Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
I’m Samantha Heuwagen, a bilingual marriage and family therapist and best selling author from the Metro Atlanta area. When I’m not working with clients, I spark discussion about mental health with the goal to spread awareness across the United States and beyond by challenging the popular discourse surrounding mental illness and making it more inclusive.
My books, Dawn Among the Stars and Fading Starlight, are available now wherever books are sold. Discover what it means to be human in this feminist science fiction series, where my debut novel was nominated for a 2019 Georgia Author of the Year Award in the First Novel category.
What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?
In graduate school I completely let go of any form of Self-Care, which was a horrible mistake. I’d started writing The Starless Series before going to USF, but never touched it until my time at Mercer University School of Medicine, where I quickly realized that I needed to do something––anything–– that wasn’t school or therapy related. One of my options was writing for fun, so I picked the series up again and fell in love. After I finished the first book, Dawn Among the Stars, I knew I needed to share it with the world, but how? It wasn’t until my friends encouraged me to pursue publishing that I had enough confidence to let anyone read it. Flash forward to today and the series continues to grow and help change the discussion surrounding mental health. Plus, it’s still the self-care I need outside of my busy private practice.
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
I’m constantly inspired by my life and the stories I hear on a daily basis. Whether I’m sitting with a client or experiencing a new adventure, I’m always thinking of fun ways to talk about social justice in a way that is meaningful and continues to create change.
How do you deal with creative block?
I really don’t believe in that because if I don’t feel like writing, then I don’t. Why push yourself to do something when you don’t want to? That seems silly to me.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
To not do your research about a topic or assume things about a population or topic. If you want authenticity then either ask or research. Too many times I read books about anxious characters and it’s just all wrong. We aren’t helping others by pigeonholing an idea just to create a narrative. We need to be inclusive.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
Ask your loved ones what they think and make mock-ups of covers you want to see from your designers/publishers. I always love creating images to help express my view. I’m glad I have a publisher that digs that, too.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
Reviews aren’t for me, they’re for my readers, so I try not to read them or even look at them. I did get a fabulous 1 Star once that was so epic I’m really proud of it. If you want a good laugh, check it out––it’s under Dawn.
How has your creation process improved over time?
I’m very lucky to work with an editor that I love and admire. She’s helped me grow my voice and the way I write. Without her I don’t think I’d be where I am today. With that said, I think I’ve figured out my secret sauce, if you will, to how I write and what I want to say. It’s taken a lot of guess work out of what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. I hope to always grow and explore new ways of expressing myself and my ideas.
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
I’ve been so fortunate to have readers who love The Starless Series as much as I do. I’m always shocked and awed by their support, it’s really incredible. I wasn’t prepared for it and really cherish that community we’re building.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
For me it’s all about the message in the series, which is mental health awareness and healthy relationships. Do I piss off readers? Yes. Do I feel bad about it? No because we’ve both gotten to a place where we trust each other enough to see the bigger picture. I’m very lucky to have my readers trust my ability to tell a story without jeopardizing the bigger message behind it. It won’t be pretty, but we’ll get to a good place at the end––promise!
What role do emotions play in creativity?
Without emotional awareness I wouldn’t have a story at all. That’s the biggest driving factor of my work.
Do you have any creativity tricks?
Don’t push yourself to do things. Let the juices flow when they’re ready and always keep a notebook (on your phone or a hardcopy) near you. You never know when you’ll get an idea!
What are your plans for future books?
I’m pretty close to finishing the Starless Series, which is really exciting. After that who knows? The sky’s the limit!
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
I’m bilingual (English and Spanish)
I’m ambidextrous but prefer different hands depending on the activity, so while writing I like to use my left hand.
Dawn Among the Stars: