Sarah Stovell Interview
Posted on 22 January 2008. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
WriteWords talks to Sarah Stovell, aka Sappholit
How, when and why did you first start writing?
I was probably about six. I gave myself enough time to master letter formation, and then I was off. At the height of my infant school rebellion, I used to write stories while pretending to get on with my maths, and that pretty much set the tone for life. It just became a habit – an addiction – I never gave up. When we were teenagers, everyone else took drugs. I knocked out a couple of angsty novels. I probably wasn’t that cool, thinking about it. Oh, well.
Who are your favourite writers and why?
Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan (sometimes), Emily Bronte, Raymond Carver, Toni Morrison, George Eliot, Sylvia Plath, John Keats, John Donne, Shakespeare.
Jeepers. No one outside the canon, it would seem. I’m too straight. Erm . . . . Luisa Plaja. There.
How did you get your first agent/ commission?
I went the standard route of buying the Writers’ and Artists’ Handbook and then sitting around on slush piles for a few months. I sent my first three chapters and synopsis to about fifteen agents. Although I had quite a good response – about 8 full ms requests – only one took me on.
What's the worst thing about writing?
If you want to look at it as a job, there’s not much money in it and no security. I have no idea whether anyone will still want to publish me two years from now.
And the best?
It’s all I want to do, and I can do it without getting dressed.
Tell us what kind of responses you get from audiences\ readers.
So far, not very many people have read my work, and those who have are good friends, who only say good stuff. I mostly just file the positive comments away somewhere to keep me going during the rough patches, and take them with a pinch of salt. I don’t know yet how I’ll deal with criticism. I’ll probably just be irritating and flippant about it and carry on.
What was your breakthrough moment?
Oddly, my biggest breakthrough wasn’t to do with finding an agent or being offered a publishing contract (though obviously those were great moments). My major one was when I gave myself permission to become a writer. I’d always known I wanted to write, but after graduating at 21, I spent far too much time succumbing to conventional pressures to ‘get a steady job.’ And then I found I couldn’t hold down a steady job cos I was too frustrated by my desire to write (and the jobs were deathly boring and, to be honest, I would rather starve than do half of them). Eventually in 2003, when I was 26, I took a course in Advanced Fiction at the Arvon Foundation. It was then that I thought, ‘This is what I’m going to do.’ And so I did.
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