Sophie Jackson, author of the fan-fiction phenomenon A POUND OF FLESH, stopped by XOXOAD to answer our biggest questions. If you’re new to this series, A POUND OF FLESH features Kat, a strong-minded prison tutor who discovers that Carter, her sexy bad-boy student, is far more than he appears to be. As teacher and student, Kat and Carter are forced to leave their animosities at the door and learn that one should never judge a book by its cover. As Carter’s barriers begin to crumble, Kat realizes there’s much more to her angry student than she thought, leaving them to face a new, perilous obstacle: their undeniable attraction to one another. When Carter is released and Kat continues to tutor him on the outside, will they be able to fight the odds to make their relationship work?
A POUND OF FLESH is on sale today, so be sure to download your very own copy! And pre-order the next book in the series— the brand new e-original LOVE AND ALWAYS, coming this summer!
What is your favorite part of writing a book?
Learning about the characters. There have been many times when a character I thought I knew did something that surprised me. That’s always exciting as a writer, seeing your story or characters taking a different path than the one you initially created for them.
I also love creating backstories and angst. I live for the angst.
What is your least favorite part?
I always doubt myself. Once I get going, I’m fine, but that first chapter, first line, is my Kryptonite. It must be the part I rewrite and question myself the most. It’s so important in setting a scene, hooking a reader in that I procrastinate about it for ages!
A POUND OF FLESH was first seen on a fan fiction site—what sparked your imagination to write this book?
I’d written two other fanfics, which had been fairly popular, but were pretty fluffy. I really wanted to write something that was darker, a little more complex with a few twists.
The scene that I imagined first was of a man and a woman in a club dancing (this scene is still in the book). I knew that whoever these characters were, they shouldn’t have been so close, they weren’t supposed to be together, and that was when their relationship, their history, was created.
The original idea for PoF was to set it in a high school–he the delinquent and she the squeaky clean student–but it limited what I could do with the characters, so I aged them and set it in a prison.
What’s one thing you had to adjust to when making the transition from fan fiction to traditional publishing?
Editing has been a massive thing to get used to. It’s harder work than I ever thought it would be. It’s stressful, and can be really grueling. Because it was so long–half a million words–I edited PoF solidly for about 18 months from being first approached by a publisher, so I’d read it over and over at least fifteen times, if not more, and I was ready to kill it with fire.
It’s a gift that I have such an amazing editor and a great team who talk me off the ledge constantly. Editing makes you realize quickly that you can’t be precious about your work and you have to listen. No matter how much you love that particular scene, if it slows the plot, get rid. Editors know what works for pace and character development and I, in turn, have learned so much.
It’s also very strange writing with no intermittent feedback. That’s such an invaluable thing when writing fic: you post your chapter, people read it and review. I didn’t realise until I started writing the first enovella and Max’s story, how much I relied on the reviews I got when writing PoF as a fic. I’ve definitely had to grow in confidence and start having more faith in what I’m writing–not that I ever didn’t–but there were a few times where I really wanted to post a chapter somewhere so someone could tell me what they thought!
Who is your favorite character in your series? Why?
It changes from day to day. I adore Carter for obvious reasons *swoon*, but I love Kat’s spark, her intolerance for BS, her fight and her determination. I like to think there’s a lot of me in her.
Max is also a particular favorite of mine. He’s such a broken character, misunderstood and angry. And then there’s Riley who hides a lot under his humor.
Nana Boo was based on my grandmother, so she’s also very special to me. Can I pick all of them?
And, of course, which character gave you the most trouble when writing?
It was difficult writing Eva, Kat’s mother. She’s a complex character; there’s a lot going on under her prejudice: grief, fear, pride. She’s utterly perplexed by Kat’s need to work in a prison, which I obviously understood from the get go. Her behavior and her attitude certainly grated on me, but I tried my best to see and understand her, as a mother, what seeing her only daughter risking herself that way would feel like. She’s difficult, but there’s reason behind everything she does and says. She wants to protect that which is most important and precious to her. She simply goes about it in the wrong way.
Do you have a specific writing process? Do you have to have music in the background or complete silence? Do you outline or jump right in?
I always start with a beginning and an ending, with a few key events throughout. How I get to each one is done on a wing and a prayer. Some scenes do come easier than others and I spend a lot of time on dialogue, making sure it’s realistic and true to the characters.
I always need quiet when I’m actually writing, but I do listen to music beforehand as a way of focusing and for inspiration.
Annoyingly, I can’t just sit down and write. I really have to be inspired or have a clear outline in my head. Nevertheless, when I do start writing, I can get down 3,000 words at a time.
How can readers best get in touch with you?
I have a twitter account that I use a lot: @sophiejax
Probably a Point Romance book. I couldn’t get enough of those books when I was younger. I remember one where a girl fell in love with a ghost who haunted her high school gym. He was from the 1950’s and was swoony. I must try and find that one again…
*author you’re dying to meet in person
Oh my days! There’s so many: J. M. Darhower, Jojo Moyes, J. R. Ward, Tara Sue Me, Colleen Hoover, John Green, Christina Lauren…