can look at ducks in the same way either. And speaking of prickly things, in CITY OF LIES, you dabble with different kinds of poisons. What about this was the most fun to write? 

Early on in my world building I decided I wanted it to play in a proper secondary world, with only minor crossovers in plant/animal life with things we would recognise. Which meant not relying on existing poisons but largely making up my own based on the flora, fauna, climate, and sociological history of the region. Possibly I’ve always had a weird interest in ‘things in nature that can kill you’ so I really enjoyed doing it. When I was about eight we got this Readers Digest book called ‘Australia’s Dangerous Creatures’ and I was weirdly, inexplicably obsessed with it, read it cover to cover hundreds of times, so my subconscious is full of deadly plants and venomous and poisonous animals that probably heavily influenced my world building!

That sounds scarier than ducks, even! You still blog on a somewhat regular basis on samhawkewrites.com. What do you think the future of blogs might be, and what do you enjoy most about maintaining your blog? 

Blogs are dead, I’m told? Honestly, I don’t know. I still like reading them, but I have a lot less time than I used to. There are some blogs I think are an invaluable resource for emerging writers – for example, I read Janet Reid’s blog at jetreidliterary.blogspot.com and Chuck Wendig’s terribleminds.com religiously. But I guess more broadly people are communicating in different ways now.

My blogging has never been what you’d call regular, partly for time reasons and partly self consciousness – I still find it hard to feel confident that my rambling thoughts about something are worth an entire blog post.

Not sure I agree with you–I’ll bet you have a lot of great things to say. What are some of your current projects?

I’m working hard trying to get the sequel to City of Lies done. Then there will be at least a few months of editing, and I’m hoping to squeeze in an in-world story for an anthology but that’s dependent on me coming up with a workable idea (I tend to think in novel length!). After that, we’ll have to see how City of Lies does and whether there’s any appetite for the Poison Wars novels to continue!

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