Where’s Sophia Renny?

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Writing hand

Dear Readers,

It’s been too long! Please visit my An Interview with Sophia Renny blog for an update. You will be seeing at least two new books from me this year. Stayed tuned. And Happy Reading!

Hugs,

Sophia

Just a few of my favorite romance movies…

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When I was growing up, my parents often told me that I was an “old soul.” Part of the reason, I suppose, was my avid interest in classic movies—particularly any film made in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. To this day, I’d much rather watch Fred and Ginger dance across the silver screen or Clark Gable attempt to thumb a ride than, say, Hugh Grant’s face crinkling up in that signature grin of his.

In my new novel, If Ever I Fall, the heroine, Willa, finds herself with the time and leisure to do whatever she wants. One of those things is watching movies. This got me thinking: if I had that same luxury, what movies would I watch?

As I started to put a list of some of my favorite movies together I realized that 1) they all have a romantic storyline, and 2) they each have influenced my writing in some way. Whether it’s the many different ways a man looks at a woman, or how they speak to each other, or that slow buildup of sweet or sensual tension to the ultimate denouement. To transform those visual images into words is a constant—but very enjoyable!—challenge.

Here are just a few of my top favorites:

Summertime_posterFirst on my list is Summertime (1955), a David Lean classic that was filmed on location in Venice, Italy. It depicts the story of lonely, middle-aged, American, spinster secretary Jane Hudson—played to perfection by Katherine Hepburn—enjoying her first trip abroad. The evening of her arrival in Venice, she ventures alone to the Piazza San Marco where she orders a drink at a sidewalk café. As she films the scenery and people, she becomes aware that someone is watching her. She turns to discover a handsome Italian man sitting nearby.

Jane at the PiazzaAh, the scene that makes me all fluttery inside every time is when this Italian man (the gorgeous Rossano Brazzi) first notices Jane. As his half-hooded eyes travel from her long legs to her slender waist and farther upwards, he slowly rubs his index finger from his jaw to his temple, and his mouth quirks in a lazy, sensuous smile of male appreciation. Delicious! George Clooney has nothing on this handsome devil.

Summertime_the lookAnother movie I adore is The Clock, one of the few Judy Garland films that is not a musical. Set during World War II, it depicts the story of Joe (Robert Walker) and Alice (Judy Garland) who meet-cute at Pennsylvania Station in New York City while Joe is on a two-day leave. She agrees to show him the sights and they spend the day together. It is the classic “love at first sight” story told with sweetness and humor.

The Clock

Frantic to get married before Joe is shipped overseas, they have a quick civil ceremony at city hall. The ceremony is a rushed, impersonal affair, taking less than two minutes—which leads to one of my favorite scenes when later that evening Joe and Alice wander into a church. There, in the quiet church, they recite their wedding vows to each other with the reverence that wasn’t allowed in the civil ceremony. This is a lovely little film, made all the more bittersweet knowing Judy Garland’s real-life story.

The Clock_churchEvery one of my Favorite Movie lists, regardless of the category, has this next classic in the top five: It Happened One Night (1934).

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I enjoyed Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind, but this is the movie where I fell in love with him. I find him more lovable and charming in comedic roles. He’s my model for a handsome, devilish, funny, soft-hearted leading man. This rom-com, which won Best Picture at the 1935 Academy Awards, tells the story of a spoiled American heiress, Ellie, (the amazing Claudette Colbert) who runs away from her family. During her escape, she is helped by a man, Peter, who’s actually a recently-fired reporter looking for a story that will help him get his job back. Ellie and Peter dislike each other from the get-go. Or, do they?

Next is a film that I first watched on television when I was about ten years old. I fell in love with it instantly but was never able to find it at video stores or online, until I happened to catch it on TCM years later. I love TCM. See what I mean about being an old soul?

Margie_losing the bloomers

Margie (1946) begins with Margie (the beautiful Jeanne Crain) and her daughter reminiscing about Margie’s girlhood in the roaring twenties. In flashback, Margie—a smart but less popular girl at Central High—meets the handsome new French teacher. Margie, along with every other girl at the school, develops a crush on him.

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Circumstances keep throwing these two together. While the older me kept yelling at Margie to fix the elastic on her damn bloomers, the teenage girl inside of me still adores the awkward but sweet situations that arose from the “bloomer fails”. A very sweet, innocent love story in the teacher-student genre—without rulers or spankings!

Finally, here’s another classic where just a simple look or touch has my heart thumping like crazy. In I Know Where I’m Going (1945) Joan Webster (Wendy Hiller) plays a bright, ambitious woman who has been working hard to make her way up the social ladder. She is on her way from London to the Scottish Hebrides islands to marry a wealthy industrialist twice her age. Stormy weather interferes with her plans, and she is stranded in a fishing village with Torquil MacNeil, A Royal Navy officer and Scottish laird.

Joan is stubborn. Torquil is also stubborn but very patient as he opens Joan’s eyes to the mistake she’s about to make. Filmed on location, the colorful Scottish characters make this picture shine.

IKnowWhereI'mGoing

So, those are just a few of the romance movies that continue to inspire me. What romantic movies would be on your list if you had a rainy weekend all to yourself?

An Interview with Sophia Renny

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[Original interview published in February 2014. “What are you working on next?” has been updated  as of February 20, 2018]

Old vintage typewriter

Q: What’s the story behind your latest book?

A: Room 1208 truly comes from my heart. Both the hero and the heroine have issues from their past that have touched my own life, though not to the same extremes. “They” say to write what you know, and I do know what it feels like to be treated differently because of the way you look, and to experience the pain of losing a loved one to tragic circumstances. But I also enjoyed indulging in pure fantasy in this book. As one reviewer (5 Stars) said: “At its heart – even with the steamy *blushing* hot sex scenes – it’s a sweet, old-fashioned love story, complete with a few “it can only happen in a romance novel” scenarios. But, gosh darn it, in a world that seems to be turning more cold and cynical with each passing day, I absolutely adore a story that lets me completely escape reality for a couple of hours. I finished the story with a huge smile on my face and tears in my eyes.” I couldn’t have said it better than that!
Q: What are you working on next?
A: I’m busy working on my next story, a full-length novel set in Rhode Island (Little Rhody). Just as with Room 1208, I have fallen in love with my swoon-worthy hero – or perhaps I should say heroes as there are two hunks featured in the story. Brothers, builders, toolbelts and jeans. Need I say more? I’ll be sharing sneak peeks on my website: http://www.sophiarenny.com
UPDATES: Since doing this interview, I introduced my Rhode Island Romance series. Currently, there are 2 books: If Ever I Fall and Chasing Julia.  In the three years (gasp!) since then, my real job cut into my writing passion to the extent that I couldn’t put one chapter together, let alone an entire novel. I’m so happy to share that I made the bold step to leave that job and restore my life to a healthier balance of work and real life. I’m sure many of you can relate! But during that time I never stopped my daily journaling, and writing down notes about book ideas. One character in particular from the Rhode Island Romance series has been pestering me to tell her story: Audrey King, a sylphlike, artistic woman in her early fifties who has always lived life by her own terms and enjoys poking her pretty, well-meaning nose into other people’s business. But Joe and Tony’s (those two hunky brothers) Uncle Nick is about to put a wrench in her next scheme, a really sexy wrench. This third and final book in the series will also feature Sylvie, Joe and Tony’s sister, and how she struggles to balance her budding career with a serious romance.  This book is slated to appear in late summer / early fall 2018.
Next, I’ll be introducing my Montana Romance series. I live in Montana, you know. And the first story in the series is sure to please both fans of the very steamy Room 1208 and the more subdued but no less sexy Rhode Island romance series.  Hold on to your hats! The first book should hit the shelves in late fall / early winter 2018.
Q: Who are your favorite authors?
A: There are so many! I truly appreciate GOOD writing, writing that makes me want to be a better writer. One particular author who inspires me in that way is Sherry Thomas. She’s an auto-buy for me. Another is Anita Shreve. When I’m in a regency mood, I steer towards Mary Balogh (Slightly Scandalous is one of my top 10 all-time favorite romances). Sometimes I just want a quick afternoon read and turn to my favorite Harlequin authors. Kelly Hunter and Maisey Yates are my current favorites. I grew up on HQ romances, so they will always hold a special place in my heart. I also collect romance books written in the 1930’s and 1940’s.
Q: When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
A: My “real” job has me traveling all over the country. Many of my book plots have been formulated in my head while waiting in airports or while on long train rides.  When I’m not on the road (and not writing), I enjoy spending time with my family and friends.
Q: Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
A: The first story that I can remember reading on my own was The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. I remember crying as the little house was surrounded more and more by the city. It made me realize that books weren’t just about happy things.
The first book I read that made me fall in love with romance was An Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott. I was about eleven years old when I first read it, and I read it several times during my teenage years. I think it was from that point on that I gravitated towards romance books, more importantly, romance books with a sweet tension and slow build-up to the ultimate reveal.
Q: What is your writing process?
A: Simply this: to write whenever / wherever I can. My travel schedule gets in the way of sticking to a rigid plan. But a day that goes by without me writing something – even if it’s just a paragraph – is a day wasted.

Q: When did you first start writing?

A: Thanks to my mother, who saved everything I wrote, it appears that I started writing stories around the age of five or six. I wrote my first “novel” at eleven and my first “real” book at nineteen. So, you can say that I’ve been writing for most of my life. If the 10,000 hours rule holds true, I should be an expert by now, right? (Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell)
Q: What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
A: There is the joy of writing itself, the complete immersion in the story, losing all sense of current time and place as you write. A whole day can go by and it feels like minutes. That is the sign that you are following your true passion.
The other joy comes from giving my writing to others to enjoy (I hope).

Get up and make your bed

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I don’t watch much television, but I’ve become a fan of The Bridge on FX.  I spent a sick day catching up on all of the episodes on On Demand and now I’m hooked.

One scene in the most recent episode I watched struck a chord. Without giving too much away, the female lead, Sonya, a detective with the El Paso police is trying to offer some kind of solace to her partner, Marco, a detective with the Juarez police. I say “try” because Sonya has Aspergers, and she struggles with basic social skills and emotional interaction.

Marco has just suffered a traumatic loss. Sonya has experienced personal tragedy as well. In the scene, she’s made Marco breakfast, probably his first real meal since he fell into a bitter depression. She asks him simply:  “Did you make your bed?”

“What are you, my mother?” he asks.

Sonya goes on to tell him (and I’m removing anything that might be a spoiler if you haven’t watched this show) that after she experienced her loss she lived with an older couple. Every morning, the wife would ask Sonya if she had made her bed. That was the one house rule she had for Sonya: Always get up and make your bed. No matter how bad you feel, you have to face the day.

Many of the characters in my books have experienced some kind of trauma, whether that be the loss of a loved one, abuse, bullying–it runs the gamut. But, by the time I introduce these characters, they’ve reached a point in their lives where they’ve let go or are ready to let go of their past hurts, or to at least move on to a “new normal.”

Getting up and making the bed. Such a simple, ordinary thing to do. Most of us do it without giving it much thought. For some, though, it’s the first of many challenges they will face throughout the day as they move through the many stages of healing.

I love scenes like this that serve to remind us that there are no obstacles we can’t overcome. It may take days, months or years of doing the ordinary things–making your bed, brushing your teeth, preparing a good meal–before you eventually find the strength to move forward.

Get up, make your bed and face the day.