Author Spotlight: Sam Taylor


© Tamara McMurdie

Jan. 29, 2021

We are excited to feature author Sam Taylor and her debut YA novel, We Are the Fire (Swoon Reads), out Feb. 16! Enter to win a copy!

design © Mike Burroughs; illustration © Bastien Lecouffe-Deharme

Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for teens.

I've always been interested in storytelling; before I knew how to write, I'd draw stories on the inside covers of my coloring books. When I was a teen I decided to become an author, and in college I majored in creative writing. I was always a kidlit writer, too; I just didn't realize it during college--which unfortunately made my studies difficult, as many of the professors accepted only adult literary fiction. But when my then-teenage sisters shared with me many of the books they loved reading (YA fiction!), I fell in love with them, too, and realized those were the books I wanted to write.


Congrats on your debut YA novel, We Are the Fire! Tell us about the book and what inspired you.

We Are the Fire follows two fire-wielding teen soldiers in love, Oksana and Pran, who were kidnapped and forced to fight for the empire that conquered their homelands. They're now trying to reclaim their freedom by rebelling against that empire. But the fight pits them against each other as they have very different ideas of what freedom looks like, and what lines they'll cross to obtain it. It's An Ember in the Ashes with fire magic, twisted alchemy, and ash-gray morals. 


Long story short, I wrote this book because I was angry and wanted to watch something burn. My day job at the time was led by some corrupt people. I wanted to make things right but wasn't always sure what the best choices were, or who I could trust to help me. I wanted a book that captured those feelings--and that also provided hope of overcoming such difficult circumstances.


Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?

Definitely not short! We Are the Fire was the third book I'd queried. I had a lot of agent interest in all of those manuscripts, but never landed representation. But We Are the Fire was a story I didn't want to give up on. So instead of shelving it like the others, I posted it to the Swoon Reads website. Swoon Reads is an imprint of Macmillan and provided a unique opportunity for unagented authors to share their stories with an online community. Stories that received a lot of positive ratings and reviews from the site's readers could catch the attention of an editor at the imprint. While I struggled querying this book, my many critique partners and beta readers had been wild about it. I thought, "Readers love this book. Maybe readers can help me get it published." And they did!


Did you have a playlist when writing your book? What is a representative song?

I didn't have a curated playlist, but I did listen often to my movie score Pandora station while writing and revising We Are the Fire. Songs by Two Steps from Hell (so dramatic!) especially put me in the right mindframe. When I worked on scenes with the villainous alchemist Rootare, I'd listen to Simply Three's instrumental cover of "Take Me to Church" on repeat--something about that version of the song really fit Rootare's character. And Ellie Goulding's "Burn" feels like an anthem for this story.


5. What projects are you working on now?

My agent and I are searching for a home for my YA historical fantasy--think Inception in 1904 Iceland with Viking-age magic and witches. I'm also revising a MG fantasy packed with baking magic and shenanigans, and I have a YA fantasy that's a retelling of some Greek mythology, set in a super creepy forest.


6. What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same advice you'd give to aspiring authors?

"You have more than one story in you." In the early days of pursuing publication, rejections and seeming failures (like not landing an agent as quickly as I'd wanted) were very difficult and scary for me. It felt like I was losing my chance to ever succeed in the industry. But as I tackled difficult revisions, and also moved on to new projects, I gained confidence and recognized that I could always try again with a new story--and that I did indeed have more stories to tell. Even when a story has completely captured our writer hearts, it's important to move onto the next project, especially while querying. New projects challenge and expand our writing abilities and give continued hope for our writing futures.


7. What is one thing most people don't know about you?

I almost became an astronomer! In college I excelled in my astronomy classes so much that my professor once pulled me aside after class and encouraged me to change my major. I absolutely loved astronomy and really had to self-examine which I wanted to focus on. I chose fiction writing... but I'm still deeply interested in science, especially astronomy, and love to geek out at planetariums and with science documentaries. (Probably that's why there's so much alchemy and fantasy science in WAtF!)


8. Where can people find you online?

I'm on Twitter @jsamtaylor, on Instagram @jsamtaylorauthor, and my website is

Sam Taylor grew up in Arizona’s desert and now lives among Connecticut’s trees. She’s worked as a proofreader, copywriter, and instructor of university writing courses before creating her own books. When she’s not writing, Sam spends her time being mom to the world’s cutest toddler, whirling through dance workouts, and baking too many cakes. She does not possess fire magic, but does have one fire-colored cat. We Are the Fire (Swoon Reads/Macmillan) is her debut novel. 



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  1. I'm guessing from the cover that these two fire-wielding teen soldiers also have antlers -- that would be so awkward! What if your antlers got stuck on things?? Anyway, this sounds like a great story!

  2. This book looks incredible, so excited to read it Sam!
    Megan S.

  3. I also enjoy all things space and science topics are my favorite. This book's premise sounds unique and exciting.

  4. Congratulations! What a unique and awesome way to get published. Best wishes!

  5. Congratulations!! I am positive your book will be a huge success! I am very excited to read it!!

  6. Congratulations on your book! I loved your interview questions and reading about your journey to becoming a published writer!


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