Monday, July 9, 2012


In 2008 I was lucky enough to win the Romance Writers of New Zealand Second Chance Contest and one of the prizes to choose from was the Saturday and Sunday conference. My clever husband said I couldn't pass up such an amazing opportunity. I'm so glad I didn't.

On the awards night, after I'd collected my prize and returned to my seat, a gorgeous lady came to my table, congratulated me on my win, before stating she'd read my entry and loved it. She then introduced herself as SOPHIA JAMES. I managed to keep from tumbling out of my chair...but only just:)

Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented SOPHIA JAMES to Historical Hearts ~

Hi Sophia, it's wonderful to have you here.

Thanks for asking me, Alli.

You have a new book coming out on the 24th of July, titled, 'The Lady With The Devil's Scar'. Can you please tell us a little about the era, the setting and what the story is about?

The story is set in Scotland in the 1360’s when the old patriarchal laws of land ownership were changing. My heroine, Isobel Dalceann, is caught in the middle of these changes and trying to save her castle from being taken over by the King’s men. She is a damaged warrior woman, a woman who can look after herself and her people.

The hero, Marcus de Courtenay, is one of David’s mercenary soldiers who has come to reclaim the Dalceann Keep. He is a leader of the armies of Philip of France and is as ruthless as he is solitary.

Oh My Goodness! It sounds like a fabulous story with strong characters and loads of conflict. I can't wait to read it. Here's the gorgeous cover and back blurb ~

Many writers have a trigger, an opening line, dialogue, an image, a circumstance, a discovery made while doing research, something that sets their mind on the next story they write. Was there a particular trigger that inspired you to write The Lady With The Devil's Scar?

The story begins in a storm off the wild coast of Fife Ness. I imagined my heroine swimming out to a shipwreck and finding my hero drowning. Marc wore a red gilded surcoat and the image of him in this through the water was one I could not let go of.

What a powerful image and a wonderful trigger.

What is the tone of this book?

I always write in two periods; Regency and Medieval Scotland. My Medieval books are always darker and harsher. I loved the raw challenge of this book, two people caught in the changing tide of history and trying to survive in the best way that they could. Medieval knights never apologise. The nearest they get to that is a small hint of shame. It’s such a relief to write characters who are allowed to do almost anything. Isobel defies every rule of her time, and dressed in boy’s clothes with a vivid scar across her cheek she marches across her world with barely a backward glance.

Isobel sounds like a fascinating heroine.

Have some of your books been easier to write than others?

This book was one of the easier books I have written. It just seemed to flow from the characters and I loved the fact that it did. One Unashamed Night, my R*BY winner from 2011 had the same sort of ease.

How do you feel when you've finished writing a book?

Relieved. Worried that I have not quite done the story justice. Desperate to start a new book. A myriad of emotions really. I always write ‘The End Copyright Sophia James’ and that is such a good feeling of accomplishment. I then say I will open a bottle of good champagne or buy a new dress but actually I never do.

Well, I definitely think you should:)

Can you start on the next story straight away or do you need to take a break in between stories?

I usually take a break for a while and think about the next book. A big part of my writing lies in this thinking time and it can be sometimes quite a number of weeks before I feel like I can start. I am not a very fast writer, but once I know the characters I can generally begin and move quite quickly. When I write I only ever do one good draft so I never go ahead with pages until I am completely satisfied about what comes before.

Is there something in particular you strive to achieve when writing a book?

A knowledge of the characters motivations. A shared feeling of hope that even in adversity good things can shine through. I like honesty in a book. I also like intelligent heroes and heroines. 

If you could give a single piece of advice from all you've learned on your writing journey so far, what would it be?

Can I give two pieces?

You can give as many as you'd like:)

Never underestimate your reader’s intelligence and always thread in layers of questions across the first five chapters. This will help the story blossom out into a book and keep your reader with you as you move on to explain the secrets.

Thanks for this priceless advice.

Is there anyone in particular you draw inspiration from?

Joanna Bourne, Diana Gabaldon, Judith Mc Naught, Julie Garwood. These are the authors whom I have read and reread. How do they make their books so marvellous? I wish I knew.

I think your books are marvellous, too:)

Now for a few fun questions ~

Your favourite season? Spring.

Favourite flower? Violets.

Favourite time of day/night? Evening.

Favourite food? Cherries.

Favourite way to relax? Walking.

Sophia, thank you so much for sharing part of you and your writing life with us here at Historical Hearts.

If anyone would like to know more about Sophia's fabulous books please visit her website here ~

Sophia has kindly offered to giveaway 2 copies of her up-coming release, 'The Lady With The Devil's Scar' to 2 lucky people who leave a comment.
All you need to do is tell me the names of the hero and the heroine of her new book 'Lady With The Devil’s Scar.’

Good Luck!   


Suzi said...

Sophia and Allison
Thank you so much for such a wonderful interview and for a glimpse into Sophia's new book.
Can't wait to read it as the blurb sounds fantastic.
I love your advice about - 'Never underestimate your reader’s intelligence.'
Isobel and Marcus are the heroine and hero.
Suzi Love

Allison Butler said...

Thanks, Suzi.

Sophia's book does sound fantastic, and her advice is simply brilliant:)
Thanks for popping in. Good Luck!

sophia said...

I will send you a book, Suzi, if you send me your name and address
Thanks for coming on and commenting.

Catherine said...

What a lovely interview, Alli and Sophia. The Lady with the Devil's Scar sounds like another unforgettable Sophia James story. I can't wait to read Marc and Isobel's story... and Lucinda's :)

Cath xo

sophia said...

Thanks for the comment, Cath. (Is that my friend Cath Evans I wonder????)
My sister says that this is her favourite story and I really like it too. Quite harsh and raw and pretty sexy :)
Lucinda's book has just gone in after a fairly major revision. Hope it will be out in March 2013.

Allison Butler said...

Hi Cath,

It's lovely to see you here.
'Unforgettable' is the perfect way to describe Sophia's books.

Thanks so much for stopping by:)

Allison Butler said...

'harsh and raw and pretty sexy :)'

WOW! Love how you describe this story, Sophia. It makes me want to read it more:)

Catherine said...

Yes, Sophia, it is me, Cath Evans :) Oh, can't wait to read if it's your sister's favourite!

Oh, and March... not long to wait then :) (drat that there was a big revision).

Alli had a promo yesterday saying you were her guest today, and I remembered to come and visit. Thanks Alli!

Cath xo

Cheryl Leigh said...

Terrific interview, Alli and Sophia. Isobel and Marcus sound like intriguing characters in a wonderful story.

Sophia, Medievals and Regencies are such different genres. Do you do anything in particular to get into the mood when switching genres?

Allison Butler said...

YAY! So glad you remembered, Cath:)

Thanks, again and Good Luck!

Allison Butler said...

Thanks, Cheryl:)

Great question. I look forward to Sophia's answer.

Do you write in more than one genre?

Thanks for popping in. Good Luck!

sophia said...

Hi Cheryl
I generally write 2 regencies to 1 medieval. After writing 2 regencies I am really keen to go back to Medieval...darker and more dangerous. Switching isn't difficult cos by that time I am rearing to go for it.
Thanks for the great question.
What time period do you write in?

Alissa said...

It’s a conspiracy – the blogger gremlins will just not let me post! Third time lucky?? Just wanted to say thanks so much to Alli and Sophia. It is so interesting to get a glimpse into someone else’s writing world. As Ashbalane's Lady is my all time favourite historical am so thrilled to hear 'The Lady With The Devil's Scar' will soon be out. All the very best Sophia with your new release and thanks so much again Alli for such a lovely interview.


PS hero’s name – mouth watering Marcus de Courtenay
Heroine’s name - Isobel Dalceann

Christina Phillips said...

What a fabulous interview, Alli and Sophia! Alli, what an amazing awards night that was for you!!!

Sophia, congratulations on your upcoming release. I love the premise of LADY WITH THE DEVIL'S SCAR. I love warrior women as heroines and ruthless heroes :-) the cover is gorgeous too!

To answer the question - the hero is Marcus and the heroine Isobel.

sophia said...

Alissa I always loved Ashblane's Lady too. So thank you so much for that. So glad you made it in on third time lucky.
I think Alli's questions were really great too.
Thanks Cristina for liking my cover. I was so pleased when I saw it too.

Cheryl Leigh said...

LOL, Sophia. I love your description 'rearing to go'.

I write Georgian adventure romances (1740s-1790s), but I have a Medieval that is clamouring to get out. I've been slowly gathering research for it, so one day... :)

Anonymous said...

How lovely to meet you here Sophia, on the Historical Hearts Blog.

I love the title of your new book Sophia. Do you find it easy or difficult to name your books?

The Heroine in *lady With the Devil Scar* is Isobel Dalceann and the Hero is Marcus de Courtenay.

There are some wonderful hints here for writers, thank-you for sharing with us.
And thanks for a great interview Allison. :)

Allison Butler said...

Hi Melissa,

So glad you made it:) Thanks for your persistence. And thank you for telling me about a fabulous book you'd read a few years ago titled, 'Ashblane's Lady'. I loved it, too:)

Thanks for stopping by and Good Luck!

sophia said...

Where will your medievalbe set Cheryl. Scottish stories sell really well in America and its a great market to get into!!
Mary I hardly ever name my books. The titles always get changed apart from Knight of Grace, Ashblane's Lady and Masquerading Mistress.
I think the new thought is to find titles that are not so generic and readers can remember what happened in them from the title.

Allison Butler said...

Hi Christina,

Thank you! Oh, yes, it was an amazing and totally memorable awards night for me. I was thrilled and in awe the whole night:)

Thanks so much for popping in and Good Luck!

Allison Butler said...

Hi Maryde,

I'm pleased you've picked up some wonderful hints from Sophia and enjoyed the interview:)

Thanks for stopping in and Good Luck!

sophia said...

If anyone has any questions for me I would be really happy to answer them...about writing, about publishing, about characterisation etc.

Cassandra Samuels said...

Hi Sophia

Thanks for a great interview. I love that Marcus and Isobel are starting their journey at a time of great upheaval.

Marcus seems a hero worthy of swimming dangerous currents to save. And Isobel a strong woman worthy of his love.

Great post Alli.

Allison Butler said...

Hi Cassandra,

Love your comments about Sophia's characters. Gorgeous!
Thanks so much for stopping by.
Good Luck!

Kylie Griffin said...

Hi Allison & Sophia!

I love finding out the inspiration behind a story and the image of your heroine (Isobel) rescuing your hero (Marc) is vivid, Sophia.

I've read One Unashamed Night. Both it and Lady with the Devil's Scar have intrigued me. In one you have a hero who's blind (or nearly blind) and in your recent release you have a disfigured heroine.

Both are such powerful "flaws" to burden a character with and auto-buys for me because of the intriguing premises. What prompted you to do this?

Kylie Griffin said...

Darn, I also forgot to say, the hero on your front cover is perfect - very appealing, but then I do like a guy with a bit of stubble or short beard! :-)

Allison Butler said...

Hey Sophia, since you asked *g*

Can you please share with us how you first became a published author?

What have you noticed has changed the most in the publishing industry since then?


sophia said...

Thanks for the comments on my characters Cassandra. A storm was such a good method of showing Isobel's bravery.
Kylie thanks for your comments.
I think I perceived Isobel with far more of a scar that the cover shows. In effect it defined her in the book...prickly, unknoweable, and betrayed by the one person in her life who should have cherished her but didn't.
Thanks for your comments
I first became published with the manuscript that won the Clendon Award. A competition is good because it gets you in front of editors. Even if they don't pick u up that time they might the next one. And if u get nowhere in a comp its always good to remember they are so subjective.
Never give up!!

sophia said...

What has changed is the huge impact of e books on the market. I love that there are other ways now of publishing work and the ebook companies have so much more kudos now than they did have.
Harlequin e publish too and its great how my backlist now is so readily available...this impacts on sales because if a book is really popular (Like One Unashamed Night was ) a reader can then go back and pick up all the related books and other stories.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Alli what a fantastic interview. And a big, warm welcome to Sophia. I'm a HUGE fan!!

This book sounds fantastic and I can't wait to read it. I love the cover, the hero looks similar to Henry Cavill. Hello Hunk!!!

Thanks so much for stopping by HH!
Tam :D

sophia said...

Sorry Kylie you asked what prompted me to have scarred heroes/heroines
Taris from One Unashamed Night just came out of Asher High Seas to High Society story and readers asked me to write him so I did.
Isobel...I needed a heroine who was disenfranchised and apart from Society, a warrior who had little time for how she looked. Tho in fact the book was written with Angelina Jolie in mind and she has to be one of the worlds most beautiful woman. Isobel in fact is portrayed in the book as beautiful despite her disfigurement.

Tamara thanks for your kind words and its great to have you here.
I am so lucky that everyone has come in. :)

Allison Butler said...

Hi Kylie,

It's great to see you here:)
I agree, the image of Isobel rescuing Marcus is vivid and inspiring. I find the very idea of Isobel saving Marcus inspiring, too.

Thanks for dropping in. Good Luck!

Allison Butler said...

Sophia, I think it's fabulous you were first published due to entering the Clendon Award.

Love your Never Give Up!! Advice:)

I have recently purchased One Unashamed Night as an e book and can't wait to read it:)

Thanks for answering my questions.

Allison Butler said...

Hey, Tam.

Thanks so much for your lovely comment.

I simply adore Henry Cavill. YUM!

Thanks for popping in to say hi:)

Anonymous said...

Hi Sophia and Alli

So great to hear you have a new book coming out. I adored One Unashamed Night - like Kylie, the idea of a flawed main character is so intriguing.

Sophia, are you coming to the RWA conference at the Gold Coast? It would be great to catch up with you again.

Cheers, Chris Taylor

Allison Butler said...

Hi Chris,

It's fabulous Sophia has a new book coming out soon.

Thanks so much for stopping by:)

sophia said...

hi chris
all these names that I know now...:)
no I won't be at the RWA conference but am speaking at the RWNZ conf but next year I will come back to Oz.
Hope the writing is going well and have a great conference. Will you catch up with all the other 5DI ers?

sophia said...

Sorry I am off to bed
Will jump up in the morning and see how this chat has gone.
Its been so much fun.

Allison Butler said...

Goodnight, Sophia. I've had a ball:) Sleep well. Will catch up with you in the morning.

Thanks to everyone who has popped in to our wonderful Historical Hearts blog to read and comment on Sophia's interview. Isn't she marvellous?

Please keep the comments coming. Sophia still has a copy of 'The Lady With The Devil's Scar' to give away tomorrow.

Cheers to all:)

sophia said...

Back on. A beautiful blue day here in Auckland.
Writing is a lonely life really and it has been so nice having a conversation a finger touch away!!
Been rereading the blogs and enjoying them.

Allison Butler said...

Welcome back to Historical Hearts, Sophia. Glad you're enjoying the blogs:)

Writing can be solitary and we are so lucky to live during a time of great technology. Imagine how isolated the people were in the earlier time periods we write about. No phones to make a quick call, no internet to shoot someone an email. A message had to be delivered on foot, by horse or even by boat. How many times did someone receive an important message too late?

Alissa said...

Hi Alli and Sophia,

Overcast here in country NSW and I for one am so glad of modern technology, seeing as only receive mail 3 x a week and writers are very rare out here. It is so interesting, as even since joined RWA, there now are so many wonderful cyber-communication opportunties for writers. Especially gone are the days of mailing hard copy subs to editors:)

Was just curious Sophia how long it takes you to write your first good draft. It is so refreshing to hear that this is your writing process as it's mine too:) There is so much advice out there on how to write really, really fast and just get words on paper, but find, for me, such a process only results in too much double-handling, rewriting and hair pulling.

sophia said...

Hi Alissa
Everyone has their own process I think. I just never move on until I am 100% happy with what I have written.
I am not a fast writer and sometimes I worry about that. I wish I could write 2 or 3 books a year. Mostly it is 1.

Sharon Archer said...

Hi Sophia and Allison! Great interview and I love the story about how the two of you met!

Sophia, your new book sounds fabulous. The time period is a fascinating one and the people had to live with such turmoil. Royalty back then seemed to be able to do whatever they liked so your Isobel had a job in front of her! Loads of gritty conflict since her hero has come to take her castle from her on the King's behalf!

Congratulations to both of you on your awesome success!

Allison Butler said...

Hi again, Alissa:)

I agree! Thank goodness for electronic submissions. So much faster, easier and less expensive:)

Great question. My writing process is also similar. I can't move forward until everything I've already written makes sense first, so am curious to know how long your first good draft takes you, Sophia.

Also, do you have a pattern of steps you follow for writing each book?

Alissa said...

Thanks Sophia:) Can definitely relate to needing to have everything 100% before moving on. Think the quality of your books speak for themselves. Will keep coming back to read your wonderful stories because of the care you take writing them and not because of how quickly they land on the shelves. Our local library have 5 of your titles and they are always out on loan so I’m sure I’m not the only one that thinks this way:) Enjoy all of your Auckland sunshine,


Allison Butler said...

Hi Sharon,

It's lovely to see you here:)

I was thrilled to meet Sophia and am glad you enjoyed the interview.

Thanks so much for stopping by.

sophia said...

Sorry I seem to have lost that comment box.
Yep if I hurry I make mistakes and regret it when i read the published book later.
Ashblanes Lady took me 2 and a half years to write and my editor still stuck with me even tho it was my second book.

sophia said...

Thanks Alissa for saying such lovely things.
I am so glad they are not sitting gathering dust on a library shelf:)

sophia said...

Sorry I keep missing questions
No I wish I did have a pattern of steps.
I guess I always add in layers across the first 5 chapters and that helps. Just small bites of intrigue that will keep a book going.

sophia said...

Hi Sharon
Thanks for dropping by.
Alli it takes me all of 9 months to get a final good draft and sometimes longer.
I have hurried the book I am working on now and it shows so have gone right back to the beginning and growled at myself

Allison Butler said...

Thanks for answering my questions, Sophia:)

It's fascinating to learn that what works for one writer won't necessarily work for another. I guess that's why part of our individual writing journey is discovering what process works best for us.

Allison Butler said...

Hi Everyone,

Super thanks and a cyber bouquet of violets to my delightful guest, Sophia James. It has been an honour and a pleasure to have you here:)

Huge thanks to everyone for popping in to say hi and to read Sophia's interview. It's been wonderful seeing you here at Historical Hearts and we hope you'll keep stopping in to say hello:)

Congratulations to Suzi for winning the first copy of 'Lady With The Devil's Scar'. YAY! The second lucky winner will be announced in the next few days, so good luck!

Happy writing and reading.
Cheers to all:)

Suzi said...

Oooh,oooh,ooh! It's me!!
I'm so excited.
Sophia, Thanks so much and I can't wait to read this book.
Allison, Wonderful interview. Thanks for giving us a chance to know Sophia a bit better.
Suzi Love

sophia said...

I have to choose one other person so I just placed my finger on the scroll button and it stopped at you Cheryl Leigh.
If you would like to send me your details I will put a copy in the post.

Allison Butler said...

LOL! Yes, Suzi, it's you:)
Congratulations! Enjoy!

Allison Butler said...

YAY Cheryl!
Congratulations on winning a copy of Sophia's 'Lady With The Devil's Scar'. Fabulous!

Cheryl Leigh said...

Thank you so much Sophia! I've been down with the flu and not on the net, so winning your book has cheered me up greatly. :) I love Medievals and I'm looking forward to reading LADY WITH THE DEVIL'S SCAR.

A terrific interview, Alli and Sophia!