Slapper. Slut. Adulteress. These are hardly words that Sophie Penhalligan would normally use to describe herself. And yet this is exactly how she is behaving, all things considered, even if she isn’t quite married to Tim yet. Aged nineteen, she travelled halfway across the country to honour an invitation by her favourite rock band, Tusk, to join them for the last gig of their tour. And now her past is coming to tempt her... How could Tim ever stand a chance against Dan, the charming, handsome lead-singer? How could she?
Sophie, now twenty-eight and a budding newspaper journalist, is happily embroiled in a relationship with Tim, her boyfriend of two years. Until recently, she was confident that Tim would eventually propose—probably as soon as he could get his act together. But just as Tim’s persistent inaction is beginning to cast a cloud over their relationship, Dan’s sudden reappearance turns Sophie’s world upside down. Thus unfolds a roller-coaster of events including an ill-fated trip to Paris with Tim, a night of unfulfilled romance with Dan, Sophie and Tim’s engagement party gate-crashed by Dan, and Sophie’s professional secondment to accompany Dan’s band on their revival tour—at Dan’s special request and very much against her will.
And then, one fine day in Paris, Sophie suddenly finds herself engaged to Dan while her erstwhile fiancé Tim is... well, doing whatever it is Tim does back in London. What is she to do now? Who wouldn’t give anything to meet their favourite star, let alone marry him?
Find out how Sophie gets into this impossible situation, and how she turns it around, in Sophie’s Turn, a modern romantic fairy tale.
How did you start your writing career?
Funnily enough, I started my writing career in secret, using a green biro, ruled school paper, and later, a scratchy fountain pen spouting purple ink. Usually, I would write after lights-out, crouched on my window sill, writing either by fading daylight or by the light of the lamppost outside my bedroom window. My Mum doesn’t know to this day that that’s what I got up to when I couldn’t sleep, which was most nights. I was ten, then.
That’s how it all started, really. Originally, I wrote children’s stories. As a teenager, I wrote what presumably would be classed as YA fiction. All of these stories were purely for my consumption and nobody ever, ever saw them. I’ve still got them somewhere but I won’t say where… At university, I wrote a number of short stories and then eventually, a pre-cursor to a first draft of Sophie’s Turn. So all in all, I guess you could say that I’ve always been writing in some capacity (as grand as that sounds) but that Sophie’s Turn only emerged after a few embarrassing and rather disastrous previous efforts.
Does travel play in the writing of your books?
Oh yes indeed! Sophie gets to travel all over the place, within the
Where do you research for your books?
I use three avenues for research. First, first-hand research. Where locations are concerned (whether cities, restaurants or other places), ideally I’d like to have been there. If I haven’t been there, I try to go there. And if that’s not possible, I use a combination of two types of second-hand research. So my second avenue is typically the internet. I don’t need to tell anybody that you can find out just about anything via the internet; most people out there are probably more savvy internet users than me. But, particularly for Sophie’s Turn, I had fantastic fun checking out five star hotels, taking virtual tours of the rooms and the restaurants, checking out menus and customer reviews… Combine that with an experience of having stayed at least once in a four star establishment, and you can really get a feel for what it might be like. And my third avenue, interviews, can help to supplement internet information. So for example, while I’ve been to
Does your significant other read your stuff?
Absolutely! When I was writing Sophie’s Turn, he was my first beta-tester. After I’d compiled a critical mass of chapters, I started reading things out to him every night. I was heavily pregnant, and I remember lying on the sofa, my legs propped up on his lap, leafing through pages and pages of narrative, reading to him, questioning him, discussing things with him and making changes that he suggested. It was a really fabulous experience! He also read the entire manuscript once more when it was all finished. J
Sadly, at the moment he is travelling too much to repeat the experience with The Sequel (which is very much in progress) so I’m giving him chunks to read and comment on. I do miss the instant feedback though. It is wonderful to get somebody’s reaction to your work straightway, while you are presenting it to them…
What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your books?
Do you know, I had no idea that these characters would become so… alive! I had the whole plot planned in meticulous detail. Every development, every twist and turn, every connection between events, every scene, every dialogue… It sounds anal, but it was all there. And it all went into the book… somehow. Yet the characters definitely took me for a variety of rides I hadn’t anticipated. A classic example is Sophie and Tim’s engagement party. I didn’t know that Dan would turn up! I had planned for him to be disgruntled and very jealous, but I never thought for one second that he would just… go. And introduce himself to Tim! It was the most bizarre experience because I was writing the story but I didn’t have a clue what was happening. My fingers were busy typing and I was reading along, waiting with bated breath for new developments. That was truly surprising, and exhilarating. It kept happening, and still keeps happening with The Sequel. I’ve learnt to cherish these moments, and harness them. Some of the greatest scenes have come about this way…
Do you have a milestone birthday coming up? If so, how are you approaching it?
I do indeed. Not in the immediate future, but within the year. My birthday is December 18, and I’ll be 39 this year. So next year, I’ve got the big four-oh. Gulp! My husband is a little behind me on that front (he’s my toyboy, or so we joke) so the plan is to have a HUGE big party when I’m forty-and-a-half and he’s thirty-nine-and-a-half. We’ll have a joint eightieth birthday party! In addition, we’ll have been married ten years, so we’re adding this onto the number as well. AND all of this coincides with me having been in the
Morning Person? Or Night Person? How do you know?
Traditionally, definitely Night Person. How do I know? I’m grumpy and disorganized in the morning, and I don’t start to function properly until about mid-day. I drop things and spoil things and harrumph a lot.
However, that’s had to change with the arrival of two kids and a frantic morning schedule. I’m still not good in the morning (to put it mildly) but I’ve found ways of coping. I usually feel dreadfully tired and disembodied, though! Whereas at ten o’clock at night, I really come awake and alive and have my best ideas. My body clock and my life style are not happily married, I can tell you this much!
What would we find under your bed?
Everything bar the kitchen sink. We are very short of storage space in our house, so I’ve put two full size under-bed drawers under the bed. One contains: Photo albums, wedding paraphernalia (like a tiara, the big planning book, etc); a blow-up mattress; knitting that I started eight years ago and never finished; calendars and diaries from the past ten years; photo frames that we never got round to hanging up; and a selection of tools (like a soldering iron for mending a toy railway, that my husband recently brought home…). The other one contains: a big blue canvas bag-cum-suitcase which we use for family travel and which in turn is filled with plastic bags galore (don’t ask me why); my clarinet and all my sheet music; my husband’s favourite children’s books; more sheet music (for guitar and mandolin); and all baby care books and leaflets we ever collected from various places.
Oh and, dare I admit it, plenty of dust. I don’t get to go in those drawers all that often…
Say your publisher has offered to fly you anywhere in the world to do research on an upcoming book, where would you most likely want to go?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nicky Wells is a writer, wife, mother and teaching assistant. Born and raised in Germany, Nicky moved to the United Kingdom in 1993. Having received two degrees, Nicky spent six years working as a researcher and project manager for an international Human Resources research firm based in London and Washington, D.C.
Nicky left work in November 2004 to spend three months writing her debut novel, Sophie’s Turn, before the birth of her first baby in April 2005. Since then, Nicky has had another child and qualified as a teaching assistant. Nicky regularly works as a volunteer teaching assistant in her local primary school and also works for the German Saturday School in Bristol.
Nicky currently lives in Bristol with her husband and her two boys and is working on her next novel, the sequel to Sophie’s Turn. When she is not writing, she loves listening to rock music (or simply the radio), reading books and eating lobsters or pizza.
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