Good morning! I think it’s time I posted a new Q& A from the Writers Around the World Series, don’t you? I’m happy to introduce you to a lovely writer from South Africa! Meet Romy Sommers…
Hi Romy, Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by the site. First things first. What name do you like to go by, and do you use a pen name for your writing?
I write under my own legal name (Romy Sommer) – mostly because I’m so absent-minded I’d probably forget who I am if I had to answer to any other name. I’ve actually kept my ex-husband’s surname because it’s such a positive sounding name – sommer is German for summer (my favorite time of year!)
Aw, I love that too!! Where are you from and where do you live now?
I’m half South African and half German. I was raised in Durban, South Africa, a sub-tropical seaside town, but now live in Johannesburg, also known as eGoli (the place of Gold). I’ve lived in South Africa my whole life, apart from two magical years I spent in London.
I would so love to visit South Africa someday, well and London too. 🙂 How long have you been writing?
I’ve written pretty much my whole life. In first grade, when we were asked to write about our holidays, I wrote about going to the circus with my older siblings. Since my teacher knew I had no older siblings, and the circus hadn’t been in town, she called my parents in as she was worried about how I was making things up. My father (bless him!) defended my right to an imagination, but after that it stayed my guilty secret until I was in my 30s and realized that writing the stories in my head down for other people to read was actually a legitimate job.
You father sounds like a gem! What age group and genre(s) do you write in? The same one all the time or have you written in more than one?
I write for adults and, since I write romance, I write mostly for adult women. I write in two genres: contemporary and 1920s historicals (the age of jazz , short skirts and champagne cocktails!)
That sounds really fun! We know how important it is to read widely in the age group/genre you write for. What’s a book you’ve read and loved?
There are so many! I have the attention span of a butterfly, so I can’t even remember half the books I’ve read and loved. Most recently, I read Rebecca Crowley’s Crossing Hearts, the second in her Atlanta Skyline sports romance series.
With so many great books, it’s hard to resist them all! What’s a book out of your genre/age group you’ve read and loved?
I’ve just started the sixth and final book in Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. I love all her Shadowhunters YA paranormal books! Before that, I read Cocaine Blues, the first in Kerry Greenwood’s Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries series. I love cosy mysteries, and really envy anyone who can write them!
Writing is the greatest profession there is—obviously! If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be? Don’t hold back. No limits on this one!
Ooh, this is a hard question, mostly because I’ve been obsessed with becoming a full time writer for so long that I haven’t even thought of doing anything else! I guess if I could choose from any job in the world, I’d want it to be something that involves traveling to all the places on my bucket list (as long as it doesn’t take me away from my kids for too long).
Sure, it’s possible to like both, but which do you like better—drafting or revising?
I think I prefer revising. As Nora Roberts famously said: “it’s easier to edit a bad page, than to edit a blank page.” There’s also a magic in seeing how even the smallest changes can make the writing stronger.
Do you plan first or write as you go along?
A mix of both. Before I start, I need to know who my characters are, what they need to achieve by the end of the book, and at least a few of the incidents that will take place to get them there. Then I just write and see what happens. My worst blocks happen when I start writing but have no clue what target / event I’m aiming at. If I have at least a few key scenes sketched out in my head, then I’m good to go.
What’s your favorite day of the week? How come?
Sundays. Every other day is filled with rushing to the day job, doing errands, getting kids to appointments or extra murals. I feel as if every other day I’m juggling so many balls and dropping at least one. But Sundays are my ‘stay home in yoga pants’ days, and (best of all!) they’re my main writing days.
Where do you usually write? At a desk? Outside? In the car? Be honest. Where does the magic usually happen?
Monday to Friday I write in the car in the mornings. After I drop my kids at school, I park under the trees at the far end of the school car park, haul out my laptop, and write. I have my coffee flask, a muffin, and no internet to distract me – what else do I need? I also find that even half an hour of writing improves the rest of my day hugely. When I leave that car park to drive to the day job I’m in a much better mood and ready to take on the day. Deprive me of that ‘me time’ and I’m just grumpy all day!
Your mornings seem blissful! 🙂 Are you a morning person or late night owl? What time do usually write?
I’m a night owl and terrible at getting to bed any time before midnight! That said, these days I find it best to write in the mornings. Since I have to get up early anyway to do the school run, by the time the kids are in bed at night my brain is just too tired to think clearly enough to write. So instead, evenings are when I do admin and marketing tasks (which is a fancy way of saying I send emails and sit on Facebook).
What made you write your story in the first place?
My last release, Not a Fairy Tale, is the story of Hollywood stuntman Dominic. He was a secondary character in my previous book, but he was so much fun to write and kept wanting more page space, so I decided he needed to get his own book.
What’s your favorite food(s)?
Without a doubt, chocolate.
What’s your favorite drink to drink while writing?
Mostly coffee, but on those occasions when I’m writing at night then I switch to red wine (and maybe that’s why I’m too unfocused in the evenings to write!)
Do you have any hobbies, besides writing?
As I said, I have the attention span of a butterfly, so I tend to switch hobbies on a regular basis. Not that I’ve had much time for anything lately! Over the years I’ve been obsessed with embroidery, researching King Arthur and Britain’s dark ages, genealogy, and Formula One motor racing. At the moment, I’m trying to get myself fitter so the only thing I’m squashing in between day job, writing and kids is sessions with a personal trainer.
Tell us about your day job, if you don’t mind.
At the moment, I have a day job as a film production manager. I used to work on feature films and TV series, but just over a decade ago I moved into advertising, so I now work on TV commercials. My job is the logistical planning of film shoots, the complete opposite of the creativity of being a writer! My dream though is to be a full time writer and writing coach, so I can live in my head all the time!
I’m the Chairperson of ROSA (Romance writers Organisation of South Africa) which I co-founded with a friend. I’m also the coordinator of ROSA’s annual conference, so even though it doesn’t pay, it’s a full job in its own right!
All of that sounds pretty interesting to me… but you sure are busy! Tell us about your family.
I’m a single mom to two gorgeous little girls. I am so proud of them and they bring me so much joy (when they aren’t fighting each other!) but they’re also hard work, as they both have ADHD and learning difficulties. We live with my mother, who is my right hand, and I couldn’t achieve everything I do without her!
Thank goodness for little girls…and mothers! Who’s usually your first reader(s)?
I belong to a wonderful critique group called the Minxes of Romance, though it’s been years since we did much critiquing. We’re mostly just very tight friends these days, since we’re published and a lot more confident in our writing. That said, if I feel I need someone to read my book before I submit it to an editor or agent, they’re still my go-to girls.
What has been your biggest writing accomplishment so far?
Being nominated for the RWA Rita award! It was completely unexpected, and completely mind-blowing, and because of the nomination I got to visit the USA for the first time. It’s such a cliché to say that even though I didn’t win, it was such an honor to be nominated, but it’s also completely true. I felt like a complete unknown in that category, was so in awe of all the other writers who were nominated, and the trip to attend the Rita ceremony in San Diego last year was a life-changing moment for me. Just being there was without a doubt my greatest accomplishment and greatest honor.
That sounds so fabulous… and congratulations. It is a huge deal to be nominated!!
Getting published isn’t easy. Why do you keep trying?
Every now and then I wonder if it’s worth it, all the time I spend away from my family trying to write the next book and the next one, and especially when sales are low and it’s not bringing in enough to quit the day job. In those lowest moments I’ve even considered quitting writing. But it never lasts long. It’s in my blood. I’d still write, even if I wasn’t writing for publication. I can’t seem to stop those voices in my head!
What’s your biggest struggle when it comes to writing?
My biggest struggle is just sitting down to write. It’s so easy to get sucked into reading, or reading about writing, or promotion and social media, and before I know it, all my precious writing time has wasted away. Which is why my best writing happens in the car, where I have no internet or emails to distract me!
What’s your next step? Revising? Writing a new book? A sequel?
I’ve just started the second book in a series I’m calling the Rebel Hearts series. It’s a little slow going at the moment, though, as the first book in the series hasn’t yet found a home with a publisher, but I’m driving myself on.
Do you have any advice for writers still in the query or sub trenches?
Don’t quit! You never know when you’re going to make it, but you will. Anyone who has the drive and passion to write will succeed. After all, as someone famous (I can’t remember who!) once said: the published writers are the ones who never gave up.
So true! What will you do when you reach your next writing goal? Who will you tell first?
Earlier I mentioned the Minxes of Romance, my lovely, close-knit group of writer friends. We met online when we were all just starting out and unpublished, and we’ve become so incredibly close over the years, and though we span the globe, many of us have now also met in person. They are the first people I tell all my writing news to, both good and bad, and they’re also usually the first people to hear all my other news too.
If you could travel to any place in the world, and experience any culture (for inspiration of course!), where would that be?
There are so many to choose from, but I think at the moment Germany tops the list of places I want to visit. My father was German, I travel on a German passport, and my children attend an international German school, but I haven’t been there since I was 12. I think it’s high time I go back.
I hope you get there someday! And I wish you the best of luck with your already published books and your new writing too. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us today. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you:)
Thanks for reading today everyone! To connect with Romy, you can find her in the following places:
Writing Coach blog: www.writingcoach.co.za/blog/
And here’s a peek at the cover of her RWA Rita award nominated book!