19th April 2023
It was another packed evening when the cherished Sophie Green visited the Suffolk Book League for our April event. Our whistle-stop AGM kicked off the evening’s proceedings. This was followed by a fascinating Q and A; such a treat as we settled down to listen comfortably. Sophie definitely knew how to charm the inner child of us all, beginning with an atmospheric reading from ‘The Paradise Street All Night Bus Station’, Chapter 1 of the first Potkin and Stubbs book. The walls fell away and the dingy streets and dank air of the corrupt Peligan City swept into our imaginations.
The lovely Tricia Gilbey then prompted questions. This was an evening of discovery. We learnt a spectrum of facts and tidbits, like how film noir was a big inspiration for the settings, or how Sophie’s degree in zoology shifted her way of thinking, developing her scientific observation. We too, learnt about the process of publishing, her tight deadlines, editorial nerves (battles thankfully averted), and the thrill of collaborating with an illustrator she admires, K. J. Mountford. She gave advice to the budding writers in the room – read your writing aloud to see what doesn’t flow.
As the children’s literature curator for Suffolk Libraries, she gave the enraptured room tips on what makes a children’s book successful, advising that it should also be of interest to adults. She admitted that creating novels also offered entertainment for herself. Her characters became ‘so real, they spoke’. Her goal, she divulged, was to be ‘transportive', letting the reader escape into her world of words. In a frank moment of revelation, Sophie told us that her initial inspiration was in 2013, the financial crash’s consequences rippling across the UK, hitting public services like libraries particularly severely, and making the world seem like a dark place. Her novel allowed her the hope that one person can change things and make a difference. What better message than that for her readers?
So where next? She certainly isn’t going to stop writing, teasingly mentioning a project putting some of that animal knowledge to use. Sophie’s dreams include Potkin and Stubbs being adapted into an animation, and/or even a graphic novel – a form she holds dear. Describing herself as a versatile writer, she wants to conquer all. And we’re sure she can!
Whilst many perceive her books for children, over the course of the evening Sophie of course persuaded us otherwise. I pass on her apt quotation from W. H. Auden: ‘There are good books which are only for adults. There are no good books which are only for children.’ There. Off you go. And what better way to discover Middle Grade literature than with the wonderful, ghostly, thrilling adventures of Potkin and Stubbs.