Saturday, February 16, 2013

Author Interview: The Look - Sophie Bennet!

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I'm so excited to interview Sophia Bennett, author of The Look, coming out March 1, 2013! I can't wait for the book and to share this interview! Plus, the cover is eye-catching!

The Bookshelves: 1.) What inspired you to write The Look?
Sophia: To quote from my website, here's how it started: In June 2010 a girl called Elizabeth wrote to me, telling me she was thinking about becoming an English teacher one day: ‘the kind who wear pencil skirts and crimson lipstick’. That sounded great to me! But she’d been told she could maybe be a model instead – what did I think?

Well, I wasn’t sure what to think. At least, I knew what I thought (which was ‘No! Don’t do it! Be that English teacher instead!’), but I realised I didn’t know why. What’s it like to be a model? Who would enjoy it? Who wouldn’t? Is it really as glamorous as it sounds, or as seedy as some people say?

I was talking to some of the girls from Bliss magazine at the time and they said that whenever they run a modelling competition, they’re overwhelmed by entries. According to surveys, about 30% of girls consider it at some stage. Secretly. Nobody will admit to it. But they do.

And so I set off on my research. Meanwhile, a friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer and she had a whole set of new and different challenges to face. And I saw a stunning girl on the street with an arrestingly short haircut, and I instantly realised she was my main character, Ted. Gradually it all came together. Not the story I first had in mind, but a different one – a bit darker and much harder to tell, about two sisters, and how they cope with a cancer diagnosis and finding themselves in two very different, unfamiliar worlds. This story became The Look.

TB: 2.) What character resembles you the post and why? Was there any "you" in any of the characters?

This was a tricky book for me to write, because the main character, Ted, isn't much like me at all. For a start, she's very tall! I'm five foot five, and I was never going to be a model. Also, Ted starts off not really knowing what she wants to do with her life, whereas I knew from very early on that I wanted to be a writer. I found it easier to write Ted as the book progressed and she started discovering herself. 

I'm not really Ava, the glamorous sister, either, although I like her very much. She and Ted are based on some close sisters that I know, and they also have characteristics I've grabbed from different places. The character most based on me is actually the scatty dad, based at home, writing and trying his best to look after his family. There's quite a lot of me in him. 

But the most fun character to develop, by far, was Tina di Gaggia, the outrageous fashion trend-spotter. She's based on a few reality TV fashion people I love (naming no names). She's very eccentric, slightly evil, and a joy to write.

TB: 3.) Tell us about that cover! How was the process to getting the cover art like? Did you love the cover?

Do you like the cover? I'm dying to know what people think of it. I don't know the detail of how it came about, because Scholastic like to protect me from their art department, or the other way around, which is possibly theagood thing. But I do know that they wanted it to be edgier than the (gorgeous, but very different) UK cover. It's an edgy story, so I'm fine with that. The inspiration for the two faces came from the poster for The Ides of March - where the faces belong to Ryan Gosling and George Clooney. The girls on my cover are actually two different people, too. I really like the bravery of using a shorn head in one of the pictures. The head shaving scene is the central one in the book, and most readers' favourite, so it's good to see it represented on the cover.

TB: 4.) A Favorite Store. One Wish. Fav movie in 2012

Hard. Possibly Liberty, off Regent Street in London. Or Anthropologie. I'd wish for an end to all torture. Also saggy facial skin on women over 40 (sigh). But torture first. Hunger Games. Jennifer Lawrence is Awe. Some. I can't wait to see her in the Silver Linings Playbook.

TB: 5.) Tweet Review! In 140 Words or less, tell us about The Look!

Words, or characters? 

Two sisters. Once cancer diagnosis. One chance to be a model. How far would you go to help the sister you love?

TB: 6.) How was the writing process like? Any tips for inspiring writers?

For this book - very tough. It took a long, long time for the characters to be fleshed out, and to work out which bits of my research into the modelling world I wanted to use. I always find beginnings - the first ten thousand words - the hardest by far. But I really wanted to tell this story. It was inspired by people very close to me. 

As for tips for aspiring writers, to quote Neil Gaiman - do it. Just write. Finish what you started. That is what writers do. Sounds easy - but it's hard. Don't worry: it's hard for all of us. We do it because we don't want to do anything else.

TB: 7.) What can you tell us about the next book? Any hints you can give us?

I'm just finishing the main edit for the next book now. It's going to be called 'You Don't Know Me', and it's about a group of girls who love to sing and find themselves in an online talent show. They're asked to drop one of the girls if they want to make it, and without really thinking about it, they do. Then there's a huge online backlash. How do you deal with life when 300,000 people officially hate you? What makes you strong? 

It comes out in the UK in May, and I'm so glad the story is working out the way I wanted it to. That one was hard to write, too!

TB: 8.) What is your current YA read? How are you liking it?

I'm currently reading Torn, by another UK YA writer called Cat Clarke. It's about a popular mean girl who mysteriously died on a camping trip, and the surviving girls, who know what happened but aren't talking. Like all Cat's books, it's intriguingly written, with a great voice, so I'm loving it.

~ sophia xxx

Who's Excited for The Look?


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