Exclusive - an interview with Sophia Deri-Bowen
Sophia Deri-Bowen was a stalwart on the I Do Two project, both as part of the acquisitions team and as a contributing author. Her first solo story, Change-my-luck Blues is available now from Dreamspinner.
Having known Sophia since Noah was a boy, it's a delight to host her first author interview. We met under the most poignant circumstances - what a story it would make - and have been sustained by a mutual love of history and rugby and being irresistible to seventy year old men.
Sophia, what made you start writing?
I think, mostly, just really, really wanting to tell stories. I've made up stories since I was tiny, and had tons of imaginary friends from the books I read. When I started obsessively watching TV and movies, it was easy to tell the stories I wanted to with the characters. (Luckily for you, me, and the rest of the known world, most of these stories died when Geocities did. They were pretty dreadful.) It took a long time, but I finally started finding stories, unrelated to any TV, movie, books, whatever, that I wanted to tell. Characters show up in my head, and I want to make them 'real', in a way.
What gave you the idea for this particular story?
Lots of things, but mainly that I had started reading some Faulkner -- in fact, I think one of the characters mentioned towards the end is pretty much Joe Christmas from Light in August. I love the way Faulkner writes, how you feel like you're watching what's happening from so far away, which conversely somehow makes you reach out for the characters. I wanted to write something dreamy and distant like that, but with people you'd love. Oh, incidentally -- the title is from a Blind Lemon Jefferson song, and I wanted to write a kind of tribute to the Delta blues.
I was also studying hoodoo and traditional Southern rootworking/magic at the time I started writing, and a lot of that made its way in. I like making my stories just a little bit not-mundane, bringing in just a little everyday magic.
Do you have a mental image/model for your characters you see when you write? Who inspires that image? Is his name Tommeh?
My future husband, amazingly, hasn't crept into anything! (Yet. I've got some gushing descriptions still to be written, and he'll show up in that...)
I have vague mental images, but find it really hard to actually picture my characters, which is kind of annoying. I know how they all look -- usually based on actors, or rugby players (shock and surprise!), but I've had a few, lately, who just seem to be appearing, without root in the world around me. Kind of neat.
If you had to choose between rugby and writing which would win?
As in playing rugby? Definitely writing! Way less painful, and as I think I might actually be the worst rugby player in the history of the world, I'm definitely better at writing. For just being a big ol' fan? I'll have to go with writing again -- as much as I love, eat and breathe rugby, I need to write.
Which writers inspire you?
If I write 'you', will you print it? :P Within romantic fiction -- oh, God, too many. Seriously; I would forget someone and feel awful. Sometime soon I'm going to start a once-in-awhile series where I feature writers I think are pretty keen, and that will have to do. No guesses allowed as to who's getting flung up in the spotlight first, incidentally.
Not in the romance genre...Faulkner. Hemingway. Heinlein and Asimov. These aren't writers I particularly aspire to be like (there's reaching for the stars, and then there's just plain crazy), but they've all influenced stories I've written in some way or another, whether it be style, worldbuilding, whatever.
What’s next for S D-B?
Sadly, the end of term and writing lots (and lots and lots) of papers, so not as much romance as I'd like. After that is summer, luckily, and, good grief, lots of stuff. I don't have anything sold yet, so I'll just rip open the WIP file, and we'll see what we've got:
A short story where a retired solider and his lover talk a lot about what it means to be a hero. Oh, and have sex a lot.
A short story set in medieval Wales, which imagines what happens after traditional ballads end, based very roughly on Tam Lin. Sort of.
Three that promise to be pretty long novels. One's modern, set sort of roughly along the New England coast and lets out my total love and familiarity with the contra dance and traditional boat-building communities. Another's an SF story set on Mars (and I'm working on a short story with different characters, but set in the same universe), which features an alien love interest, and I cannot tell you how much fun it's been making a new kind of humanoid. And, finally, one that's contemporary, features a foursome, and involves a plot twist that I'm even shocked I'm writing -- it'll break down a lot of boundaries for me, in things I swore I'd never write.
Oh, and something I'm really excited about -- I've started writing a short love story entirely in Welsh. I don't know quite enough of the language to have got very far, but hopefully that will change soon!
(Charlie's note - the thought of Sophia shouting insults at rugby players in wlesh both excites and terrifies me!)
Danny Johnson is settling down in a small Mississippi town after his release from prison. He's adjusting to life on the outside, running a bar, and just trying to get used to being a real person again, when he meets three men. One will teach him about new life, one will show him how to heal, and another will show him how to love… and how to change his luck to leave the blues behind.