Real Women Real Lives: Meet @SamTongeWriter

Who inspires you? Who do you use as your motivator to get things done or to make valuable changes to your life?

There are thousands of women who stimulate our need for greatness. They appear on our television and movie screens, we listen to them on the radio, or we read their encouraging stories in articles or books. It’s easy to put a celebrity on a pedestal and desire their lifestyle, skillset and strength of character, but we don’t need to turn to the glossy magazines, or the big screen, to find inspirational women who can motivate us to succeed. They live next door, work alongside us, and talk to us at the supermarket.

The Real Women, Real Lives feature highlights the incredible individuals who have succeeded on their chosen path, or turned misfortune into positivity. Ladies who have conquered illness or gone above and beyond to help others, and made a difference. Women who have stepped out of their comfort zone and launched a business, or ventures that have an impact on their environment, or community.

These remarkable women are your friend, co-worker and neighbour and I’m delighted to be able to share their stories with you.

Today, I am delighted to invite bestselling author, Samantha Tonge to share her story.

Tell us a little about you and your story.

My name’s Sam and I live in Manchester UK with my lovely husband and two children. I started writing in 2005 and finally signed my first deal in 2013. Before that I loved being a stay-at-home mum and was grateful to be in the position to be able to do that. My background is in languages – I have a degree in French and German – and I was part of the opening crew that worked at Disneyland Paris.

I’ve sold over 80 short stories to women’s magazines and had nine romantic comedies published. My 2015 bestseller, Game of Scones, won the Love Stories Awards Best Ebook category. 2018 sees a change of direction for me as my first women’s fiction novel, Forgive Me Not, came out on 23rd July.

On a personal level, in 2016 I found myself sitting in an addiction clinic. Wine o’clock had got out of hand, partly due to the mental issues I’d suffered over the years due to a history of anorexia and bulimia – the problems and behaviours between alcoholism and eating disorders, for some, are none too different. I spent three months having outpatient treatment – hard-talking group therapy – at an addiction clinic. Then spent three further months in recovery services learning about mindfulness and wellbeing. After that I trained to be a peer mentor to young people in addiction. I’ve only just gone public about my mental health challenges – to help my own recovery but also because I hope, in some small way, it helps people acknowledge any problems they might be facing.

 

What’s your biggest dream in life?

Apart from to see my children leading a happy and fulfilling life – I think every parent wishes for that – my dream is to completely accept myself for who I am and not worry about other people judging me. And I really feel I am almost there after the recent counselling I’ve had for my eating disorder. The therapist has helped me challenge thought patterns set over thirty years and made me realise I can’t mindread what other people are thinking of me.

It’s a huge gift to not be chasing some image of whom I think I “ought” to be.

If you chose a power word for this year what would it be and why?

ACCEPTANCE. A big part of Alcoholics Anonymous is learning to accept the things you cannot change. This has been massive for me and makes everything so much easier. The person in your life who niggles you? Accept they are always going to be like that and suddenly you have a different perspective. That book you wish had sold better? Well it didn’t, so no point worrying about it. That thing you said that might have unintentionally hurt someone? Well, it’s done, no point stewing over it – apologise if you can, learn from it and then move on. It is what it is. Stop thinking about the “what ifs” and “if onlys”. They are pointless.

Acceptance has really helped me move on from the past – and be kinder to myself. I think that is so important because we can be our own worst critics.

Who inspires you and why?

People who are truly themselves, regardless of whether that makes them likeable or will mean they face criticism. People who have integrity and follow their own purpose, even if it is an unpopular one. I am a big fan of author Matt Haig who talks about his mental health issues, even though this sometimes means he faces difficult times on Twitter. And I love actress Miriam Margolyes – in her own words, she is a “fat lesbian Jew” yet doesn’t feel any need (and why should she) to fit into the airbrushed, homogenised world of celebrity. That is SO refreshing and inspirational. I think she’s an excellent role model for anyone facing challenges and prejudices because of their appearance, religion or sexuality – or age.  We all need to Be More Miriam.

What, in your experience, motivates you best? Can you give an example?

Reviews for my books where I’ve clearly touched something inside the reader. I’ve had such moving feedback for my new novel Forgive Me Not. It is about loss, forgiveness, friendship, addiction, homelessness and I think/hope the emotions it deals with are relatable. That feedback makes all the hard work worthwhile. It inspires me to be a better writer and carry on with my career – which can be challenging at times.

Also helping people. I try to do this in small ways but I’m currently also interested in doing volunteering and just trying to decide exactly what. Making other people happy takes you out of yourself. Addiction can make you very self-absorbed. It can make you have a very low opinion of yourself. Helping other people can remedy both those things and, in the process, make other people’s lives better.

What actions/events/environments would adversely affect your motivation? Can you give an example and how you coped?

I’ve had to work very hard at separating myself from my career. An author’s life is very up and down and if, say, one book doesn’t sell as well as another, it’s too easy to think “I have failed” or “I am a bad person”. Whilst my career didn’t cause my drink problem at times I used it as an excuse. That would snowball into me feeling like a failure and asking such destructive questions such as “What is the point?”

So I now try to have clear mental lines and remind myself that my career IS NOT ME. If I get a bad review it is an opinion of the book, not Samantha Tonge.

How do you ensure that your personal level of motivation is high on a daily basis?

Kindness to myself and Gratitude. I don’t beat myself up anymore if I make a mistake of any sort. I try to remedy it, make amends if appropriate, and move on. This keeps me more motivated and positive. A big part of recovery is coming to terms with negative things you might have done and moving on from that – and that very thing inspired my new novel. And being kind to other people as well. It’s surprising how much that can benefit your own well-being. Give someone the benefit of the doubt. More often than not they deserve it.

I’m also more grateful for things that might, in the past, have seemed small. A beautiful sunrise. A cheeky magpie in the garden. A delicious cup of coffee. Staying grateful motivates me to remember that a lot of the time I am enjoying a happy and fulfilled life.

To find out more about Sam’s books including her new release, Forgive Me Not, you can connect with her here:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

16 comments

  1. This is a lovely post, Sam and Shelley!

    Yo respect re the volunteering – and I remember discovering about 25 years ago that once you sit back and allow ‘moments’ to make you happy (yes, the sunrise and the particularly nice cup of coffee!), your life becomes happier all round. I read somewhere that happy people are those who have lots of little pleasant moments in a day (even something like acknowledging how good your cold feet feel when you put some socks on!), rather than to whom amazing stuff happens.

    Congratulations on beating the alcohol thing, Sam – I used to be a heavy drinker and know how destructive it can be, and how hard it is. You might be interested in reading this post, which, though I wrote it 5 years ago, is my permanently most read post on my blog. Shelley, hope this is okay???
    https://terrytyler59.blogspot.com/2013/06/one-for-road-and-another-for-pavement.html

  2. Hi Terry – thanks for that. I’m still looking for the right volunteering to do, but it taught me a lot doing that qualification and hopefully one day I’ll get to use it..
    Yes, the small things mean a lot and when you realise that life is so much better – in my experience, at least, it means you stop chasing goals that are almost impossible to reach.
    That’s a great post, Terry, it really sums up the drinking experience. I think I read it a few years ago when I knew I had a problem but hadn’t faced up to it yet – I was looking for an incentive. I’m not surprised it’s your most popular post – it’s clearly written from the heart.
    Thanks again. Sam.

    1. Thanks, Sam – sadly, since I wrote that post, two more friends have gone the same way, both younger than me. Both had jobs, etc, not in the gutter drunks…. how lucky we are that we were able to change.

  3. Sorry to hear that Terry – and yes, I feel grateful for my sobriety every day. And your friends’ circumstances are why we need to be talking about it. There is so much stigma attached to alcohol. People should feel they can ask for help without being judged.

  4. Nice post and lovely to read about Samantha, haven’t really read any of her books earlier, but will surely start now. It was inspiring to read about the struggles, the recovery and the motivation towards success,
    Also loving the new look of your site Shelley……which theme you are using btw ?

    1. Thanks, Anindya. I love Samantha’s books (there will be a review or two floating around on my author site!). I’m sure you will enjoy her work too. Thanks for the feedback on my new look site 🙂 It’s been purpose built by the fabulous Tracey from Tracey Rickard Web Design. I’m delighted with it x

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