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Jane Bidder (pen name Sophie King) has been a journalist for over 25 years and contributes regularly to national newspapers and magazines including The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Express. As Sophie King (her pen name), she has written five novels – ‘The School Run’, mums@home, Second Time Lucky, The Supper Club and The Wedding Party – all of which have been described as best-sellers. She is published by Hodder & Stoughton.
Her new novel is called THE WEDDING PARTY and follows the lives of four people who are involved with a wedding. There’s Helen, the groom’s ex-wife; Becky the groom’s grown up daughter; Mel , the female vicar; and Janie , the dippy wedding planner. The novel is set over nine months (the first section is called ‘Nine months to go’) and there’s a count-down until the wedding day – and beyond. THE WEDDING PARTY is being published on April 2nd. There will be several competitions linked to the book; for more details, see her website.
Her current novel, The Supper Club, is about a group of friends who take it in turns to host supper parties once a month. The plot revolves around what happens between the parties and also at them. All kinds of things go on, including an old flame and a former mother in law who turn up unexpectedly!
Jane/Sophie has had hundreds of short stories published in magazines such as Woman’s Weekly and My Weekly as well as non-fiction books for both adults and children. She tutors in creative writing and has also led several writing workshops.
In 2005, Jane won the Elizabeth Goudge Short Story Trophy in 2005 and was a runner up in the Harry Bowling Prize. She has also appeared on breakfast television and radio including Woman’s Hour. In addition, she is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association; Women in Journalism; the Society of Women Writers and Journalists and the National Union of Journalists.
When not writing, Jane is also writer in residence at a high-security, male prison and lectures in creative writing for a local college and Oxford University. She also tutors for Writers News Writing Magazine.
Photograph © Meriet Takách
Below is a Q &A with this author:
WHEN DID YOU FIRST START TO WRITE? As soon as I could pen to paper around the age of two. My mother (who died when she was about my age), said I used to write stories before I could add up. Just as well as maths has never been my strong point. I went to a very academic school - North London Collegiate - and felt terribly thick all the way through. The only thing that kept me there was the fact that I loved writing stories and had some fantastic English teachers including Miss Shillitoe and Mrs Diamond.
HOW DID YOU BECOME A NOVELIST? I always wanted to be one but the careers teacher suggested social work as I've always been interested in helping others. Luckily, I ignored her and after reading English at university, got accepted (to my great surprise) on to the Thomson Graduate Training Course as a journalist. i went on to Woman's Own magazine and then turned freelance when I had my children. The novel got put off for years because I was so busy writing for The Times, Telegraph, women's magazines and making sure my children didn't fall off haystacks as by then, we had moved from Harrow to the country. Then I wrote a novel a year for ten years until the eleventh got accepted.
DESCRIBE AN AVERAGE WEEK.
I used to be able to write all day but then my marriage broke up after twenty seven years and I had to find a steadier way of earning my living than being a freelance journalist. So now I teach creative writing and am also Writer in Residence of a high-security male prison twice a week. They let me home at nights and treat me much better than my children. I now have to fit my writing in with these commitments so have adapted my writing times. On the plus side, my dramatic life change has expanded my source for stories... Recently, I got married again to a family friend (a bachelor) whom I've known for thirty years. He's a northerner and I've promised, one day, to move north....
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU'RE NOT WRITING?
I love playing tennis twice a week ; walking; pilates; and tai chi.. The rest of the time is spent in nagging my teenager to revise; ringing the older grown up children to check where they are; trying to do some housework (not a hobby of mine); attempting to put the right things in the green and black dustbin.
WHICH AUTHORS DO YOU ENJOY READING?
I love Catherine Alliott, whom I met when our boys were at school together. I also like Lisa Jewell; Fay Weldon; Penelope Lively; Diane Setterfeld; Margaret Forster...I could go on.
ARE YOUR NOVELS LED BY CHARACTER OR PLOT?
I start with a spark of an idea and then think of characters to do with it. From then on, it's all character-led. The great thing about writing, for me, is that you don't know what is going to happen next - even though I have a notebook covered with ideas on what could happen (my cheque book and wrist also have notes on them). It's like reading a book and not being sure how it will end, except that you're actually writing it. That, for me, is the wonderful bit - especially when you're driving the car/inthe bath/walking the dog, and you suddenly realise what your heroine has to do. Wonderful....
WHERE DO YOU WRITE?
In my study which is very inconveniently situated next to my teenage son's bedroom , which almost melts with his music. In the summer, I retreat to my summer house at the bottom of the garden. I managed to move it from my old house, which I left when my marriage broke down, by persuading a handyman to saw it in half and re-build it.
WHAT'S YOUR ADVICE TO OTHER WRITERS?
Write about something you are passionate about. Write every day. Don't show it to loved ones and ask what they think. Read. Listen to that small voice inside you if it tells you to do something - or not. Actually, that goes for life too....
Shortlisted for the RNA Love Story of the Year Award 2010. A multi-voiced novel with each chapter written from the point of view of the various main characters as the months before a wedding are fraught with personal problems. It’s a second marriage so there are grown-up children in the mix – one with a big surprise – which I found a delight! There is also a female vicar with some very serious problems. All in all it is a fascinating analysis of human nature under strain. Well paced, well structured and most enjoyable. Highly recommended. To view Sophie's other books click here. Comparison: Carole Matthews, Madeleine Wickham, Jane Green. Look out for Sophie King featuring as our first Guest Editor in April 2009 - she will be selecting 5 authors who have influenced her writing - and if you would like to get a taste of her work, The Supper Club is available to buy now.
Revolving around a number of dinner parties held by a group of friends and acquaintances this novel follows the lives of the characters at and away from their supper club. With lots of well drawn characters to keep your interest this is a charming and amusing novel of gossip scandal in the suburbs. Great fun. To view Sophie's other books click here.
This is a nice scenario for it takes the diverse lives of seven people over one week whose only real link is the school gate. From au pair to single father, teacher to deserted mum, all of life is exposed through these bruised families. The only problem is it doesn’t really conclude, just as our lives don’t.Comparison: Elizabeth Noble, Carmen Reid, Isabel Wolff.Similar this month: Melissa Hill, Barbara Delinsky.