Member Showcase: Sophie Neville
If you could meet anyone in the world who would it be and why?
Meeting Arch-Bishop Desmond Tutu would be fun and I am sure he’d give me some fine quotes to use in print.
Have you met anyone famous? If so, in what context?
I met Andrew Scott, the baddie from James Bond, on the set of the new film adaptation of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ last year but wasn’t brave enough to ask if he knew Jesus.
If you could travel to just one country in the world, where would it be?
I would love to travel around Madagascar where I’m sure I would come across wonderful stories.
What’s your favourite song and why?
‘Be Thou My Vision’ to keep me on the right track - we sang it at my wedding.
What is your favourite colour and why?
Purple, which I find I can wear whatever the occasion. There are many hues but I prefer the rich, amethyst colour representative of the Holy Spirit, although it’s a mite too powerful if you are considering what jodhpurs to buy.
Where is your favourite place to write?
A thatched cottage deep in the African bush, where I can escape everyday life. I use two rooms at home in Hampshire – one for admin and one for books.
Pen or keyboard?
Laptop, I’m afraid. It’s not good for the posture. The original material for my last three books was handwritten but had to be typed up. My prehistoric computer sadly died when I was writing my first book in South Africa and I couldn’t afford to buy a new one. Miraculously, a brand new PC was donated to the local primary school. The teachers had no idea how to use it, so I introduced them to Microsoft Word in exchange for being able to work on my book while they were busy. I sat at a low desk on one of those tiny red plastic school chairs until I had 100,000 words and the headmistress gained computer literacy.
Now for a few more in depth questions.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I graduated from the University of Durham with a degree in anthropology and went straight into the mayhem of the BBC. I worked on a number of drama serials, filming on location in Paris and Corfu, and produced INSET programmes for Schools Television before setting up documentaries for the Natural History Unit and Blue Peter in Southern Africa. I was based on a game reserve where we ran horse safaris. Disaster struck when I broke my pelvis but I used my time on crutches to turn professional as a wildlife artist. My sketches proved useful to illustrate my first books. I now live on the south coast of England where I raise funds for a number of charitable projects in South Africa and attempt to bring out a new book every year.
How did you get started writing?
I began by writing for television. This sounds grand but it was simply a matter of putting my own programmes together and working with BBC Books to bring out accompanying literature. It wasn’t until I graduated from a Discipleship Training Course at YWAM in 2000 that I started writing books. I self-published ‘Funnily Enough’, a testimony based on a diary that won an international award, and ‘Ride the Wings of Morning’, made up of the letters I sent home from Africa about riding horses through the wilderness.
Can you tell readers about your latest book?
The publishers Classic TV Press asked if they could bring out a paperback version of ‘The Making of SWALLOWS & AMAZONS’, a memoir I’d brought out as an ebook under a similar title. As a child I played Titty in the classic movie of Arthur Ransome’s book, shot on location in the Lake District in 1973. I used the daily account I kept as a 12 year-old to guide the narrative, adding anecdotes as to how disaster was averted. It has appeal for anyone who grew up in the ‘seventies or enjoys light-hearted biographies.
Why did you write this book?
I started writing it as a blog to advertise my first two memoirs. This soon developed a following and I was encouraged by fans of the film to bring out an illustrated book. After giving a number of talks on how the film was made, I was appointed President of The Arthur Ransome Society, the second biggest literary society in the UK.
What else have you written during your career?
I am in the final stages of editing a novel based on a true story from WWII entitled ‘Makorongo’s War’. I’ve recently written Forwards to ‘An A-Z: Cumbria and the Lake District on Film’ for Hayloft Publishing and ‘Swallowdale’ by Arthur Ransome for Albatros Media in the Czech Republic. ‘Funnily Enough’ was serialised in iBelieve, a Christian lifestyle magazine, and I’ve had feature articles in Cotswold Life, Country Life, Classic Sailor and Word in Action.
Have you got a favourite genre to read? If so why?
I love Christian books and get totally engrossed in the memoirs I use for research but my book club keep me reading popular literary fiction.
How would you describe your writing regime?
The ideal would be to escape to South Africa for a couple of months to get my first draft on paper so I can assimilate research material or type all day long. I would then work on the structure and keeping adding material every afternoon back at home. I find my mornings are occupied with marketing and spend quite a few weekends giving talks on my books or for Bible Society.
Which writer or writers has had the most influence on your own writing?
Since I write true-life stories, I would say, Gerald Durrell, Monica Dickens, Helene Hanff and CS Lewis.
Where can readers buy your books?
Amazon and all other online stockists but do order them from bookshops or libraries. Christian readers will probably prefer ‘Funnily Enough’.
You can find the links on https://sophieneville.net
Thank you Sophie. It has been a pleasure to meet you and to get to know more about you. I wish you the very best with your writing career.