It was a rainy Saturday morning. I’d planned on spending it writing. But that was before I made the decision to jump onto Smashwords and quickly download the copy of Broken Ones Sophia Martin gave me for review. I thought I’d just open it and take a peek—you know, just see what kind of writer she is and what I was in for.
By page 4 I’d forgotten all about my plans to write (thanks a lot, Sophia). The first person narrator’s voice is natural and tough. Louise tells us she’s thought of killing her brother-in-law, Everett, an ex-cop who likes to pound on her little sister, Marie—who Louise once again comes home to find sleeping on her couch, surrounded by Marie’s three little ones.
Everett comes looking for Marie and his kids the next morning, doesn’t find them, and beats Louise. Louise wakes the next day to Marie sitting beside her hospital bed, learns Everett is up to something illegal and has threatened to kill Marie if she leaves, for fear of her telling what she knows. Louise makes the decision she must get them all away from Everett.
Followed by an Amber Alert, they make their escape: Louise, Marie, Marie’s three children, and a neighbor’s neglected pit bull Louise has been dying to rescue, all stuffed into Marie’s mini-van. Louise pulls strings and obtains fake ID’s, and a beat-up old station wagon that can’t be traced by Everett and his cop buddies.
What follows is a fear-drenched run for the mountain town of Mount Shasta, Louise struggling to deal with her spiritually broken sister, while leaving a false trail of breadcrumbs in a gambit to throw Everett off their track.
I don’t want to give away the plot. A haunted (or is it?) cabin, and a town full of interesting people—some willing to help, others not—make this a satisfying read. If I have one disappointment with Broken Ones, it’s only that the reader never really finds out just what Everett’s hinted at nefarious dealings are. But all in all, it was a lively read, and well worth the price of downloading it.
What follows is my interview with Sophia.
What led you to write about domestic violence?
I was a counselor on a rape and domestic violence hotline for a year, and the people I spoke to stayed with me after that. I went into the job with some of the typical ideas—that if a man hit me, I’d just be out of there, that there must be something wrong with women who wind up in that kind of relationship. Working the hotline opened my eyes and gave me empathy for survivors of domestic violence. I wanted to write about it because of that.
Why do you think ghosts turn up so often in your writing?
Good question! It’s a combination of things. I was always afraid of the dark as a child; I believed that ghosts would get me once the lights were off. That lasted well into my early teens. And then at some point I lost all faith in ghosts (and everything else) and the idea of there being nothing after death was much more terrifying. Now I am back to believing in them, after years of spiritual searching, but I’m not frightened of them anymore. I think that journey has been such a big part of me; it just seeps into the writing in many ways.
You are a teacher – how does that effect your writing schedule?
Oh, it’s a bear. Teaching can be good and bad, and when it is good, it is a huge sap on my creative energy. When it is bad it just saps all of my energy. So it can really be an obstacle. But it also gives me a window into many lives, which can inspire me.
Why did you choose to self publish your work as e-books?
I got really excited at the possibilities epublishing presents. I like the freedom to write whatever I want, without having to consider whether it will please agents and publishers. I have no beef with agents and publishers, but they have their rules and I don’t want to be constrained by them. It’s a lot of work to self-publish, but I find that many people are willing to help, and with their help I’ve been getting it done!
What has the e-book experience been like for you?
Mostly positive. It’s exciting to know that I already have readers enjoying my books. I’ve gotten encouraging feedback. It’s work, though. I’ve had to reformat two of my eBooks and figuring out the right way to do that took a while. And marketing is not easy; I’m trying to find the best way to do it. But people like you make that hill a bit easier to climb!
What are you working on now?
I have a series about a psychic—the first book is out, entitled The River and the Roses. I finished the first draft of the second book last month and have been letting it sit for a while before I get into my first cycle of revisions. I’ve been batting around some ideas for other stories as well as the third book in the series. But at the moment, I’m not doing a lot of writing. I plan to treat May like NaNoWriMo, though, and aim to write 50,000 words of the third novel then.
Who are your favorite authors?
I love Jacqueline Carey, who wrote the Kushiel books (very, very different from mine). Another favorite is Qiu Xiaolong—he’s a Chinese author of detective novels set in Shanghai. I also love YA fantasy, and one great author is Libba Bray. Oh, and have you heard of the Kiki Strike novels? Great girl adventures! Those are by Kirsten Miller. I could go on.
Tell us something about yourself that nobody knows.
I worked at a sandwich shop a few years ago. The mayo and the horseradish squirt bottles looked very much the same. So for a while, when people asked for mayo, I’d give them horseradish instead. It was an honest mistake—but when I figured out what I’d been doing, I never told! It was too late to fix the sandwiches. Why tell? Right? Oh boy. Still feel bad about that.
And so she should. But shady sandwich making activities aside: Sophia is a sweet writer. Check her out here.