Sunday, 30 November 2014

Q&A with Sophie King + Guest Post

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Q&A with Sophie King  

1. Did you always dream of being a writer? 
Yes. I also used to ask, in my prayers every night, that I would get to university. All I wanted to do was read English and then write novels in a country cottage surrounded by children. The husband figure was rather shadowy in my imagination!
2. Your newest book Do You Take This Man is published December 8th, what’s it about? 
It tells the story of one woman who is faced with a decision on her wedding day. Should she marry her fiancé or not? Rather like ‘Sliding Doors’, there are two different outcomes. In one, my heroine marries her man and makes one kind of life. In another, she kicks off her wedding shoes and runs away. She then makes another kind of life. Each one is told in alternate chapters. To make it less confusing, the runaway bridge changes her name. I’m not going to say which life is ‘best’...
3. What was your inspiration for this book? 
Life. I’m always looking back over mine and wondering if I made the right decision at certain points. I think lots of us do that. It’s natural!
4. You have written six other novels, can you tell us a little more about each one? 
THE SCHOOL RUN is about a group of parents who are all on the same route to school. Each one has a problem which has to be solved by the end of the week.
SECOND TIME LUCKY is about a group of people who live in separate apartments under the same roof (an old converted house).  Some like each other; others hate each other; and some fall in love with each other
LOVE IS A SECRET is about three parents who turn to a website support group for help – but find it’s not as private as they’d hoped
YOUR PLACE OR MINE is about a group of couples who take it in turns to have supper at each others’ houses. This gets quite complicated when one of them brings a new girlfriend and the former wife is left out....
FALLING IN LOVE AGAIN is about a group of singles who find love (and more) when they join a ‘friendship’ club
THE WEDDING PARTY (to be published next year) is about a glamorous woman vicar; a wedding planner; a first wife; and a grown up daughter. They’re all going to the same second-time-round wedding in nine months time. But what will happen before that...And will the wedding ever take place? This was shortlisted for Love Story of The Year
  5. What are you working on right now? 
I’m sorry but I never talk about my books until they’re written. It takes away the urge to tell the story. But I do promise that there’ll be lots of twists and turns; tears and laughter.
6. You also write non-fiction books, what topics do they cover? 
Mainly parenting. My children are older now so I don’t write so many. But I used to write books about how to get children to go to bed/tidy their room etc. I’ve also got a book called HOW TO COPE WHEN YOUR CHILD GOES TO UNI . There are lots of books for students on how to organise themselves. But this one is to help parents from an emotional point of view. I used to write the family matters column for Woman magazine.
7. Where and when do you write your stories? 
I usually write early in the morning in a room at the top of our house, overlooking the sea. I also do a lot on the train between the south west and London. We moved to Devon five years ago but I go up to town about once or twice a month. I seem to spend most of my income on train fares but the carriage is a great place to write in. No one can contact you if you switch off the phone and there are plenty of characters to draw on!
 8. What do you do and enjoy when you’re not writing?  
Tennis; cycling; walking our dog; chatting to friends; being with my children; guessing who-dun-it with my husband in front of a good crime drama....
9. Who is your favourite author and why? 
Possibly Dickens because he has such a wide range of characters who still pluck my heart. Many of his issues are still the same. Death. Loss. Striving towards happiness. Reunions....
10. If you were shipwrecked on a desert island what 3 books would you want with you? 
1. Palgraves Golden Treasury. 
2. A book of sayings which my mother left me when she died at 56. It’s called Daily Strength For Daily Needs selected by Mary W. Tileston  and is a selection of inspirational readings. 
3. I’d also like a blank book so I could write my own stories. When I worked as a writer in residence of a high security male prison, I had one student who painted over pages in a text book so he could use it to write his own novel. (It wasn’t easy to get stationery.)
11. How would you describe your style of writing? 
Quirky. Funny without being light froth.  Pacy with a plot that makes the readers want to turn the page (hopefully!).
12. You also write as Janey Fraser, how do these books differ from your Sophie King books? 
They’re actually very similar. I changed publishers and my new one (Random House) wanted me to change my name so they could launch me as one of their own. The first Janey Fraser (The Playgroup) was aimed at a young mum audience. But as I went on, my mum readership age began to span late teens to the eighties. They’re the same style as my Sophie King books. My latest Janey Fraser is called AFTER THE HONEYMOON and was shortlisted by the Festival of Romance for an award.
13. Can you share some of your writing tips with us?
Write about something you feel passionate about.
Take that idea and ‘people’ it with interesting characters, each of whom have a problem that needs t be sorted by the end of the book
Make each character different; not just through physical features but mannerisms; way in which they speak etc
Include smells, noises and colours
Make sure something big happens at the end of each chapter to move the story along
Write every day
Don’t show it to your loved ones until it’s finished (if then). Who knows if they’re right.
14. If you could change something about your life, what would you change?
I would bring back my mother. She died of ovarian cancer aged 56 and not a day goes by when we don’t think of her.
15. Imagine one of your books would be turned into a movie. What would be your dream cast?
Hugh Grant (I can’t help it – his voice does it for me every time). Jennifer Aniston. Bill Nighy
16. Coffee or tea? 
Neither. I have one hot chocolate in the morning (winter) and fresh mint and boiling water (summer). For the rest of the day, it’s cranberry juice (concentrated from the health shop) and lots of filtered water.
17. Paperback or e-reader? 
I’m getting more used to e-readers. They’re less of a strain if you’re travelling and you can alter the size of the print. But you caress books in a different way: there’s something about snuggling up to one at night...
 18. Mountains or the sea? 
The sea every time. I’m a north Londoner who re-rooted to Devon. I walk by the sea every day. If I have to go to London, the first thing I do is go down to the front and check the waves are still there. I’ve also become an all-the-year-round swimmer unless the waves are rough. And yes, I wear a wet suit if it’s cold! I also do the Boxing Day swim!!!!!
19. Summer or winter? 
Summer. I love the sun and the light evenings
20. Sweet or salty? 
Depends on the time of the day. Savoury or salt at the beginning of the day and evening but a tiny piece of chocolate after lunch. In fact, I’ve just discovered that someone has nicked my last piece of caramel shortbread from the fridge...

Image and video hosting by TinyPic INDECISIVE? ME?

Some people find it hard to make decisions? Me? I take ages over the little ones but take the big ones far too easily. Carrot or tomato soup? Carrot, please. Actually, hang on. Maybe the tomato. No ... the carrot.

The blue ankle boots or the black. Blue! Definitely. They’ll go with my jeans. But then the black will go with my leather trousers. Still, blue is more unusual.

Will you marry me? Yes! The word is out of my mouth before I can chew it over. Help! Now I’ve done it. In fact, I’ve said yes three times – even though I’ve only been married twice.

So why do I spend ages sweating the small stuff when I hardly allow my brain to breathe before making a life-changing decision? A psychologist friend says that people like me are so scared by the really big choices, that they go for the one that will please others. It makes us feel better – at least until the full implications set in.

Then we get ourselves into a real spin until we’re brave enough to admit that we made the wrong choice. When I was 18, I got engaged because it seemed impolite to say ‘no’. He was a very nice boy but we weren’t right for each other. However, it took me a while to summon up the courage to tell him so. And when I did, it turned out that he’d been trying to do the same himself ...
The same goes for flying. I don’t really like it, to be honest. But I always find myself suggesting holidays in far flung places because there are so many things that could go wrong with a flight that there’s no point in worrying about them. Besides, how else would I get to see the world?

My husband (number two) says that one of the things he loves about me is that I get into quite a flap over things like lost socks and mess and late library books. But when the going gets tough, I’m pretty calm. (Car broken down in the fast lane? That’s OK. Whip out the emergency red triangle in the boot. Red triangle not there? That’s OK too. Just pull into the slow lane and flag someone down for help. No one stopping? Right. Walk half a mile to the next emergency phone in perishing gale. And yes, this is a true story.)

Meanwhile, just don’t ask me to choose between carrot soup and tomato. I’m still trying to make up my mind ... As for the blue boots, I got the black. But I’m going out for the blue ones tomorrow. If you can’t make a decision between two things, get both. At least, that’s going to be my new motto from now on.

Just as well that doesn’t apply to husbands ... 


I am the author of the Tales from the Heart, The School Run, Falling in Love Again (Divorce for Beginners), Love is a Secret (Mums@Home), Second Time Lucky, Your Place or Mine? (The Supper Club) and The Wedding Party.

My books are aimed at teenagers, mums and grans, or anyone else who can identify with a chaotic family life. I have three children, a dog, a cat and a sleepy terrapin – all of whom make me laugh or cry, depending on how I feel.

In between novels, I write short stories and have had hundreds published in magazines such as Woman’s Weekly and My Weekly. I also gives regular talks/workshops at bookshops and literary festivals including Winchester and Guildford. Until my recent move to Devon, I tutored at Oxford University and West Herts College. For three years, I was writer in residence at HMP Grendon, a high-security male prison. I have also appeared several times on breakfast television and Woman’s Hour, including a Christmas programme on rivalry in the kitchen!

I have a pen name to distinguish my novels from my journalism. As Jane Bidder, I have written for The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Express, The Daily Mail, Woman, Woman’s Weekly, My Weekly, Good Housekeeping and many other national publications.

I have interviewed several big celebrities including my childhood hero David Essex, Michael Palin, Penny Vincenzi, Deborah Moggach, Julie Walters, Nigel Havers, Carolyn Quentin, Lord Lichfield, Martina Cole, Linda Robson, Lesley Joseph, Barbara Taylor Bradford and countless others.

In 2005, I won the Elizabeth Goudge Short Story Trophy and was a runner up in the Harry Bowling Prize. I’m a member of the Romantic Novelists Association; Women in Journalism; the Society of Women Writers and Journalists and the National Union of Journalists.

I’m thrilled to support new romantic writing through the annual writing competition The Sophie King Prize.

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