Happy Valentine’s Day! Our guest on the blog today is Sophie Childs, who shares a publisher with both Write Romantic Julie and Jo. Sophie is a home educating mother of five. She spent five years living in New Zealand, but home kept calling to her, so she now lives in the lush Welsh Valleys, along with her husband, children and their copious amounts of animals. She’s the author of Behind the Scenes, which is due for release on 26 February 2015 from So Vain Books and would love to hear from anyone who reads it to know what you think.
Welcome to the blog, Sophie, we’d love to start by asking you a little bit about your writing journey so far and how your publication deal came about?
It sounds like a total cliché, but I’ve always been a writer. I used to make books when I was a child, sewing together the pages then creating elaborate covers before filling in the pages. I wrote my first full length novel when I was 18 during the summer holiday before starting university, just to see if I could sustain a story for 50,000 words. I could, but not well enough to attract the attention of a publisher or agent.
Fast forward many years of office work followed by marriage and full time motherhood, and I set up my own publishing company because I knew too many talented people who deserved to be in print but weren’t. Eventually I sold the company as a going concern to focus on my own writing and started working as a freelancer, which brings us to today.
So Vain knew me through my freelancing work and they approached me to see if I had a novel I wanted to pitch to them. Luckily for me, I did, so I finally got the coveted book deal I’d always wanted.
What are the best and worst things about being a writer and how did writing a novel under your own name differ from the ghost writing you’ve done in the past?
I don’t know that there are any downsides to being a writer, although my family would probably tell you that I’m a workaholic! Writing’s both my job and my hobby, so it makes me happy to be able to do what I love and get paid for it.
The biggest difference between ghost writing and my own work is that with ghost writing I’m writing for a client, so I need to produce something that fits their vision, whether it’s what I would personally usually write or not. I always go out of my way to exceed their expectations, but you are restricted by the brief and their target market. If I’m writing for myself, I have the freedom to do whatever I like, so if I don’t like a concept, or I realise that it’s a bad premise, I can ditch it and move on to something new.
That’s like asking me to choose my favourite child! I do love reading and writing horror. I enjoy taking outlandish ideas and really twisting them to see just how strange things can get, but there’s also a lot of fun to be had in creating characters that are more true to life and watching them deal with the stress and strain of everyday living. The one common theme with all my work, though, is that there’s a distinct quirkiness to it, which comes out in characters like Bethan.
What inspires you most in your writing and what gave you the idea for ‘Behind the Scenes’?
I take inspiration from all around me. Sometimes someone will just say something and I’ll use it as the opening line of a story or something happens and I know that if I just tweak a few of the details, it would be perfect in a book. There’s a lot in ‘Behind the Scenes’ that’s based on my own personal experiences. There isn’t anybody directly copied from real life, but elements of lots of people I’ve met over the years have found their way into the story.
As far as where I got the idea from, I was writing articles for a movie website and read about how Keanu Reeves is known for travelling around on the subway in New York. It got me thinking about what would happen if I’d met a Hollywood A-lister on the train. The closest I ever got to one was when Ewan McGregor came to an open mic night I used to host, but sadly, I didn’t even spot him in the audience (which is probably a good thing, because, unlike Bethan, I probably would have dissolved into a gibbering wreck!). However, I did get talking to Darren Boyd, who was also there and is one of my favourite actors, and that encounter formed the basis of ‘Behind the Scenes.’
What are the best and worst things about being traditionally published? Would you ever consider self-publishing?
I must admit that I can’t think of any bad thing to say about being traditionally published. My publisher and agent have been absolute dreams to work with. We have a fantastic working relationship and it’s thanks to them that the book turned out the way it did. They’ve been really supportive of my work, so it was really easy to sign a second contract with them for another book.
However, I’d never say never to self-publishing. I set up my own publishing company a few years ago and ran it for five years before selling it, so I understand the hard work that goes into getting a book on the market. If I had a manuscript I felt really passionate about but didn’t think I’d have any success with getting it picked up, there’s a good chance I’d put it out myself.
How have you approached the marketing of your novel?
I’ve had a lot of support from my publishers in helping to get the word out. Obviously, I’ve been tweeting up a storm and the book’s listed on my website, www.sophiechilds.com, and I’ve also got a number of guest blog posts coming out over the next few weeks to help spread the word. There’s even going to be a book launch event, but the details haven’t yet been made public, so I can’t talk too much about it.
My favourite book of all time is “Tigana” by Guy Gavriel Kay. It’s a truly beautiful book and if I had half the talent he does, I’d be happy. He manages to make all his characters so well rounded, even the most minor, and he pulls you through every emotion imaginable. I can’t recommend it enough.
As far as chicklit authors are concerned, I’d have to say that I have huge amounts of respect for Marian Keyes. She manages to deal with some really deep issues in her book, yet keeps her tone light and readable. Mike Gayle’s another favourite, too – I’ve never read a book of his I didn’t like.
What are you working on at the moment and what are your writing aspirations for the next few years?
I’m working on my next project with So Vain, which is due out in February 2016. This one’s based around an internet dating site and it has some larger than life characters in it that I’m really loving writing about.
My ambition is to take over the world! In all seriousness, though, I would like to get a few more books out over the next couple of years, hopefully some horror as well, although that will be under one of my other pen names. I’d like to build on my freelance career as well. I write part time around my children and I’d like to see how far I can push that side of things.
Who is your favourite character from ‘Behind the Scenes’ and was (s)he based on anyone in particular?
Obviously, I adore Bethan. She’s the kind of girl you can’t help but like because she’s such a sweetheart and tries so hard to make everyone around her happy. But I also have a soft spot for Livvy, Bethan’s predecessor in the office. She doesn’t actually appear in the novel, but some of the stories Bethan hears about her are outrageous and I’m working on a short story based around her, just so that my readers can get to know a little more about what makes her tick.
If one of your children told you (s)he wanted to be a writer, what would you say?
Two of my daughters already have expressed an interest, which I think is great. Writing’s such a versatile career and you can do it from anywhere in the world, so it would give them a lot of freedom to do whatever they wanted.
There’s two things I think they need to know. One is that if you want to be a writer, you have to write. It sounds obvious, but you only get better by doing, so you need to keep creating stories until you find your voice and then create some more. The stories I wrote as a child were horrendously derivative, but they taught me a lot about structure and gradually I’ve managed to hone my style over the years until I have a distinct style of my own.
The other is that if you want to make a living as a writer, you need to change your preconception of what writing actually means. I write both fiction and non-fiction for my clients and the non-fiction pays significantly more money. If you want to pay the bills, a few business clients who come to you for regular work is a really good way of funding yourself while you write on something of your own that you truly love.
When I was at college, I went on a writing course run by Joseph Heller. He could barely understand my generic London accent and I struggled to cope with his thick Bronx dialect, but somehow we met in the middle. He told me that it was important to stay true, not just to yourself, but to your story. Your story has a point and a message – it’s up to you to make it sing.
Is there anything else you want to tell us or any other advice you can share?
Just that I’m really excited about the release of my book at the end of this month – it’s been a long time coming, and I’m so glad it’s finally happening. I’d also say to any other wannabe writers out there, don’t give up. It might take you years to get you where you want to be, but if you keep working hard and don’t lose focus, you’ll get there in the end.
Thanks so much for joining us on the blog, Sophie, and we can’t wait to read ‘Behind The Scenes’.
You can tweet Sophie @sophiewritealot or visit her website http://www.sophiechilds.com
You can order an ebook or paperback of ‘Behind The Scenes’ via Amazon or the So Vain website.