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This blog was featured on 02/25/2019
Sophie Kinsella on Her Latest Novel and Writing Advice
Written by
She Writes
February 2019
Written by
She Writes
February 2019

Sophie Kinsella – a pen name for Madeleine Wickham – is best known for her Shopaholic books which have sold over 40 million copies. And this month she’s released her latest novel, I Owe You One, centered around a family shop in London where Fixie Farr is preoccupied with sorting out everyone else’s life but her own.

We rounded up some of Kinsella’s best interviews to learn more about her upcoming book, plus to scoop up some invaluable advice from this notorious chick lit author.

On Writing about 20-Somethings

Kinsella’s writing career began when she was in her 20s, and ever since, she’s been draw to the magic of this phase of life.

“I just think there's something exciting about the time of life when you're on the lookout for opportunities in all directions... everything is ahead of you,” she said. “And for me, the wide-open horizon is so exciting. And I have dealt with other topics - my previous book, Surprise Me, looked at marriage and how to keep that alive. But there is something exhilarating about meeting a stranger in a coffee shop and thinking, where's this going to go? It's a kind of frisson that I love to return to. I left my job to write novels when I was 20-something, and in my head I'm pretty much still that 20-something, and looking at the grownups.”

This excerpt was originally published on NPR. Read the full interview here.

On Inspiration for I Owe You One

In her latest novel, Kinsella’s main character is obsessed with something, but this time it’s not shopping. Fixie Farr is consumed with fixing the problems in everyone else’s lives, but when it comes to her own life, she can’t see the issues starting her right in the face.

“I wanted to tell the story of a young woman who finds her voice, because I think there's something incredibly empowering about that, and I related to that... so that was my kind of character. And then I love the idea of two strangers meeting,” she explains. “I just, there's something magical about the feeling that you're in a big city, and you go to a coffee shop, and there's a guy opposite you, and in one version you just walk away and never see him again, but in this version you become connected.”

This excerpt was originally published on NPR. Read the full interview here.

On Feedback

Kinsella may not be one to troll the web searching for what others are saying about her work, however she does find great value in the words of those who have reviewed her books.

“I don’t read all my reviews, because I think there is too many and, I think that any writer would agree with me, that you always fixate on some random comment, that disturbs you and gets in the way. But I also think that you can learn from reviews, so I do read them. I’m always interested to hear what people are saying. I think you can just learn so much from an insight that you hadn’t thought of it that way and you think: ‘oh, okay, that’s really interesting.’”

“I think everybody is entitled to an opinion and I think that everybody who is a reader has a view point and might have insights that another person doesn’t have, so I think, I listen to every bodies voice. If I meet somebody at an event and they say “I thought this about your book”, I listen to them with great respect. I treat all voices as equal, each of them is a valid reader with a point of view to express. They had an experience and they are telling you about their experience. That’s what I am interested in.”

These excerpts were originally published on Eye of Owls. Read the full interview here.

On Sharing Commonalities with her Characters

There’s a similarity to all of Kinsella’s heroines, so readers can’t help but wonder if those characters are reflective of the author’s own personality.

“I think I put myself into, certainly, all my heroines because I write from the first person. They have quite a lot in common, even if they’re different, they have different flaws, they have different issues, but I think there’s a commonality to them and I think a lot of that comes from me.”

While those who know Kinsella best in real life might not see her in her characters, they still may recognize some of her sayings or traits.

“I think people recognize facets of me in all of them and things that I’ve said. Actually, quite often I’ve written dialogue between Becky and Luke and my husband’s gone “pff, that’s just us” and I’m like “yeah”. [laughs] Or I’ll say something, or he’ll say something, and he’ll just go “oh my god, that is so Becky”. So, it’s always the other way round. My life does spill into the books and the books spill into my life.”

This excerpt was originally published on Eye of Owls. Read the full interview here.

On Writing Inspiration

“I’m slightly addicted to story. I just love telling stories. I like creating comedy and once I have an idea for a story or for a comedic scene, I get really impatient, like I want to see it on the page. That’s what drives me through writing a book, because I want to see how it turns out, or I can’t wait for this plot twist and it propels me along really.”

This excerpt was originally published on Eye of Owls. Read the full interview here.

On Writing Advice

There’s nothing better than getting invaluable writing advice straight from authors like Kinsella. On her website she shares some tricks of her trade, and we hand-picked five of our favorites for you below.

  1. Ask yourself ‘what if.’ You can teach yourself to tease a tiny thing into something else, have fun with it and see the potential in anything – start to see the world in a ‘what if’ way.
  2. Have a notebook with you. Always carry a notebook. Everywhere. Even if it seems irrelevant, note down whatever springs to mind. You can do so much with a passing thought or a snippet of overheard conversations. Don’t worry about what ‘it’ is going to be, just get into the habit of noting down everything and then when you have your big idea you’ll have material ready to work with.
  3. Plan your books. I find starting off with a beginning, a middle and an end is vital. The planning stage can take months, if not years. When I’m writing I do it in my office but for planning I like going and sitting in coffee shops – I like the buzz and I like being surrounded by people but remaining anonymous.
  4. Write your plot points on file cards. I write my key points on cards and Blu Tac them to the wall. Then I stand back and look at the terrain of the story. This way I can decide if I like it and if not just move it around. I also find that during writing the story, something will change so I can move my cards around if needed.
  5. Drink cocktails! There is nothing worse than staring at a screen when you get stuck. If I get stuck, I’ll go out with my husband and we’ll order cocktails and talk it over. By the end, we’ve always ironed out the plot and I’m ready to write again.

These tips were originally published on Sophie Kinsella’s website. Read her full post here.

Photo Credit: Sophie Kinsella

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