Sophie E. Lister is a wonderful writer of literary fiction. Her debut novel, Hideous Creatures (Old Street, 2014), has been described as, ‘a deeply mysterious, unsettling, and otherworldly book,’ and her style has been compared to writers like Audrey Niffenegger, Erin Morgenstern and Neil Gaiman. Her second novel, The Immortals, is out today and I had the great joy of getting my hands on a copy at her launch last night. Sophie’s novels are a real treat: she has one of the most unique and original voices I have read in a while.
Sophie is currently working on her third novel and although she is keeping the details under wraps for now, she has told me that it’s okay to mention that it’s set in a fictional, doomed city in the ancient world…I sense that it will be another wonderfully beguiling story.
Sophie lives in Southampton and studied Creative Writing at Warwick University. Here’s a little insight into Sophie’s world.
Which three words would you use to describe yourself?
Dreamer. Cynical .Idealist.
What do you love most about writing?
Those wonderful moments when something comes to life on the page – when an image or a character or a line of dialogue appears fully formed, without conscious effort.
What do you find hardest about writing?
The vulnerability that comes with letting readers into my private worlds.
Give us a flavour of The Immortals in one sentence.
‘Rosa came home after seven years, in the same year she had left.’(That’s the first line of the book, which is probably cheating.)
What inspired you to write The Immortals
Many things; in part, the experience of feeling rootless and directionless through my twenties.
What kind of child were you?
Lost in my own world. Terrified of everything. Secretly bloodthirsty.
If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?
The power to banish all slugs from the surface of the earth.
Which fictional character would you most like to meet?
Remus Lupin from the Harry Potter series. I’m fairly certain he’s the love of my life.
What book do you wish you’d written?
Watership Down; it’s my childhood favourite, but absolutely not just for children. Full of myth and darkness.
Do you have any writing tics that you’re forever editing out?
I think I use too many adjectives. And I used to be slightly addicted to the word ‘slightly’. Once, I counted, and I’d used it 144 times in one manuscript.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
You can usually find me in the garden. Or unhealthily addicted to something on Netflix.
What are you reading at the moment?
My friend lent me a book called Proust was a Neuroscientist. It’s about the way that artists through history have intuited things later proven by science.
What’s your favourite word?
The word ‘avuncular’ has always amused me.
What’s the most important lesson life has taught you?
That it’s OK not to be OK.
Which writer do you most admire?
Maybe Kazuo Ishiguro? His prose is so meticulous and restrained, and his characters so poignantly self-deluded.
What song or piece of music would you choose as the theme tune to your life?
Taylor Swift, ‘Shake it Off’. I’m joking. Sort of.
Where do you write?
At my desk in my room, overlooking the park, or in a local café.
What or who inspires you?
People who live difficult lives with grace. People who are generous with what they have.
What three tips would you give aspiring novelists?
- Don’t start with market research – write what excites you.
- Be disciplined, but be kind to yourself.
- Make space in your life to dream.