Interview With The Fabbooo Author Sophia Bennett

Hello Sophia! How are you today? Thank you so much for letting me interview you.

No problem, Amy-Anne. Thank you for the invitation.

First up, how many books have you published so far and which is your favourite out of them?

If you include my latest book, The Look, I've published four books so far, which works out at just over one a year since I got my first contract. My favourite is probably still the first, Threads, which is the one that got noticed and meant I could become what I'd always wanted to be: a published author. 

So Sophia, where did you first start? What was your inspiration?

I've been writing since I was about seven. Stories about girls' adventures occur to me pretty much all the time, and it's just a question of writing down the best ones. If I don't write them, they stack up in my head like circling airplanes and can be very distracting. My inspiration for Threads was the idea of a girl working secretly as a designer in London, who ends up with her own fashion show. The inspiration for my latest book, The Look, was an email from a fan of Threads, asking if I thought she should try and become an English teacher or a model. It got me thinking about the world of modelling, and whether it's a good place or a bad place for a teenager to find herself. So many people dream about it, but would it be a dream or a nightmare?

What was the first book you've published? How long did it take you to publish?

Threads was published the year after I wrote it. I entered it into the Times/Chicken House competition for unpublished children's writers in 2008, and it won the competition and was published in 2009. I was stunned. It was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me. However, I'd been writing seriously, on and off, for ten years before that, so it wasn't an overnight success.

How long have you wanted to be an author for?

Forever. Almost all my life.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

Actually writing a book takes me about six months, usually - including lots of rewrites. But coming up with the right idea and developing the characters ... that takes longer and it varies from book to book. I'm currently working on three ideas and I'm not sure which one will turn into my next book, or if I'll end up writing all of them.

How long on average does it take you to get a good idea?

Ideas come all the time. But knowing when they're good ... that can take months or years. I told the story of Threads to myself for about four years before I wrote it down. I was telling myself other stories too, but that was the one that stuck.

What is your favourite book written by somebody else?

I have so many, but I think my favourite children's book is Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild, closely followed by The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. My favourite writer is PG Wodehouse. I love funny books. My favourite book of those I've read recently has to be The Hunger Games. I've also really enjoyed Before I Fall and Cathy Cassidy's books. My elder son is a big reader and through him I've discovered the Skulduggery books by Derek Landy, which are fantastic too. 

Have you had any other jobs, or wanted to have another job?

Many! I think most writers have. It's very rare indeed to make your living from writing straight from school, so most of us have done lots of other things and many still do - although I write full-time now. I've been an earrings packager, tour guide, dictionary worker, phone researcher, barmaid, lobbyist and management consultant. But in each of those jobs, even when I was travelling around the world as a consultant, I was 'the consultant/whatever who wanted to be a writer'. 

Have you ever wanted to be somebody else?

Yes, loads of people, all the time! I still do and one of the most fun aspects of writing fiction is being able to put yourself into another person's life and imagine what it would be like to be them. Right now, I think it would be pretty good to be Meryl Streep, for example. She's such a talented actress and successful as a mum, too. However, having said all that, my two big ambitions were to write books and have a family, and I've done both, so I feel very lucky and satisfied.

How did you cope as a teenager, I mean, how did you do with spots and stuff?

It wasn't my favourite time. I was indeed spotty, and absolutely hated it. I can still remember almost every spot in great detail, and I got through lots of Clearasil. One of the joys of growing up was not getting them so much any more. I was also embarrassed by having boobs, which I didn't know what to do with. I went to an all girls school and by my late teens I was fed up with not seeing any decent boys. Teenage life looks great from the outside, but it's so hard when you're actually living it.

What is your most treasured possession? Why?

Not sure. I love my home and most things in it, but as long as my family are safe, I don't worry too much about possessions. That doesn't mean that I don't adore window-shopping, because I absolutely do. The thing I would rescue from a fire, after my family, would always be my laptop, though, because it's always got the latest book on it.

Who is your favourite author?

PG Wodehouse for comedy. For sheer friendliness combined with fab writing skills, Cathy Cassidy. She was the first author to sign a book for me. I have millions of others, though, and I list a few of them on my website. Also, see above.

Why did you want to become an author?

Because growing up, I adored books. When I was bored or lonely, I could always lose myself in a great story. I wanted to be able to do  what those authors did, and create magical worlds that new readers could lose themselves in. It sounded a lot more fun than office work. (And having tried both, I can confirm that that's true. Although office work pays a lot more reliably, so don't knock it.)

Have you ever got any fan-presents?

Yes, I have - which is wonderful. There are a couple of girls who draw pictures for me, or make me friendship bracelets. Somebody even made me a bag. They're all very precious and I'm very grateful.

How many pets have you got? Have they influenced your writing in any way?

None at the moment, because we had to get rid of the goldfish. We had 70, but the pond was too dangerous with a young toddler in the family. When I was growing up I had a cat called Odysseus, whom I adored, but it turned out I was horribly allergic to cat hair so I didn't get another one when he died. Yes, I'm sure he influenced my writing. He was a very good friend to me - funny, silly and loyal. I probably put him subconsciously into lots of my characters.

What do you do when your stuck on what to write?

I try to keep going. It can be very tough, though, if I don't think something is working. But I try and keep thinking through plot and character ideas, hoping that the inspiration will return so I can get going again. I'm only truly happy when I can't wait to get back to the story.

Do people chase after you in the streets and beg you for autographs?

No, never! Neil Gaiman (The Graveyard Book) tells the story that he was on a plane when he happened to have several books in the New York Times bestseller list simultaneously and the woman sitting next to him had never heard of him. When he explained he was a writer, she assumed he was just starting out and wished him good luck. I think that's such a sweet story. I don't think even JK Rowling gets chased down the street. However, occasionally I mention to a friend that I've written Threads and she tells me her daughter loved it, and that gives me a real glow.

Do you have a special writing place?

In bed is good. So is my writing shed. So are various cafes round about. And my local libraries are great, because they block wifi, so I can't get distracted by Twitter and Facebook. My books get written all over the place. 

Have you got any tips for young writers?

I'll pass on the tip I was given by a writer called Susan Marling, when I asked her the same question when I was a teenager: just do it. Read a lot, write as much as you can and make sure you finish things, because finishing can often be the hardest part. Don't worry about getting published straight away. Just work on developing your style and finding out the kind of thing that interests you. But above all, write. 

Thank you Sophia, for having this interview with me, I most appreciate. Hope to speak to you again some time!

Thank you, Amy-Anne. It was a pleasure. 

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