Sophie Hart – Q & A
Author of The Beginner’s Guide to the Birds and the Bees and The Naughty Girls Book Club.
Sophie Hart Talks About the Birds and the Bees
Naughty Girls Book Club author Sophie Hart is back with a sparkly fun read, The Beginner’s Guide to the Birds and the Bees and she’s here today to tell us all about it.
Tell us a bit about your new book.
My new book is called The Beginner’s Guide to the Birds and the Bees – there seems to be a trend for long titles at the moment and I’m happily following that! The main character is Annie, a 30-something sex therapist, who’s an expert at dealing with relationships – except when it comes to her own. We also meet three couples who come to Annie for counselling: Zoe and Simon, who’ve taken a vow of celibacy in the run up to their wedding; Julia and Nick, who are trying for a baby, and sex has become more about function than fun; and Linda and Ray, who are in their late 50s and their love life has ground to a halt.
Can you tell me a little bit about the central character?
Yes, she’s called Annie Hall (her mother is a film buff, and named her after the Woody Allen movie), and runs her own business in Norfolk as a sex therapist. Her own relationship history is a little bit messy, as she got married and divorced when she was very young, so now Annie puts all of her energy into her career and wants to help everyone else find their happy ever after. There is someone who catches her eye though, however much she tries to deny her feelings, but of course it’s not all smooth sailing… Annie is also a rom-com-aholic, and her idea of a perfect Sunday afternoon is cosying up on the sofa and watching The Notebook.
Apart from the obvious, what other themes does your new book cover?
I suppose that (apart from the obvious!) relationships and friendships are the key themes. We see new friendships being made, and look at some common and relatable relationship problems. Annie is also very close to her family – especially her sister, Holly – so that’s another type of relationship that plays a big role throughout the book.
How different is it to Naughty Girls Book Club?
The most obvious answer is that there’s no book club! Although people seemed to really love the concept, I wasn’t sure how I could use the same thing again. I tried to keep a lot of the elements which seemed popular last time – the blossoming friendships, the spicing up of relationships, and of course the naughtier side! But it’s different in that the characters are all in situations that I didn’t explore in the first book and I think the central character, Annie, is a very different person to Estelle in Naughty Girls.
What did you most enjoy about writing it?
I enjoyed seeing the relationships progress. I don’t plan a huge amount – I know the beginning and the end and the major points in between, but other than that I don’t plan in detail, so it’s nice to see what turns up and how everyone finds their way. There are always moments when I worry that it won’t all come together, but with a lot of hard work and some great insights from my editor, it does!
What research did you do for this book?
The area which required the most research was the therapy side – I didn’t want to write anything which would stand out as being something that obviously wouldn’t happen in therapy! I’m aware that it’s a slightly unusual area, and sex therapy is something that’s more common in the US than the UK, but organisations like Relate offer a lot of useful information. I spent a lot of time on their website, which I think worried my boyfriend!
How long did it take for you to write?
The Beginner’s Guide to the Birds and the Bees was written fairly quickly, within a few months. The idea had been around for a while, and I’d been turning it over in my mind, so once Bookouture gave it the green light, I was ready to go! The first draft was probably done in about three months, then another month of editing, then back and forth between me and my editor for another few weeks until everything had been sharpened and polished
What’s the moral of this story?
Ooh, that’s a very serious question! I suppose on the therapy side it would be don’t neglect your other half – you always have to keep communicating, and make the effort to keep things fresh. In life generally, it’s about being open to new ideas and not being afraid to take risks.
Romance appears to be a genre that keeps evolving what with new sub-genres being added to the list. What do you think the future holds for romance books and do you think they are here to stay?
Absolutely! There’s such a long history with romance novels, probably starting with Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters, and they’re so well loved. It’s great that new genres keep emerging, as it keeps things fresh, and lets every generation discover something new – whether it’s comedy like Bridget Jones, a cross-genre bestseller like One Day, or the naughtier side of romance with Fifty Shades of Grey! There are so many romance readers, writers and bloggers out there that no matter how much fashions change, there’s always a big fan base for romance.
‘I enjoyed seeing the relationships progress. I don’t plan a huge amount – I know the beginning and the end and the major points in between, but other than that I don’t plan in detail, so it’s nice to see what turns up and how everyone finds their way.’