Engels: Romy Sommer gesels met ons …
We are chatting to Romy Sommer, writer, writing coach and chairperson of Romance Writers’ Organisation of South Africa (ROSA). Congrats on the publication of your novel, Last of the Summer Vines.
Let’s start with …
Do you love wine of coffee?
This is a really tough question to answer! Can I cheat and say coffee during the day and wine when it gets too late in the day for coffee?
Does you hero have to be smart or gorgeous?
Another tough question, because ideally he should be both! But if I had to choose, smart would definitely beat gorgeous. And kind – a good heart beats both brains and brawn any day.
Should he be rich or funny?
Okay, this is an easier question, because rich is merely a bonus, not a requirement. But absolutely he should have a sense of humour – even if it’s just a sense of humour that matches the heroine’s.
In your next life, you would like to be a …
I’d like to be a writer and a mom – because I couldn’t imagine anything better than what I’m doing right now.
In your past life, you believe you were a …
In my past life I was definitely a 1920’s flapper. I feel a huge affinity for that period, for the music, the clothes, and the way that women of that time began to push boundaries. It’s thanks to those Post World War 1 women that we have many of the freedoms and successes we have today.
You grew up in Durban, when did you decide to move to Johannesburg?
Sadly it wasn’t my decision. As I was nearing the end of high school, my father got a job offer that required moving from Durban to Johannesburg. I hated it at the time, and wanted so badly to stay in Durban, but I was too young then to live on my own so I had to move with the family. I’ve now lived in Johannesburg more than half my life, and the place has grown on me. It’s home now, and I’m very happy here.
You love Hallmark movies. What is your favorite Hallmark movie or what is the title of the last Hallmark movies you watched?
There are so many to choose from! My favourite is probably A Country Wedding (2015) which features a country singer and his childhood sweetheart, combining two of my favourite things: romance and country music. At the moment, my daughters and I are working our way through the Good Witch series of movies, since we discovered the Netflix series that is based on those original Hallmark movies.
What type of writer are you? A planner or pantser?
I started out as a pantser, but these days I lean more towards being a plotter. I need to know my main characters inside and out before I start writing, and I also need to know how they will be challenged and grow, and where they need to end up at the story’s end. Once I know the overall plan for the story, and have a few key scenes sketched out along the way, then I start writing and let the ‘pantsing’ take over.
Last of the Summer Vines, your fifth novel, was inspired by two of your favorite movies, Under the Tuscan Sky and A Good Year. Did you feel because of this inspiration you had to write the story in a specific manner?
I very carefully avoided re-watching those movies while writing this book, because I wanted to do my own story and not be tempted to copy from them. So I suppose the only thing I specifically wanted with this book was to make it uniquely my own.
The main character Sarah is a workaholic when the reader’s meets her. Who/what is the inspiration behind her?
In the first draft of the book, I had Sarah as a professional baker whose London-based bakery was on the verge of going bankrupt. But it was such a negative and angsty place to start, with her feeling like a failure, so I re-wrote the book (and Sarah) to be much lighter and more positive. Making her a workaholic in desperate need of a holiday started the book on a far less depressing note!
You are the chairperson of ROSA, writing coach and writer. It seems that you and Sarah have ambition in common. What are some of the other characteristics you admire about her?
I don’t feel ambitious at all. I do what I do because I love it, and because I’d still do it regardless of whether I was getting paid or not. This is something Sarah only discovers after she arrives in Tuscany. Living in Italy, she is reminded of how much she loves to bake, and as she follows her passion, she finds her true purpose in life. I think that applies to every heroine I write: they often start at a place where they’re not living their true purpose, and my stories are about their growing to be the best version of themselves they can be.
What other characteristics does she have that I admire? She’s not afraid of hard work and doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty. She treats everyone equally, whether they’re rich and good looking, or whether they’re a tattooed ex-con. But best of all, she’s just an ordinary woman in her 30’s. She’s not model beautiful, she’s not especially clever or talented or rich. She could be any of us.
Last of the Summer Vines is set in the beautiful Tuscany, and most your books are set overseas. What factors contribute to where you set your novels?
I really believe there is a market for South African-set romances, and I have every intention of setting one here some day, but for some reason my stories just seem to want to be set in other places. I’ve set stories in Europe and the US, in fictional countries, and in the Caribbean. The stories seem to arrive in my head already with a setting in place, and they just wouldn’t be the same if I tried to force them to be set somewhere else. I don’t know if this even makes sense, but I think there are a lot of writers who will understand that feeling of just being a vessel for a story that needs to be told. As if the story is being told through us rather than by us.
You write under alias (which you don’t want to reveal to us), but Last of the Summer Vines is your first book under your own name, after being nominated for the Rita award. Did you feel the pressure to write another award-winning book after being nominated for a Rita?
Since the Rita nomination I’ve published three erotic romance books under another name. Publishing under another name helped me get over that pressure to succeed. And yes, there was some pressure − and a whole lot of fear that I wouldn’t be able to produce another book that lived up to expectations.
Why do you keep your two identities separate?
Writing those erotic romances started as an experiment for me. I wanted to play around with self-publishing without any expectations or pressure to succeed. It was also fun creating a separate identity. Of course, my alter ego is a part of me, but she gives me the opportunity to indulge in stories that far more sensible Romy doesn’t.
Would you ever reveal you second identity?
Maybe one day, but at the moment I have no plans to reveal my secret identity!
Are you currently busy writing your next book?
Yes indeed. I’ve started working on a follow-up to Last of the Summer Vines, in which Sarah’s best friend Cleo gets her happy ever after. Since I did so much research into Tuscany and wine-making for Last of the Summer Vines, I didn’t want to waste all that time and effort, so the next book will be set against the same backdrop. And Cleo was such a fun person to write that I thought she really deserved her own story.
How did you celebrate the publication of Last of the Summer Vines?
I didn’t really do anything special to celebrate the release (maybe I still will?) but I did drink a couple of glasses of red wine that evening. Which was the most fitting way to celebrate this book!
Het jy geweet?
Romanza is ’n trotse lid van ROSA!
ROSA hou jaarliks ’n skrywerskonferensie, waar Suid-Afrikaanse skrywers gesels oor liefdesverhale. Lees meer hier: https://www.romancewriters.co.za/2018-annual-conference