Interview – Sophie Kinsella: “My life does spill into the books and the books spill into my life.”

The brilliant Sophie Kinsella joins me at lit.Love in Munich for a chat about books and travel. Sophie talks about her time in Vienna, how she gets her inspiration for characters and if she would ever go back to one of her stand-alones. I hope you enjoy this chat as much as I did.

Eyes of Owls: As a book blogger, my first question is, do you enjoy reading reviews?
Sophie Kinsella: I don’t read all my reviews, because I think there is too many and, I think that any writer would agree with me, that you always fixate on some random comment, that disturbs you and gets in the way. But I also think that you can learn from reviews, so I do read them. I’m always interested to hear what people are saying. I think you can just learn so much from an insight that you hadn’t thought of it that way and you think: “oh, okay, that’s really interesting”. And so, although, I’m not somebody who is going to troll through the internet obsessively, just googling my name to see what everybody is saying –
– but if someone tags you, or something?
Absolutely. You know, I do, because after all, I’m writing for the readers and I want them to enjoy what I am doing. So, I’m interested to know what people think.

What do you think, which kind of reviews are more important, the ones that are in the big newspapers or the ones that are by bloggers?
Well, I think everybody is entitled to an opinion and I think that everybody who is a reader has a view point and might have insights that another person doesn’t have, so I think, I listen to every bodies voice. If I meet somebody at an event and they say “I thought this about your book”, I listen to them with great respect. I treat all voices as equal, each of them is a valid reader with a point of view to express. They had an experience and they are telling you about their experience. That’s what I am interested in.

What do you enjoy writing more, the Shopaholic Series or your stand-alones?
I enjoy both of them in different ways. The Shopaholic Series I love because I know the world so well, I know Becky so well, I know the family and I look forward to writing her and Luke, and those scenes and dialogue. On the other hand, I have to be so aware of what I have already written, and it means I’m slightly constrained in what I can write. I can’t have her meeting Luke for the first time, again. I’ve done that. Whereas, if I’’m writing a stand-alone book, I can start with a completely clean page, new horizon, new themes. It feels very liberating. So, that’s quite exciting.

Would you ever consider going back to one of your stand-alones, to that world, in whatever way?
It has been a temptation. A few books I’ve been asked again and again, will I write a sequel. Can You Keep a Secret?, a lot of people would like a sequel.
I love that. It’s one of my favourites.
Oh, you are so nice. The Undomestic Goddess a lot of people would like, I’ve got your Number, actually, a lot of people, now that I think about it. [laughs] So far, it hasn’t felt right. I felt like I’ve told that story and I think I would only go back if I felt I have a compelling story to tell about these characters and up ’til now, I felt like are these stand-alone in the story, but never say never.

Did you ever think, there is an interesting side character in a book that maybe I could put in another novel, or something?
Again, I think it would be fun.
‘Cause I’ve just started reading Can You Keep a Secret? again and I’m thinking, Jemima would make just a funny and weird kind of character for other books.
Yeah, I think you’re right. I also think, for example, Danny, the designer in the Shopaholic Series, you could do an amazing series about him.
Like a spin-off, just him?
Yeah. My trouble is, there is just not enough hours in the day. So, I just have to think, okay, I’m going to do this for now. Maybe I’ll do that one day and all these ideas are all possible, depending on what priorities you make. But I do love that idea.

Can You Keep a Secret? is going to be a film. You’ve been to New York last week. How’s filming going?
Yeah, it’s going really well, thank you. So, I saw some scenes being filmed, I met cast members and I met with the producers and the screen writer, which for me is very important. He’s very concerned to keep it true to the book as much as possible, which is nice. There isn’t room for everything in a film that you have in a book, so there are some scenes from the book which won’t be in the film, which is always going to be the way. But when I was there, the cast were really funny. The scenes that I saw being filmed were really funny, but also poignant, when they had to be. So, I came away feeling really happy, like, this is going to be great.

Do you know, how they’re going to going to put in modern times, with smartphones, because there is this scene where Emma can’t see Jack’s interview and comes into the room late, but nowadays, she could just watch it on her phone?
Few details like that have just been updated and what I saw felt very now and modern. The producers are quite smart, they’re making the story, but they’re making it work for today. So, I’m hopeful.

Where do you get your inspiration for your characters? Is is everyday life, when you meet someone, and you think, oh that’s a characteristic that I find interesting?
It often is that, yeah. Or I think of a plot line and I think, what kind of person would do that and then I have to build up a character that would do something, because my plots are sometimes a little bit out there and extreme. I have to think, what kind of person would seriously be going to do this and create it that way. Usually, I would bring in somebody that I’ve come across in real life, even if they don’t know it. Or even if I don’t know it, it’s not like I deliberately go around. But I think, I am just very receptive, I’m always picking up people’s vibe and putting it into books.

Is there something that you share with your characters?
I think I put myself into, certainly, all my heroines because I write from the first person. They have quite a lot in common, even if they’re different, they have different flaws, they have different issues, but I think there’s a commonality to them and I think a lot of that comes from me.

Is there a character you’ve written that somebody who knows you said, “oh yeah, that’s absolutely you”?
Not exactly that, no. I think people recognise facets of me in all of them and things that I’ve said. Actually, quite often I’ve written dialogue between Becky and Luke and my husband’s gone “pff, that’s just us” and I’m like “yeah”. [laughs] Or I’ll say something, or he’ll say something, and he’ll just go “oh my god, that is so Becky”. So, it’s always the other way round. My life does spill into the books and the books spill into my life.

What inspires you to write?
I’m slightly addicted to story. I just love telling stories. I like creating comedy and once I have an idea for a story or for a comedic scene, I get really impatient, like I want to see it on the page. That’s what drives me through writing a book, because I want to see how it turns out, or I can’t wait for this plot twist and it propels me along really.

“There is something just beautiful about a book as an item. So, if you can combine a beautiful design and beautiful words, it doesn’t get much better than that.” – Sophie Kinsella

What is your favourite book to read?
Ooh, do you mean as relaxation? The honest truth is, when I want to relax I read Agatha Christie. Because it’s very, very different from what I’m doing. I do read my friends and contemporary authors, but when you read something that is too like what you do, it’s slightly professional and you’re like “oh, that’s an interesting choice” or “oh, what would I do…”. I’m never going to write an Agatha Christie book, so I’m able to just enjoy them and I always forget who did it, which is very handy, so I can reread them.
Do you have a favourite?
Oh, all of them, really. I have the whole collection to just pick and choose.

So, I assume your favourite author then is also Agatha Christie?
Well, I do enjoy Agatha Christie. I’d say in terms of who I enjoy reading and who is also been a great inspiration, I have to say Jane Austen. I think, she is just so influential, in terms of writing the kind of books that I do. She’s so funny, but so wise.
And still so relevant.
And still so relevant, exactly.

Do you have a favourite genre to read?
I would say that I read quite a lot of genres, except I don’t read much non-fiction and I don’t read anything too nasty. I’m not very good at graphic horror, I’m not even brilliant at thrillers that are too jumpy. So, I tend to read literary fiction. I like contemporary fiction of all kinds, but nothing too nasty.

What are you currently reading or something that you read last?
I’m just reading Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine [by Gail Honeyman], which I’m really enjoying so far. It’s a really different character. I love reading interesting voices and that’s definitely an interesting voice.

What’s your favourite place you’ve ever been to?
My favourite place is probably my own bed. But I’m sensing that’s not the answer that you want. [laughs]
That’s a fine answer. [laughs]
In terms of rememberable and spectacular, Utah, in the States. I visited once and, you know, you visit a lot of places and you think, that is a bit like here or that’s a bit like that. Utah was unlike anything. It was a bit like the moon. It was so spectacularly different landscape. And I really thought, I know I’m somewhere different now. So, that’s what always stayed with me.

Is there a place that you always wanted to travel to, but hadn’t had the time to do so yet?
Oh, plenty. I’ve never been to Australia, and I feel like I need time to do that, because I’m really hopeless at jet-lag. So, I would need about two weeks either way. And I’d love to go to the Galapagos islands. I’ve got my wishlist.

Have you ever been to Austria? I have to ask, because I’m Austrian.
Not only have I been to Austria, I went to Vienna almost a year ago and I danced at one of the balls. Oh, it was amazing. It was an experience that I don’t think you could get anywhere else. I felt like I was in a fairy tale. It was just one of the best experiences in my life.
Well, good to hear.
Yeah, big thumbs up to Austria. [laughs]

Is there a favourite place you have in London?
Oh, too many. I would have to say, what about Liberty. Liberty is just such a feel good place. You just feel like, it’s not just a beautiful shop, but a slice of history. And I really admire them, because there is that historical element to it with all the gorgeous prints but there is also this really savvy, modern, contemporary sight to it. They have amazing beauty and they have amazing designers, so you get the best of both.
Do you think one of your books will ever get the Liberty treatment cover design?
Oh, wouldn’t that be amazing? Yes, start the petition.
I will.
Liberty prints. I mean, imagine?
I always look at those books and I think they’re so gorgeous.
I know. That’s the lovely things about books, isn’t it, that there, obviously, is a story inside, but there is something just beautiful about a book as an item. So, if you can combine a beautiful design and beautiful words, it doesn’t get much better than that.

While we’re on the topic of book covers, do you have a favourite book cover of yours? 
I have quite a few actually. I think one of my favourites is the first ever Shopaholic cover in the American edition. The reason I loved it was, that it was very plain white on the front with just a price tag, and then you opened it up and you saw inside, Becky’s wardrobe. It was chaotic, shoes and clothes and bags. And I loved that, because it was so witty. You picked up a very plain looking book wondering “oh, what is this?” and pow! So that was, fun. It was quite something.

Thank you so much!
Thank you! It was nice to chat.

Thank you to Goldmann and especially Barbara Henning for this opportunity to interview Sophie Kinsella. Danke an Goldmann und besonders Barbara Henning für die Gelegenheit Sophie Kinsella zu interviewen.

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