Sunday, 16 August 2015 / 1 Comment

Author Q&A - Sophie Ranald - You Can't Fall in Love With Your Ex (Can You?)

I've been lucky enough to have been an acquaintance of Sophie Ranald for the last 10 or so years. She's an incredibly clever and witty person, and that is reflected in her writing. She also has a very cute cat named Purrs.

I have reviewed her books in the past, and I'm very pleased to host this Q&A with Sophie to celebrate the release of her newest novel.

If you're a fan of contemporary women's fiction and you like your heroines to be sassy and sweary, then Sophie's books are for you.

You Can't Fall in Love With Your Ex (Can You?) is available from Amazon in the UK, US and Australia now. Find it on Goodreads.

What can you tell us about the new book?
The idea for You Can’t Fall in Love With Your Ex (Can You?) first came to me when a friend mentioned that an ex-boyfriend had sent her a friend request on Facebook. She was extremely nervous about accepting it – he was her first love and had broken her heart, and although her life was great, she worried that seeing his picture and reading about how he was living would bring back all the feelings she thought she’d put behind her. She did accept the friend request and was relieved to find that he had not only failed in many areas of his life, but had got fat and was going bald! But I thought, what might have happened if it hadn’t been that way? 

From that initial seed of an idea, all sorts of other things came together: my new-found passion for immersive theatre, the stories friends told me about their lives as stay-at-home mums and the frustration that can bring, a couple of wonderful trips to New York, a city I’ve always loved – and I had all the elements for a novel. But writing it was another matter – I struggled with it more than I have with any of my three previous novels.

You’re a few books into your career now. How are you finding life as an author?
I can honestly say that I love it. I have a great balance, in that I do freelance work in the industry in which I used to work in between books, which not only keeps the financial side of things ticking over but more importantly keeps me grounded and in touch with real life. I find when I’m writing I get so lost in my bubble that when I go to the corner shop for Diet Coke I find myself not knowing how to talk to people! So it’s great to escape that isolation and return to the world of real work sometimes.

When writing is good, it’s wonderful. When the words flow, the story makes sense and you know exactly what you’ve got to write next – there’s nothing like it. But a lot of the time I find the process very challenging, and am beset by doubts and fear of failure. I think that’s the way for most writers – God only knows why we do it! I’m very fortunate, though, in that although my books haven’t made me rich (yet!) they do provide a regular income stream, and making money from doing something I so much enjoy is a huge blessing.

If you could be best friends with one of your characters, who would it be?
Ellie, the heroine of my first novel, It Would Be Wrong to Steal My Sister’s Boyfriend (Wouldn’t It?) wasn’t exactly based on a close friend of mine, but as I wrote I found myself hearing her voice a lot in my head as Ellie’s own voice developed. Many of her beliefs and attitudes were similar to my friend’s (and, indeed, to my own), so I could say that in a way I’m lucky enough to already have one of my characters as a mate. But all of my heroines: Ellie, Pippa, Stella and Laura, have aspects of me and my wonderful friends in them – not least that they’re a pretty foul-mouthed bunch of women!

What, in your career as an author, are you most proud of?
In October 2012 I was made redundant from my job. It was a terrifying time, especially as my partner and I had just moved into a new house and acquired a little cat who had stolen our hearts. I felt, irrationally, incredibly guilty about letting them both down. But soon, after I’d finished crying, I realised that this could be an opportunity for me to finish the novel I’d started a year or so before and was about 20,000 words into. I did finish it, but I realised that without a huge amount of reworking and rethinking, it was unpublishable. So I sat down and wrote another, and that was It Would Be Wrong. It makes me very proud that I had the self-awareness to know that what I’d done wasn’t good enough, but the determination to begin again with something new.

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring authors?
Read and read – both within your chosen genre and outside it. Read books that are better than the ones you hope to write, and ones that you aren’t as good. And write: set yourself a goal (mine is 2,000 words a day when I’m working on a novel) and stick to it. There’s nothing as satisfying as seeing the progress bar on the Scrivener software I use for writing move from bright red through orange, amber, yellow, olive and finally to green as I near the end.

Also, whatever model of publishing you choose – I’m currently self-published in the UK, US and Australia, although my books have been bought by traditional publishers elsewhere – the support of a good agent is invaluable. You need to develop a thick skin – you will get rejections, and plenty of them, but once someone believes in you enough to offer you representation, the support they provide is invaluable. I’m represented by Peta Nightingale at LAW, and she has been my critic, cheerleader, advocate and friend through the whole process.

Some authors (and readers) dislike the use of the term “chick-lit” to describe contemporary women’s fiction. Where do you stand on this?
I have a love-hate relationship with it. The feminist in me thinks it’s absurd to give a genre a label that’s actually quite dismissive purely because its readers are young women – and “chick” is certainly not a word I’d ever use outside this context. But at the same time, I think it’s a useful label to describe urban, contemporary romantic comedy. I imagine writers in many genres feel a similar prickliness about labelling – I shouldn’t think Phillippa Gregory much likes the fact that her meticulously researched historical fiction could be described as “bodice-rippers”, for example. But it helps readers know what they’re getting, and it helps publishers market your books effectively, so I’m willing to live with it.

What book have you read and enjoyed lately?
When I’m writing, I find it almost impossible to read – my thoughts are so taken up with my own characters and their lives that there’s just not room in my head for other fictional worlds. Now that I’ve finished this book and have a daily commute again, I’m binge-reading Mark Edwards. He started out as an indie author and his novel The Magpies sold phenomenally well. He’s since written a few other wonderfully compelling, weird domestic thrillers, which at their best are reminiscent of Stephen King, and I’m happily giving myself sleepless nights as I work my way through them.

Thank you so much to Sophie for stopping by, and I can't wait to read it!

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1 comment:

  1. Ooh, this was so great to read! I particularly love Sophie's advice for aspiring authors! YES AND YES I entirely agree with it. :D I get amazed when aspiring writers don't "find time" to's so crucial to learning how to write!
    I hadn't heard of this book before but it's definitely intriguing me and I loooove that cover with the mirror affect.
    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!


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