Flurries of Words (FLOW) had the great opportunity of sitting down with bestselling RomCom and Mystery author, Sibel Hodge, for a chat about her writing, experience as an Indie Writer and alter ego of Wonder Woman. Here's what she had to say...
FLOW: It seems a long way from working with the police for 10 years to becoming the reigning RomCom Mystery queen of the indie world. Obviously the two are really not as unrelated as they sound. Can you tell us how your past experience fits in with your work now?
HODGE: I think everything I've done in life has been a rehearsal for writing books, and I've drawn from a lot of my own experiences. I've always wanted to write, and ever since I was old enough to scrawl my first words, I've been slinging letters on the page, but I think I just didn't have enough material to actually write a whole book or know what to do with it until I hit thirty-five. Everything that's happened to me in my life has been a journey to get to this point.
FLOW: How did your time with the police influence the Amber Fox series?
HODGE: It helped a lot with parts of the investigative procedure in the plots. Plus, working for the police you meet such a variety of people you can make some great characters from!
FLOW: Trafficked is a stunning piece of literature and a major departure from the lighter RomCom fare audiences love from you. What prompted you to write it?
HODGE: Thanks so much for your kind words! About five years ago I watched a mini series about girls from Eastern Europe who’d been trafficked. It haunted me for a long time, and then gradually it faded from my mind and I got on with my life. Then a little while ago I was sitting in a doctor’s surgery waiting for an appointment and picked up a magazine. Inside, was the story of one women who’d been trafficked. It made a chill run through me, and I realized that in those five years, I’d never heard anything in the media about it.
That got me thinking, and I started researching other victim’s stories online. They were horrific, heart breaking, gut wrenching, and I knew this was a subject that, despite being such a global problem, a lot of people are unaware goes on. I really wanted to do something to raise awareness into the subject and Trafficked: The Diary of a Sex Slave was born.
Although the book is fictional, it’s inspired by these victim’s stories, and is a very sad global reality. In 2007 the US Department of State carried out a Trafficking in Persons report. The statistics shocked me to the core: 700,000-800,000 men, women and children trafficked across international borders each year, approximately 80% of which are women and girls, and up to 50% are minors. The figures will be a lot higher four years on.
And one of the truly scary things is, most people think it only affects third world countries, but it’s going on right under your nose. The US Department of State estimated 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States alone each year.
I wanted Trafficked to be gritty, hard hitting, and tear-jerking. And I wanted it to make people really stop and think about this subject. I chose to write it in the form of a diary so the reader really feels every emotion – the fear, beatings, horror, desperation, hope, and faith. I wanted you to experience the ordeal through the eyes of all the Elenas out there.
FLOW: How did you get involved in the topic? Did you use a different approach to writing it than you had to your other books?
HODGE: Not really, I still had to research the topic like I would with anything else. The only difference was that instead of writing funny romcoms that made me crack up with laughter, Trafficked made me cry a lot while I was writing it, but that's the effect I wanted readers to feel. It was challenging to do something about such an emotive and serious subject, and I've had some fantastic feedback from it. I was honoured when it was listed in the Top 40 Books About Human Rights by Accredited Online Colleges.
FLOW: The scenes were so gritty and realistic, portraying horrific events: how did you prepare to write them?
HODGE: I prepared by reading through a lot of real victims' stories and researching news articles and trafficking reports. Then I put my mind into the mind of Elena and imagined I was her.
FLOW: I see that you are very open about the number of rejections you received (200) before hitting it big in Indie publishing. How did you manage to keep going in the face of such repeated rejection?
HODGE: I cried a lot and drank a lot of wine! Shares in Kleenex and Blossom Hill went up a gazillion times during my rejection period.
FLOW: What was the best thing you did right on the road to becoming a success?
HODGE : Oooh, that's hard! I think the best thing I did was I kept on going. Just because you hit a brick wall, it doesn’t mean you have to give up. You either find a way though it, around it, or over it. But I was definitely going to find a way to live my dream of being a writer.
FLOW: What was the worst thing you did wrong?
HODGE I didn't believe in myself enough in the beginning.
FLOW: What words of advice do you have for aspiring authors?
HODGE : Go for it! You are the only person who can make things happen. The only life you’re living is right here, right now in this moment, and you can choose exactly what to do with it. Success is just a state of mind, so think yourself successful and you will be!
FLOW: Like most Indie writers, a large portion of your audience comes from the USA. How do you manage to create characters who will engage with that audience when you are European by residence and birth?
HODGE : I think being mad helps!
FLOW: How do you consistently successfully overcome the different senses of humour between cultures when writing your Romantic Comedies?
HODGE : I think writing humour is difficult, anyway, because it's so subjective, regardless of culture and nationality. A lot of things that happen to the characters in my books have either happened to me or my friends or family (I'm so accident prone, it's untrue!), and I try and write humour that readers can actually relate to.
FLOW: When and where did you first acquire the Wonder Woman alter-ego?
HODGE : When I was a kid I either wanted to be an astronaut or Wonder Woman. There was a slight problem there, though, because I was afraid of heights, so Wonder Woman won!
FLOW: How old were you when it started and did it have anything to do with the Lynda Carter series of the 1970s? (That's when my affinity for her started!)
HODGE: Oh, yeah, it was definitely Lynda Carter - she was so cool. I've even got a pair of Wonder Woman knickers that I parade around in!
FLOW: Yes, I had those too! Thank you so much for talking to us & giving us the inside scoop. :-)
Sibel's books are available everywhere. Here's some links to get you started...
My Perfect Wedding (Romantic Comedy)