Launch: Sophia Alexander’s Silk: Caroline’s Story

INTERVIEW BY SUSAN HIGGINBOTHAM

Sophia Alexander‘s new novel, Silk: Caroline’s Story, has garnered a clutch of accolades: finalist in the Historical Fiction category for the Next Generation Indie Book Awards 2021, finalist in the Family Saga category for the American Fiction Awards 2021, finalist for the Shelf Unbound 2021 Best Indie Book Awards, and longlisted for the Goethe Award 2022 by Chanticleer International.

How would you describe this book and its themes in a couple of sentences?

It is 1899 in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Caroline must choose between the town doctor and a good-natured, good-looking farmer, but Jessie isn’t about to let this happen. Love, obsession, and heartbreak are key themes.

This is your first novel (congratulations!). What led you to writing fiction?

Thank you! Authors have always been celebrities to me. I don’t think I would have dared try my own hand at writing it if it hadn’t been for a friend telling me, “You should write a book!” just before I saw a novel-writing kit at the bookstore. Sometimes it’s the small things …

What was your inspiration for this novel?

I’ve been dabbling in my genealogy on and off since I was twelve. Silk: Caroline’s Story is based around mysteries in my family tree that I’d been pondering for ages. While I still don’t know the core truths about my ancestors, I fabricated this romanticized version to put a myriad of facts together in a coherent fashion. Mind you, there are entirely fictional central characters, and I’ve changed the names.

Which character did you most enjoy creating, and why?

Caroline was the most enjoyable character to write, as she is so charming, optimistic, and clueless at times. She is also a dreamer, a reader, and quite sweet—traits that I suspect many of my readers might identify with.

Which character was the most challenging?

Jessie was the most challenging character but also the most exhilarating to write. Getting into her head space was oddly liberating, since she has so few qualms!

I liked your use of dialect, which can be very tricky. Do you have any advice for writers who make the attempt?

Hmm… I grew up hearing Southern dialect in the Lowcountry area, so I just wrote what I know, what I remember. I would have been far more cautious otherwise, just sprinkling in a little to give the speech ‘flavor’. So that is what I recommend—if you know it, use it more liberally, but if you aren’t born and bred to it, use it judiciously.

What were some of the resources you used to bring turn-of-the-century South Carolina to life?

Local plantation cookbooks and autobiographical accounts, aside from what I put together via census records and family stories, of course. There were also a host of reference books and internet resources.

Which authors (historical novelists or otherwise) have influenced you the most?

I was flattered when twice in the same week my writing was compared to Jane Austen’s—and it’s true that I did read all her novels as a young woman, so perhaps she influenced me more than I realized. I very much like to think so, though my characters certainly don’t always wind up with happily-ever-afters.

Silk: Caroline’s Story is part of a trilogy. What are the difficulties or advantages you found in writing a trilogy?

The advantage of writing a sequel or a trilogy is that the world-building is already done! You already know many of the characters and the society in which they reside. A disadvantage is that you have that ‘sequel’ designation on the follow-up books, so everyone wants to start with book one, making it the most important novel of the series.

Can you tell us a little about the next book in the trilogy?

The next novel in the Silk Trilogy is Tapestry: A Lowcountry Rapunzel. It’s about Caroline’s daughters, Vivian and Gaynelle. They have to deal with Jessie, too—and they also have their own heartaches.

What is the last great book you read?

I am in the midst of rereading Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. Just amazing! These questions were so thoughtful, Susan, and I really appreciate that you took the time to interview me for Silk: Caroline’s Story. Thank you for this and for all that you do for the members of the Historical Novel Society.

Giveaway

You can access free sample chapters on this link.

 


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