My name is Susan Francesca Hopkins but I write as SF Hopkins. I work in Marketing, but when I consider who is the Me that I am, the answer is always: I’m a writer. I have an apartment in Highgate, London, England; I travel on a Canadian passport; but I spend most of my time in the Gulf. Not the Gulf of Texas — the Arabian Gulf. I’ve lived all over the world, but Abu Dhabi is the place where, when I get off the plane, I feel like I’ve come home. People who don’t know Abu Dhabi probably find that strange, because the Gulf is a place for men rather than women, but I can’t help it. I’m a Christian and not a Moslem; but still, this is the place I feel that people understand me. I’m an independent person who isn’t about to put herself under the control of any man; but still, it’s here that I feel I have my space. But (and isn’t it just the way of the world that there’s always a “But”?) the kind of books and stories I write are frowned on by the Authorities in the Gulf — so excuse me if I don’t give you a clear photograph or an address 🙂 So far, I have three books (two fool length novels and a 30 page short) on Kindle and I’m well into the next. I teamed up with three friends to form Mandrill Press and they’re my publisher now.
What inspires you to write?
It’s an interesting question, because I write two kinds of books: Contemporary Romance; and Erotic Romance; and I’m a divorced woman who hasn’t been in a relationship for some time and has no ambition to be in one in the near future. So, maybe I write about what I dream of but can’t have. I prefer to think, though, that I’m writing about what interests me, and what interests me is people and their relationships. I don’t care whether that relationship is straight, gay, lesbian, bi or any other kind of relationship just so long as there is one. Of course, if you’re going to make a book out of it there has to be conflict in the relationship–no conflict may mean a nice smooth life but it also means there’s no story and no book there. However, I’m aware that I’m dodging the issue here because [takes deep breath] what really interests me and makes me want to write is the strange–not to say deviant–paths that love (and, indeed, sex, because not all sex takes place inside an envelope of love) can lead down. A woman who wants to be a man; a man who’d rather be a woman; a man who wants to submit and a woman who wants to command–these are my starting points. And it can’t be straightforward meat-and-potatoes sex, because the interest of that palls quite quickly. The man I remember with most affection is the one who liked to put his finger in my bottom while he ate me out (well, I’m sorry, but you did ask) and I find it interesting that I’ve never put that into a book. Yet 🙂
Tell us about your writing process.
I write early in the morning and I revise late at night. I start with the characters–one character or two at the outset; the number usually grows. The only things I know at that point are: What sex the character(s) is/are; and which way the lean sexually. I never know at the beginning where the story is going to go–that grows out of the interaction between the characters. For example, when I wrote The Transformation of David (now on Kindle), I began with this, which came straight out of my head and onto the keyboard:
It was a wicked thing they had done to him. He knew that. Wicked. As he lay on his front in this beautiful female body that he had been trapped into, skirt raised to his waist, a hand playing gently over his bottom, he knew that he should hate the person who had done this. She sat on the bed beside him in the body of the young man he had so recently been, and she toyed with him. Through the soft silk of his panties her thumb traced the space between his firmly rounded bottom cheeks. Her hand pressed on, down, down, until the tips of her fingers grazed the lips of his sex. Lips that he knew were moist with longing. A sex that ached to be entered once again.
Her head moved down, close to his own. She nibbled the lobe of his ear; she kissed him gently on the back of his neck. Her other hand was now in play, sliding beneath the waistband of his panties. ‘You want me, don’t you,’ she whispered. ‘You want to be fucked again. Turn over, my little darling. Let me give you what you crave.’
He rolled onto his back. Her hand now was right inside his panties, drifting over the smooth skin of his stomach, stroking where the fine hair had once been until she shaved it off, sliding down between the legs he opened wide to help her debauch him. ‘That’s it, my sweet,’ she murmured. ‘Open for me.’ She slipped a finger into his yearning sex, finding with her thumb the little nubbin, stroking it erect. He put his arms on her shoulders, reaching upwards, looking for a kiss. She obliged, pressing her lips against his, pushing her tongue into his mouth, searching for his own.
He lifted his bottom as she took down his panties and threw them aside. He lay, legs splayed, knees raised as she undressed without haste. Then with her knees she pressed his thighs further apart. Her cock rested for a moment on the moist lips of his sex. Then she pushed forward and he, helpless in the hands of one bigger and stronger than him; helpless also in his overwhelming need; was filled once more. She rode him, that handsome cock driving furiously in and out of his cunt, whipping him on towards his climax, his mind empty now of anything but this, on and on until the sudden, devastating leap over the waterfall into some unknown, unnameable nirvana, and he collapsed beneath her as she pumped her seed—his seed—deep into his honeyed cavern.
He was a man, desexed and used like a woman. Everything he had been raised to do and to be had been taken from him. He should hate the person who had done this to him.
So why did he feel this aching, remorseless need?
I didn’t know where that would go, who this woman was who had taken over his body or even how she had done it, so I left the story there and went back to what I’d been writing before. For three months I didn’t think about it, but my subconscious was working away because I woke up one day knowing I had the story; all I had to do (all!!!) was write it. I guess that’s as clear an example of my writing process as I can give.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
My characters talk to me, and I talk back. Between us, we never shut up. Sometimes I have to explain (always gently) why they can’t have what they want. And sometimes that happens in the reverse direction.
What advice would you give other writers?
Submit to agents and regular publishers. Submit, submit, submit even if you plan to self-publish. What you’re looking for is that magic moment when the first agent or publisher gives you a reply that isn’t just a rejection, because that’s the moment when you know you’re on the verge of becoming good enough to publish. When an agent says, ‘Look at this scene here. It’s written from the POV of Jenny. But then we get this last sentence and that’s you, the omniscient narrator. Jenny could not know what’s written in that sentence,’ she isn’t telling you you don’t understand Point of View; she’s telling you that you’ve reached a standard of writing that makes it worth her taking time to read you. Until you’ve reached that point, don’t self-publish because you haven’t reached publishable grade yet.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I first published, under another name, with an epublisher who subsequently went out of business. I chose them because they accepted my first two publishable books–no other reason. I now publish with Mandrill Press, and if you looked at their website (www.mandrillpress.com) you’d find this explanation:
The first thing you need to know about Mandrill Press is that it’s a co-operative, formed by four writers who had certain things in common:
• Each of us knew one of the others
• We had all been published in the past by recognised publishing companies
• The demands made by our regular publishers had brought a level of frustration high enough to make us want to take back control over their lives
We talked to each other about those demands and that frustration, because that’s what writers do. Our friend Bernie isn’t a writer but his cousin Ronnie is one of us and Bernie heard a lot of the talk, which he thought of as moaning, and when he’d had enough of it he put this proposition to Ronnie:
“There are two things you can do. Join together to publish your own books in the way you want them published. Or shut up. For ever. Because I’m sick of listening to you. I know how to make websites and I know how to run companies, so I’ll be your admin guy. If you make a go of it and the books sell, I get ten per cent of the profit. If they don’t, well, I’ll have enjoyed myself anyway and at least the moaning will stop.”
So that’s how Mandrill Press came to be.
Well. It wasn’t quite that simple. There was a lot more talking before we hammered out a set of rules–a manifesto, if you like. But they got there. You can read those rules on the website. They pretty well describe what Mandrill Press is about.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
Big moneyed interests will find a way to regain control, probably by controlling the means of distribution and publicity, because that’s how capitalism works.
What do you use?
Professional Cover Designer
What genres do you write?
Contemporary romance; erotic romance
What formats are your books in?
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