Saturday, May 18, 2013

BLOG TOUR: Interview with Sophia Bennett

Today I get to be on the blog tour for Sophia Bennett's latest novel, YOU DON'T KNOW ME. If you know me (do you see what I did there???), you'll know that I am a HUGE fan of Sophia's writing and would never have forgiven myself if I said I didn't want to be on this tour!

Buy: Amazon UK / Amazon US / Book Depository

Sasha, Jodie, Nell and Rose never expected to be famous. They didn’t want to be. In fact, they wanted to keep their band a secret because it’s what they do when they’re being stupid together – dressing up and singing cheesy songs.

But someone has stolen a video they made. It’s online, and it’s been entered into a talent competition. And what’s more … it’s got 24 votes. In only a few hours it’s got 24 votes.

The girls are about to be faced with a big decision that could make them seriously famous.

Just not necessarily the way they hoped …

--Goodreads summary
In YOU DON'T KNOW ME, Sasha and Rose's relationship is put to "the ultimate test." Have you ever been in a similar situation with somebody close to you? 
I have definitely made mistakes with people close to me. I always tried to do the right thing, but I remember a few times at school when I was selfish, or tried to do what other people wanted and didn't put friendship first. However, my mistakes were on a much lower level than Sasha's. She gets into trouble on national TV; I still feel guilty about spending the whole weekend at a friend's house reading her Nancy Drew books instead of talking to her. Not quite the same … 

My problem was that, living in an army family, I was always moving and often had to say goodbye to friends for good. Even once I left home, I often moved for reasons to do with university or jobs, so there are many, many people in my life who I got close to and then never saw again. Perhaps that's why I value good friendships so much. If you have one, treat it carefully. it's more precious than you know.

What was thing you most loved about writing YOU DON'T KNOW ME?
Interesting question! To be honest, each book I've written has been harder than the last and You Don't Know Me was very, very difficult. I knew the story I wanted to write, but the characters just wouldn't do what I wanted. I rewrote almost every scene many times. However, it often happens that the bits I'm dreading most turn out to be the easiest to do. In The Look, for example, I was nervous about writing the hairdressing scene because it was potentially so sad, and it was so central to the story. But when I came to it, it was uplifting and a joy to do. I finished it in one afternoon.

In You Don't Know Me, I was nervous about writing lines from the songs. I'm not normally a songwriter and thought I'd really struggle. However, each time, the words I needed just came. I assumed I'd change them later, but I didn't. I was happy that they captured the emotion I wanted for the scene. We even ended up naming the book after one of them. So it became a book about songwriting, and songwriting was the bit I enjoyed best.
For the record, I adored the songwriting. So, teen Sophia, discuss! What recent releases would she find herself staying up super late to read, if they had been written back then?
Well funnily enough, my favourite recent release is set in 1986, when I was twenty, so I'd have felt very at home with it! It's Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell. A wonderful bittersweet love story about a fierce, cynical redhead girl and a shy, beautiful half-Korean boy. Eleanor's home life is, as she puts it, too bleak to talk about. She doesn't want to impose her problems on anyone and is convinced that any attempts she makes at happiness will fail. Nevertheless, she bonds with Park over comic books and mix tapes. Their love story is slow-burn, tender and true. And heartbreaking. As my own teen love life was hopeless/non-existent, I'd have loved to lose myself in this book. 

I also read a lot of adult spy and mystery stories, like John Le Carre, Len Deighton and Dorothy Sayers, so I'd be busy reading Gone Girl, A Delicate Truth and Death comes to Pemberley (Jane Austen meets PD James - perfect!). I discovered Iain Banks in my late teens, and The Wasp Factory just blew me away. It's his debut novel, came out in 1984, is weird and murderous and has the most extraordinary ending. Then I read The Crow Road, which has the most extraordinary beginning: "It was the day my grandmother exploded." How can you not be gripped by a book that starts like that? He recently announced that  he is dying of gall-bladder cancer and teen-me would be desperate to read his new book, The Quarry, which comes out this summer will almost certainly be his last. And I'd be re-reading his back catalogue, which is incredible. In fact, I probably will. 

I have All The Feelings when I think about Eleanor & Park. This one is highly recommended from both of us! I've been meaning to read Gone Girl, and definitely all of Iain Banks, after hearing his news.
You are, without a doubt, one of my favourite UKYA contemporary/realistic fiction authors, ever. What draws you to contemporary fiction (within YA)?
Thank you! I always knew I wanted to write for children/young adults, but I never really pictured myself writing contemporary YA. My first - unpublished - books were mysteries. I love the worlds of Harry Potter and Hunger Games, but I can't see myself writing fantasy. The things that fascinate me, and the ideas that come to me, are based on what's going on around me now. I'm fascinated by modern culture and politics, and how young people adapt to it. The 'what if's that occur to me and inspire my stories are all about how a modern teenager would cope with one of the extreme situations we read about online or see on TV. Plus, it gives me the chance to live lots of fantasy lives, as a fashion designer, journalist, model, pop star etc, which is always fun. 

Would you ever consider writing in another genre? Gotta love those vampires, and um, apocalypses!
Yes, I'd love to experiment with other genres if I get the chance. No vampires. Definitely no apocalypses. Maybe ghost stories, which were the first stories I told late at night at boarding school, to scare my friends. (It worked.) Definitely mystery stories one day, because I love them. Just possibly sci fi, because I love the 'what if' element to it and I think some of our greatest short novels are sci fi. But for now, contemporary, because the ideas are still stacking up, like planes ...
 Ooh, sci-fi and mystery, sign me up!
 Hottest YA book/author to look out for this year?
As I mentioned, Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell. James Dawson has a new one coming out, which I'm sure will make a splash after Hollow Pike. The Madman's Daughter, beautifully written by Megan Shepherd, based on The Island of Doctor Moreau.

Finish the sentence: The last song I listened to was… 
'You Lost Your Place' by Wayward Daughter. I listened to it a lot while I was writing the book and again while I was putting together the playlist for this blog tour. Haunting song.

It is finally starting to look like we Brits will actually have a summer this year. What's the first summer-activity on your to-do list?
Music festival! Having written about one in the story, I really want to go to one again soon. I'll be at the last day of Glastonbury, because my parents live locally, but I'd love to go to a smaller festival too. I wouldn't mind experimenting with glamping under the apple trees …

I wish I was glamping under the apple trees... *sigh*

Thank you Sophia, for answering my questions! I should hopefully have my review up in the following week, after my English Lit exams, so make sure you guys to come back so you can see how much I enjoyed You Don't Know Me.

Sophia Bennett on
Her website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads

Next stop on the tour: Girls Heart Books



  1. Ooh, I'll be at Glastonbury this year! Maybe I'll bump into you, Sophia ;) Great interview!

  2. I loved You Don't Know Me so I've loved reading this interview. Great questions, Iffath! :)


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