An Interview with Sofie Ryan

Do you have a family? 
Yes. I’m married with one teenage daughter. We live on the east coast less than two hours drive from the ocean. I like living somewhere with all four seasons, although there are times in the middle of January that living on a Caribbean island starts to sound like fun.

What’s your education? 
I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology as well as a Bachelor of Education degree.  

Do you ever use that education in your writing? 
All the time. I honed my research skills working on my Biology degree. My Statistics professor really emphasized asking lots of questions about any piece of information. And I had a Molecular Biology prof who believed we learn more from our mistakes than our successes—which was good because my lab partner had a habit of setting our experiments on fire.

What was your favorite subject in school?
My favorite subject was math, followed by science classes. I like the order and logic of math. I still read Scientific American just for fun.

Do you have any hobbies/interests? Do any of those hobbies inspire your writing?
I run. I don't really like the actual running part, but I love the feeling of having accomplished several kilometers before it's even 8AM. I also like setting a goal of running a certain distance in a certain amount of time. I’m not a graceful runner—or a fast one—but I am persistent. My main character in the Second Chance Cat mysteries, Sarah, is a runner.

I like to hike and take photos of things I see. More and more the photos are becoming mixed media art. I’ve been turning the images into collage with fabric and paper.

And I love to cook, but I tend to play with recipes or make up my own. A blogger I know recently did an “Odd Things” challenge. The challenge was to find something in the back of your refrigerator or cupboard and create a recipe around it. I discovered a can of cherry pie filling—and I’m not sure why I had it because I’m not a pie maker—and invented a cinnamon-cherry coffee cake. It was pretty good.

How do you relax?
I think cleaning is relaxing. Yes, I know that seems a little weird to some people. It’s not really the first image that comes to mind when you think about relaxing. But when I’m scrubbing a floor my mind can wander while my hands are busy and it’s a good way to figure out story problems. So when a book isn’t going well my floors get scrubbed a lot!

I also practice Wu style Tai Chi Chuan, like Kathleen, the main character in my Magical Cats mysteries, written as Sofie Kelly.

Besides writing, what was your favorite or most interesting job in your past?
I was once an all night disk jockey. Even though I’m a morning person, I liked the job. Before I started, I had no idea there was a whole sub-culture of people who worked the night shift—not just the obvious, like police officers and nurses. I met artists and musicians who liked working all night and sleeping when the rest of us are awake.

What character traits are important to you?
I think manners are important. They make interactions between people who don't know each other well, go more smoothly. (My mother is British and has always been very particular about manners.)

And a sense of humor is very important. I like being around people who can make me laugh. Sometimes the difference between a bad day and a good day is a good laugh.

You have a great wit and sense of humor in your writing.  Is that a bit of you coming through your characters? 
I don’t think of myself as being funny or witty. I tend to see myself as a serious person. Years ago I worked with Canadian playwright, Norm Foster, who is incredibly sharp and funny—and very, very observant. I learned to pay close attention to everything that’s happening around you—that’s where the humor in life and writing comes from.

You write well about the cats in your Magical Cats mysteries.  Are you a "cat person"?
I love cats. I like their independent spirit. I don't have one because my husband is extremely allergic to them. (If he dies first I'm getting a cat. People laugh when I say that because they think I'm kidding.) Even though I don’t have a cat myself, I do have “cat friends”—cats in my neighborhood that I spend time with so I can get my kitty fix. There are two right across the street and two more around the corner.

Are there any particular writers who have inspired you? 
Children’s author Robert Munsch is a big inspiration. He’s so, so talented. The characters in Munsch’s books aren’t perfect but they’re very real.

My favorite Robert Munsch book, is Giant or Waiting for the Thursday Boat, his most controversial book because of the way he depicts God.

He wrote Love You Forever, which is an incredibly sentimental story, but he’s also the author of The Paperbag Princess, which turns all the fairytale princess stereotypes inside out. Munsch has written wonderfully funny books like Get Out of Bed and Thomas’ Snowsuit that make kids and adults laugh. (If you’ve ever struggled to get a little person dressed to go outside in the wintertime you really should read Thomas’ Snowsuit.)

What advice would you give someone who wants to be a writer?
Read, read, read. Read everything. Good books. Terrible books. Stories you like. Stories that bore you. Not only will you develop an ear for sentence and story structure, you’ll also start to figure out where your writing interests are.

And of course, write, write, write. Like anything else, practice will help you get better. I think you need to write a few crappy books before you can write good ones.

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