It was only 11 months ago that we announced our 50th book deal, but we are thrilled to announce that Sophie Jai is now our 70th former student to get a book deal! We’re so incredibly proud of all of our students, and here’s to 70 more …
Sophie has just finished our 6-month novel-writing course in London, whilst she was studying with us she entered the Borough Press & Good Literary Agency Open Submission competition, and this week (her final week studying with us) we were over the moon to discover that she had won. We caught up with Sophie to find out more about her debut Wild Fires …
Huge congratulations on winning a publishing deal through the Borough Press & Good Literary Agency Open Submission competition. How does it feel to know that your book is going to be published?
I have been fluctuating between excited and terrified.
The extract from your novel, Wild Fires, that you submitted to the competition was one you worked on during the course. How did your time studying with us help you develop as a writer?
The routine and discipline of having to show up once a week to a space dedicated solely, and seriously, to writing put my novel to the forefront of my mind. Some of us joked that our weeks no longer started on Mondays, but on Thursdays (when the classes took place). That’s how serious we were. The supportive – but constructive – environment was critical to my writing during this time. I was writing the book in third person before I started at Curtis Brown Creative. Then, on a flippant suggestion in class that I should try first person, the story changed.
Laura Barnett, the instructor, has been a phenomenal teacher. Kind, encouraging, constructive, but above all, patient.
What motivated you to keep writing – do you have any writing rituals or routines?
No, I don’t have any writing rituals. I write whenever I feel like it, which is not often. I am a slow writer.
I write because it is the only way I know how to say what is inside of me. Wild Fires is fiction, yes. But there are glints of my own truth in it. I think all fiction writers can say that of their work.
Do you think your CBC group will keep in touch after the course ends? Have you found trusted readers?
Yes! We chat almost daily. I am part of a group that gives excellent, considerate, thoughtful feedback. For all my submissions for critique in class, every single person has given me something that made my story stronger.
Can you tell us a little more about Wild Fires?
The story is about a young woman, Cassandra, who returns home to Toronto from England for the funeral of her troubled brother, Chevy. A rumour manifests in the house, and Cassandra finds herself navigating her dysfunctional family and protecting them from each other. The crux of the story though, is the relationship between Cassandra, an unconventional Indo-Trinidadian woman, and her traditional mother (my favourite story trope is the mother-daughter relationship). Wild Fires, among other themes, also explores how the ways we mourn – which is always out of love – can end up hurting others.
Do you have any advice you’d like to pass on to aspiring authors?
This is all still very new to me – I still consider myself aspiring. I suppose what has helped me is knowing that if I am writing truthfully and fearlessly, if I am being honest with myself – which is so very difficult – no one can take my story away from me. That is my story. No one can deny me the truth of my heart. I tell myself this when I am writing. When something doesn’t read right to me, I ask myself, ‘What are you trying to cover up? What are you afraid of here – in this sentence or scene?’ Sometimes the answer is as trivial as, ‘I’m afraid the reader won’t understand what I mean.’ Sometimes it hits deeper though, like, ‘I’m afraid people will really know how I feel.’
What’s next for you and your writing journey?
I need to finish writing the book!
Are you currently writing a novel? Apply now for one of our autumn 2019 6-month novel-writing courses: online with Lisa O’Donnell (applications close July 21st) or in London with Simon Wroe (applications close Sunday 14th July).
There is also one Jane Fallon Scholarship place available for a talented writer of limited financial means to study on the six-month course of their choice (applications close July 21st).