Good day and welcome to today’s edition of Authors’ Mastermind where I interview a different author each day. My name is Faith Mortimer and I welcome today’s contender. Could you please state your name and occupation?
Sibel Hodge, author of romantic comedies & comedy mysteries.
Now, can you tell us your chosen subject?
Thank you. Now would you please answer the following questions on your chosen subject? You have a maximum number of 250 words on each question. If you do not know the answer, say pass and we’ll move on to another question. The total number of passes will be counted and deducted against your final score. Are you ready? Good then I’ll begin.
1. Ms Sibel Hodge, how do you describe yourself; as a writer and as a person?
Crazy, quirky, loves to make people laugh, fun, feisty. All of those words sum up my novels and me.
2. Do you do anything that would tell us you lead an interesting or indeed a crazy life?
In my spare time I’m Wonder Woman! I’ve got an updated, sexy pair of knickers now.
3. Briefly, describe your journey into writing your first book and what or who inspired you.
I’ve always loved writing. When I was a little kid, I was always scribbling away. I started my first novel when I was about seventeen but didn’t have a clue what I was doing, so I binned it. I started the second one when I was twenty-seven but never got further than the first three chapters. My third one I started when I was thirty-five and went on to become my debut romantic comedy, Fourteen Days Later. I’ve now released four novels.
When I was living in the UK I was too busy paying the mortgage to be able to devote any time to my passion that one day I’d write a novel. 5 years ago I gave up the rat race and moved to North Cyprus so I finally had the time and opportunity to begin. I haven’t looked back since! (Ed. Great place to live! I’m in the South).
4. Are you working on anything right now?
I’m working out some ideas for my next chick lit comedy called The Hen Night.
5a. Do you ever struggle with parts of the book you’re working/writing on?
Plotting! I hate the dreaded P word. Is there such a thing as plot-o-phobia? If I try and do too much plot outline before I start, I tend to lose my creativity. Most of the time I just start writing and my characters and storyline seem to develop on their own.
If you answered Q 4, then you next question is;
5b. What is your next book about, and where do you get your ideas from?
I get ideas from everywhere and anywhere - a film, a snippet of conversation, a story that friends have told me, a TV programme. Add a lot of creativity into the mix and you have the beginnings of a story. It’s about a group of women who go to Las Vegas for a hen party weekend but end up getting more than they bargained for!
6. How would you define your writing working day? Give us some indication of where you work, and the length of time you spend on your project.
When I’m writing a novel I write for probably fourteen hours a day. I’m so stuck into it that it’s a chore to even tear myself away for something to eat. My husband might as well be speaking Martian to me because I can’t even hear what he’s saying half the time.
I write anywhere. My husband seems to have stolen my desk so I write on my laptop on the sofa, dining room table, patio, and garden - wherever the mood takes me. I usually have a cat on my knee as well. (Ed. So do I so I can sympathise there!)
7. Tell us about characterisation. How do you develop your characters? Do you feel they are important in the overall picture? Do you ever base them on real people?
One of my favourite parts of writing a novel is creating characters. I lurrrrve inventing new people. You can invent anyone you want - even the perfect man! A lot of my lead female characters have some of my traits in them (I’m not telling you which bits, though!). My lead males have a lot of my husband in them. It was funny a while ago because a close friend read Fourteen Days Later and My Perfect Wedding and fell in love with Kalem, the lead male. Her husband and my husband were arguing over who he was based on! My other characters have got bits and pieces from friends and other people I’ve met. So if you get on the wrong side of me, you might end up as one of my villains!
8. What about the editing and redrafting process? When do you do this?
I don’t edit until I’ve finished the first draft. Then I’ll go through and add/delete. Normally my first draft is short and I have to add a lot rather than delete passages. Editing is the worst part of it. Going through the same novel over and over is mind-numbing sometimes. When I think it’s ready I hand it over to my editor who gives it the final edit, and then I go through it once more before it’s published. Yawn!
9. How have you overcome any trials and tribulations of rejection?
A few years ago, after I wrote my debut romantic comedy novel, Fourteen Days Later, I queried hundreds of agents and publishers. I got too many rejections to even count! OK, small white lie, a while ago I did count them out of morbid curiosity, and it was a whopping two hundred! I did come close a couple of times to being traditionally published, but it never quite worked out. It was either, “one group of editors liked it but another didn’t”, or “the chick lit market is saturated”, or “we love it but…”
When I first looked into publishing independently, platforms like Amazon Kindle didn’t support international authors. So the way I saw it, I had two choices. Either I could write another book, hone my writing skills and learn all I could about my craft, and wait for an opportunity to come up, or I could let all the rejection letters get me down, think my writing career was over before it had begun, and stick my head in the oven! Since heat tends to turn my curls into a ball of frizz, it was no contest, really. I wrote my next novel, a chicklit mystery called The Fashion Police, and waited. Because I knew, I just knew that I COULD do this. I could write novels that people wanted to read. If only I could get the chance. In the meantime, I entered several writing competitions and was thrilled to gain the accolades above. Surely I was doing something right, wasn’t I? But I still couldn’t get a mainstream publisher to take me on. So when Amazon opened up their direct publishing service to non US authors, I went for it! I haven’t looked back since, and I went from 200 rejections to Amazon’s top 200 in eBook sales rankings. Considering there are over 550,000 Kindle books on Amazon, that’s not bad!
The traditional world of publishing is changing immensely, and bricks and mortar bookstore space is reducing drastically. More traditionally published authors are moving over to Indie publishing because they have more control over their work and can benefit from better royalties. I’m certain that I’ve had more success as an Indie than I would if I’d been traditionally published.
So I consider it the gift of rejection!
10. If you were not writing, what would be your choice of employment?
I’d still be Wonder Woman - never a dull moment!
Thank you. Your score on your chosen subject is 8. You answered 1 question too many (5a) and Q9 was too long according to the rules. A good score though.
Now for the General Knowledge section.
1. Which book(s) are you reading at the moment?
I’m in between books. I just finished Take No More by Seb Kirby and will probably start on a non-fiction book called Beautiful by Katie Piper.
2. Name your five favourite authors.
Ooh, this is soooo hard - I’ve got so many! Sophie Kinsella, Janet Evanovich, Marian Keyes, Harlan Coben, Ian Rankin. Can I sneak a few more in without you noticing?
3. Who, out of your five favourite people would you like to invite to dinner at your house. You will be doing the catering. What is your ideal menu, you would provide? (You must be able to cook this!)
Nelson Mandela - he’s my hero.
Kelly Jones (lead singer of Stereophonics) - he’s got such a sexy voice!
Ricky Gervais because he cracks me up.
Ricky’s friend Karl Pilkington who was in An Idiot Abroad because when they get together it’s just hilarious.
And for afters, I’d have…oops, I mean I’d invite Brad Pitt.
Being Turkish Cypriot I love Turkish food so I’d probably make a huge moussaka with salad, and roasted potatoes with garlic (although might have to reconsider the garlic with Brad around).
Definitely something chocolate for afters with Brad.
4. Do any authors inspire you? If so, which ones?
There are so many indie authors who’ve inspired me since I began this indie journey. Too many to mention!
5. What things in your life would you love to do that you haven’t yet achieved. Your answer should NOT be ‘become a rich and famous author’. If you fall back on this answer, then 3 marks will be deducted from your overall score.
Bummer! I like that answer! OK, then...
I’d love to travel around Australia.
I want to swim with sharks. (Done it before with the human variety!)
I’d love to see one of my novels made into a film.
I want to be a rich and famous…writer! Ah ha! I didn’t say author! (Ed. Smartarse – minus 1 mark).
6. Describe your ideal day; working and leisure (only clean answers please).
Swim in my pool, write a piece for my blog, work on a novel on the patio with the Cyprus sun beaming down, snorkel in the sea, and get together with friends for a BBQ and drinks. Lots of drinks!
7. What has been the most memorable thing that has happened to you in a, your writing career and b, in your private life (again, only cleans answers will be accepted).
A) Wow, I’ve been lucky to have a few: I was shortlisted for the Harry Bowling Prize 2008, I was a runner-up in the Yeovil Literary Prize 2009, I was a runner-up in the Chapter One Novel Competition 2010, and nominated Best Novel with Romantic Elements 2010 by The Romance Reviews. They are all pretty special to me.
B) Giving up my life in the UK and moving to North Cyprus. Oh, and I’d better say meeting my husband before he kicks me!
8. Are you a disciplined person in everyday life? How would/does this reflect in your writing?
I’m very disciplined. In fact, I think I’m turning into a workaholic! In some ways it’s good because it spurs me on to write, but it means I’m so blinkered sometimes to everything else around me.
9. Do you keep a dart-board handy with rejection letters from Publishing House editors’ photographs pinned to it? If so, what is your highest score?
Not a dart-board, but I’ve kept some of the letters and whenever I get a lovely review from a reader or book reviewer I just smile to myself and remember what some of them said. I had some lovely letters from publishing editors; it was some of the ones from agents that are now amusing considering what I’ve achieved. Agents nil, Sibel one! (Ed. Good answer +1 mark).
10. What are your five desert island books?
There you go again, trying to narrow it down! It’s soooo hard!
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
A Long Walk to Freedom - Nelson Mandela
Anything by Janet Evanovich
Anything by Sophie Kinsella
The Green Mile - Stephen King.
Tie-breaker question. Tell us the most outrageous/embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you. What were the consequences? A bonus of 5 extra points will be awarded to the best answer from contenders to the Authors Mastermind Crown.
Are we only allowed to give clean answers to this one, too? This is a clean-ish!
God, I’ve had loads! I was doing backstroke in our local swimming pool once and I was so busy concentrating on the ceiling to make sure I didn’t veer off and smack anyone in the face with my arm. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see people staring at me and wondered what they were all looking at. Then I realized that my boob had wormed its way out of my bikini top and was on full display to everyone in the pool!
Thank you. Your time is now up. You managed to complete all questions with no passes.
Your overall score is a whopping 19! We shall see how you do against the other contenders. Well done and thank you!
Sibel Hodge has a website where you can read all about her books and more about her colourful life. The link is;