Author Spotlight: Sam Subity


Photo credit: Ken Fong

March 26, 2021

We are pleased to feature author Sam Subity and his debut middle grade novel, THE LAST SHADOW WARRIOR (Scholastic, May 4, 2021). Enter to win a copy!

Illustrator: Jael Bendt; designer: Baily Crawford

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

Thanks so much for having me on KidLit411! When I was a kid, I had all the big dreams that most kids do about what I was going to be when I grew up: president, astronaut, author, etc. But I was one of those shy, quiet kids who preferred my adventures to happen safely within the pages of books. And since writing seemed at least slightly less dangerous than strapping myself into a rocket to the moon, I naturally gravitated in that direction. As for president, well, my kids are always saying they'd vote for me, but...I think I'll see how this writing thing goes first.   

Congrats on your debut middle grade book, The Last Shadow Warrior! Tell us about the book and what inspired it.

I'd spent some time studying medieval literature in my undergrad years, and Beowulf was one of my favorites. I can remember spending many an evening in my dorm room learning Old English just so I could read it in its original language. Which is what those shy, quiet kids do when they go to college. So when I picked up a copy of The Lightning Thief several years ago and saw how Riordan had put a new spin on old stories, it was like lightning striking for me. In fact, the Twitter pitch that got my agent's attention was "Percy Jackson meets Beowulf." And that's where my story originated of a twelve-year-old Viking who has to save her school from monsters out of Norse mythology. It's got adventure and danger, as well as some silly laughs like a sea monster that loves Ping-Pong.

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

I think many writers would agree that any time spent querying a book into the world and waiting for replies feels endless. There's a reason it's often referred to as the "querying trenches." After doing that with The Last Shadow Warrior for a couple of years, I was ready to give up and move on to another project, but some writing friends encouraged me to keep trying. About that same time, I tweeted my book idea in a PitMad contest on Twitter and to my surprise received several likes from agents. Within a few weeks, I had multiple offers! It all reminded me of the quote from Thomas Edison: "Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." So for anyone reading this, I would similarly encourage you that if you really believe in your story, don't give up on it or yourself. 

What are some of your favorite classic MGs and more recent ones?

Growing up in the 80s, I was a huge fan of Encyclopedia Brown, Bunnicula, and anything by Judy Blume. But the spark that really got me interested in writing fantasy came from series like The Lord of the Rings and The Belgariad. As a kid, I used to write Tolkien fan fiction before the internet made fan fiction big. More recently, I've loved how the Rick Riordan Presents books have helped make reading fantasy cool again. And there are a ton of great fantasy titles releasing this year from my fellow 21ders debut author group. So far I've been fortunate enough to read The Nightmare Thief (Nicole Lesperance), The Gilded Girl (Alyssa Colman), The Last Windwitch (Jennifer Adam), Rea and the Blood of the Nectar (Payal Doshi), The Verdigris Pawn (Alysa Wishingrad), and Kingdom of Secrets (Christyne Morrell).  

What other projects are you working on?

In the original Beowulf epic, there are actually three different "bad guys," so it's a natural fit for a trilogy and that's how I pitched the book to Scholastic. Consequently my main focus is on outlining and writing books two and three. But to keep writing feeling fresh and interesting, I also like to tinker on projects in other areas like picture books, which is actually where my kid lit writing journey rekindled several years ago when my kids were younger and we'd go through stacks of picture books every week. And then there's a chapter book idea I'm excited about. So who knows, maybe we'll see one or two of those ideas make it to a bookshelf sometime in the future too.

What are the one or two best things you did for you career? Would you give this advice to aspiring authors?

Probably the most fundamental thing for me was simply making the time in my life to write. As I can imagine is the case with many writers, my writing always tended to get pushed down on the priority list until days slipped into months and years and I wasn't making any progress. Eventually I found that writing first thing in the morning helped to make sure it happened without getting swallowed up in the obligations of the day. Other writers may find it works better during a lunch break, or in the evening hours after you put the kids to bed. But whenever works for you, make the time. Also, connect with other writers--through SCBWI, a local writing group, an online book club, etc. The writing journey isn't easy, but it's way more manageable traveling with other writers who understand the kind of crazy that makes you want to spend your free time doing it.

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

Brussels sprouts. I love 'em. In fact, they're probably one of my top five foods. So far I've never met anyone who shares my affinity, but I know those people are out there...right? 

Where can people find you online?

Online I'm most frequently on Twitter (@sjsubity), and occasionally on Instagram (@sjsubity) and Facebook as well. My website has more about my book and fun resources on Vikings and Norse mythology to help teachers and librarians incorporate The Last Shadow Warrior into their classes. 

Sam Subity loves writing stories that explore the magic and wonder of being a kid and is thrilled to share his writing with readers everywhere—-both the young in age and the young at heart. When he’s not writing, you might find him with his wife and two kids exploring the trails of northern California where the endless, winding miles past fog and ocean inspire stories of adventure and mystery.  

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  1. Sam congratulations! I’m so excited for you. The book sounds amazing!

  2. Book looks awesome! Look forward to reading it!

  3. Another great cover! I expect this book is an exciting thrill ride!

  4. What a rollicking ride of a novel! Smart and funny and filled with Viking folklore. All of you who haven't read it yet are in for a treat.

  5. I'm excited to read this book--the cover alone pulls me in. I do enjoy Brussel sprouts and even tried to grow my own last summer, but apparently bunnies enjoy the foliage and ate them down to stubs. I hope to try again this year (we now have fencing).

  6. This looks like a book I'd love to read as well as share with my daughter. We both loved the Percy Jackson series and think it would be cool to read a story based off of Norse mythology.

  7. Congratulations, Sam! I too grew up with Encyclopedia Brown and anything Judy Blume! I would love to share your book with my students!


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