The gorgeous ‘Love Song’, Sophia Bennett’s seventh novel, tells the story of Nina who accidentally ends up on tour with the world’s hottest boyband. And she’s desperately trying to keep them under control and not fall in love with any of them… We chatted to Sophia about everything ‘Love Song’.
Obviously you’ve written quite a few books – what has been your favourite to write? My favourite book altogether is always hard to pick: it’s like choosing between your children. But my favourite to write was ‘Beads’ – the second book in the ‘Threads’ series. ‘Threads’ was originally written as a stand-alone, but by the time it was done I’d lived with Nonie, Edie, Crow and co for several years (in my head), and I knew exactly what they’d do next. In fact, it was as if they were getting on with their lives anyway in my imagination, regardless of whether I wrote about them or not. I wanted to explore the issue of child labour in countries that make cheap clothes, so off the girls went to India, and I had such fun planning and researching the book. It’s the only one that ended up pretty much the way I imagined it from the start. But in the middle, there’s a scene where Crow stands up in front of a roomful of scary fashion-business grown-ups and walks out, because she won’t let them bully her. I didn’t know she was going to do that until it happened, and I was so proud of her.
Tell us what ‘Love Song’ is about in the length of a tweet. It’s about what it’s like to be inside the bubble of fame, and the art of making music. It’s also about fandom, love and finding yourself.
Are you a big fan of boybands in real life, or sort of like Nina, who isn’t too impressed with The Point at the start of the novel? I won’t pretend I wasn’t thinking of One Direction when I started planning the book. Actually, I’m a big Take That fan these days (I’ve met Mark Owen and he’s as lovely in real life as he seems), but at Nina’s age I was more like she is: cynical and too shy around hot boys to imagine going out with them. If only I could have been locked away in a country house with some of them, and they could have realised how interesting and desirable I was underneath my ordinary, shy exterior …
‘Love Song’ is not only about the antics of boybands but music itself. Can you tell us a little bit about what music means to you. I listen a lot and play (bass) a little. My father was in the army, but ran a mobile disco as a sideline when I was very small, and my mother was his go-go dancer, so I grew up with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. My granny played the piano beautifully – everything from American pop to Chopin – and there was always music in the house, wherever I was. Researching for ‘Love Song’ has reminded me of so many songs and genres I love, from classical to punk. Music means memories and family, joy and pain, and deep, deep emotion. I couldn’t live without it.
You include references to some older poets in the book. Do you find inspiration yourself in these earlier writings? I mention WB Yeats a lot in the book, and I love his writing. I do find poetry inspirational, but it doesn’t matter when it was written. I love John Donne and Shakespeare, but also the fabulous John Cooper Clarke, who’s still performing. If it’s clever or funny, or makes me see the world in a slightly new way, bring it on!
Would you ever like to be a musician yourself? I’d adore to play blues piano or acoustic guitar really, really well, but I’ll never play the way I write. I think I was born to describe it, rather than do it. I think musicians have a very special gift.
What was your favourite scene from ‘Love Song’ to write? There are probably two, and interestingly they both involve Angus, the guitarist and co-founder of the band with Jamie. The first has become known as the ‘anger management scene’, and it’s where Nina calms Angus down from a rock-star meltdown in his hotel suite by reading to him. I love the delicate, unspoken sexines of that scene, and also how empowered Nina is. It’s when she comes into her own. The other one is when Nina first hears ‘Kashmir’, listening to a collection of vinyl records in the dead of night, during a thunderstorm in the middle of Northumberland. Angus finds her with tears streaming down her face, transported by the music. It reminds him how he felt when he and Jamie first started the band. Loved writing that scene.
Because we always want to see where the magic happens, send us a photo of where you write! This is my writing shed at the bottom of the garden. (Yes, I am very lucky. Yes, I love my job.) You can also see a video of me in there, talking about writing the book.
Who’s your favourite fictional boyband? Tell us @maximumpopbooks!
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