I’ve been chatting to the lovely Sophie King, author of The School Run, Your Place or Mine? and Second Time Lucky (plus many more!) Sophie’s new release, Do You Take This Man? is published on 8th December by Corazon Books (click here to get your copy) Here Sophie chats about her favourite novels, ‘What-If’ moments and purple Quality Street…
Hi Sophie, a huge, warm welcome to Bookaholic Confessions! Thank you so much for participating in this interview. Would you like to start by introducing yourself?
Hello, Holly! Great to meet you. I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil in my hand – it has always been my escape from the world! After school, I read English at university and then became a magazine journalist while bringing up my three children. I interviewed lots of celebrities like Julie Walters and then decided it was time I wrote that novel I’d been intending to write for years … However, it took another ten years before I got accepted! I’ve now had my fourteenth novel published and love writing every morning. I live in Devon with my second husband and our dog. My teacher daughter lives round the corner with her husband (I like to think I was a child bride!) and my two boys often come home. One is a journalist/musician (he performed at Reading Festival last year!) and my other son is a teacher and novelist. However, I used to say that they should all be barristers because they’re so strong-minded! I love walking by the sea and also swimming in it for nine months of the year. Even though I’m a north Londoner by birth, I’ve always been drawn to water. I also love tennis and laughing with my friends. My biggest weakness are those purple sweets in the Quality Street box although I restrict them to Christmas! I don’t like heights and I avoid motorways. I love Italy and am learning Italian with my newish husband. He thinks he’s better than me but that’s because he uses dramatic hand gestures! Laughter is a real aphrodisiac, don’t you think?
Can you tell us a bit about your latest release; Do You Take This Man (published 8th December 2014 by Corazon Books)?
I’d love to. I often wonder what life would have been like if I’d made different decisions. I think we all do. So I decided to write about a girl who gets married … and also about the same girl who decides not to get married. I always remember my father telling me on the way to church that I didn’t have to go through with it. I was 21 at the time and felt a bit upset by his suggestion. Now I know that he only had my best interests at heart. He was trying to tell me that we all have a choice – even if it involves making a last-minute decision. Thank you, Daddy.
I love the synopsis for Do You Take This Man; I think everyone has wondered ‘what if…?’ at some point in their lives. What gave you the idea for writing a story that explores how our lives turn out from the choices that we make?
I’ve probably answered most of this in the section above but the idea came when I got divorced from my first husband. Divorce is never an easy decision to make and you are constantly questioning yourself and others. (Especially as my own parents got divorced when I was 20 and my sister was 14). But there comes a time in life when you have to say ‘Right. I’ve gone this way and now I can go this and that way. But I can’t go back.’ Life is like a tube map. Lots of different routes with cancelled trains and unexpected people in different carriages on the way. The price of the ticket can be high but it also takes you to places you hadn’t dreamed of.
Do you have a ‘what if’ moment of your own, or is there any point in your life that you’d like to imagine a different outcome to?
Lots of ‘what if’ moments! I do wonder what would have happened if I’d gone to Durham University instead of the smaller one near London which I chose in the end. I think I was scared about going ‘up north’ because I’m a southerner. But now I wish I’d been braver. I also wonder what would have happened if I’d carried on working full-time as a journalist on Woman’s Own instead of turning freelance to be at home with my three children. I did it so I could be with them and, although I don’t regret that for a moment, it was hard to be all things to everyone. I also wonder what would have happened if my mother hadn’t read my teenage diary when I was 17 and made me end my first teenage romance. And I wonder what … Gosh. This is turning into another book! Or maybe a True Confession! I’d better stop here!
I am a huge fan of your novels (I particularly enjoyed The School Run!) Do you have a personal favourite of all the books that you’ve written?
Thank you! I usually prefer the last book I’ve written because it’s fresh in my head. So I’ll have to say Do You Take This Man? Then again, I loved The School Run because it was my very first published book. I was Hoovering when my agent rang to say I had a deal. I thought I’d jump up and down in the air but it felt very unreal.
You also write a lot of short stories which have been published in some of the top women’s magazines. Do you find writing short stories easier or more difficult then writing a full length novel?
It’s a different kind of writing. You need a good strong plot that can be wrapped up in about 2000 words and you also need to be able to draw strong characters in the same word space. In some ways, it’s easier than a novel because it doesn’t take a year to write. But in others, it’s more difficult because of the challenges I’ve just mentioned. However, I really love short stories. It’s like free skating. I’ve always said that if my novels went bottoms-up , I’d enjoy writing short stories full time.
Can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication?
Well, I became a magazine journalist after uni because that seemed a way to earn my living as a writing. But then I had a ten year delay while bringing up my children and being a busy freelance journalist. I wrote my first novel when I was in my early thirties and got an agent immediately. ‘Wonderful,’ I thought! Then came the nice rejection letters. After that, I wrote a novel a year for ten years until The School Run was accepted. I’ve had to adapt to the market and change agents along the way. During my journey, I went to a talk by the fiction editor of Woman’s Weekly and was inspired to write a short story. That was the beginning of my short story career – and I’m so glad I went to that talk! I occasionally write articles for magazines and newspapers but it’s all so different now. Five years ago, you’d ring up and suggest a piece and the editor would say ‘Lovely. Send it over by Friday.’ Now many newspaper feature editors are too busy to even reply to an email. That’s why I ALWAYS reply to my fans!
Who are your favourite authors and which type of books do you enjoy reading yourself?
I like to read a variety of authors. I love Fay Weldon (who has become a friend over the years); Maggie O’Farrell; Anne Tyler; Penelope Lively ; and also the classical writers like Trollope and Jane Austen.
What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t a writer?
Miserable. Actually, I might be a teacher or social worker. I’ve always loved people and I’ve always wanted to help others. Don’t think I’m a goody-goody. But it’s in my nature to want to make everyone feel better.
And finally – can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on at the moment?
It’s a psychological thriller, actually. In between my marriages, I took a job as writer in residence of a high security male prison. It showed me another world. I won’t say any more because I never talk about my books until they’re published. But it’s very real in my head at the moment. In fact, I got up at 6am this morning to write the next chapter because the characters wouldn’t let me sleep!
Thank you so much for your time Sophie.
Thank you so much for asking me. I love the name of your blog, by the way!
A huge thank you to Sophie King and to Ian from Corazon books. ♥
Sophie King is the author of six novels and a short story collection about families, friends and lovers. Her first novel, The School Run, was a bestseller when first published in 2005, and it was a bestseller for the second time when republished by Corazon Books in 2012.
In between novels, Sophie writes short stories and has had hundreds published in magazines such as Woman’s Weekly and My Weekly. She also gives regular talks/workshops at bookshops and literary festivals including Winchester and Guildford.
Sophie is delighted to support new romance writing through her annual writing competition The Sophie King Prize.