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  • Christine Cohen Park

In conversation with Sorrel Pitts, the author of Broken Shadows, on her publishing journey

Updated: May 11

The author Sorrel Pitts came to my attention back in February, when she wrote an article for BookBrunch about her thirty-year journey to secure a publisher for her novels. I was keen to find out more about her ‘slushpile odyssey’ so I approached Sorrel with some questions of my own. She very kindly shared her answers with me:

What was the 'grit' in you that enabled you to not give up many times over but to keep going through thick and thin?

I just believed so strongly in Broken Shadows. I felt like something was compelling me to write it outside of myself and I couldn't believe that it wouldn't be published. It just didn't feel right. 

Where did that determination come from? Did anyone in your family set you an example early on?

I am a very determined person. I think my family would tell you that too. I'm like a dog with a bone once I've set my mind to it, whether it be writing, or any other project. I will take it as far as I can. I also write songs, and have entered them into the UK Songwriting Contest. They've actually done very well. I just believe you have to keep pushing yourself because no one else will. 

For the second question, my father was a writer (published by Hodder) and Fleet Street journalist, so I grew up with writing in my blood. Dad taught me to be a perfectionist in my writing. It was hard at the time, but it's made me a much better writer. Not as good as him though - he was a brilliant writer. 

Did you see yourself as a 'fighter' before this?

That perception of myself has grown as I've got older. I often just find myself fighting, whether I want to or not. I have a hatred of injustice. Once someone sold me a 'clocked' car. She ended up in court with a County Court Judgement against her and then (when she wouldn't pay her fine) the bailiffs at the door. It cost me far more than the car, but I didn't care by then. I surprised myself by how angry I was.

What were your absolute lowest moments in the waiting process and in your dealings with agents/publishers? 

When my agent Jane Gregory couldn't get any takers for Broken Shadows despite a barrage of compliments from the big guns.

Have you always identified yourself as a writer come what may, or has that been more of an up and down journey for you? 

In school in English, I would sit writing stories at the back of my class. My teacher let me do it and consistently gave me As. At home, I wrote reams and had a stack of filled notebooks in the corner of my bedroom.

Did you write in the end because you had to and it didn't matter finally whether you were published or not, or did you keep going because you had to see your books published? 

I wrote because I had to. I was going through a difficult time and Broken Shadows was a story that simply had to come out.

What are your present satisfactions?

Learning when people have enjoyed the novel, and seeing the reviews come in on Amazon and Goodreads. It's scoring 70% five-star reviews on Amazon (out of 190 reviews), which feels like a real triumph and vindication of all that hard work.

Has your view of yourself shifted over time due to your struggles? Have the struggles strengthened you or been to your detriment, would you say?

They have strengthened me but made me feel cynical at the same time. I get angry at the gatekeepers to all creativity. I hate the way they ape what's been successful before rather than having the guts to act on their instincts. The independents (independent publishers) take a lot of the risks now (and win a lot of the prizes) and then the big publishers jump in and poach the writers. Publishing is run by accountants in the big 5.

Are you working on any new books at the moment?

I have an idea for one but I'm busy promoting Broken Shadows at the moment. 

My thanks to Sorrel for her answers. Broken Shadows (Bloodhound Books, £9.99) is available from all good book retailers: You can find Sorrel on Instagram @sorrel.pitts and on Facebook: Sorrel Pitts – Author


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