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Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Interview with Author, Sibel Hodge

Sibel Hodge has dual British/Turkish Cypriot nationality and divides her time between Hertfordshire and North Cyprus. A trained fitness instructor and sports and massage therapist, she writes freelance feature articles on health, fitness, and various lifestyle subjects. There are very few British writers of Turkish Cypriot origin who write commercial fiction for the women’s market. Her first novel, Fourteen Days Later, is a romantic comedy with a unique infusion of British and Turkish Cypriot culture. Short listed for the Harry Bowling Prize 2008, it also received a highly commended in the Yeovil Literary Prize 2009.

The Fashion Police, Sibel’s second novel, is the first in a series featuring insurance investigator, Amber Fox. A screwball comedy-mystery, it combines murder and mayhem with romance and chick-lit. She wanted a female character who was feisty and larger than life, yet aware of her flaws.
‘Life’, says Sibel, ‘is about living and laughing. After all, laughing keeps you young! Engrossing yourself in a good comedy is an excellent way to de-stress from our hectic lives. I hope that my novels bring a smile to your face or give you a laugh-out-loud moment and that you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.’

SA:  Tell us about The Fashion Police in a few sentences.
SH:    The Fashion Police is my second novel and the first in a series featuring insurance investigator, Amber Fox. It's a comedy mystery, combining murder and mayhem with romance and chick-lit.

SA: What qualities do you need to be a successful writer?
SH:  I'll let you know if I hit the bestseller list!

SA: How did you come to write this particular book?
SH: I worked for Hertfordshire Constabulary for 10 years, and having a sense of humour was a very important part of keeping you sane, so it felt natural for me to write comedy. I love reading romantic comedies, but I also love mysteries, thrillers, and crime novels. My debut novel, Fourteen Days Later, was a romantic comedy and I wanted my second novel to be a fun comedy mystery. I love screwball humour, which is still immensely popular. What better way to eliminate the stress of our modern lives than by laughing it away? I usually get my plot and character ideas from a range of things: a book I've read, a film I've seen, someone I know, a snippet of conversation, real life events, personal experiences, then I mix ideas together, topped off with a lot of imagination! The main inspiration for The Fashion Police came while watching a show about supermodels, but the plots and subplots came to me in bits and piece

SA: If you have a favourite character in your novel, why that particular one?
SH:  I love the main character, Amber Fox. She's energetic, feisty, and larger-than-life, but with a sweet side. She gets to do things I would love to do in real life!

SA:  How can people buy your books?
SH:  My novels are available in paperback and various ebook formats. For more info, please see my website:

SA:  To what extent are grammar and spelling important to a writer?
SH: I think the most important thing is being able to tell a story well. You need to be able to create interesting characters that readers care about, engrossing them in a well thought out plot, and enticing them with your writing style. Grammar and spelling can be easily fixed by editing. But having a love of storytelling is an essential part of being a writer, and it's something that can't be taught or learned – it's instinct.

SA: What are your writing habits?
SH: With my debut novel, Fourteen Days Later, I just wrote! I didn't do any plot outline before I began, I just had a rough idea of what the novel would be about. When I wrote The Fashion Police, I did draft a basic plot outline before I started, making it easier to remember exactly what needed to happen in a particular scene. When I start a novel, I write for about fourteen hours a day. I'm so blinkered, I forget to eat! Sometimes I completely amaze myself, because I don't know what's actually going to come out of my head until I start to type.

SA:  How do you know where to begin any given story?
SH: I think you have to remember that well-known writing phrase: enter the scene late and leave early. It was designed more for screenplays but works just as well with novels. Basically, you don't want to bore the reader with a lot of back story that happened before, as it will only slow down the pace. If you start the scene after events have already begun, it will intrigue the reader to find out what happened previously. Leaving the scene early keeps the reader hooked, compelling them to find out what happens next. 

SA: Is presentation of the MS as important as most agents and publishers suggest?
SH:  Presentation with anything you do in life is important. If you want people to take you seriously, you have to make it the best it can be. If a MS isn't presented to agents or publishers properly, they'll take one look and think that the author doesn't take their work seriously. It's so hard enough for unknown writers to get noticed in the first place, without making it even harder by having a poorly presented document.

SA:  How long does it normally take you to write a novel?
SH:  I actually wrote the first draft of Fourteen Days Later in three weeks. Of course it took a lot longer to polish and edit afterwards. I wrote The Fashion Police in two months, but it took less time to re-work afterwards.

SA:  If there’s a single aspect to writing that really frustrates you, what is it?
SH:  Plotting – I hate it! I just want to get on with the writing, but unfortunately, it's a necessary evil if you want to produce a good novel.

SA: What are you writing now?
SH:  I'm just drafting the plot outline for a sequel to my debut novel, Fourteen Days Later. Then I'm going to write the second in the series of Amber Fox mysteries.

SA:  Is there any aspect of writing that you really enjoy?
SH:  I love inventing characters. Maybe because I love observing people in real life and the possibilities are endless. All my characters are mixtures of friends and family, myself, people in films or books, or people I've met or observed. I usually take an element of one person's character and mix it with someone else's to form a whole new character for a novel. You can even make up the perfect man!

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Word of the Day is divorced from the post that precedes it and produced in response to a request from a follower to provide just such a service.
Word of the Day; naturalism – not to be confused with naturism, of course – in literature, this is the representation of reality or nature in a faithful form. ‘Candy’s story of the love between the King of the Fairies and Janice, the janitor’s homely daughter, was short on naturalism and long on unbelievable fantasy.’

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