Today’s blog is a guest post by Doug Solter, the author of Skid (which is free here) and the just released Skid 2: Rivals as part of his new release blog tour. So here’s a spotlight with a twist on his main character, Samantha Sutton.
The Berlin traffic rolled along the Friedrichstrasse, past a small cafe named the Little Elephant. The early afternoon sun casted a shadow across my wood table, courtesy of the large awning in front of the cafe itself. A gentle breeze played with the leafs of the flowers that add color to my table as a place setting.
I’m here to meet Samantha Sutton, a young woman of only eighteen years who races cars in that macho-infused sport known as Formula One, a glamorous world of men and their expensive toys traveling the world to race cars in between the party-like atmosphere of the international jet-set. The sport draws royalty, the ultra-rich, and Hollywood celebrities like moths to bright light. But inside this testosterone-laced world Samantha Sutton is quite unique. No, it’s not the obvious fact that she’s the only girl racing in Formula One. It’s the surprising fact that she’s beating all the boys in Formula One. With six race wins on her record, all within her rookie year, Samantha Sutton proved that not only can woman compete equally in the sport. They can win.
Samantha arrived late to our appointment wearing a short white skirt and matching shirt which listed all the racing team’s sponsors. Her short dark hair appeared slightly damp, as if still drying from a quick trip to the shower.
“Jeez. I’m so sorry. My other thing ran late and I was rushing to get ready for this. Huge apologies, Emma, seriously.” Samantha glanced over to her assistant, a girl who appeared just as young as her. “Do you want anything?”
Samantha ordered two coffees and a piece of cake in German, flavored with a slight Bavarian accent. We talked while waiting for their coffee. Samantha remarked about how busy her life has become since her first season in Formula One.
“Last season everyone ignored me until half-way through when I began winning races. Now it’s like, non-stop. It’s completely crazy with all the parties, fan events, sponsor events, racing the car, my love life—” The girl stopped herself abruptly. What about her love life? It caused me to wonder if a teen girl who is forced to grow up so fast can find time for boys.
When Samantha received her coffee, we began the official interview.
“Why auto racing?” I asked. “What excites you about the sport, Samantha?
“It’s the rush of adrenaline I get from being on the circuit. Making the car dance around the turns and do what I want. It’s like standing on a mountain cliff and holding your foot over the drop, knowing that you could die if you took that last step. But for some reason, you know that you can hold it there on that edge and somehow not fall.”
“Is it safe to say you love taking risks?”
“Not on purpose,” she said. “Not if it means someone else might get hurt. But I can be impulsive sometimes and that’s where I get into trouble.”
“The pressure to win and be successful must be enormous,” I said. “How do you cope?”
“I eat tons of chocolate ice cream,” she grinned. “Just kidding. Um—I try to push all the negative thoughts away and focus on what I can do in the race car. Everything else I don’t have control over and I have to keep telling myself that. But I’d be lying if I said there were days the pressure didn’t get to me.” Samantha hesitated and took a sip of her coffee. Her thoughts lingered on the last portion of her answer.
“Does your family travel with you during the season?” I asked.
“Well, my sister Paige is here this season.” Samantha referenced her assistant. “But the rest of my family are still in Oklahoma. They have their own lives.”
I swirled what was left of my cup of tea and drank, the strong, tangy flavor a reminder of the girl sitting across the table. Even in this relaxed atmosphere there was a burning determination in her eyes. A fire or relentless energy percolated behind them. “Tell me about your normal day,” I said. “What’s your normal routine on a race day, for instance?”
Samantha swallowed her coffee and thought about it. “I get up early in the morning and do some light exercise, most of the time running on a treadmill. I eat a light breakfast and then I paint my nails.” She balks at my reaction. “One of my racing day rituals is painting my nails the color of my race car.”
“A good luck charm?” I asked.
“Exactly. So far it’s worked. I then go to the circuit and have a car briefing with my crew and we go over our strategy for the race. After that I will do a few interviews with the press. Before the race itself I’ll have a protein-rich lunch. Lot of carbs like pasta and roasted chicken. Plus I drink gallons and gallons of water all morning so my body is well hydrated. Also we do a driver’s parade around the track, waving at all the fans around the circuit. Eventually I climb into the race car and put myself into the zone and focus on the race.”
“Samantha, when did you first know that this is what you wanted to do with your life?”
“My dad got me started racing karts when I was ten. He already loved racing and I think he was disappointed that he had three daughters. Not to say that my dad didn’t absolutely love us, because he always did. But growing up, none of us were particularity interested in racing.” Samantha’s face brightened, as if reliving that moment in her life again. “Then one day my dad was watching one of his favorite racing movies called, Grand Prix. That day I was so bored I jumped on the couch and watched it with him. Something about that movie attracted me to racing and from then on, I would spend more and more time with dad in his make-shift garage he had in the barn.”
Samantha hesitated again, her eyes danced a bit in her head, as if the memories of her father were flashing vividly through the girl’s head. “Dad built me a racing kart and encouraged me to try it. I was extremely shy back then and I didn’t have any confidence in myself at all. But when I drove that kart, I felt alive and free. And I picked up on racing fast. Dad taught me how to drive and eventually he entered me in races. And I started to win a lot of them. Seriously, the boys would hate it when I showed up at the track. They didn’t want to race against me. I loved it. I knew that I wanted to do this forever because I loved how racing made me feel. I didn’t feel like that shy girl no one would pay attention to. Behind the wheel of a race car, I was someone special. People couldn’t ignore me. Plus I could feel good about myself.” She glanced up. “Am I rambling too much? I have a tendency to do that when I’m nervous.”
I asked Samantha a few more questions about her father. Samantha fidgeted in her chair and acted uncomfortable around the subject which I found odd since she talked about her father so fondly before. There was something about him she was hiding and I didn’t quite know what it was.
A young man walked off the street and into the Little Elephant cafe. Samantha’s sister Paige greeted the boy warmly and sat with him at the table adjacent to us. He wore his blond hair long and had a handsomely meek way about him. The young man smiled at Samantha.
The girl I was interviewing brightened like a fire doused with petrol. Her body language changed immediately. She gave the boy a wave and couldn’t take her eyes off of him. When I asked Samantha a question about dealing with her fans, she gave me a less than satisfactory answer. So I decided to confront the disturbance to our interview.
I held out my hand to the young man. “Emma Hobbs. Look Smashing Magazine. What is your name?”
The boy shakes my hand. “Manfred. Pleasure to meet you.”
A hunch entered my mind and I decided to follow it. “Please excuse my forwardness, but are you Samantha’s boyfriend by chance?”
Manny blushed like a rose and became unable to answer me with words.
Samantha emulated her bashful friend. The girl flashed a smile reserved for close friends sharing an inside joke or thought. “Well? Are you my boyfriend?”
Manfred smiled. “I don’t know. Are you my girlfriend?”
The girl and the boy stared at each other. Obviously having a conversation in their own silent language that no one else was invited to join.
Paige, the third wheel in this relationship, rolled her eyes. “Oh my God. Stop being such dorks. This reporter isn’t stupid. Yes, of course they’re together. Can’t you see my sister panting like a dog when he’s around?”
Samantha leaned over and whacked her sister across the arm. No doubt a leftover response from when they were children. “I don’t pant like a dog.” Samantha sat up in her chair and went back into professional mode. “I’m sorry, Emma. Let’s get back to the interview. Manfred—let’s say that he’s an important part of my racing life.” She flicked her eyes toward the young man. “I wouldn’t still be here if it wasn’t for him.”
I tried digging deeper into that statement. But Samantha refused to reveal anything more.
As I concluded our interview with a few questions about how she saw her future, Samantha relaxed as she sensed the end of our interview was soon at hand. She’s a pleasant young lady, but giving interviews to reporters wasn’t on her list of favorite activities to do on a warm Saturday afternoon in Berlin. I couldn’t blame her. I was eighteen once. Even though the race car driver who faced me treated our interview like a professional, the girl underneath the helmet and racing suit still wanted to be with her boy. Still wanted a taste of being young and in love on the warm streets of Berlin. She still longed to be a normal teenager.
But the one question I didn’t get answered was… after all she’s been through, could the racing star Samantha Sutton ever be a normal girl again?
If you enjoyed reading about Samantha and want to know more about the books and author, you can find Skid free at all sorts of ebook stores, including amazon.com and .co.uk and you can check Doug out on facebook and twitter or his own website.
And finally there’s a lovely rafflecopter giveaway for all sort sof goodies below