Jilly Cooper inspires Norfolk writer's racy debut novel
- Credit: Richard T Bryant
Billed as a racy read for fans of Jilly Cooper, Samantha Mattocks’ debut novel, Sandstorm, was a decade in the making.
The book is set in the world of the Arabian horse circuit – a world she knows well.
Samantha, from Norfolk, has bred Arabian horses with her family all her life and is editor and owner of The Arabian Magazine.
“I am lucky enough to have travelled the world – although I have very much enjoyed being stationary in Norfolk for the last year or so,” says Samantha, who also appeared on MasterChef in 2019.
“I have always been a writer, and the idea for Sandstorm came from one of my many waits in an airport. I have written short stories and novellas before, as well as publishing a poetry/photography collection, so Sandstorm began in the same vein. However, it soon took on its own identity and became a much bigger piece.
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“The inspiration has come from snatched moments at the shows – there are a few scenes in the book that are real, such as watching a particular stallion show as the sun set out in the United Arab Emirates. As for the characters, they are definitely all imagination.
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Sandstorm was reviewed by an Irish journalist who knows the dressage circuit inside out, and she said that she ‘recognised’ some of the characters, proving that show circuit shenanigans are universal!”
Explaining the plot, Samantha says: “Sandstorm is the first novel in the Arabian Storm Series and it follows a group of characters, and their horses, from Europe to the Middle East and back. It is a racy romance, with a ‘will-they, won’t-they’ between two of the main characters, Sienna Stevens and Arjan Vermeulen. Also having starring roles are Rin Risley, Arjan’s ex (as of page two of Sandstorm!), Guy Stevens, and Alejandro Suarez. There are minor characters, from grooms to horse owners, who all help to build up the storyline.”
Samantha started writing Sandstorm in 2008 and she finished it in 2018.
The coronavirus lockdown gave her the impetus to publish it.
“Sandstorm took 10 years to write, and in my preface, I do say that it shows. If I was writing it now, my women would be stronger, for example. However, we have all been in the situation where something happens, and we feel we cannot speak up for fear of repercussions.
"The world has also changed a lot since I began the novel back in 2008 but you have to remember that this is a piece of fiction, of escapism. Arjan, in particular, is what many would describe as a ‘bad boy’, but many of my readers love him and want him to appear in the next novel! When writing, you have to remember that fiction and real life are two very separate things” she says.
“I finished Sandstorm in 2018 but did nothing with it. When I appeared on MasterChef, I mentioned the novel in my opening interview, but I still didn’t push it. Then the first lockdown happened, and a few friends said that this would be a good time to publish it.
“It was very daunting. I have held Sandstorm close for so long now, and I love the characters just as much as I did when I first created them. I sent it to a few friends first, and had great, and constructive, feedback, and that encouraged me to go for it.
"I have also been happily surprised just how many men have enjoyed reading the novel – and how many of my male friends think that they are the inspiration for some of the characters! So I put it out on Kindle first and then went into print. The response has been amazing.”
Samantha loved writing from a very young age.
“I always say that I was able to create before I could physically write. I would write stories and poetry as a child and even plays, two of which were performed at school. I never leave the house without a notebook and pen, as you never know when inspiration is going to strike. I am quite old-fashioned in that I prefer to write by hand wherever possible.
“I enjoy the writing process,” she says. “There is something about sitting down with a blank page, or screen, and creating something from nothing. Sometimes, the characters take on their own life and I am surprised at what flows.”
And she is currently working on Firestorm, the sequel to Sandstorm, plus some other projects.
“I always said that within The Arabian Storm Series, I knew which characters I would take over to the second novel, and also what would happen to them! Anything past Firestorm, I am keeping under my hat for now, but much of it is planned.
"Other than that, I have a few projects underway including a very different type of novel – that may be another 10-year project – plus a factual book about an Arabian horse breeding farm in Europe.”
You can buy Sandstorm from samanthamattocks.com, thearabianmagazineshop.com, or through Amazon.