An Audience with an Author welcomes Nicky Wells, author of Sophie’s Turn
Sophie’s Turn is your first published novel, did it take long to write?
That’s an interesting question. It took me a few weeks to plan… I’d say, between two and four depending on how you interpret planning versus writing. Then I wrote the entire first draft in about three months. Birth of baby number one was a bit of an immovable deadline, and I definitely wanted it all done before then! Then of course there were a few re-writes which took maybe a week here and there. So all in all, I think writing Sophie’s Turn probably took the best part of six months. That said, because of my family circumstances (and another baby coming along), the novel had a long time to ‘mature’ (read: linger on the shelf…) and I had the benefit of reading it ‘fresh’, almost as though I was a genuine reader, having not touched it for a few years at a time. That helped: but that’s also almost impossible to build into any writing plan.
Do you have a set place & time to write?
Sophie’s Turn was written in what is now the boys’ playroom. My new writing space is a tiny little Ikea desk tucked into the corner of the dining room. However, I have also taken to moving around the house with the laptop, so I will quite often type on the sofa in the lounge, at the dining room table proper (rather than the dinky desk) and, very occasionally, even in bed. Before children, I was a bit of a night owl and would prefer working late in the afternoon and into the night. Now, I don’t have that luxury and my writing time is strictly confined to school hours when the boys are out of my hair.
You have a young family, where do you find the time and energy?
I mentioned the time constraints above… finding the energy, that’s an interesting one. I think of myself as a one-trick-pony (i.e. can only ever do one thing well at any one time) and I also think of myself as perennially worn out. Yet somehow it all gets done! I’ve discovered that for me, the most important thing is not to dwell on how busy or tired I am, but to make a plan, portion my work, and stick to it. As long as I keep going, I’m fine… And, of course, I do consume way too much chocolate!
Did you design your cover for Sophie’s Turn? Was it easy to come up with a design idea?
Actually it was my husband who designed the cover! Pretty much on the eve of publishing, Sophie’s Turn was still called ‘Full Circle’and I had set aside some time to take some artistic photos involving champagne flutes and strings of pearls. Alas, what a disaster! My husband is a very calm and steady person, bless him, and he sat me down and made me talk it all through. I started scribbling away on a piece of paper, but I’m a lousy cartoonist and couldn’t make anything look right. Eventually we came up with the idea of a choice, or turning point: hence the sign post. My artist-in-residence then took the time to draw the idea out meticulously (using the children’s gel tips!) and added grass and the little flower and the butterfly at my suggestion. He cut it all out and made a collage onto pink paper. Chick lit… it had to be pink, right? Unfortunately the image didn’t really go with the title, so ‘Full Circle’ had to go! Another hour of tearing my hair out, and the title ‘Sophie’s Turn’ was conceived. (Good job, too…it’s a much better title, I think!) Chief designer next created the writing and cut-and-collaged all of that as well. I wouldn’t have the skill or the patience, but I was thrilled to see it all come to life in his hands. I’m chuffed to bits with it! So here’s to my husband: Thank You!
Did Sophie’s Turn end up as you originally envisaged or did it change as you wrote?
A little bit of both! Owing to several iterations of planning, I had the story line very much clear in my head before I started typing. However, these pesky characters developed a habit of taking wrong turns, inventing new events, or creating problems or diversions that I had not anticipated. That was actually a very interesting process because at times I felt like I was reading the book while I was writing it. From previous experience, I know that those are also the incidents that can totally derail the writing process and plot, so it was very useful to have a plan to rein things in again before they spun out of control.
Sophie’s Turn could have had more than one ending, I know I was surprised at the end, was it difficult to decide which way to take the story?
Ah! That’s a brilliant question. Let me put it this way without giving too much away. There were at least three possible, credible outcomes. (I did make up a few more to start with but they were really too far-fetched). I knew what I really wanted Sophie to do, and what I would have wanted to have happened to me, had I been in her position. However, I just couldn’t take the novel there. I tried, briefly, but it was all very unsatisfactory. So in the end it was down to Sophie to decide. That scene in her hotel room in Paris when she sees herself at the crossroads… that was all real thought, that was me typing away furiously as I was assessing her options. (And also another incident where the book took on a bit of a life of its own). The outcome made us both happy (although I did shed a few tears).
Did you do any particular research for the rock group Tusk in Sophie’s Turn?
I’m afraid to admit that I didn’t. But then I didn’t need to, I had years of teenage star-struckness to draw on, a vast repository of knowledge about several rock bands, experience of going to concerts, knowledge (from teenage and music magazines) of the touring process… Films like ABBA: The Movie, This is Spinal Tap and Rock Star also offered some helpful insights. And I just may or may not have met the odd band here or there, once or twice.
Is Dan based on a particular rock star?
Dan is the amalgamation of many lead-singers. Plus he incorporates some of the best (and worst) traits of people I know, have heard of, or read about. He is a true bona fide made-up-but-hopefully-still-credible rock idol. J
Sophie has to make some difficult decisions – did you find it easy to make the choices for her?
Not always. As I mentioned above, some of her choices were mine, and were choices I would make. These were the easy ones. Some other things she does and does not do gave me a real headache. I don’t think I would have had the gumption to tell the man of I’m dreams I was a virgin (even though I wasn’t); I don’t think I would have had the courage to accompany Dan to the Royal (or his suite); and I think I would have been too blinded to make her choice. But this was all nail-biting stuff for me…
Without giving too much away, what is your favourite scene in Sophie’s Turn?
I have a few, actually. The prologue is one: the sense of absolute heady elation and disbelief, the out-of-body wonderment of ‘if this really happening?’ That makes me feel good every time. Next, it makes me smile when Rachel and Sophie have their morning pow-wow in the coffee shop and Sophie shouts out about s.e.x rather too loudly. And I’m still quite in love with the scene where Dan has to hide in a cupboard… And lastly, see the featured excerpt below!
Is Sophie anything like you or are you more like her best friend Rachel?
Sophie probably reflects my dreamy side, the one that yearns for a fairy tale ending. But I can also be sarcastic and cutting, like Rachel; not something I’m immensely proud of but that can be very necessary. Yet it is Rachel who sets Sophie straight on matters of true love and thunderbolt-and-lightning… again, that would be me. So perhaps it’s fair to say that they distill, each in their own way, aspects of my own character. If that’s not too scary a notion!
Will we be hearing from Sophie in the future?
Oh definitely! The sequel is a work in progress. I have just finished working on the plans for the story line and have to fine tune a few details. Hopefully I can start to write some time in late September and then it’ll have to take as long as it takes. I’d like to bring the sequel out within the year, but that depends obviously on how much time I can scrounge for writing, letting the novel rest, editing it… and all the back-end goings-on before you publish.
And yes, Dan will feature alongside Sophie again. Rachel will have a much bigger, somewhat surprising and not always easy role to play, so watch out for a few surprises!
Author’s Book Shelf
What is your favourite book you have read?
Which one to pick? I read so much and have so many favourites! Catherine Alliott’s The Old-Girl Network was the first chick lit novel I ever read, and I remember laughing out loud. That continues to be one of my favourites… The Eight by Katherine Neville is a fantastic book, and so is Ghostwritten by David Mitchell.
What book would you like to read but haven’t yet?
The collected works of Shakespeare.
What book should you have read but haven’t?
The collected works of Shakespeare. I mean that! I’ve only read Macbeth in school (in Germany). How can I see my kids through school with any more knowledge of the Great Bard? So, it’s on my TBR.
If you would like to read an excerpt from Sophie’s Turn please see previous post by using link at top of this page
BUY SOPHIE’S TURN HERE