Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Sophie Tanner?
Hiya! Who is she indeed? Well, I grew up in Devon and Dorset so I’m a west country girl. I was an animal-loving, day-dreaming child who went on to become a Britpop-obsessed cider-lover as a teenager. It was a bit of a culture shock when I went to uni in London but I loved it! I studied Theatre and English then worked in tourism, then went travelling to Mexico and Africa, which was mind incredible.
When I returned to Blighty, I fancied living near the beach and so headed straight for Brighton and, 12 years later, I’ve never left! I love the laid back, anything-goes vibe here and there’s always so much going on — music, theatre, street parties, every fitness class you can imagine etc. I live in a little flat near the sea with my bumptious Labrador, Ella. We spend a lot of time on the beach and roaming the Sussex Downs. I try to stay quite active — I like going to Kung Fu and trapeze class. As well as being an author I also work as a freelancer in PR and content writing. I just turned 40 and so far, so good!
Your debut novel, Reader, I Married Me, was recently published by Trapeze. It looks rather fun: How would you introduce it to a potential reader?
I often introduce it as a romcom without the ‘rom’! It’s a light-heartedly subversive challenge to the traditional romcom narrative which suggests you need an ‘other half’ in order to be truly happy. I’d say it’s an uplifting, feel-good read if you’re in need of a boost.
Tell us what inspired you to write the novel? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?
I’ve always wanted to write a novel and have started a few over the years but never finished them. Reader, I Married Me was inspired by my own life situation. As I turned 30, I was recovering from a pretty bad break up — it wasn’t the first time I’d been cheated on but, for some reason, this guy really knocked my confidence. I went into a bit of a downward spiral — I couldn’t help comparing myself to the new girl and feeling like his rejection was all my fault and that I was never going to be enough.
Thankfully, several months down the line, I woke up one morning and was so relieved to feel my natural sense of optimism returning. I realised that I wasn’t the loser, he was. I had a great life — I loved my family, friends, job, home and, most importantly, myself! I wanted to jump up and celebrate this feeling — because whenever you announce that you’re ‘in a relationship’, the whole world blindly applauds you but, when you’re single, you always get met with this irritating sympathy. I decided there and then that I wasn’t going to waste my life searching for ‘the one’. I wanted a way to express my gratitude for being enough and to recognise self love. And what better way to celebrate love than with a wedding?! At the time I’d been trying to write a really dark novel (reflective of my state of mind!) but I scrapped it and started writing this story about a girl who marries herself.
I wanted to write something that inspired and uplifted me. It was very therapeutic! Generally I draw inspiration from ideas and attitudes that make you think slightly differently about things you take for granted.
How were you introduced to writing and reading?
I can’t remember exactly how I was introduced to reading but I was obsessed with words from a very young age; I’d collect books and treasure them, reading them under the covers by torchlight so Mum wouldn’t catch me up late! I also started writing quite early on — scribbling reams of poetry and keeping it in a leather case.
How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?
Being a writer has always been a dream and I’m still pinching myself now I can officially call myself an author! I love being able to wake up every morning and write for a few hours; to know that I’m creating a story for someone else to enjoy. I think being a writer is a constant journey — it definitely requires discipline and a positive mental attitude. This is my first taste of the publishing industry and I’ve learned a lot — it’s interesting to consider different markets and audiences. I suppose the biggest lesson for me is that people do, in fact, judge a book by its cover!
Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?
I’ve found that my best times to write are the morning hours — maybe because I’ve just finished dreaming and my mind is not cluttered with everyday events. I think writing for a couple of power hours is as good as trying to force yourself to write for the whole day. Words are so fickle — sometimes, when you’re not really in the mood, you can write for half a day and then the next day delete the whole lot. So I’ve learned to recognise when I’m in ‘flow mode’ and to make the most of that time. Writing shouldn’t be a chore after all! With research, I’ll often go down an online rabbit hole, ending up on forums and social media comments. Other times I prefer to go offline, jotting down observational notes when I’m out and about.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?
I’ve wanted to be an author for as long as I can remember, from when I was a child. It fascinated me that I could escape into all these different worlds from my attic bedroom and I knew that one day I wanted to be the author name on the front cover. I used to make up plays with friends and perform them at school — writing scripts was my favourite bit. I got into writing poetry as a teenager but I never attempted a book until I was in my 20s. It is lovely to look back on that now that I have become an author. It’s not often you can make a childhood dream come true.
What’s your opinion of your genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?
I believe my genre of fiction is called ‘UpLit’ — in which we escape to a better world. I love this concept, it moves away from the cheesy, unrealistic romcom — often describing broken people who become fixed. UpLit doesn’t sugar-coat the world but it does offer a sense of kindness, community and hope. I hope that Reader, I Married Me acts as a good antidote to the romcoms out there that reinforce a desperate search for ‘happily ever after’ — showing, instead, that ‘happily ever now’ is just as good 🙂
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?
Yes, I have a few ideas for my next book. I’ve been focusing on the book launch so haven’t started properly writing them yet. I’ll need to consult my agent first before I get started. I’m looking forward to writing again — it has become quite addictive!
What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?
I’m actually reading Eat, Pray, Love at the moment; I ordered a bunch of books from Amazon that I’ve never read but know I ought to have. I often read the latest fiction so sometimes it’s nice to go back to highly-recommended novels that I missed. I’m loving the way Gilbert manages to thread so many pearls of wisdom into her protagonist’s journey.
If you could recommend only one novel or book to someone, what would it be?
Agh, hard! When friends ask for recommendations I always include The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling — it had a really emotional effect on me, her characterisation is fantastic. This story is so clever at highlighting the hypocrisy and flaws in society.
What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
It might come as a surprise to learn that I actually did marry myself — in Brighton in May 2015! I was so taken with my protagonist’s journey and I wanted to test and see if there was an appetite for such a grand gesture of self love. The experience helped to inform the rewrite of the book so it was a virtuous circle of life imitating art imitating life 🙂
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
It’s going to have to be the book launch this Saturday — which also marks my self-wedding anniversary and so I’m renewing my vows. 🙂 This has been such an important chapter in my life. After that, I’m excited to see the next book I have inside me.