28 June 2013

Author Interview: Sophie Hart

I recently read a debut novel that I absolutely loved, and I reviewed it a while ago - that book was Sophie Hart's debut book, The Naughty Girls' Book Club. I loved the book, and Sophie was kind enough to answer some of my questions! My thanks go to Sophie for answering them, I hope you enjoy the interview :)

Q1. Please tell me about your new book 'The Naughty Girl's Book Club'.

Hi Chloe, thanks for having me on the blog! The main character in The Naughty Girls Book Club is single mum Estelle, who runs a struggling cafe in the suburbs of Bristol. As a way to try and bring more custom into Cafe Crumb, she starts a book club, which attracts a wide mix of people – from recently retired Sue to feminist librarian Gracie. The original plan is for the group to read the classics, but after the first meeting falls flat, they decide to focus on erotica instead...

Q2. Erotica has become hugely popular in the last year or so thanks to the phenomenon of 'Fifty Shades of Grey' - is the success of this book what gave you the idea for your book?

Yes! I have to admit that it wasn’t a coincidence! But hopefully this is a different way of looking at the phenomenon. Rather than being just another erotic novel, with a rich, powerful man deflowering a virgin, along with a heavy dose of S&M, this was a way of seeing the effect that reading those books has on ordinary women (and men). All of the characters in The Naughty Girls Book Club are missing something in their own lives, and a combination of the books they read and the friendships they form help them gain the confidence to go for what they want.

Q3. I've seen a lot of tweets on Twitter with people saying the book isn't as rude as they thought it would be - did you ever intend for the book to be more 'sexy' or was it more the effect of erotica on readers that you were trying to write about?

It was definitely the effects of erotica that were the main aim, but I wanted some naughtiness in there too. In fact, the final draft was naughtier than the original, as my editor wanted more raunchiness! We were very aware that people would be buying it because of the Fifty Shades phenomenon, and didn’t want them to be disappointed if it was too tame. Similarly, with the cover, the publishers wanted to reflect the familiar erotica covers, but for the overall effect to be toned down and more relatable – hence the pink and the coffee cup!

Q4. Where did you get your inspiration for the characters in your book from? I especially loved teacher Rebecca, and cafe owner Estelle!

Thank you! It’s been really interesting to get people’s reactions to the different characters now that the book is published – everyone has a different favourite! I knew that the characters had to be quite varied – in age and in personality – but also to be very recognisable ‘everywoman’ types. So you have the young, feisty woman; the newlywed; the middle-aged divorcee; and the recent retiree. And for another, very different, point of view, there’s the only male member of the group, the sweet and shy Reggie.

Q5. You included a wide variety of erotica in your novel - I assume you had to read them all in order to write about them - was it interesting to see how the idea of erotica has changed, and did you have a favourite amongst the books you had to read?!

I did read all of them – although I have to confess I may have only skim-read Justine by the Marquis de Sade... It’s quite heavy going, as it’s written in old-fashioned language, and is also incredibly brutal.
As the characters in the book observe, Lady Chatterley’s Lover really isn’t that shocking any more, and it’s amazing to think that a couple of generations ago it was banned in the UK, whereas you can now buy Fifty Shades in your local supermarket!

In terms of my favourite, I do love the classic bonkbusters, so Lace by Shirley Conran would have to be my top pick, with Riders by Jilly Cooper a very close second.

Q6. Who are some of your favourite authors to read, and do you enjoy reading the chick lit genre?

I love reading chick lit – I think it must be very hard to write it if you don’t read it – and some of my all-time favourite authors are in that genre, such as Sophie Kinsella, Helen Fielding and Tasmina Perry. I also enjoy more literary novels, by writers such Kate Atkinson and Curtis Sittenfeld, and historical fiction like Philippa Gregory’s books. As you can tell, I’m a big fan of female writers!

Q7. 'The Naughty Girl's Book Club' is your debut novel - how did it feel to get your book deal with Avon, and then to get a proper copy of your new book in your hands?!

Exactly as you’d expect – amazing! I’d been trying for a good few years to have a novel published, so when it finally happened it felt incredible, and I was so lucky that it was with such a big publisher like HarperCollins. My agent, Madeleine Milburn, is wonderful! Seeing the actual copy of the book was quite surreal – it was much thicker than I expected – and Avon managed to secure some really good retail support so I’ve been seeing Naughty Girls in loads of shops and supermarkets. It’s crazy to see it on the shelves next to famous authors and writers I’ve been a fan of for years.

Q8. You're active on Twitter - do you think social networking is a good tool for author's to use to connect with their readers?

Yes, I think it’s brilliant! From what I understand, the publishing industry has changed a lot in the last few years, and writers are expected to do much more in terms of self-promotion. It’s actually a good thing, as I think otherwise you could sit at home and feel very disconnected from the whole process, but with social networking you get an instant response and really feel like you’re making a difference to the success of your novel.

One of the most fun things has been running an online naughty book club on Twitter, to complement the book. I’ve discovered some great novels through it (like Bared to You by Sylvia Day, and Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire), and met some really lovely, friendly, supportive people. Anyone is welcome to join in @Cafe_Crumb

Q9. What is next for you?

I’m working on my next book, although it’s in the very early stages at the moment. But I’ve written a short story for an ebook-only compilation which is out at the end of June. The book is called The Perfect Escape, and features a whole host of Avon writers like Miranda Dickinson, Julia Williams and Laura Ziepe. And it’s completely free to download – perfect for your summer hols!

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