EXCLUSIVE Sophia Tobin Author Interview
Waterstones in Ramsgate are doing a lot of signings at the moment and I managed to catch up with one of the authors and get Thanet Star an exclusive insight into her work.
First we spoke about her Thanet origins.
Q: Who are you? Introduce yourself, in your own words, to our readers.
A: Hello! I'm Sophia Tobin, and I'm a writer.
Q: You were born in Thanet but moved to London. Why?
A: I went to London to study history of art, at Christie's Education, eleven years ago.
Q: What is your fondest memory of Thanet?
A: Playing on the beach with my family when I was little, with my bucket and spade.
Q: How long have you been a writer?
A: In my mind I've been a writer since I was seven years old. It was always something I secretly wanted to do. But I only started to feel like a "real" writer when I got my agent and publishing deal, in 2012.
Q: What school/s did you attend?
A: St Mildred's Infants, Upton Junior School, and Clarendon House Grammar School (back then it was just for girls...)
Q: Did your English teachers see your potential? If you could say anything to them now, what would you say?
A: I had very encouraging teachers every step of the way, but I was only open about wanting to be a writer when I was at primary school - after that it was my secret! But I had excellent teachers who always made me feel that anything was possible. I'd just say thank you.
I asked about what it feels like to be re-visiting her origins, but it turns out that she never stays away from Thanet for very long at all.
Q: You are returning to Thanet to do a signing at Waterstones in Ramsgate next week. When was the last time you visited Thanet? How do you feel about returning to the "Isle"?
A: I was last here about a month ago – I have family here so I visit regularly. I spent the first twenty-five years of my life in Thanet, so it's still home in lots of ways. I love catching up with everyone, and walking by the sea.
Next we talked about her writing, what inspires it, and what to expect from her first book.
Q: What inspires your writing?
A: It's a mixture of things – it can be anything from a stranger's conversation overhead on a bus to a sunset. My writing isn't autobiographical, but I do think every experience and emotion you've ever had goes into the melting pot. I also find researching the past really exciting. The Silversmith's Wife was inspired by some research I did into a real eighteenth century silversmith who had a shop on Bond Street. I was working on Bond Street at the time, and exploring the connection between past and present was fascinating. The London I write about in the book should feel both familiar and strange to readers.
Q: Who are your favourite authors?
A: Too many to name, but they include Jane Austen, George Eliot, EM Forster and Hilary Mantel.
Q: Your first book debuted this year. How many drafts did you go through, do you think, and how long did it take to find a publisher for it?
A: There were lots and lots of drafts – I don't know how many exactly, but definitely double figures! That's partly because of the way I write. I don't plan at all, I just start writing and see where the story takes me. It makes the writing process exciting and unpredictable, but it also means that a lot of rewrites are needed to refine the story. The Silversmith's Wife was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize in 2011, which led to me being taken on by my agent, Jane. I worked on the book with her guidance and she negotiated my publishing deal in the winter of 2012-13.
Q: The "blurb" on the back of The Silverman's Wife makes it sound really interesting, but how would you - the author - describe the book to our readers?
A: It's a murder mystery and a love story – a story of redemption and secrets set on the dark and dangerous streets of eighteenth century London.
Q: Amazon tells me that we can Pre-Order your second book – The Widow's Confession - due for release early next year, which is actually set in Broadstairs. Why did you choose to set a book in your home town?
A: I write about situations and places which have a strong emotional pull on me, so writing about Broadstairs was a natural thing to do. It's also a really interesting place to write about – there are so many elements to play with in the nineteenth century: shipwrecks, the legacy of smuggling, tourists coming here as a sea-bathing resort, and the interaction between locals and Londoners.
Q: Both books have common themes, with strong female leads, historical settings and "secrets". Will this be the case with all of your books? As Stephen King is known for his horror and Tolkien for his fantasy, will you be known for these themes?
A: I hope so! I really enjoy writing historical fiction and those themes come naturally to me. But I'd never say never to any other genre – writing is exciting because you don't know what you'll be inspired by next.
She then teased about the potential for further books.
Q: Are you currently working on a third book? If you are, can you tease us about its plot at all?
A: My focus is still on the first and second books, but I'm making notes for the third – I think it's going to be pretty dark and gothic…
On a final note, I asked her to inspire Thanet Star's creative readers.
Q: What can you say to budding authors reading this interview?
A: Keep trying. You never know what's around the corner.
You can meet Sophia [Tobin] at Waterstones Westwood Cross on Saturday June 14th at 11am and get a signed copy of her debut novel The Silversmith's Wife. If you cannot attend, be sure to purchase a copy from Amazon. You can also “Follow” her on Twitter and find out more about her on her official website.