Six-figure advances for the next novel by Island author

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Sophie Cousens won the 2015 Corvus competition for her first novel How to Get Ahead in Television, based on her own 12-year career as a television producer in London.

Now, her publisher Penguin Random House has sold the rights for a new book to publishers in Germany and the USA, even though she is still completing the manuscript.

A delighted Ms Cousens told the JEP that when she received a call from her agent telling her that German publishers wanted to buy the rights for a sum equivalent to several years’ salary, she could not believe it.

‘I didn’t really appreciate this was even a possibility when I started writing the book. Apparently, the Germans love “rom coms” and are often market leaders when it comes to which books to buy. Then to have a US deal too was amazing as I think it’s quite a hard market for UK writers to break into.’

Ms Cousens moved to Jersey with her husband Tim in 2015 and now works part-time as a producer for ArtHouse Jersey, as well as bringing up two small children. It means that writing has been shoehorned into the evenings.

Getting home from work, she would put the children to bed and then sit down at her computer for three hours to hit a target of 5,000 words a week.

‘To get 90,000 words on paper is time consuming and I don’t have much time. I had a deadline and I’ve definitely had to make compromises to commit the time to writing – I’ve done a lot less housework for one thing. But if you really want to do something, you have to make the time.

‘This time last year I was feeling frustrated by being a stay-at-home mother, I missed my old career and wanted an opportunity to contribute creatively to something again. A lot can change in a year.’

A history graduate from Edinburgh University, Ms Cousens has always been passionate about writing.

Her first novel about the world of television drew on her own experiences from runner to series producer. During her career she produced programmes including The Graham Norton Show, Big Brother, Ant and Dec, Russell Howard’s Good News and most recently Murder in Successville for BBC3.

The new book, This Time Next Year, is a love story about a man and a woman born in the same hospital at the same time on New Year’s Eve whose lives take wildly different courses until they reconnect on their thirtieth birthday, unaware of the many times their paths almost crossed on previous New Year’s Eves.

Its success ahead of publication has created something of a dilemma for Ms Cousens. ‘It has given me the opportunity to write full-time if I want to – something that many writers would jump at. I’m definitely going to commit more days to writing the next novel but I’m a bit torn.

‘I am a social person, so I’m not sure that I’d be very good at just sitting by myself in the Library all day, every day. I love the social aspect of my job and the variety of people I meet are always good inspiration for characters. Hopefully there is a balance to be found.’

Her success has also changed the dynamics at home where her husband Tim once concluded that writing was an ‘indulgent hobby’ that they could not necessarily afford. ‘It’s very satisfying that I can now hopefully afford to indulge it for a good few years yet,’ she said.

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