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Creative Edge Author Interview – Sophie Mays is the pen name of author, Stephanie LaVigne

October 14, 2021
mandyevebarnett


  • What spurred you into writing stories in the first place?

I was always a big reader, which was red flag number one. Aside from reading though, I had always been writerly, I just didn’t know it would eventually manifest into fiction novels. I am one of those people with an overactive brain, plus I am a talker. So those two things combined are very conducive to be being a writer.

  • Can you tell us about the very first story you wrote?

When I think of my very first stories, I think back to things I wrote when I was in grade school and high school. I had an amazing honors English teacher in high school who was always challenging us in our creative writing. I wrote a lot of bad poems and decent short stories during that time. Then I wrote a lot of plays and screenplays in my twenties. However, my first proper novel was a quirky mystery book written when I went home for the holidays one year. I did a self-imposed NaNoWriMo, which meant sitting down on my parent’s back porch every day for a month and forcing out 50,000 words without going back to edit or second guess anything. I still haven’t published that book, but I think one day I will. Every few years I pull it out and work on it, then realize that I have other books that need to get done so it gets re-shelved for another day.

  • Why did you pick contemporary romance fiction as your genre?

It was originally because my mother-in-law was an avid romance reader. She tends to read a lot of authors like Debbie Macomber, so I set out to write books that she would enjoy. We’ve always had a lot of fun talking about plots and story ideas, and she has always been my go-to person when deciding on romance book covers. Along the way, I realized how much I enjoyed showing that even though life can have its ups and downs, “happily ever afters” are still possible.

  • Why you decide to write series rather than stand-a-lone novels?

Well, a lot of it has to do with the business end. It simply makes more sense to write in a series than unrelated stand-alones. Though I usually write standalone books within my series, meaning you don’t have to read them in order. However, as a reader myself, I am a total glutton for a series. I get roped in so easily, and once I get to know the characters or the town, I want to spend time there. I think a lot of other people feel the same way, so there is something natural about writing a series.

  • What in particular interests you about this genre?

I really like the reminder that ordinary people can have extraordinary lives, they can find love that lights them up, and can navigate through all the quirks and sometimes disasters of every day life. In spite of all the hurdles that life throws at us, we persevere, and eventually we prevail. I love that in the romance genre we strive to show the goodness in the world. We all need our hearts warmed a little more often, to laugh a lot more often, and to be shown that there are good and beautiful things for us out there in this big, old world.

  • What influences your choice of a location for each series?

I think I get my travel obsession catered to when I choose story locations. So far I have picked a lot of coastal locations, in addition to a number of locations that hold great appeal to me. Even though I usually create a fictional town, I try to set my books in places that I want to visit, or that I have spent time in and loved.

  • When writing a series – what comes first the characters, the location or an overall concept?

It is usually a combination. I usually start with a general story idea, which gives me the vague notion of the main character. Then I spent too much time thinking about the location and picking the perfect spot. Once I have the general premise of the location, then I go back in and really start fine-tuning the characters. Which in turn, changes the story in some ways. It’s a never-ending cycle!

  • Can you tell us a little about the Serenity Falls collection? Where did the idea of five siblings come from?

The first book in the series was actually part of a multi-author collaboration. Some other sweet romance writer friends and I wanted to do a Christmas collection together, however we were a slightly diverse group. Some wrote regency romance, some wrote mail order bride romance, and two of us wrote contemporary romance. So we did a lot of messages back-and-forth and several phone calls until we figured out a way to weave the story lines together where the first stories were set in Regency era England, and then those families came across to America. Then characters from that generation became mail order brides who made their way out west. Finally, the last books were there great-great-grandchildren of the mail order brides (I may be missing an extra great in there, but I can’t remember off the top of my head.) When it came time to come up with the story for my book, I knew that I wanted to write something on a ranch and I love the Rocky Mountains, plus I wanted the option to continue writing in the world if I was inspired to do so later on. That led to my creating my main character, Hannah Wyatt. I gave her a really sweet family with two loving parents and four other siblings, which became the Serenity Falls series. It’s ended up making for a really fun and lovable series with lots of unique love stories.

  • Who is your favorite author and why?

It’s terrible, but I don’t have favorites in general, and I definitely don’t have favorite authors. But for the sake of answering the question, I really love this author named A.J. Jacobs because I find his books hysterical. He has a book called The Know-It-All that I literally cried laughing while reading. It’s about the time he decided to read the Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z. As you can imagine, this isn’t necessarily a book that would be universally considered high humor, but as a word person, I loved it. I’ve also always enjoyed Carl Hiaasen books. He was one of my first authors that inspired me to want to write novels. Plus, there are a ton of amazing female mystery authors that I’ve read and loved. I also read a lot of non-fiction reference books about any number of subjects that I’m interested in.

  1. How do you juggle life and writing?

Haha, poorly! Just kidding. Though, also not kidding. It is incredibly difficult to balance work and life, and I think that goes for almost everyone, not only authors. There is so much that goes into the business end of being a full-time writer. I am constantly doing my best to triage everything in my day-to-day life. I try to stay organized, but even that comes in bursts. Most days, I have about five hours to work before I leave to get my kids. It is somehow the shortest five hours known to man.

  1. Does traveling prompt your story ideas?

I haven’t done much traveling lately, but yes, traveling is always inspiring to me! Even when I’m not physically traveling, a lot of my story work is me tapping into locations I’ve spent time in, or places that I want to go. One of the great things about being a writer is that I get the excuse of looking up cool places that I want to visit for story “research”.

  1. Where can readers find you and your books?

You can sign up for my newsletter at www.SophieMays.com to keep up with me, and hear about my new releases and deals. Plus, I am on all the usual social platforms, like Amazon, Instagram, Facebook, Bookbub, and Goodreads. I’d love if you come and follow me so I can say hello to you wherever you like to hangout online!

  1. What are you currently writing?

I am working on the spin-off series to Serenity Falls, which follows their Wyatt cousins in the Riverside Ranch series. I am also working on two Romantic Comedy series which I am super excited about!

  1. Do you have a message for your readers?

If you’ve read my books before, thank you! You have made it possible for me to take this improbable dream and make it into my everyday life. For anyone out there reading this who has something in their heart that they wish they were brave enough to do or try, my encouragement is for you to take in a big breath and take the first step toward whatever that goal or intimidating thing is. It is never not worth trying. And I completely, boldly, lovingly support you and believe in you!

The Serenity Falls Complete Series: Sweet Romance at Wyatt Ranch

BIO:

From her home in Florida, she offsets sandy toes and ocean views with trips to her favorite
regions in quaint New England, cozy coastal Maine, the majestic Rocky Mountains, the dramatic
Pacific Northwest, the glimmering Caribbean, and the ever-charming South. Sometimes she does
this in real life, but she can always steal away to somewhere beautiful in her books.

When she’s not writing, she’s wrangling kids, spending time with her husband, doing laundry,
baking cookies, planning dream trips, or attempting to fine-tune her questionable gardening
skills. More information can be found at SophieMays.com

• Five unique siblings, five unexpected life changes •
Set against a gorgeous small-town mountain backdrop in Colorado, we follow five siblings as they each return home to help start a new family business.

From cowboys to unexpected newcomers, from weddings to high-stakes adventures, you will fall in love with this cozy small town in the Rocky Mountains and become friends with the Wyatt family. Meet Emma, Hannah, Anna-Jane, Carson, and Jake! Five very different personalities, each deserving of their own happily ever after…

Read all the books in the Serenity Falls series together! This Collection includes:

🤍 Wishes from the Heart (Hannah & Rafferty’s Story) 🤍 Art of the Heart (Anna-Jane & Cody’s Story) 🤍 Baking from the Heart (Emma & Gavin’s Story) 🤍 Call of the Wild Heart (Carson & Bella’s Story) 🤍 Detours of the Heart (Jake & Mackenzie’s Story)
Brisk mountain air and romance abound at the Wyatt Ranch! From bestselling author Sophie Mays comes this delightfully heartwarming sweet ranch romance series.

Whether you are falling in love alongside a baker, an artist, an ex-Navy Seal, or a world traveler – there’s something for everyone in Serenity Falls.

If you love uplifting, feel-good romance stories with irresistible characters, prepare to get roped into Sophie Mays’ Serenity Falls series!

Genres of Literature – Comedy

January 1, 2018
mandyevebarnett


humor-

comic novel is a novel-length work of humorous fiction. Many well-known authors have written comic novels, including P.G. Wodehouse, Henry Fielding, Mark Twain and John Kennedy Toole.

Writing comedy is not an easy task for most of us. You can not rely on the comedian’s use of pause and facial expressions with the written word. It is however a skill to portray a person or situation within a narrative in such a way to make your reader laugh.

Personally I have not tried to write a comedy novel, it is a skill I do not possess unfortunately. This list may help you decide if writing in this genre is for you. (Original link – http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/humor-writing-filled-novel)

1. Know your genre well enough to play with it.

The genre of your story can be a rich source of humor writing. Knowing your category will give you endless material to parody and poke fun at. Start by making a list of the conventions, clichés and tropes of your genre so that you can choose which ones to turn on their heads in your story. You can even find ready made lists of clichés on the submission guidelines pages of magazines and publishers where they note things they don’t want to see ever again

2. Surprise your audience.

I am always surprised to find people who are surprised that surprise is the essence of comedy. That’s what a punchline is, a surprise. Surprises can be as simple as an unexpected end to a scene, an action or even a sentence. Think of the Cave of Caerbannog sequence in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The first surprise is that the deadly beast guarding the cave is just an apparently harmless rabbit, but the bigger surprise is when the bunny savagely kills Sir Bors. Surprises can also be as complex as a major plot twist that changes the entire story. Think about the end of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

3. Use layers of humor to appeal to a wider fan base in your humor writing.

I’m not suggesting you use humor to appeal to wide people, only that particular kinds of comedy appeal to different people and age groups, so be sure to layer your laughs in multiple ways. Concrete physical humor like slapstick, crazy action and absurdity will amuse almost anyone—including the youngest kids. Slightly more abstract humor including wordplay, farce, punning and other jokes start to appeal to kids around 8-12 years old. Sarcasm, irony, parody and innuendo kick in for audiences around 12-15. After 15, pretty much anything goes, allowing you to set up more complex humor writing like elaborate running gags, self-reflexive jokes, running gags, self-reflexive jokes or even running gags.

4. Use conflict.

Conflict is the engine that makes every story go, even the funny ones, so build your central character around exaggerated, absurd or obtuse struggles. Chase your character up a tree and then set that tree on fire. Use all three of the key sources of conflict—character versus character, character versus environment and character versus itself—as opportunities for humor. Remember that of these three, the character versus itself is the most emotionally engaging. Audiences relate when they see a character pulled in opposite directions by forces everyone experiences. Safety versus freedom is an internal struggle we can all understand because we all want to feel safe but also want to feel free. Take a universal internal conflict like that and amplify it to comic proportions, or make your character ridiculously biased toward one side of the struggle, or split the struggle between two main characters who take their sides to silly extremes.

5. Think the details through thoroughly.

Your novel should contain outrageous, absurd, non-sequitur ideas and jokes, but it shouldn’t be a joke. It has to have its own consistent logic and laws to make it feel real. Your audience has to be able to take it seriously enough to get swept up and want to follow along. Unlike a silly movie or TV show, reading requires a good bit of work from your audience, so you have to put a good bit of work into it. If you’re writing a fantasy, think through the details of how magic works, the history of the world you’ve created and how the various races of elves, men, goblins, or armadillos, relate to each other. Then make that stuff funny. For example, much of the humor of the hilarious Complete Enchanter series by L. Sprague De Camp is built on the characters bumbling their way through the logic underlying the magical systems of various myths, legends and fictional worlds.

6. It’s not enough to be funny, you have to be meaningfully funny.

Even the best one-line jokes are memorable because they seem to suggest a deeper meaning. Meaning is what makes stories feel relevant and valuable rather than just entertaining, so give some serious thought to what you are trying to say with your silly novel. It can lend a lot of clarity to your work to think about how you would describe its meaning if you had to reduce it to a single sentence. Many comedy stories are powerfully affecting because they are more than just hilarious. The Princess Bride by S. Morgenstern (William Goldman) which revisits that old gem, “Love conquers all,” and the fourth Discworld novel Mort that reminds us, “Don’t fear the reaper.” Terry Pratchett once said that Mort was the first Discworld novel he really liked because in the earlier books the plot was just there to support the jokes, whereas in Mort, the jokes were there to support the plot.

7. Write to make yourself laugh (but then have other people check your work).

Comedy is a subjective thing. There’s no formula for what’s funny and no surefire way to predict what will make people laugh. Consequently, the best you can do is write stuff that amuses you. Of course, after you’ve written it, you should definitely check to make sure other people find it funny. Test your material on anyone willing to read it, and make sure that at least a couple of those folks are not your dear friends who will lie to you because they love you. Use the feedback you get to tighten your jokes, reinforce what’s working and eliminate what isn’t. No matter how funny you find something, if other people don’t laugh, it’s probably got to go. Weeding out superfluous jokes and comic bits to leave only the best can be painful, but when you’re done, you might just find yourself with a novel.

 

When writing a novel or a play the vehicles for comedic opportunity are satire and political satire,  using comedy to portray persons or social institutions as ridiculous or corrupt, thus alienating their audience from the object of their humor. Parody on the other hand, subverts popular genres and forms, critiquing those forms without necessarily condemning them.

Other forms of comedy include screwball comedy, which derives its humor largely from bizarre, surprising (and improbable) situations or characters, and black comedy, which is characterized by a form of humor that includes darker aspects of human behavior or human nature. Similarly scatological humor, sexual humor, and race humor create comedy by violating social conventions or taboos in comic ways. However, many of these vehicles are rife with problems in today’s society and not as acceptable now as in the past.

A comedy of manners typically takes as its subject a particular part of society (usually upper class society) and uses humor to parody or satirize the behavior and mannerisms of its members. Romantic comedy is a vastly popular genre that depicts burgeoning romance in humorous terms and focuses on the foibles of those who are falling in love.

Do you write comedy?

Have you enjoyed comedic novels? Which one was your favorite?

Please join in the conversation…

 

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