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In Conversation with Samantha Allen: A Dive into Her Debut Novel “The Quest for Embrace”

Giving readers a kaleidoscopic view, journalist and debut novelist Samantha Allen introduces us to her literary canvas in “The Quest for Embrace.” The story unwinds around participants of the dating competition show “The Seeker”, similar to the premise of The Bachelor. Among the final four vying for Jeremy Blackstone’s affection, each woman battles her own inner turmoil—from Renee’s self-discovery journey to Amanda’s social media ambitions, and Lilah-Mae’s mission to recalibrate preconceived notions about devout Christians on the silver screen.

Allen takes us behind the curtain of the ongoing filming of “The Seeker,” with glimpses into forums where fervent fans speculate about the series, and a blog chronicling a desperate search for a missing sister on Otters Island, the show’s setting. What starts as an insightful look into the illusions of off-camera reality soon escalates into a thrilling surprise involving Patricia, a determined Lady Sasquatch, intent on shielding the island from the invasive reality show’s clamor.

We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Samantha Allen about the underlying messages regarding reality TV, the influence of capitalism and social media, and her approach to weaving this complex tale.

“The Quest for Embrace” resonates with me as I’m an ardent fan of reality series like Survivor, one interviewer notes. Is your book influenced by these reality shows in any way?

Allen admits a strong influence from such shows, particularly “The Bachelor,” “Survivor,” and “Love Island,” confessing her own fascination with “Survivor” as a cultural touchstone reflecting societal views on social issues far more poignantly than any focus group.

The creative use of forums is highlighted by the interviewer, recognizing Allen’s knack for conveying audience engagement and the fervent world of reality television’s devout followers.

As we uncover the narrative, it’s evident each character offers a fresh perspective. Allen reveals how these distinct personalities afforded her avenues to dissect themes such as faith, queerness, influencer culture, and the all-consuming nature of late capitalism.

Yet, the story’s pivot from a traditional dating show scenario to an off-the-rails slasher narrative, punctuated by the presence of a Lady Sasquatch, was always part of Allen’s vision. She relished the idea of blending genres, aiming for a larger-than-life, campy amalgam reminiscent of slasher classics.

Reflecting on the essence of the story, Allen sees “The Quest for Embrace” as a satire on the absurdity of reality TV and the personas crafted on the internet. It’s her take on the alienating effect of modern life and the dark side of social media as a commodifying force.

The transition from nonfiction to fiction presented challenges, but Allen found solace in late-night writing sessions, envisioning her characters with such clarity that they dictated their own stories.

With “The Quest for Embrace” set for release, Allen hopes its success will pave the way for another foray into fiction, with a romantic thriller already brewing in her mind.

“The Quest for Embrace” is available from June 28th, 2022.

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