© Samantha Morris 2024


An Interview with Samantha Morris

I’ve been fortunate enough to interview many crime fiction and thriller authors for my blog, and I’ve enjoyed chatting to them all. Yet, as readers of the Bow Street Society books will know, my interest doesn’t just lie in crime fiction, but also in history and nonfiction. Therefore, it’s with great delight I welcome a great nonfiction author and good friend of mine to this month’s blog, historian Samantha Morris.

I started by asking her to tell me a bit about herself.
I’ve loved writing and history since I was small. My first interest was Ancient Egypt and that started after my aunt brought me a bunch of Egyptology books. I would also spend my time writing stories, but I kept on going back to history. It became clear as I got older that writing historical nonfiction was what I wanted to do. Those who know me know that I’m a bit of a bibliophile – my collection of books is pretty huge, and they are everywhere in my flat. I’m also really into survival horror video games, heavy metal and wine. Oh, and I’m mum to an absolute gremlin of a chinchilla called Snowie.

In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge a nonfiction writer can face?
The research! Sometimes it can feel so incredibly overwhelming, especially when you find yourself  going down rabbit hole after rabbit hole. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve gone to research one thing and then found myself spending hours and hours reading up about what sort of cheese the nobility of the Italian Renaissance liked to eat. Okay, maybe not cheese but you get the idea! It’s definitely a challenge but then again, it can also be incredibly interesting. When I was researching Savonarola for my last book, I was looking into his time being held prisoner and how he was tortured. A bit of research into the strappado led me on to other nasty torture methods. I’ve definitely learned a lot thanks to these rabbit holes.

The saying “the victors are the ones who write the history” has been said many times. How do you  analyse the evidence you uncover when researching a new book?
You have to be so incredibly careful when it comes to bias. There is bias everywhere when it comes to historical research. In secondary sources, the author can absolutely despise a person they are writing about and that can really affect how you see the individual also. But then again there is bias in primary sources – take for instance the idea that the Borgia siblings were incestuous. This idea came directly from enemies of the family! During the divorce proceedings between Lucrezia and her first husband, the husband was so put out about being asked to prove his sexual potency that he snapped the only reason the family wanted the divorce was so that Pope Alexander, Lucrezia’s father, could keep her all for himself! The idea of incest has stuck to the point where it’s shown in historical dramas and in historical fiction. But there’s no written evidence anywhere else about it. You would have thought that those working around the family would have written it down somewhere, right? Did it happen? It’s possible – after all, many families at the time partook – but we just cannot say for certain.

If you could live in any period in history, which would you choose and why?
Oh that’s an easy one – the Italian Renaissance. It’s a period that has long fascinated me. There was so much wonderful art created at the time – I remember on a visit to Florence bursting into tears when stood in front of Boticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’, as well as stunning pieces of writing. To me, there is just something completely magical about this period of history and I have found it difficult not to imagine  myself there when walking those very same streets.

Which period in history would you choose not to live in and why?
Tudor England. But that’s probably because of my ‘Tudor Burnout’ – don’t get me wrong it’s a  fascinating era but it just seems to be the go-to historical period of 90% of people. Plus, I would probably end up being arrested as a heretic for fighting against Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries – so many beautiful buildings destroyed!

What advice would you give to someone embarking upon their writing journey?
Research, research, research! Just read as many documents and books around your subject as possible. And then just start writing. It’s quite scary when you’re faced with an empty page and getting that first word down can be quite a feat – but once you do that and let the words start flowing, it’s amazing what you can create. Oh, and don’t do a me and let yourself get distracted by video games and the internet!

I’d like to thank Samantha for taking the time to chat with me. It’s been fascinating to hear which parts of history have inspired her, and learning about her approach to the nonfiction writing process. Please take a look at her socials, find out more about her and her books on her website, and preorder her upcoming book The Most Maligned Women in History (release date: 30th September 2024) - I’ve already   preordered mine!

                                                                                                                                                 ~ T.G. Campbell, March 2024

​​Bow Street Society logo artwork by Heather Curtis: mouseink@gmail.com

Copyright 2017 Tahnee Campbell. All rights reserved.

​info@bowstreetsociety.com                                                                                    Privacy Notice