I’m delighted to welcome Sophie King to the RNA Blog today, the pen-name of journalist Jane Bidder, who has written extensively for The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail, Woman, Woman’s Weekly, My Weekly and Good Housekeeping. Her previous five novels include the bestseller THE SCHOOL RUN and THE WEDDING PARTY, which was short-listed for "Love Story of the Year" by the Romantic Novelists Association.
Sophie, your latest book is a collection of short stories. Many novelists can’t write short fiction, does your journalist background help you here?
Definitely. As a journalist, you are taught to get across a story in a concise manner. At the same time, you need to include just enough emotion so that the reader empathises with the character. My background was in women's magazines (Woman; Woman's Own; Good Housekeeping etc) where I specialised in stories known as Tots - triumphs over tragedies. They were about people who had overcome obstacles in life. Very inspiring. I still remember interviewing a little girl who achieved her ambition of becoming a ballerina despite having a false leg. I also interviewed lots of celebrities over the years like Julie Walters and - my teenager hero - David Essex. Funnily enough, quite a lot of my short story heroes tend to look like him....
Writers are often asked where they find their ideas, what is most likely to spark off an idea for a short story in your head?
See above! Also everyday life. It's usually the small things that happen to you and then you think. Ooh! That would make a story. You need to be in tune to pick these ideas up. The more obscure the better as it's essential to do a different take from everyone else in order to get through the selection process. I try to look at things from different angles.
TALES FROM THE HEART by Sophie King is published by Corazon Books exclusively as an ebook on Monday 9th July 2012 and is available from Amazon.
You write about the modern woman. Do you take your notebook and pen for a walk and observe those around you, or do they just emerge on the page?
They just emerge on the page - it's rather as though someone is sitting above me and sending the story out through my fingers. However, I do try to carry a notebook as well. Sometimes this is difficult so I will leave a message to myself on my landline (I usually have a mobile on me). My newish husband is getting used to this now.
What a good idea, I’ll remember that one. Humour is an essential part of your stories, does it come naturally, or is it a skill you’ve acquired with practise?
It came without me realising. It sort of escapes from me when I'm not thinking about it. Like many writers, I've had to deal with some quite tough stuff in my life - maybe it's my way of coping. My children think I'm mad but they also say that they're glad I'm not boring.
Which character from these short stories would you most like to be, and why?
Like to be? I usually am them! I have to admit that there's usually part of me in most of my heroines, especially in OTHER PEOPLE'S CHILDREN. This was inspired when I took my first train journey without the children. My lot were nightmares on trains - the youngest used to swing along the seats from London to Eastbourne when we visited my grandfather and he once spent an entire flight kicking the back seat of the person in front from London to Sydney. (I did try to stop him).
You were once short-listed for a Romantic Novelist Award, but if you were starting out afresh what advice would you give yourself as a fledgling writer?
Don't get bogged down with writing commissions that stop you writing what you really want to write. I delayed my novels because I worked hard as a journalist while also caring for my three children full-time. Just as I was about to start my first novel, a publisher asked me to write a non-fiction book and then another and then another... I also wish I’d started writing short stories earlier. Woman's Weekly published my very first short story. I am eternally grateful to Clare Cooper and Gaynor Davies as well as to My Weekly who have bought lots of my stories over the years.
Have you ever redeemed and published a piece of work you thought might never see the light of day?
Funnily enough, I did that for the first time the other week. It just goes to show that publishing a short story is often a matter of luck and whether it arrives on the right person’s desk at the right time.
Are you a Kindle or an ipad fan, if so what do you most enjoy about it?
I'm never knowingly underpacked (that's the title of a short story I've just had accepted, by the way!) so a Kindle is a great way of reducing weight when you're travelling. I was given a pink one by my newish husband two Christmases ago and it's great when I'm on the road. But I have to say that nothing beats the smell of ink. I can still smell it from my days as a trainee journalist in Wales.
What makes you laugh the most?
My children. We roar with laughter over things that mothers probably shouldn't laugh about. My daughter is always telling me to behave myself. The other day, she reminded me of a time when they were young teenagers and we were all out shopping. (That's enough to make you cry for all kinds of reasons.) Anyway, the manager of this ghastly shop was playing very loud music with extremely explicit lyrics. I marched up and asked him to turn the music down, explaining it wasn't suitable for under fifteens. My lot nearly curled up on the floor with embarrassment. We still have a laugh about that - and far worse things that I've done. My newish husband also makes me laugh all the time. If only men realised how important humour is. They wouldn't bother with much else... Second thoughts, we'd better not tell them! So what are you writing now?
Can you tell us something of your work in progress?
I've just finished a short story which I'm going to be revising tomorrow. I've also finished an historical (I write time-slip historicals for Germany and Italy under my married name Jane Corry). And I'm in the throes of researching my next contemporary rom com for Arrow (Random House) under my pen name Janey Fraser. I need to be busy. And before you ask, I have been told that I have to have different names because I write more than one kind of genre.
Sophie's next novel, DIVORCE FOR BEGINNERS, will be published by Corazon Books in late August 2012.
As Lizzie juggles running a failing women's magazine with bringing up a young family she ponders on whether you really can “have it all”. The answer comes sooner than she expects when her husband's actions turn her world upside down...
Alison should be looking forward to a quieter life with David now that their youngest has flown the nest. But David has other ideas and his increasingly bizarre behaviour leaves Alison wondering if she really knows her husband at all...
Karen has managed to hold her family together since Paul walked out on them many years before. That makes her the perfect person to start The Divorce Club to help others on their own. But as the burden of past secrets unravels, Karen realises she needs help too.
Ed really believes in marriage. So much so that he's done it three times already. But as his work and home life get ever more complicated, will he ever be able to find “the One”...? Add in an overbearing sister, a troublesome half-brother, the surprise return of faces from the past, grown up kids with their own problems, and ageing parents who've discovered the ups (and downs) of internet dating and you have a gripping and entertaining tale of modern life as our foursome struggle with...
Sophie/Janey/Jane, thank you for taking time with us today. You are an inspiration to us all. More info at: http://www.sophieking.info and www.greatstorieswithheart.com
Interviews on the RNA Blog are for RNA members, although we do occasionally take guests. If you are interested in an interview, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org