It’s time for a new interview series… like NOW. No really, actually it’s called NOW (Newly Omniscient Authors). This blog has been publishing since 2011, and some of the earlier posts feel too… dated. To honor the relaunch of the site, I thought I’d invite some of my past guests to read and ruminate on their answers to questions from oh-so-long-ago to see what’s changed between then and now.
Today’s guest is Sophie Perinot. an award-winning, multi-published author writing stories set against the past but exploring issues and feelings so essentially human that they transcend any particular era. Her passion for French history began more than thirty years ago when she first explored the storied châteaux of the Loire Valley. Sophie’s French-set novels include: Medicis Daughter (16th Century), The Sister Queens (13th Century) and the upcoming Ribbons of Scarlet: A Novel of the French Revolution’s Women (releasing October 1, 2019). She lives in the Washington DC metropolitan area with her husband, children and a small menagerie of pets.
Has how you think (and talk) about writing and publishing changed, further into your career?
Yes, of course: that’s called professional growth and evolution. If I didn’t know more than when I first started looking for an agent over a decade ago that wouldn’t say much for my capacity to learn would it?
We all start out starry eyed—not just in writing but in life—and nobody should miss that part. It’s like first love, the crazy crush stage. But if you want to stay in this business long-term, or make an educated decision when a divorce from it might be healthier, than you have to know that a long term career in publishing, like a long-term relationship (to milk that metaphor just a bit more): 1) takes work; 2) will have as many rough spot to be worked through as it will peak moments (“oh look it is release day”) to be celebrated. Maturity can lead to becoming a bit jaded (we all have our moments), but it also gives you the confidence (and thicker skin) you need to write through the lean times (either creatively or contract-wise).
Let’s about the balance between the creative versus the business side of the industry. Do you think of yourself as an artiste or are you analyzing every aspect of your story for marketability? Has that changed from your early perspective?
Personally, I continue to see myself as creatively driven. But I am also, most definitely, a business woman, and it is the business-side of things that I think really only becomes fully visible once you dive into the industry.
For example, when I started out I had very little idea how much of the marketing heavy-lifting fell on an author’s shoulders. Then once I did, I had that crazy-newbie idea that if you tick all the boxes and follow a formula the results can be predicted and replicated like a science experiment. NOPE. If that were the case, every book whose creator was willing to do the lifting would see it skyrocket to every list.
Moreover, in the 7 years since I was first published the promotion machine has grown to a point where it can take over a majority of your time and strip your interactions with people on social media and elsewhere of authenticity (am I the only one bored by people who are constantly peddling something?) But with time in the industry also come perspective—you get to decide what you do in terms of marketing (or anything else) and how much you spend on it (money and time).
As far as “analyzing every aspect of a story for marketability”—by the time what you are writing now hits shelves (an average of 12-24 months from sale of the manuscript) what was marketable may not be, and what everyone said could “never sell” could be hot. I write historical fiction. When I got in, much more of it was set in England than America—at least the successful stuff—but now American settings sell really well.
No, I am not saying “just follow your bliss,” or “write a good book and it will sell,” those are platitudes to lull the masses. What I am saying is don’t bother picking the hottest thing out there and trying to write to that trend because that could be gone like a puff of smoke. How you balance what is “commercial,” or seems saleable with what you are inspired (or compelled) to write depends on many things. One is certainly how dependent you are on writing to eat and keep your electric on. Ultimately I think the balance is very very personal and it is important to remember the priorities of others often do not make a good template for your own.
The bloom is off the rose… what’s faded for you, this far out from debut?
I am not sure faded is the right word . . . for me transformed might be better.
If anything I am more committed to my writing than I was in those early days, and that’s a good thing because I now realize how much of a commitment and how much time (often spent aspects of the business that don’t thrill me) are required if you are going to be a published author versus a writer. I’ve also realized the two are not co-extensive. That’s actually a GOOD thing, because there is a pure joy in writing that I can say confidently that survives for me no matter what slings and arrows the industrial side of publishing may throw at me.
I will ALWAYS be a writer, a story-teller, a hearer of voices. Whether or not I remain in publishing is far less in my control.
Finally one of the key things that never seems to fade in this career are the friendships. The collegial support in writing is extraordinary. The more time that passes the larger your network of fellow authors grows, and the deeper the roots of friendships within your inner-circle of sisters-in-words go.
And lastly, what did getting published mean for you and how was it changed (or not changed!) your life?
Getting published gave me (and continues to give me) the satisfaction of knowing the voices I hear in my head and the stories I tell to honor those characters are being shared and appreciated by others. Connecting with readers has been a tremendous gift. And, not going to lie, I’d like to think long after I am gone at least a book or two I’ve written will be tucked away on a shelf in someone’s personal library (or maybe laying on a table at a garage sale) waiting for new eyes to bring it—and through it me—to life again.