Questions about my writing

Sophie Neville by Sylvain Guenot (trimmed)

Sallie Eden contacted me when she was staying at Bank Ground Farm last month, requesting an interview. I have pasted a few of her questions here:

  • Where do you write? In solitude? At home? I find it much easier to write the first draft of my book if I retreat to an African hut in the middle of no-where, which I managed to do in February and March of this year. However, much of writing is re-writing, which I do at any and every opportunity. Most of my books have to be checked by experts and get re-drafted a great many times while I improve the flow of the narrative. It’s hard work and takes time but I see it as vital. Even when a book is based on a dairy I might re-draft it 100 times, drawing on skills gained as a painter and when editing my own films. I have learnt to be unoffendable, preferring to laugh at my own mistakes rather than have them displayed in print.
  • What authors do you admire? I have been inspired by authors of amusing true life stories: Anne Lamott and Monica Dickens, James Herriot, Gerald Durrell and Helene Hanff, who wrote 84 Charing Cross Road from letters she’d received from a book shop in London. Gerald Durrell told me how he’d edited the story of his years spent on Corfu, making the construction of his book seem easy, when of course it must have been soul wrenching. I love CS Lewis and follow his advice on writing the book I would like to read that is not there.
  • Sophie Neville
    How do you describe yourself when people ask what you do?  I’ve managed to live about five lives professionally, working interchangeably as a writer, producer, artist, actress and horseback safari guide. All require practice to gain fluency and do well. None are much good a making money. Many people assume that we receive substantial residuals from Swallows & Amazons but we only earned £7.50 a day whist working on the film and nothing at all from VHS or DVD sales. The parrot earned £25 and he didn’t speak. I wish I was better at raising funds for charity. The need is so great. In the year 2000 I helped to set up the Waterberg Welfare Society in a corner of rural South Africa to help combat the pandemic HIV/AIDS. You can see some of the mad things we do help finance their work here:    
  • Do you need a trigger to start writing – to give you an idea? Good stories will always call out to be written and to be read. Getting down to illustrate them would be difficult if the drawings were not already waiting. I started putting together Ride the Wings of Morning when I was living in Africa but only added the illustrations once it was formatted, filling natural gaps between the letters which make up the book with sketches and paintings. I ended up using about 120 graphics, accumulated over the twelve previous years. Someday I am hoping that a version will be produced in full colour as a coffee-table book that will motivate others to get out into the wild and start painting. You can read about Ride the Wings of Morning here

For the full interview with Sallie Eden please click here

For Sallie Eden’s review of ‘The Secrets of Filming Swallows & Amazons’ please click here

There are now three edition of Sophie’s book on The Making of Swallows and Amazons, available online here

'The Making of Swallows and Amazons (1974) by Sophie Neville'
Different editions of ‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons (1974) by Sophie Neville’

Portrait photographs by Sylvain Guenot

Author: Sophie Neville

Writer and charity fundraiser

7 thoughts on “Questions about my writing”

  1. Dead link for Waterberg fund raising there Sophie – Not Found

    Apologies, but the page you requested could not be found.

    Thought it better to inform you.

    God bless you for all your missionary work.

    Love in Jesus,


    1. Thanks – I’ll reconnect it. We need prayer for the people working at the Waterberg Welfare Society right now – especially those involved who are in England!

  2. The life of a writer can’t be an easy one! The Ransome Estate should commission you to do a follow up novel to the S&A series, just as has happened with Peter Pan and Treasure Island, and maybe then you’ll reap the rewards of your talents. Thanks for the info on Gerald Durrell too. It must have been an honour and a treat to have met him. Somwhere down the line I hope you’ll reminisce online about the filming of his My Family. And yes, you can’t go wrong with CS Lewis!

    1. I certainly have enough photos to write about making the 1987 version of ‘My Family and Other Animals’ on Corfu. My hesitation is that (a) the series was re-made (b) By 1984 I had signed a contract saying I wouldn’t write about working at the BBC. (NB: I hadn’t been asked to do this when I worked on ‘Coot Club’ – also the 30 years is up on that). I can write my CV and about knowing Gerald Durrell. However, if the demand was strong enough I could contact BBC Books. They have been publishing ‘Behind-the-scenes on Blue Peter’ since the early 1960s.

  3. That’s a great suggestion, about a follow-up novel to the Swallows and Amazons series. Have you thought about it at all?

      1. Yes, I’ve just (only yesterday) been reading about it in one of the ‘Signals’ I was sent when I joined TARS. It’s a very interesting subject, and totally new to me.

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