What could possibly go wrong when a London girl, (or penniless student armed with a hefty collection of literary gems), falls in love with a much older and dashing Scotsman, and tries her hand at goat-keeping, vegetable growing and life in a tiny Scottish hamlet?!
Sophia Wasiak Butler grew up as an inner-city London teen who always fostered a dream of country life. After graduating from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne University with her English Literature degree in her pocket, deaf to the unappealing and empty promises of the rat-race, she invites us to accompany her as she takes the daring jump into a world where the universal melds seamlessly with the personal. The path is bursting with literary sages, Eastern wisdom, the gritty reality of dirt-stained nails, self-reflection and a good dose of common sense on this adventure, always interwoven through the multicultural tapestry which defines the author.
An Interview with Sophia Wasiak Butler
Why did you write this book?
My book started it’s life as a series of articles in a newspaper. The editors thought that the subject of a newly graduated London-girl moving to remote hamlet in the Scottish countryside had it’s merit in times of economic hardship and recession. And so, my monthly column began. Writing on demand with serious deadlines and a stern editor, are wonderful things for somebody without discipline and a solid routine! Little did I know, that writing was my life-saving companion, along with cheap wine and cigarettes! I found myself seriously balancing on the tightrope of love and life. It was unknown territory and I was insecure on all fronts. And then, a magical thing happened. Readers started to respond to my story, to the point that I got advice on small-holding, life-long penpals and invitations to other let’s say ‘pastures’! Writing became my life, and my life made sense because of it.
This transition into ‘real life’, (however that looks for each of us), felt so personal at the time, but I have come to realise, it is a fundamental moment, which marks a before and an after for all of us. That’s why I wanted to share it.
What was your favourite part of writing this book?
My answer now is different to when I was writing the book. At that time, writing became my outlet, the way in which I processed life. Re-discovering writing as a primal need for me was incredibly special, after churning out essays and dissertations on command at university.
At this moment, I am supremely grateful to have been able to leave a tangible chronicle of my first steps into being a grown woman. As much of a cliché as it may sound, it is when we affront what we are carrying in our ‘backpack’, whilst juggling ideas of what life is ‘meant’ to be. At which point we step on a rake and come face to face with what is really there.
What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?
No hesitation on this one! Definitely red wine.
After leaving my ‘Lambrini’ student tastes behind, I was determined to join the realm of writerly sophistication, after being impacted by the words of Galileo: “Wine is sunlight, held together by water”, and those of Hemingway, “Wine…offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.” I began a journey!
Countless bottles were put to the test, (even the odd unforgivable carton), to hone a decent palate. I arrived to the conclusion that I favour a chilled glass of pinot noir on a summer’s evening, or a heavier rioja on a winter’s night. However, now that I live in Galicia, I enjoy Mencia (red wine) when it’s nippy outdoors and a chilled glass of crisp cava when it’s hot. It’s worth mentioning that both are best when accompanied by Galician octopus and Padron peppers!
Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?
Yes, when I’m writing mode, I’m uncharacteristically unsociable. The first sign is glasses, not contacts and the most crucial is the donning of the bright-orange beret. This ensures that I will not leave the house!
For me, the creative process is intrinsically hermitic. It is lonely. Often we forget what stirs within, whether it be a creative idea, or our own feelings. All reflection requires silence. Thankfully, my stoic companion who lays by my feet, is fluent in hermit, mantras, Polish, English, Spanish and non-verbal communication! He also comes with an inbuilt timer for playtime!
I live in awe of writers with such self-discipline as Isabel Allende who writes for an allotted time each day and produces a novel per year on average.
How would you entice people to read your book?
I hope that my book encourages people to take a chance in life and to help them not to go where the world is going, out of inertia, but where they want to go. Live your dreams, don’t just dream them, test them out! If you find that they are a huge disappointment, that they are no longer relevant, or that they evaporated the second they manifested: make new dreams. And if people ask: how many times can you start over? Be sure to tell them, ‘As many times as it takes’. When you don’t like the world around you, or you are stagnant, it’s time to change it. If you find yourself fighting for something which you believe in, and all around oppose you, be more stubborn than a mountain full of donkeys and find nourishment from others of the same mind.
The dreaded ‘unlived’ life must surely be the biggest regret. Don’t let it be yours.
Do you think you’ll write any other books?
It’s like pulling on a loose thread in a tapestry…you can’t stop!
Life certainly doesn’t cease to surprise me and I find myself cured of searching for that intangible feeling of home, in a 135 year-old traditional stone house in Galicia, Northern Spain. This is where I want to be and I wish to share the wonders of the Spanish “Fiesta Siesta and Manana” with my readers, so watch this space…
If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
Definitely one where animals could talk and good prevails! I would happily live with the hobbits or the elves in Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’, just as I would go to Narnia, my dog is actually called Aslan in homage! I think that we crave a connection with the natural world which peoples before us have always had.
If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
It would definitely be Mary Shelley’s creature in ‘Frankenstein’. He is the embodiment of the innate innocence and vulnerability of all children and his journey is the one we all go through. I would talk to him for encouragement, and then to his creator Viktor Frankenstein, because his rejection of responsibility and subsequent victimisation of himself is a story which has not ceased to repeat itself. So many people live with the childhood wounds which Viktor inflicted on his ‘child’ and these things mark us so strongly that we continue to perpetrate the cycle ad infinitum.