Today’s guest is Sophia Bar-Lev. She has a new novel, Pasta, Poppy Fields and Pearls, to tell us about, along with future works.
I hope you’ll introduce yourself after reading the interview.
Sophia Bar-Lev wrote her first story at the age of five in first grade. Since then she has never stopped writing though much of her work sat on a bookshelf for years while she busied herself with raising four children, teaching school and later, as a conference speaker for a number of years on inspirational and self-help topics.
Meanwhile her passion for writing remained very much alive and has been continually nourished by her large and energetic family, by her extensive travels and by her professional experience as an educator and speaker.
Sophia was born and raised in New England, is married and for the last few years has divided her time between the United States and Israel. She loves reading, cooking and baking, and travel, especially cruising.
She is presently working on two novels, one of them the sequel to her recently released work, Pasta, Poppy Fields and Pearls.
Welcome, Sophia. Please tell us about your current release, Pasta, Poppy Fields and Pearls.
Four mature women from different parts of the world have chosen Tuscany as their retirement haven, expecting a quiet and tranquil existence. Little did they realize the adventures that awaited them. As their lively friendship develops, the best and the worst of each woman’s past experiences and memories begin to emerge and just when you think you know what’s next, a completely unexpected twist in the story will keep you turning the pages way past your bedtime. You’ll laugh and you’ll cry with Carmela, Janet, Cecilia, and Paula Jean. You’ll walk through the streets of Florence with them and you’ll swear you can smell the aroma of Italian cappuccinos. You’ll partake of their struggles and celebrate their joys and when you reach the final page, you’ll feel as if they could easily be your next door neighbors, your best friends. This is a real-life book, based on real-life women, who embrace each day with gusto, live their senior life to the maximum, and invite you to do the same.
What inspired you to write this book?
It all started in a coffee shop in northern Israel. Four of us expats from four different parts of the world have become great friends and as we sat together on one of our many coffee shop meetings, having a wonderful, even hilarious time, one of my friends looked at me and said, “This is material for a book. You should write it.”
Thinking about it later, I knew she was right. Moving from one’s native land to a new country, developing new friendships, adjusting to a new culture, dealing with the hundred and one details of assimilating into a new society provides more than enough for several novels, especially when the main characters are as delightful, funny, wise and spontaneous as my friends are.
With their permission, I drew upon their personal life experiences, took a bit of ‘poetic license’ at times, gave them fictitious names and developed a manuscript which they unanimously voted should go to press. It really was the most fun I’ve ever had writing a novel and the sequel is well on its way, also with their undying support.
Another purpose I have in writing Pasta, Poppy Fields and Pearls, is that I’d like to create a series of novels whose main characters are women over 50. There’s a huge population now in that age bracket and more women than men. So many of the women’s fiction books feature young women. It’s quite difficult to find contemporary women’s novels that “star” the boomer generation. I’d like to do something about that gap.
What exciting story are you working on next?
Two exciting stories at the moment – Pizza and Promises, the sequel to Pasta, Poppy Fields and Pearls, continues the stories of Carmela, Janet, Paula Jean, and Cecilia with some new characters entering the unfolding plot.
It’s All True is a very different novel which begins in 1942 with two women giving birth to baby girls on the same day in the same hospital. One is a young Army bride whose husband is thousands of miles away, fighting in Europe. The other is also alone; her husband working in a distant state as jobs were scarce in their hometown. When one mother’s baby passes away shortly after birth, her roommate think she finds a way out of her complicated dilemma. But will she be able to live with it? Will her new friend keep her secret?
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
About 15 years ago I began writing seriously, producing inspirational and self-help type books that blended with my public speaking. I took a break for a short time after we came to Israel and spent some time acclimating to our new surroundings. However, I’ve been a long time devotee of “Morning Pages” – I write every morning even if it’s not related to a book I’m presently working on. It keeps the creativity alive.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I consider myself a full time writer, yes. But I’m also a homemaker and I do some volunteer work so I’m committed to 20 hours per week minimum. It works best for me if I set aside one day per week (Wednesday) to attend to household things like grocery shopping, other errands, volunteer work, etc. and dedicate Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays to marathon writing sessions, which usually ends up totaling a bit more than 20 hours. Friday is cleaning and baking day, Saturday is our Sabbath and Sunday I keep aside for meeting friends at the coffee shop or other social activities.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I can’t stand outlines – they just don’t work for me. Once I have an idea for a novel, I sit down and ask myself, for example, ‘what is Carmela going to do today?’ or ‘where is Janet going on vacation?’ etc. Sometimes I get so caught up in the flow that I feel as if I’m running to catch up with my characters.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I remember telling my fifth grade teacher that I wanted to be an author and write lots of books that would make people happy.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
My writing ‘creed’ if you will is this: “The purpose of writing is to create an atmosphere which enables the reader to think and to dream, to believe and to achieve.”
I believe that can apply to virtually all types of writing to one degree or another. As writers, we have the opportunity to inspire and that’s what I hope to do with my books – Inspire my readers to live life to the full, to know the blessing of true friendship, to have the courage to face adversity with dignity and the wisdom to embrace contentment in daily life.