Sophie Kinsella reveals the book that changed her life and what keeps her up at night

Bestselling Shopaholic author Sophie Kinsella shares details of her latest book, I Owe You One, and her latest obsessions.

Sophie Kinsella
Sophie Kinsella

What research did you do for your book I Owe You One? 

The main setting for the book is a homeware store called Farr’s. I was inspired when I visited a wonderful shop in Dorset called Harts of Stur. Of course it’s nothing like Farr’s as far as organisation goes – it’s an amazingly thriving shop. But because it is family owned, it showed me the potential for a family shop as a setting.

How important is setting for your writing?

When I start to write a book, I know that whatever setting I choose is a world I will be spending a lot of time in - so it’s vital! For me, setting is often a way to enhance the plot. I love the irony in I Owe You One that the family shop is all about creating a harmonious, beautiful home - but the family running it is far from harmonious!

How much of your writing is built on personal experiences, be they yours or of those you know?

I often use ideas from real life but build on them. For example, when I was planning I Owe You One I was sitting in a coffee shop, thinking ‘How should my protagonists meet?’ when an American man asked me to mind his laptop and I thought ‘That’s how!’ But I couldn’t leave it there – I had to create a far more dramatic fictional scene. I like my characters to go through quite extreme journeys and those are all from my head!

Name the first book that forever changed your outlook on life.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was the first book that made me really laugh out loud. I couldn’t believe that so much comedy could come out of one book and it was definitely inspirational.

Do you live where you write?

I write where I live. Though my desk is not in the main part of the house, because if it was I would never write a single word!

What is your favourite book of the year and where were you when you read it?

I loved The Overstory by Richard Powers. I read it at home, where I can see lots of trees, and I became mildly obsessed with the amazing qualities of trees.

What is your go-to comfort food?

Marmite on toast. Or a cocktail. Or both

What is the best music to write to? 

Loud energetic music. I have a mini playlist for each book as I’m writing it – often with the same song on a perpetual loop.

Describe your writing day: 

I plan for ages. Weeks, or months. During that time, I walk, think, sit in coffee shops and scribble notes. Then, when I get on to the actual writing, I aim for 1,000 words a day. If you do that for enough days, you’ll end up with a book. At least, that’s the theory…

Name your Sunday afternoon film (just one).

The Sound of Music.

What is your aim as a writer? How does a book do that? 

I aim to entertain – to make people laugh and cry and whip over the pages. If the story is good, the plot works and the characters are relatable, I hope that will happen.

What is the worst job you've done?

I’m not sure about the worst job – but I can think of some things I was really bad at. I worked as a journalist at Pensions World magazine and I was like my Shopaholic heroine Becky Bloomwood: I would sit at financial press conferences, nodding my head and scribbling notes but not really understanding a word.

How do you unwind?

I like to exercise, play tennis, play the piano and dance.

What keeps you up at night?

Box sets!

Watch more of Sophie Kinsella's quickfire answers from here event with Lucy Vine below:

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