Recently, Sofie Darling and I had the chance to chat about her writing process, her opinions on self-publishing, and whether her real-life romance with Mr. Darling is as steamy as the ones in her novels!
Elizabeth May Jahns: What kind of writing did you do before you started writing your first published novel? Was it indeed your first, or are there other finished manuscripts that will never see the light of day?
Sofie Darling: Well, I had the audacity to think, as a lifelong reader, I could simply write a novel. So I wrote a “literary” novel. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was dreadful, but it wasn’t great. (Actually, it might be dreadful. I haven’t looked at it in a decade. I don’t have the courage.) I realized two things: First, I needed to go back to university and focus on creative writing. Second, I didn’t want to write literary fiction. I ended up writing several short stories in writing classes, which I might do something with someday.
What is your editing and revision process like?
In terms of process, I’m a plotter. I plot and outline the entire novel before I start writing. Which sounds neat and tidy. But there’s one catch: in order to create, I have to write by hand. My creative mind cannot function at a computer. This really slows down my process and is the reason it takes me nine months to write a novel. I have found ways to “trick” my mind at the keyboard by handwriting very detailed outlines that I can transcribe onto the computer. Then I’ll print these pages and fill in from there over a few rounds with my handy #2 pencil.
Tempted By The Viscount kept me guessing the whole way through. I never once knew what was going to happen next! How do you craft a story that’s able to do that so well? Where do your ideas come from?
That’s really great to hear. Thank you! Well, several factors come into play. On the craft side, I think about story beats and turning points to keep the story moving. Another factor is that these days I’m mostly reading outside the genre I write. I love to get caught up in a good story, well-told. When that happens, I’ll break it down to see how the author did it structurally. But maybe most importantly, I have my creative writing professor’s voice in the back of my head. With one of my stories, after the class had critiqued and said how much they liked it, she nodded her head and quietly agreed. I was feeling pretty good about then. Then she said, “After I finished reading, I sat back in my chair and asked myself, ‘But was it interesting?’” My gut instantly sank to my feet. When I’m writing, I always have her voice in my head, asking, “But is it interesting?” Keeping it interesting is my number one storytelling goal.
In Tempted By The Viscount, Jakob and Olivia have such amazing chemistry! Do you and Mr. Darling have that kind of relationship?
We do have great chemistry, but more, too. We really likeeach other. He has a quick, and deliciously naughty, wit that tickles my funny bone every time. We love to travel together. We can get stranded in a blizzard together and be just fine. (This happened in April when we visited Iceland for our 20thanniversary.) I think there are multiple types of chemistry, and for a relationship to be long-term, there has to be more than the initial one that sets the body aflame at a glance. (Although, I like that kind, too. A lot.)
Can you tell me about the process from when you decided to write your first novel to seeing it in print?
It’s a bit of a convoluted story, so bear with me. Even though Tempted By The Viscount is the second book in this series, I actually wrote it first. After I’d finished it, I went to RWA’s national convention and pitched it to a Big 5 editor. She asked for the first three chapters and a synopsis. Months went by, and I didn’t hear from her. So I figured she’d passed. (This is fairly par for the course in the publishing game.) I’d completely moved on and had started writing the next book, when I received an email from her, asking for the entire manuscript. Elated, I sent it to her. A few months later, she sent it back revision notes. She wanted me to cut at least 15,000 words and focus the story more tightly on Jake and Olivia. In other words, she wanted most of Mina’s storyline, including her point of view scenes, cut. Because this was an editor with a major publishing house, I gave it a shot. After a few rounds, the end product wasn’t satisfactory to either of us, and we decided to part ways. I was tied up in this process for an entire year. It was a huge learning lesson.
Meanwhile, I was also writing Three Lessons In Seduction, the book that I thought would be the second in the series. Then a critique partner suggested I switch the books around. Her biggest reason for doing so was sound: if Three Lessons came second, I would be denying Olivia her happy ending, due to a bigtwist that happens in Three Lessons. Although I’d already thought of a workaround for that, her solution was simpler and made the most sense. So I switched the order. Three Lessons In Seductionwas now book one.
The following spring, I submitted Three Lessonsto a few unpublished writing contests. To my delight, I won one and finaled in two others, a double-finalist in one of them. This was my signal to start submitting to publishers again. I did and caught the interest of five, one of which was another “big” publisher. But, like with Tempted, they wanted major changes to Three Lessons. These changes would have completely changed not only the dynamic of the book, but of the series as well. It simply wouldn’t have been the story I was interested in telling. I passed.
Not too long after, I found an editor who was excited about my work as-is. And we’ve enjoyed a great working relationship since. Book three is in her hands as I type.
How does your non-writing life fit in with your writing life? How was Mr. Darling supportive of your decision to return to school and become a romance writer? How do you make the time to write?
I’m lucky enough to have a partner in Mr. Darling who is supportive of everything I do. My romance-writing career is the complete opposite of his career, which is something he enjoys.
In terms of non-writing life vs. writing life, they usually don’t interfere with each other. I’m a morning person, so my creative time typically happens before 2 pm. Mr. Darling and the boys are night owls, so we usually have a few good hours in the evening before I call it a night and they begin theirs.
Did you ever consider self-publishing? Might you ever consider that in the future?
Have I considered self-publishing? Yes and no. When I was just starting to get my feet under me and understand what publishing was about, there were so many self-publishing success stories making the rounds. But, now, the market has become really saturated and those numbers are being questioned. I’m not sure how much traction a debut, self-published author can get in today’s environment. But—there’s always a but—that might depend on genre and sub-genre. Paranormal romance, for example, seems really open to self-published.
Might I consider it in the future? I’m happy with my current publishing situation, but if anything changed, it’s a path I might consider. It would come down to my ability to tell the stories I want to tell.
After reading Tempted By The Viscount, I was nervous to read another romance novel, because I was actually afraid that it wouldn’t be nearly as good as yours! I just knew that the characters and the plot wouldn’t strike me and stay with me in the same ways. So, which romance novels would you recommend that you think might measure up? Who are your favorite romance writers?
My all-time favorite historical romance author is Judith Ivory. I love her stories. Her characters are never straight-forward, and can even be unlikeable, but always interesting. I reread Black Silk every year.
What are you working on now? What can we expect to see next?
Book three of my series, Her Midnight Sin, is now in the hands of my editor, so I’m starting work on book four, as-yet untitled. Her Midnight Sin will release in April, 2019 and features the world-weary Captain John Nylander and feisty Lady Calpurnia Radclyffe, Dowager Viscountess St. Alban, as they vie against each other for the same Devon country estate. There will be pirates and apple brandy. 🙂
Elizabeth, I’ve so enjoyed our interview. Thank you for inviting me over to your lovely blog today.
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Sofie Darling is an award-winning author of historical romance. Her debut novel, Three Lessons in Seduction, won the Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest in the Romance Category of 2016. She spent much of her twenties raising two boys and reading every book she could get her hands on. Once she realized she simply had to write the books she loved, she finished her English degree and embarked on her writing career. Mr. Darling and their boys gave her their wholehearted blessing. When she’s not writing heroes who make her swoon, she runs a marathon in a different state every year, visits crumbling medieval castles whenever she gets a chance, and enjoys a slightly codependent relationship with her beagle, Bosco. Visit her website, and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Goodreads.
Have you had a chance yet to read Tempted By the Viscount? Reading anything else right now? Let me know in the comments!