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Sophie Irwin: On Connecting With Readers

Author Sophie Irwin discusses her pipe-dream-turned-reality of writing her historical fiction rom-com, A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting.

Sophie Irwin grew up in Dorset, England before moving to London after university and working in publishing. A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting is her debut novel. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Sophie Irwin: On Connecting With Readers

Sophie Irwin

In this post, Sophie discusses her pipe-dream-turned-reality of writing her historical fiction rom-com, A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting, what it feels like to hear from readers, and more!

Name: Sophie Irwin
Literary agent: Maddy Milburn, Madeleine Milburn Agency
Book title: A Lady’s Guide to Fortune Hunting
Publisher: Pamela Dorman books, Penguin Random House
Release date: May 12, 2022
Genre/category: Historical Fiction
Elevator pitch for the book: Left with her father's massive debts, Miss Kitty Talbot has only 12 weeks to save her family from ruin—by heading to London to find a rich husband.

Sophie Irwin: On Connecting With Readers

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What prompted you to write this book?

I love historical fiction, and historical rom-coms in particular—and so it has always been a pipe dream of mine to one day write my own. Then, in 2019, walking to work very early one morning, I started imagining what it would be like to read a Regency rom-com where it was the heroine, and not the villain, who was the fortune hunter … The idea and the main character, determined and cunning Kitty, were both born in that moment.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

All in all, about two and a half years! The core idea never changed for me, but the plot and structure and characters—and the writing itself!—are all far more refined and developed than when I first began. I knew who my characters were, and where I wanted them to end up, but I had no real idea of how to get them there, and so for the first year, the manuscript was a single word document of unintelligible babble: Random sentences, words, ideas, scraps of dialogue or description, written in no particular order, just as they occurred to me. It took a whole year before it made enough sense to share with anyone!

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

Yes! The best and most surprising moments have been whenever readers have taken something from the novel that I didn’t necessarily intend. For such a long time, writing this book was an entirely solitary experience, just me and the characters—and I thought I knew everything there was to know about them.

But in the past few weeks, early readers have started reaching out to share thoughts or readings that I could never have expected—for example, just last week a blogger got in touch to say they felt one of my characters (Kitty’s sister, Cecily) reminded them a little of Marianne from Sense and Sensibility, or another that said Kitty reminded them a little of Florence Pugh’s Amy in the recent Little Women. These were not parallels I ever intended, but I was so delighted to hear these takes!

That’s my very favorite part of writing, I think—chatting with readers about their thoughts on the book, because it just proves that every person truly does take something different from each book they read.

Sophie Irwin: On Connecting With Readers

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

So many! I think my favorite surprises came from my historical research. Before writing this novel, I thought I already knew a lot about Georgian period—but there were so many more fascinating elements of Georgian cultural, social, and military history than I ever expected.

My favorite—and also usually the most surprising—facts are some of the different fashion trends across this period. For example, did you know that in the 1790s, a popular fashion was for vegetal headwear? Walking down the street in London or Bath, it would be quite common to see whole strawberries, cherries, and plums affixed to women’s hats. I so wish this was still common.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

I would love my book to offer readers some well-deserved escapism! It would be my dearest hope for my book to succeed in taking readers away from real life for a few hours of respite, to a world of wittiness and flirting and dancing—and so I’ve really tried to make the novel as fun and frothy and romantic as possible. It’s an eventful and stressful time in the world for so many people, and I think we all need escapism more than ever.

If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?

Keep going! It’s going to take a while before your writing is readable, let alone good—that is totally normal (at least I hope it is…) and all you can do in the meantime is keep turning up to write, be kind to yourself, and get the first draft (however terrible) finished.

It does get easier once you have something on paper to work with, I promise!

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