SOPHIE MACKINTOSH, AUTHOR
In our first Instagram Live series, THE OUTNET’S Content Editor, Jess Wood, caught up with author and Man Booker Prize nominee Sophie Mackintosh. In case you missed our in-depth conversation with the writer of The Water Cure, we made sure to save some of the best bits…
Jess: Hi Sophie! How are you finding working from home right now?
Sophie: I’m in lockdown with my partner and I’m used to working from home by myself so it’s challenging. I’ve been enjoying seeing people read my work, I like seeing the hashtags for The Water Cure on Instagram – people are having a different reaction to it now, as it’s a book about isolation, and we’re in isolation now.
J: Tell us about the story of The Water Cure…
S: It’s a book about three sisters who live on an island, they live with their family and have been told that the rest of the world is toxic – specifically, to women. It follows what happens when three men come to the shore, the first men they’ve ever seen.
J: How long ago did the idea of that story come to you? It seems very prescient now!
S: I wrote it four years ago, although it seems like longer. I was thinking about the idea of toxic masculinity, violence against women and thinking about what would happen if it was literally toxic. It does seem weirdly prescient now but the way you interpret a book will depend on what’s happening around it at the time.
J: Do you plan your writing very methodically or is it quite organic?
S: I plan the whole thing out in advance as a synopsis, but I might change it as the book goes on. Sometimes you just don’t know if an idea’s going to be good, I’ll go off on a bit of a tangent then I’ll realize the tangent is great! I don’t know how I’d have managed in the old days with a typewriter – I copy and paste constantly!
J: Is it true you have a Spotify playlist for each piece you’re working on?
S: Yes. That’s from when I was working full-time, and I’d use the time on my commute to listen to my Spotify playlist and visualize scenes. For The Water Cure, I had Lana del Rey, the Cocteau Twins… dreamy, slightly otherworldly pieces.
J: So, do you visualize your books as films?
S: Yes, I can really picture it in my head as I’m writing – it’s almost like watching a trailer. Often, scenes in the book I’ve seen as images and it’s almost like trying to transcribe the image, I guess.
J: Tell us a bit about how you got started as a writer?
S: As a teenager I loved writing poetry, I always loved writing in my free time. After graduating , I knew I wanted to continue writing but I worked a few jobs, including at Starbucks.
J: It is a huge deal to be nominated for the Man Booker for your debut novel. What was that like?
S: I remember getting a call from my editor and I was at home. She said ‘oh, the Booker longlist is announced next week.’ And I remember wondering why she was telling me that. My poor partner thought something terrible had happened because I started screaming and crying!
J: Your writing is often described as ‘dystopian.’ Did your childhood in the Welsh countryside impact your work?
S: Yes, I grew up in Pembrokeshire on the coast, and it’s a bit eerie and you can imagine magic happening in those kinds of places. We always had Welsh fairytales in the house. They’re really spooky, and I’ve always been drawn to books that are a bit ‘weird.’
J: What would your tips be for staying focused and keeping creativity flowing?
S: I think accept that it’s hard and be kind to yourself. if you’re beating yourself up, that’s not the way to overcome it. In writing we have a tendency to put pressure on ourselves and compare ourselves, we just need to relax. Also having a document on your phone full of sentences and random ideas to look at when you need inspiration.
J: Tell us about your new novel, Blue Ticket. That’s really exciting!
S: It’s so good to have something on the horizon. I have a little tradition that I like to give in a draft of my next book before the current book comes out – with The Water Cure, I gave in a draft for Blue Ticket. It’s like a personal deadline.
J: What a good idea! What advice would you give to emerging writers of fiction on getting started?
S: Consistency is key – doing a little bit here and there is so much better than not writing anything for six months. My career took off when I won a short-story competition – I’d been writing for a long time, but it gave me a boost and editors started being interested. Practicing and not letting rejection get you down because there’s a lot of it!
Don’t forget to check out Sophie’s new book Blue Ticket this summer.