Ep 232 Cockygate goes nuts. And meet Sami Lukis, author of Romantically Challenged.

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In Episode 232 of So you want to be a writer: Congratulations to Astrid Scholte and her upcoming publication. Cockygate goes nuts, how to write a book when you have a full-time job, and should you read when you’re writing? Discover your chance to win a copy of Sounds Appealing by David Crystal. And meet media personality Sami Lukis, author of Romantically Challenged.

Click play to listen to the podcast or find it on iTunes here. If you don’t use iTunes you can get the feed here, or listen to us on Stitcher radio.

Show Notes

Shoutout:

Astrid Scholte: Now a successful author of young adult fiction

Links Mentioned

Writes4Women podcast

Romantic novelist’s trademarking of word ‘cocky’ sparks outcry

Poll on trademarking character names

How to Write a Book While Working Full-Time

Should You Read While You Write?

Writer in Residence

Sami Lukis

Sami Lukis has established herself as one of Australia’s most accomplished and versatile media personalities, notching up a successful career spanning more than 20 years, as a Television Presenter, Radio Host, Author,  Journalist, Red Carpet Reporter, Professional MC, Columnist and Media Commentator.

In 2018, Sami published her  first book Romantically Challenged through Penguin Random House. Romantically Challenged is a hilarious romp through the men, the meetings and the misadventures Sami has faced on her quest to find love.

Follow Sami on Twitter

Follow Penguin Random House on Twitter

(If you click through the links above and then purchase from Booktopia, we get a small commission from this purchase. This amount is donated to Doggie Rescue to support their valuable work with unwanted and abandoned dogs.)

Competition

Caption comp – WIN ‘Sounds Appealing’

Your hosts

Allison Tait

Valerie Khoo / Australian Writers’ Centre

Connect with us on twitter

@altait

@valeriekhoo

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Interview Transcript

Valerie

Thanks so much for joining us today, Sami.

Sami

It’s my pleasure. Lovely to chat to you.

Valerie

Now, your latest book, Romantically Challenged, for people who haven’t read it yet – and they should, because it’s just fabulous – tell us a bit about what it’s about.

Sami

Well, I love how you said my latest book, first of all, because it’s my only book! It’s my first book. Hopefully, you know, not my only book. But yeah, it’s been quite an adventure.

Look, it’s basically a diary of my 30 years – yes, three decades – of dating adventures. Or misadventures, I guess you could say.

So I kind of realised when I turned 47 last year that I had hit three decades on the dating scene. You know, most of us really start dating properly after we finish school. And despite best efforts, and a bunch of relationships, good and bad, and hundreds of dates, I still have never been married. At 47, I’m still single. And I realised that it’s kind of a pretty bizarre situation to be in, to hit this age and to have never been married.

I also realised that I, for whatever reason, seem to be a dating weirdo magnet. And I have accumulated a collection of unbelievably bizarre, extraordinary, hilarious dating anecdotes along the way.

And so all these people kept saying to me, that person at every dinner party at every girls’ catch-up, they ask about my dating life, I tell them my latest dating story, usually it’s a disaster – and someone will always say, oh god Sam, when are you going to write a book about this stuff? So I’ve been hearing that for years. And then finally I thought, well, okay, I might as well give it a go. I’ll have a go. I’ll try. And I did.

Valerie

So but what was the trigger? Obviously, people have been saying this to you for years, so what made you finally push the button?

Sami

Two things. One, I was out of work. Jobless. So I’d finished my last radio gig. I’d been walking fulltime in the media. And mostly broadcast media, radio and television, for the last 15 years. Which is incredibly exhausting. It’s taxing. It’s mentally and physically very, very challenging and draining.

And so it was the first time, really, in 15 years that I had some space, and I had some room to breathe. And I’d had about a year off since my last radio gig. And I was a bit lazy and enjoyed my sleep-ins. And oh my god! I went to the movies on a Wednesday night. I had no idea it was a thing. There are people everywhere living their lives on a Wednesday night at 8 o’clock. It blew me away the first time. I know it sounds bizarre, but I’m normally, you know, for 15 years I was tucked up in bed at 7:30 or 8:00.

So I sort of had this life of trying to find some normality again. And then I guess I just realised I needed to do something and activate my mind a bit and get working.

And so it was really just over a boozy lunch with my manager, to be honest, when he said, right, what are we doing? Come on, let’s get working again. And I threw the idea at him and we just ran with it.

Valerie

Okay, so you decide, I’m going to write a book now. Did you… What were the next steps? Did you think, I’m just going to write down every funny or bizarre dating story I’ve ever experienced? Did you map out a structure? Did you think I’ll actually get a publisher interested first? What was the process after that?

Sami

Well, my manager also looks after Julia Gillard, and he had literally just done the publishing for Julia’s book the year earlier. So he was familiar with the whole publishing world.

I had no… As I said, I’ve never written a book before. I’ve been a writer my whole career. I actually studied journalism. And so I’d always written my own scripts for television. But as you would know, it’s a very different style of writing. And I honestly didn’t know if I would have the skills to be able… Or the talent. The creative, the talent to be able to write a book like this.

I knew I had the stories. I knew I had the content. My manager had the contacts. So we literally put together a one-page proposal and he went to Penguin, to Random House, and they straight away said, yep, we love it. Love the idea. Come and meet with us. So we flew down to Melbourne and had a meeting with the lovely girls there.

And they said, right, we want to do it. We love the concept. Let’s start. And would you like to write it yourself or would you like us to help you write it? And I really thought about it and I said, no, I really want to do this myself. I’ve got time. I’m not committed to any other fulltime employment, other than my travel business, which we can talk about later if you like. But I really had the time. And I guess I was hungry for a new challenge. It’s not often I guess as a 47 year old person you find a new challenge in a career, something new and exciting to really sink your teeth into.

So I said to them, look, I’m open to criticism. I’ll send you some chapters, some samples. If you think it’s terrible, then I’m open to getting someone on board. Because I know the content is there and I want it to be enjoyable for people to read. But if you think I can do it, then I’d like to have a crack.

And so they loved what I sent them, and they loved my style, and it just went from there. So I signed on with them. And they were really supportive. They were just fantastic throughout the whole process. It took about a year from signing the contract to delivery to get everything down on paper, or on the computer, on the laptop, I should say. And so yes, I’m really… The fact that I wrote every word myself. Because it was something I really didn’t know if I would be able to. If I’d be able to achieve it.

Valerie

Well, you have a very, very, very distinctive voice. And it is funny, and it is entertaining, and it’s knowledgeable. And anyway, it’s just a pleasure to read.

Sami

Thank you.

Valerie

I really enjoyed it. Even though you say it’s like a diary or a… Well, it is a series of dating stories, it is actually a page turner. And you just find yourself, you know… Because it’s so true that you have… Even though you have a bunch of great stories, it’s the way that you tell them and the way that you structure them that make it really work.

So when you sat down and thought, okay, I’m going to write this, and you say it took you a year – did you think, oh, I’m going to write about it in… How did you remember them all for a start? And then did you write them individually and then piece them together? Or did you have some kind of thread that you knew was going to roll through them?

Sami

Well, a bit of everything. Because I’d been on breakfast radio for ten years, I’d already told a lot of the stories. So every show that I’ve ever done, I’ve kept notes on. And particularly when you’re doing talk topics and working on new shows, you’re always looking through your bag of personal stories. You know, you’ve got to fill three hours of morning on breakfast radio.

So I had a lot of the stories already kind of archived in my radio notes. So I went through all of those.

I also wrote a column. I lived in Brisbane for a year, many years ago. Oh god, must be like eight years ago now, maybe. Was I 40? 41? About seven or eight years ago. And I wrote a column for one of the local magazines there could Sami in the City. So there were a few dating anecdotes from there. That was kind of putting my toe in the water, I guess, back then.

And then I really just sat down and brainstormed. And for some reason… I have the worst memory for most things in my life. But for some reason when I sat down, and I remembered a particular date or a man or a moment, and I sat down, everything came flooding back. The smallest little moments from that date or exact words that a man has said to me. I somehow have this weird… I guess I’d maybe locked them all away in a little corner of my brain anticipating that this might happen one day. That’s what it felt like. It was like I was unlocking this corner of my brain and letting all of the dating disasters out and on to the page.

And then structuring it was really an interesting process. Because as you know, I’m not a writer, so it was all new to me. I originally wanted to start and just basically do it chronologically. But then I realised that some of the more interesting and probably engaging stories had happened in my 30s.

So it was a bit nonlinear in that respect where, you know, you’ll see, you’ve read the book, I start from my very first date and from a couple of the early stories, and then I come forward to more current day. And then I go from there.

And then they just kind of… It just happened that they tend, some of them tended to roll over into the next story. Or there was a natural transition from one story to the next in a lot of cases, I found. Or maybe that was also maybe my radio experience in trying to keep your listeners there over the commercial break. You know, stay listening, because up next, blah blah blah. So maybe that just came through at the end of one story. It was like, how do I keep them there for the next page?

Valerie

So you brainstormed, and then you wrote all your stories out. And I did kind of think, how did she remember all of this? Because there’s so many, there’s so many dates in them.

Sami

Yes there are. That’s why I wrote a book!

Valerie

At any point did you rearrange? Did you structurally look at it and go, oh, that whole section should actually be over here? Or anything?

Sami

Yeah. I did, actually. I was pretty set on the chronological order until I received the first pages from the editor. From the publisher, sorry.

So what I had done is written it all on my laptop. And I had no idea. And one of the biggest surprises for me in the whole writing process was I knew every word, I’d read it a million times, I’d re-edited and re-edited again. And by the time I sent the draft, my first draft, off to the publisher, when they sent me back the first typeset pages, it changed everything. Actually reading the words on a page in front of me, in something that looked like a book, it just was a really different… It was weird. It was a different experience.

And there was some blatant structural changes that were so obvious to me, that I could see this chapter does not belong here, and I have to move that chapter forward, and I have to move these two around.

As I said, I wanted those transitions to be there, and some of them weren’t as natural as the others. But seeing it in the typeset pages, it became clear to me. And then I’m sure the publisher was a bit angry at me towards the end because even at the very last draft when they were like, we have to go to print, I was like, oh but I just want to change, I just have to move this chapter, it doesn’t quite fit there, it needs to go back a little bit. So right up until that last, you know, the very last second we had before it went to print, I was still rearranging and reshuffling things.

Valerie

Wow. So you knew instinctively – that doesn’t work there; it needs to move? It wasn’t actually your publisher encouraging you to restructure it? Is that correct?

Sami

No. No. It was me. They were just… It was amazing. Because Kate Blake was my publisher at Penguin, and she was just so supportive and encouraging and really wonderful. And I kept saying to her, she kept telling me how wonderful the writing was and how engaging it was and how much she was enjoying it. And I was like, but give me some criticism! Tell me something’s not right. Tell me something’s not working. And she said, no, you’ve just got to have faith in your ability. Because it’s great.

And so she was just so encouraging and supportive and gave me the confidence to believe in my choices, I guess. Or believe in the way that I had put the book together.

Valerie

So, you’re really honest in this book. Not just honest. Obviously, I’m not surprised that you’re honest. But you’re really revealing, and you’re really open about your life and what you really think.

Not just about the actual dating stories, which are awesome and they’re really entertaining. But you’re really open and raw about things that you’re thinking and things that are happening in your life and stuff like that.

Does that come naturally to you? Are you usually the oversharer in your friends?

Sami

Yes.

Valerie

Or is that something that… So it is natural? It’s not something that you kind of thought, oh, should I say this? Should I not?

Sami

There were a couple of times, a couple of moments in the book where I did think, oh, should I put this in? But in the spirit of… The whole premise of the book was to be brutally honest and open and talk about my dating life, share… I knew that I had to. There was no point telling half the story.

And also I think that comes from breakfast radio as well. Commercial breakfast radio, let me clarify that, where you are an open book. And if you’re not, you’re not going to survive for very long in a breakfast radio show. And I’ve done that for ten years.

Also, I think because I’ve been in the media for two and a half decades, I kind of don’t care what people think of me anymore. I am who I am. You know, everyone’s going to have an opinion. People either love you or they hate you. So if anything that’s in there is offensive to people or they judge me for it, then they can go for it, but it really doesn’t bother me.

Valerie

So were there any parts of the writing process… Because you’re writing about your life, and you’re writing about good bits and bad bits. Were there any parts of the writing process that were really hard?

Sami

Yeah. There were. There were two, well, three. I guess there were three. Two chapters and then another whole section, the baby section.

I write about my attempts at having a baby and being unsuccessful at that. And I devote a few chapters to that in the book. And I did have a good chat with the publisher about it because I thought, look, this is a mostly light-hearted collection of dating anecdotes. That’s how I’m proposing the book, that’s how I’m selling the book, that’s how I’m marketing the book. Do people really want to go on this journey that’s a little bit, you know, depressing? That I couldn’t have a kid and I tried.

And she encouraged me to include it because it is all part of that journey. And it actually did become a part of my dating journey. Because when I turned 40 and I was single again, and I found out that my fertility was in rapid decline, I went into what I call in the book a ‘desperation dating’ period. It’s like, okay, green light, got to find a baby daddy, where is he? So it was actually… It did influence my dating life and my dating choices. So it was a big part of that whole theme of dating.

And also I had, when I turned 41, I made a documentary for Foxtel, for Lifestyle You, called Sami’s Baby. And it was about fertility, and it was about this situation that more and more women in their life 30s and 40s are facing, where they get to a certain age and they haven’t had kids. And they realise that they’ve basically run out of time. And I really wanted to make a documentary about the issue of fertility and why we’re not given more education about it as young women, about the realities of our fertility challenges.

And so that’s a whole other story. But what happened was that documentary was such a wonderful success, I got so much beautiful feedback from people thanking me for making it. And women that had found themselves in the same situation, or women that had sisters that were going through it, or that knew people that were in that situation. So I felt like the book also gave me an opportunity to pick up where that documentary left off. Because I had a lot of people saying, okay, we love the show, where’s part two? Where’s the rest of the series? And I had to repeatedly keep saying to people, no, no, it was only ever a one-off documentary.

So the book gave me an opportunity to tell the rest of the story. And yeah, obviously talking about that whole period of my life was pretty tough. It’s a tough thing to go through. Any woman that’s tried to have kids and hasn’t been able to would appreciate that. So that was tough. And then…

Valerie

So on that though, before you move on to the next bit, on that, I remember that documentary. And I watched every episode. It was very compelling. And I can see how people would want the part two.

And it was more than a documentary, though, wasn’t it Sami? There was so much of you in it. There was a lot of real raw stuff about your life as well in it. So when you were documenting this part two, in a sense, what was the hard part? The reliving the era? Or what was actually the hard part?

Sami

I guess putting it down on paper. Because the documentary, it was intended… When I went to Lifestyle, to Foxtel, with the idea for the documentary, it was actually intended to be more about the issue of fertility and what options you have as a single woman when you hit your 40s and you don’t have a partner and you realise you’re running out of time to have a baby.

So Foxtel handed it over to a production company to make. And it just happened, the way they made it, that it turned into much more of a personal story about my journey. Which wasn’t my intention when I pitched the doco. So it ended up being a very personal look at my journey. And that worked beautifully and I’m happy with that, and the reaction was fantastic. It just wasn’t what I had expected it to be.

So that was me starting the journey of trying to have a baby. And I’ve never really discussed or gone into or written about or talked about the end result. Which is, I didn’t have a baby. You know, I tried very… I tried valiantly and I was unsuccessful. And so I guess documenting that…

But again, in the voice of the book and the theme of the book, I wanted to still keep a bit of humour in there and be a bit self-deprecating in my situation. This desperate 41 year old woman with a clock that’s about to explode, a biological time clock, time bomb, that’s about to explode, desperately trying to find a man to have a baby with. I mean, it’s kind of comical in a way, isn’t it, really?

So I tried to keep it, keep some comedy in there, or look at the funny side of it. But at the end of the day, I didn’t get the result that I’d hoped for, which was the baby.

Valerie

So what were the other hard parts of the creative process?

Sami

There were a couple of chapters about two particularly difficult relationships for me. And again, as I said to the editor, to the publisher, oh, I don’t know if I want to go into this heavy stuff. I was in an abusive relationship which I never spoke about. And I also dated a man I thought I was the one, and it terribly… It really went bad. Very bad.

And I didn’t know whether to include those two relationships in the book. Because again, they were pretty heavy themes for what was meant to be a really fun light-hearted look at the silly side of dating.

But again, yeah, the publisher convinced me that it was part of my story. And she thought that the reader would appreciate seeing that side of it.

And to be honest, it’s all part of dating, isn’t it? Sometimes you fall in love with the wrong people. You convince yourself that you’re in love with them. You let them treat you a certain way because you find excuses for terrible behaviour. And again it all came back to that whole theme of dating and what we go through in our search for the one.

Valerie

Well, it wouldn’t have been real if it was just full of the light stuff, right? You needed all aspects of your dating journey. Your humour is just great.

Sami

Thank you.

Valerie

You’ve got to write more books. You’ve got to think of the next theme and write more books. Because it’s just really entertaining. And there are so many things that I think that so many people will relate to.

And I burst out laughing… I read, in one of the sections, “if you’ve ever been a single woman in Sydney or Brisbane for any extended period of time, someone has probably suggested that the best place for you to meet men is in Melbourne. Yeah thanks. Like that’s helpful.”

Sami

I know. Thanks for that! All the advice you get from your friends, isn’t it? Oh darl, you’ve just got to stop looking because that’s when he’ll turn up.

Valerie

Oh yes!

Sami

Oh, shut up! No, we never stop looking! If we’re single and we’re 40, we’re looking.

Valerie

It’s so true. Everything in here is so… Readers will recognise so many of the things that you’ve basically said out loud that you really want to say to the smug marrieds.

But you also know how to take the piss out of yourself. Like the guy who came up to you and said, when he figured out who you were, or that he’d seen you before, and he said, “wow, I can’t believe it’s Sami Lukis. I used to watch you on the Today Show, back when you were hot.”

Sami

I know! How good is that! Little sweetheart. I think he thought it was a compliment. I’m not sure. I’m not sure.

Or the guy that yelled out “get a dingo up ya!” I still honestly can’t work that one out. I don’t know if that was a compliment. I don’t know if it was an insult. Or an invitation from a guy who calls himself ‘Dingo’. Honestly, I don’t know.

There are a few questions in the book that I’m still looking for answers for. So if anyone reads them and has answers to any of these questions, please feel free to contact me. I’d love to know.

It’s so nice that you say that, because that’s the one thing that… Another thing that I guess has pleasantly surprised me about the whole process is the amount of people that keep saying, oh, I hope you write another book. And I’m thinking, well, this book was great to write, because I had all the content. I don’t know what I’d write book two about. I haven’t got there yet.

Valerie

Honestly, I was not even halfway through it when I thought, she better write another book. Definitely. This is your thing. It’s great. But anyway…

So what was the easiest part of the writing process?

Sami

Wow, that’s a tough question. Ooh.

Valerie

Did it all spew out really easily?

Sami

Oh god now. I had some tough days.

I actually took myself up to Byron Bay. I relocated to Byron for a few months when I started writing the book. I had a friend with a house there, and he very kindly offered for me to come up and stay. And that, for me, maybe that was the easiest decision I made, was to leave Sydney and go there and know that I had to put my head down. It helped that I had a deadline from the publisher. And to just remove myself from all of the distractions that I have at home.

So I got into a nice routine where I’d wake up every morning and go to the beach and take the dog for a walk. And as I was walking I’d just clear my head and think about the chapter I was currently working on and thoughts would just spring into my head. It was fantastic. And then I’d go home, sit down, write for a few hours, have a break. Write again for a few hours. Have a gin and tonic on the balcony, watch the sun go down. It was quite fabulous.

And then when I came back to Sydney, I did find it very difficult to commit again to the writing process. And this was something the publisher was really good with. Because I called her at one stage and said, look, I’m really struggling. I don’t know what’s going on. I just have a block. I can’t get back into it. And she assured me that that was totally normal and understandable. Because the content that I was writing and sharing was so deeply personal, and bringing back so many memories that she said it’s natural for you to want to give yourself a break. So give yourself a break. Take a couple of weeks off. Don’t look at your computer. Don’t think about it. And then come back to it.

So I did actually do that a few times over the 12 month process. Because I just needed that break. But then coming back to it, and sitting back down, and getting into that writing process, hours a day, when you’ve had a break is quite difficult. And I heard Liane Moriarty at the writer’s festival last year – did you hear her speak at the Sydney Writers Festival?

Valerie

Yes, I did.

Sami

And I heard her, because I was writing the book at the time, and I was just desperate to hear from all these other writers and what they went through. And she said the same thing. And she said, this speaking engagement here at the writer’s festival, this is my last public appearance. You will not see or hear from me again because I’m writing my next book. I’m on deadline. It’s got to be delivered by 31st of December. And when I take myself away from the computer, and away from the writing process, and take my headspace somewhere else, I find it really difficult to get back to the writing process.

And I was like, thank god! I’m normal! I know exactly what she’s talking about. And so I found… That was difficult for me. But then once I realised it was perfectly normal and natural…

Because again, as I said, the whole process was so new and foreign to me. It’s the first time I’d ever attempted to write a book. So it was just such a wonderful learning experience. I just loved it.

Valerie

Did you enjoy it?

Sami

Yes. I loved it! I loved that kind of… It’s like I did live television for so long, and I found that I got this natural high, this rush. When you’re on live TV and you get through a cross, maybe things are going wrong in the background, everything’s falling apart, but somehow you manage to keep it together and you do a really great cross. You get this sort of natural high of, wow, I did it. I achieved, I got through it.

And I felt that when I finished a chapter and I thought, wow, I really like it. I really like the sound of it. It’s working. It was like a little natural high every time I finished a chapter and gave myself little mental high fives. Like, I can do this! I’ve got this! I loved it. I loved the feeling.

Valerie

If you had that feeling then, surely at some point during that process the thought crossed your mind, what about my next book? Surely?

Sami

It did. But then I don’t want to admit that my ego allowed me to think that. I didn’t even know how this book would be received. I didn’t… Just because I thought it was, you know, it was working well, I didn’t know if other people would enjoy reading it. And I didn’t want to have a big ego to think anyone would want me to write another book.

Valerie

No. Look. It’s a great book. And people will want you to write another book. So if you could, what would it be about? What’s something brewing in your read that you think, you know, that’s kind of interesting? There must be something.

Sami

Well… Okay… It’s funny you say that. I really haven’t thought about it but here’s a ten page proposal.

No. What’s actually happened is since I wrote the book, or since the book was launched, and released on the 29th of January this year, I have had more requests from men to go on dates than I know what to do with. No, it’s like my phone is its own private dating app. It’s just emails from complete strangers, messages on Instagram, messages on Facebook from people I don’t know, I’ve never heard of. They come through in this private section. So they don’t all know that I’ve seen their messages.

And just the amount of date requests and men saying, you know, here I’m available, has been overwhelming. And I have yet to decide what to do with all of those date requests. But maybe it’s, you know, part two. Romantically Challenged… Still.

So I don’t know. Maybe there’s something in actually taking up these men, which I would never… As I write, there’s a chapter in the book you’ve seen about men that approached me when I was on the Today Show asking me out on dates, and the interesting and quite unusual methods men used to ask me out on dates. I never went out on a date with any fan in my whole career. But maybe, maybe there’s an opportunity to take some of these men up on their offers and write about it. I don’t know.

I’m also actually about to start a podcast called Romantically Challenged.

Valerie

Great. Oh, fantastic.

Sami

So it will be a podcast. Yeah. So I’m really looking forward to sinking my teeth into that. So we’re just sort of finalising that at the moment. And who knows what will spring from that?

Valerie

So you’re writing books – I’ll just use that in the plural – you’ve got this podcast starting. Now, you also run tours. Travel tours. Can you just tell us a little about that and how in the world did that come about from having a career in the media?

Sami

No, it’s hilarious, isn’t it? I’ve never actually advertised. I’ve never advertised my travel business. So it’s really word of mouth or through social media people know about it.

So my dad worked in the airlines, just to go back, way, way back. Dad worked in the airlines so I’ve travelled my whole life. It’s in my blood, it’s just in my soul. It’s what I do. I’m one of those weirdo people; I love planes, I love airport lounges, I love hotels, I love packing, I love suitcases. I just love exploring new places.

So I was actually in New York visiting some friends who live there, when I turned 40 or 41. I’d just broken up with a boyfriend. My grandmother had just passed away. I’d just finished a job I really didn’t enjoy in radio. And I was kind of thinking, what do I want to do?

And I literally had a lightbulb moment. On the streets of New York, I was in Manhattan when I thought I want to host tours of New York for women like me. Women who get to a certain age, let’s say around 40, and you’ve been working and probably had a great career. You’ve got time, you’ve got money to travel, you’ve got the desire to travel. But suddenly you realise you’ve got no one left to travel with. Because all of your other girlfriends are married with kids, and they’re all committed to family holidays with the hubby and their kids. And even if you do have some single friends, they don’t always necessarily have the time or the money to join you in what you want to do.

So I thought, there must be other women out there like me who just want to travel but would like to have other people to travel with. So I came back to Sydney and I set up the business. And luckily for me, it was really minimal startup costs.

And again, like writing the book, I had no idea. I’d never run a business before. But I just put my head down and made it happen. And so eight years later, the business is still going. I’ve been running tours every year. They sell out every year. I’ve got two tours coming up in June. Two summer tours of New York. And I’m doing a New Year’s Eve tour as well in New York this year.

And there’s just a lovely market there. There’s a lovely group of women, I think, there’s a market of women that have been neglected in the travel industry. There’s Contiki Tours for 30 year olds who just want to go out and get drunk on Malibu and Coke every night. And then there’s the older people who like to go on the gentle walking tours or the bus tours or those boat cruises in Europe.

But there’s this whole group of cashed up women in their 30s and 40s and 50s who want to go out and have a great time. So I host walking tours…

Valerie

What…

Sami

Sorry?

Valerie

No, no, you go on.

Sami

Oh so basically I host walking tours of New York. A different neighbourhood every morning. So we do two to three hours where we get down, we’re on the streets, we’re in the neighbourhoods. And I’ve been going to New York for 25 years, so even though I’ve never lived there, I know it like a local.

So I show them New York. And then there’s time in the afternoon for shopping or museums or whatever. And then the real feature is the night times where I host the group every night at a different fabulous rooftop bar and we go to an amazing gorgeous restaurant.

You know, and when you’re travelling on your own, it’s easy to fill your days because you can go off to a museum on your own. You can go shopping on your own. But it’s at night… You don’t want to be sitting in a city like New York in your hotel room eating room service again and watching another inhouse movie. You want to be out there socialising. And a lot of people don’t feel comfortable going to a bar or a restaurant on their own.

So my tours give the women the opportunity to be part of a group. So we all go out as a group and have a lovely dinner and have some drinks.

And the women that have done my tours over the years have all become such great friends. There’s a group of women that I’m catching up with on Saturday night for dinner. They went on my tour four years ago. And they all travelled independently and they met on the tour. And now they are just great friends and they catch up three or four times a year for dinners and drinks. And I love the friendships that it creates for these women, as well.

So I just love everything about it. It’s great.

Valerie

Taking people on a tour to another country and organising everything is not for the faint hearted. What do you enjoy about it?

Sami

I know! It’s hard work. And it’s funny, the women are shocked. Because it’s Sami Lukis, New York with Sami, and it’s Sami Lukis Tours. And I’ve got my Sami Lukis website. And I still think they don’t quite think it’s me. They think that I’ve got an office full of people running my tours. It’s literally me. I do it all myself. I ring the ladies when they book and they’re like, oh, is that you Sami? I’m like, yeah it’s me. Thanks for booking the tour. I just want to talk to you about it.

And then they say when they get back from their tour, a lot of them, their work colleagues or friends say, oh, how was the tour of New York? And they say great. Did you meet Sami? Did you see her? And they’re like, yeah, she hosted the tour.

Like, I host the walking tours for three hours every day. I host dinner and drinks every night. I take them to a Broadway Show. I walk them over the Brooklyn Bridge. So it’s just me. Which I think… Because I have 12 women in each group, which is my… It’s a good number for me. It’s manageable.

But look, it’s hard work, but I love it. Because I love sharing my passion for travel. And I love New York. New York is the best city for women. Particularly for solo travellers. It’s got the best of everything we want. It’s got the shopping and the sightseeing. It’s got the shows. It’s got shoes, shoes, more shoes, more shoes.

Valerie

Okay!

Sami

Saks has an entire shoe floor that has its own postcode, it’s that big. It has its own postcode! It’s ridiculous.

Valerie

That’s insane. All right. So this book is obviously now out. Has it… You enjoyed the process. Did it tempt you at all to think about writing different types of writing? Not necessarily the same thing again. Not Romantically Challenged… Still. But fiction or something else, for example?

Sami

I don’t know. That’s an interesting question. I have thought about it. But I don’t know how I’d go about it. But then again, I didn’t know how I’d go about writing this book.

So I kind of wonder whether there is a story about… There might be something in there more based on my career. This book is based on my dating life and my personal life. But there are some references to my career. And obviously some example of things that have happened in my career. But maybe there’s a story about, a fictional story about a girl who works in breakfast radio and breakfast television and what she sees along the way.

Valerie

Yes. Who knows? Well, that’ll be interesting reading.

Sami

I do feel like it’s kind of been done a bit though. So…

Valerie

Sure.

Sami

Maybe I’ll stick to what I know.

Valerie

I think, watch this space. Because I have no doubt there’s going to be another book. And we’ll certainly talk about it then when that comes out. But in the meantime, congratulations on Romantically Challenged. And yeah, everyone should go read it. Thanks so much, Sami, for your time today.

Sami

Oh, Valerie, that’s so kind of you. Thank you so much. Thank you.

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