Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the one hundred and fourteenth, is of Sophie Duffy.
Sophie Duffy is a novelist and short story writer who lives in the seaside town of Teignmouth in Devon. She grew up there, ran away at eighteen to the wilds of Lancashire (otherwise known as Lancaster University), got an English degree, got married, moved to London, became a teacher, did an MA in Creative Writing, then eventually moved back to Devon – via Worthing – in 2005. Her three kids are now teenagers and think she spends all day on Facebook when she is actually trying to earn a precarious living. Evenings are spent ferrying them up and down the narrow Devon lanes. Her Tibetan Terrier is her constant companion and gets her out to the beach when she is going crazy.
Her novel The Generation Game won the Yeovil Literary Prize in 2006 as a work-in-progress and was published by Legend Press in the summer of 2011 after winning the Luke Bitmead Bursary. This Holey Life was be published on August 1st 2012 (and on Kindle July 1st).
She writes about family, childhood, memory and loss. Her aim is to entertain and move her readers. If they raise a smile or shed a tear, her job is done.
And now from the author herself:
I started writing twelve years ago. We’d recently moved from London to Worthing (an ‘interesting’ five year experiment). The kids were aged 3, 5 and 6 and I was a stay-at-home mum. I decided to do an adult education evening class so I could restart my brain and meet some like-minded people. I went through the prospectus, discarding cake-decorating and plastic bag knitting, and settled on creative writing. By the end of my first lesson I was hooked and by the end of the year I had written a novel. With my tutor’s encouragement I applied for an MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster (distance learning). The course was worthwhile, challenging, and expensive. I paid for the fees by selling Avon, which was an experience in itself. By the end of the two years I had written another novel.
Neither of these novels were publishable but both had to be written: to learn narrative techniques, to read like a writer, to learn to accept and reject criticism, to develop a thick skin and a sensitivity towards your fellow human beings so you can get inside a character’s head, to get out the personal stuff, to write write write.
In 2005 I wrote a short story called Out of the Birdcage which won a local competition. I couldn’t let go of the characters, an awkward girl and her elderly neighbour who has an obsession for Bruce Forsyth. I wrote some more and soon believed I had a novel there. Later that year we moved to Devon to be nearer my family. The novel was put on hold but I came back to it a few months later and then entered the first 10,000 words into the Yeovil Literary Prize which was then in its early days. I was ecstatic when I got the email to say I’d won. This encouraged to me to carry on with the novel – The Generation Game – and to finish it, especially now I had an agent.
The agent was enthusiastic about the manuscript, sent it out to many publishers, most of whom were very flattering but none of whom wanted to buy it. So I started novel number four. Novel number two (my MA novel) was about the relationship between a brother and sister. I still wanted to explore this theme but in a totally different story with totally different characters. I entered the opening chapters of This Holey Life to the Harry Bowling Prize in 2008 and was runner-up. I felt affirmation that I was once again on the right course but my agent had other ideas; he didn’t like this novel.
So…what next? The choice: start another novel or persevere with finding a publisher for these last two? I decided to go it alone and left my agent. In 2010 I saw an advert for the Luke Bitmead Bursary and entered it. I found out in early 2011, two weeks after major surgery, that I had won. The prize was a generous bursary and a publishing contract with Legend Press. The Generation Game was published in the summer and a year later to the day This Holey Life will be published.
The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with biographer and fiction author Alma Bond – the four hundred and seventy-third of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.