On a bright spring afternoon many years ago, Sophia Bar-Lev‘s 5th grade teacher asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Without hesitation, Sophia answered, “I want to write books – lots of them.” Busy for a number of years with raising a family and teaching school, in more recent years she has been primarily involved in adult education. Meanwhile, the passion for writing remained very much alive and has been continually nourished by her large and energetic family (20 grandchildren – there may yet be more!), by her extensive travels and by her professional experience as an educator and speaker. Her latest novel is THE SILVER LOCKET.
This novel celebrates the triumph of the human spirit over tragedy and heartache. Set against the backdrop of World War II, it chronicles the lives of two young women whose lives are linked by a child that belongs to both of them but in different ways. Their common devotion to motherhood and family ultimately leads to a dramatic and fulfilling reunion. The power of a sensitive and difficult decision years earlier is realized as two families join their hearts and lives because of one special daughter they share.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?
Yes, my grandmother instilled the love of books in me before I could even read myself. Throughout my childhood and into adulthood, reading has been an uninterrupted passion. As a child, I loved biographies, historical novels and the popular Nancy Drew Mysteries and Little House on the Prairie series.
THE SILVER LOCKET is loosely based on the true life story of a good friend of mine who longed to have her story told but did not have the time or inclination to write it herself. With her permission and approval, I took on the project because I believed it was a story worth telling. It taps into the deepest feelings of motherhood in a respectful and thoughtful way without glossing over the very real emotional issues of an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy.
What will the reader learn after reading your book?
My hope is that regardless of the life circumstances a reader is living through when they come across this book, that they will find inspiration and wisdom for dealing with their own challenges and position.
Agatha Christie got her best ideas while eating green apples in the bathtub. Steven Spielberg says he gets his best ideas while driving on the highway. When do you get your best ideas and why do you think this is?
My best ideas come from my family and friends. Most often, a casual comment or an experience with a friend or with a family member births an idea that mushrooms quickly into the basis for a book.
From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?
THE SILVER LOCKET was published eight months after the first time my friend told me her story and asked me to write it in the form of a novel. My two previous novels took just about 10 months from start to finish.
Describe your working environment.
I have a dedicated room in my home that I call my ‘writing cave’. It’s something of a sanctuary for me as in addition to my desk and some bookshelves, I also have a comfortable reading chair. It has a door with a soundproof panel and I have a small Memo board on the outside of the door where I post my writing schedule so my husband knows when not to interrupt me! The Memo board was actually his idea!
Do you write non-stop until you have a first draft, or do you edit as you move along?
I tend to write non-stop until I think I’ve completed a first draft and then go back to the beginning.
Usually I end up adding another chapter or two while editing along the way.
They say authors have immensely fragile egos… How would you handle negative criticism or a negative review?
No author ever pleases everybody all of the time so negative reviews are inevitable. I’ve had a couple amidst many positive reviews. I think every review is important from the aspect of my growth as a writer. Sometimes I’m surprised at the positive remarks and find inspiration in something a review says. And I always find something in the negative reviews that makes me pause and ponder. In that sense negative reviews are as important as positive ones for each one is an opportunity to learn something that will contribute to my improvement as a writer.
Are you a disciplined writer?
Yes, I would say so. I write for four to six hours per day four days a week. Some of the writing never sees the light of day but it is nevertheless important in the process of becoming a published author. Since I am a wife and mother and active in my community, I find that the four day ‘work week’ is best for me.
When it comes to writing, are you an early bird, or a night owl?
Definitely an early bird, I routinely get up between 4:30 – 5:00 am and have done so for many years.
I love the early hours. My general routine is to get up, make coffee and seclude myself in my ‘writing cave’ for at least two hours. I meditate, do some reading and then start writing. I’ll take a break for breakfast with my husband and then go back to writing until early afternoon.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
A college professor told me once that the formula for becoming a writer was actually quite simple:
Write, write, write and then write some more. He went on to say that the daily discipline of writing assures the best success.
Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?
My website is http://www.sophiabarlev.com My blog is part of my website. I invite your readers to stop by for a visit.
As an author, what is your greatest reward?
Nothing thrills me more than to hear from a reader that something in my novel enriched his/her life in some way. I write to entertain but also to inspire. I believe that life is most meaningful when one contributes in some way towards making another person’s life better, happier and/or more significant.