Sunday, May 21, 2023

Samantha Jayne Allen

Samantha Jayne Allen is the author of the Annie McIntyre Mysteries. She has an MFA in fiction from Texas State University, and her writing has been published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Common, and Electric Literature.

The new Annie McIntyre Mystery is Hard Rain.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Hard Rain works on multiple levels. On a purely marketing level, the sound of it is punchy and dark, communicating to readers that this is a gritty crime novel. The story begins with a devastating flood in which a woman nearly drowns and is rescued by a mysterious stranger. The woman hires Annie, a rookie PI, to find the man who saved her, and after a different victim—shot dead, not drowned—turns up, Annie wonders if the hero she seeks is actually a killer. So, the title works on a literal level as reference to the flood, but also on a thematic level; there's nothing—no person, no place—in this small Texas community that wasn't touched by the devastation, and Annie, too, must now reckon with her conflicting feelings of agency and powerlessness. I also chose the title as a reference to the Bob Dylan song, "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall." The mysterious stranger is a blue-eyed wanderer, and Annie's search for him will take her to bear witness to all variety of troubles.

What's in a name?

Annie McIntyre is a name I chose when I wrote my debut novel, Pay Dirt Road, before I knew it would be a series, but was hoping — I wanted to pick something that emphasized that she was a person you want to know and stick with. Annie is a name I think is strong, classic, but also warm. It was the name of my family's favorite dog growing up, a collie who was sensitive, intelligent, and fiercely loyal, qualities my main character shares. McIntyre I liked simply because it has a ring to it, a snap in that "mack" sound.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your novel?

My teenage self would be delighted more than she'd be surprised, I think. I've always wanted to be a writer, and when I was a teenager I was obsessed with writing (bad) poetry about storms, both literal and metaphorical. I can see now that something along the lines of Hard Rain has been brewing for a while! I also loved reading mysteries as a teenager, and was always very into the strong female investigator—Kinsey Millhone, Deborah Knott, and before them, Nancy Drew and Miss Marple.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I think that the beginning is harder to write than the ending, and I usually rewrite it many times. For me, if the ending seems wrong, it's because it hasn't been set up correctly, which is therefore actually a problem with the beginning. Once I have the opening, when I know what this story is truly about, I gain a sense of momentum and the rest clicks into place. A good ending to any book, but particularly a mystery, I believe, is one that it feels surprising but inevitable. Mine are character-driven mysteries, and so I hope that my endings feel earned, and that the reader has gone on a journey in lockstep with Annie.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

I was raised in small towns in Texas and in California, so my worldview is similar to Annie's, and my experiences having lived in a place like Garnett, TX are infused throughout. Annie's a romantic, like me, and is at times ambivalent toward this place and the people in it—a bittersweetness, a nostalgia for something I'm not sure ever truly existed.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

Music certainly has influenced my writing, as in the aforementioned Dylan, also classic country music, specifically western frontier ballads like those of Marty Robbins. I also am influenced by environmental issues. In Pay Dirt Road I wrote about eminent domain in relation to the oil and gas industry in Texas, and in Hard Rain, I was inspired by studies showing that flooding in Central Texas is being exacerbated by rapid urbanization and climate change. I wanted to explore the juxtaposition between what we see as acts of God—rainfall—and what troubles we've brought upon ourselves.
Follow Samantha Jayne Allen on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue