Interview with Sofia Black

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I actually don't remember the first story I ever read. Does anyone? I was around three years old when I started reading (thanks, Mom!), so I wasn't quite old enough to store many memories. I had this big book full of Precious Moments stories, though, so I'm pretty sure the first story I read on my own was probably from that book. I still have it, actually. I should look at it again.
What do you read for pleasure?
Anything. Everything. I love reading fantasy of all sorts, but in all honesty, my reading tastes are all over the place. Sometimes, that's partially due to my background in psychology; it bleeds into what subjects I find interesting to read about for fun. Here's a sample of what I read in teh last couple of months of 2014:

-Without Conscience: The disturbing world of psychopaths (Robert D. Hare)
-Splintered and Unhinged (A. G. Howard)
-The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern)
-Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)
-The String of Pearls: A romance
-The Empathy Trap: Understanding Antisocial Personalities (Jane & Tim McGregor)
-The Lucifer Effect (Philip Zimbardo)
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Oh, wow. This question is almost impossible to answer, because my "favorite" anything changes all the time. Right now, I can name a few books (I'll be cheating and naming some series, rather than individual books):

1. The Splinterd Series, by A. G. Howard. I'm a sucker for all things Wonderland, and these books are PHENOMENAL. I mean, really. I've read the first two books, Splinterd and Unhinged each a couple dozen times, and I'll have the third book, Ensnared, in my hands in a matter of days (this part will be outdated very, very soon, so you may safely assume that by the time you read this, I have Ensnared and have probably read it at least three times). Anyway, I just love the series. It's an interesting take on Wonderland and I really like what Howard has done.

2. Virtually every book in Tamora Pierce's Tortall Universe. These books--especially Trickster's Choice and Trickster's Queen are my favorites. I spent all three years of junior high reading and rereading the Song of the Lioness Quartet and the Immortals Quartet. I. Loved. These. Books. And I still do! Fantasy has always been my go-to genre, and I love the worlds Tamora Pierce created. As far as Trickster's Choice goes, I read my copy so many times that the spine came off--literally, I wore it out and it fell off--and the front cover is mostly detached. I treasure my books, so for one of mine to take that kind of damage...it got a LOT of love from me, and still does.

3. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman. Fairytales. Fantasy. I'm not sure what more I need to say. If you haven't read it, you should.

4. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman. I'm also big on mythology (my Ancient Greek/Ancient Roman/Ancient Egyptian kick lasted a solid 7 years, and I learned how to decipher heiroglyphics in the process, though I've since forgotten most of it), so American Gods has always appealed to me.

5. The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. Honestly, I feel odd listing this book. There's not a massive amount of character development, and that is usually the sort of thing that bothers me. After finishing the book, I felt like I didn't really know anything about either main character. At the same time, though, I felt like I knew just about everything about them. And that's kind of the magic of the book. Sometimes, the details are infuriatingly sparse, but at the same time, something in the words still lets you conjure a shockingly complete image of the characters and the world they inhabit.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Generally speaking, I don't do any e-reading. I have a Nook (one from the first run, when literally all you could do with it was read books, and load a little bit of music onto it if you could get it to work), and I do have a decent collection of books on it. The only time I use it, though, it when I'm going on a long trip--one where I would need to pack upwards of three books to read. Sometimes I'll read things on my laptop.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The general need for silly things like showers and food. Oh, and if I'm up by 9am on weekdays, I can hang out and watch something like three hours straight of Supernatural. So that tends to get me up, too. I don't know why, since I've seen every epsiode by now and it's not even one of my favorite shows...
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Right now, I'm a full-time Master's student, so if I'm not writing, I'm usually found working on classwork. Actually, I should amend that. If I'm not writing, I'm usually procrastinating INSTEAD of working on classwork. I spend a lot of time reading (oftentimes re-reading books I've already read) and listening to music. Lately, that music is largely in French--a language I have only passing familiarity with. But it's fantastic.
How do you approach cover design?
Easy! I hire someone else to do it! Honestly, I'm terrible with graphic design. I've never learned to do more than very, very basic stuff, and I've never taken the time to improve those skills. For Songstruck, I found the model for the cover when I was looking for images for character boards. She was a dead ringer for Isabel, the main character, and I asked the wonderful young woman I hired to design my cover if she could try to use one of the images of that model (from a particular photoshoot). Beyond that, I sent her a synopsis, a blurb, and some other story notes. Then I gave over all creative control. And I think that was best for me. I was drained after doing final edits and formatting, and I was rounding out a solid year of simultaneous thesis work and novel work. I. Was. Exhausted. So I was happy to take a backsesat on the cover design, and I trusted my designer to produce something great.

Writing is my thing, graphic design is not. I find it's often for the best to stick to what I know, and let other people do what they know.
What is your writing process?
I write whatever interests me, whenever it interest me. By which I mean my manuscripts have all kinds of holes in them. I will write a scene, and then whenever I reach a point where I'm bored with the scene or don't know exactly what happens next, I add a note in brackets to go back and add more later. So my in-progress manuscripts are full of things like this:

[ADDMORE- THEY NEED TO STOP AT SOME POINT, AND ALASTOR NEEDS TO GET PISSED OFF]

or:

[ADDMORE-WHERE, EXACTLY, DID ILENA GO? DID I FORGET TO WRITE HER IN? SHE'S SUPPOSED TO HAVE BEEN WITH THEM THE WHOLE TIME, SO?????]

or even:

[ADDMORE-KILL (insert character name here)]

I leave those notes, and then move on to a later scene. I also make extensive use of the "Notes" feature on my phone. A lot of my ideas for scenes and plot points come when I am in no position to actually be writing. Mostly, when I'm in a meeting or in bed. So I start writing a note, using exact wording wherever I can (including dialogue), and adding more bracket reminders to give me a general sense of what I was thinking at the moment.

Eventually, I get all of the holes filled in until I have a complete story. It can be absolutely maddening to get that done, though...mostly because a lot of those gaps are scenes I just didn't feel like writing. The ones that get left for last are the ones I NEVER really felt like writing, but were necessary for the story to move on. And there's always the moment when I THINK I'm finished, but then I find another bracket...
What are you working on next?
I've got a couple of projects in the works right now. One of which--the one I'm working the most on--is a sequel to Songstruck.
What do your fans mean to you?
Fans? Fans? What are these mythical "fans"? I don't think I have any just yet (if I do, and you're reading this, hello!). But honestly, I appreciate anyone who takes a look at my work. Even the people who download the sample of the ebook version of Songstruck but don't purchase the entire work. The fact that anyone is interested enough to even glance my book's way is astounding and humbling. The fact that some people have actually purchased it is even more so. The idea of having actual FANS of my work...it would be wonderful. And I would love to interact with such people, because I LOVE talking about my characters and my story.
Published 2015-01-04.
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