awkward introductions


Alright, Internet. My name is Sophie Coulombeau. I’m a reader and a writer. To be more specific: I’m both an academic-in-training, currently in the second year of a PhD  in English Literature at the University of York, and a writer of fiction and drama. This blog is a sort of jotter pad of my thoughts about reading and writing and the way these two processes influence each other. It’s meant to provide a handy catch-all sort of corner for anyone interested in my activities, struggles and achievements on my bibliophilic beat.

First, let’s be upfront about the irritating promotional stuff. I’ve got a novel  (my very first) coming out on June 25th this year. It’s called Rites, it’s published by an independent publisher called Route (see here ) and I will, frequently, be posting things about it. Where you can buy it (if you’re so minded), what other people have said about it (if anyone bothers saying anything about it), all that kind of jazz. This may or may not be irritating.

On the plus side, if you’re a writer (especially a newish writer, struggling to break into the brutal Hobbesian world of literary fiction) and you’re interested in the reality of bringing a manuscript from scribbled jottings in a notebook to a beautiful shiny elegant object on the shelf at Waterstones, then you might find what I have to say of interest. I’ve discovered over the last year or so that there is very little public awareness of what it is like to write your first book in today’s climate. How do you go about making the thing coherent, when you realize you’re in your mid-twenties and all you’ve got is twenty four pages of scrawled phrases and impressions, a whisky habit and a black polo neck, and the uncomfortable realization that if you don’t JUST BLOODY WELL WRITE THE THING then you’re never going to be a writer at all? How long does it take, once you’ve forced yourself to do it? Where do you write? WHAT do you write? How do you balance the emotionally and intellectually draining process of crafting a narrative with the job you do to pay the bills? How do you get the big break? Agent or publisher, which one comes first? What’s your relationship with your agent? Do they help you with drafting, or just act like talent management? What’s your relationship with your editor? Can they tell you to change your story, or do they just correct your grammar? How much input do you get into cover design? How much do you get paid? Do you get paid at all? How well are you expecting to sell? What happens if you don’t sell any? What happens if you do?

If any of this kind of stuff seems intriguing, then do come back to check the blog, because I’ll be frequently reflecting on the composition of Rites as the publication date approaches. I tried to keep real-time updates on Facebook and Twitter as I wrote it, but found these forms weren’t ideal for the kind of reflections I wanted to make – ‘novelist’ is just another word for sufferer of verbal diorrhea, after all – and in many ways it’s only now that I feel I’ve gained enough distance from the acutely anxious and nerve-wracking process of re-drafting to reflect on it properly. Having said this, I have just started my second novel – which is already proving itself to be a very different kind of creature from the first –and I will be having another go at reflecting on the composition process in real time for anyone who’s interested. We’ll see how it goes.

A word about my day job. I’m currently in the second year of my PhD in English Literature at the University of York, writing about the relationship between naming and identity in late 18th / early 19th century British literature. There will also be updates about this academic work – both my research and the day-to-day experience of being a young(ish) academic at this moment in Britain. Perhaps this might seem like a less juicy topic for many people, but it’s something that I’m keen to write about precisely in order to get across my passion for professional geekdom . Despite the cultural stereotypes, academia is a fascinating, dynamic, intellectually exhausting and often downright hilarious place to work.  In the wake of the Browne Report, it’s also a world that is currently taking a good, hard look at itself and asking: What are we? What’s our role? What are we doing? What should we be doing? This is interesting, and it’s important. At least, I think so.

Oh, one more thing. I might write about food quite a lot too. Just because I love it. And I make it quite a lot. And sometimes I take pictures of it, and don’t know who to show them to. So I’ll most likely do it here.

That seems just about enough for a first blog post, so I’ll leave it there. Thanks for reading, do come back. You can visit the Facebook page for Rites here or follow me on Twitter here!/WritingMyRites if you’re so inclined.



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