Writing Superheroes: Sophie Schiller

A classy superhero in Chanel suit and pearls? Read on and find out more…

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According to Wikipedia, ‘a superhero is a type of heroic character possessing extraordinary talents, supernatural phenomena, or superhuman powers and is dedicated to a moral goal or protecting the public.’ Sounds like a writer to me!

Join me as another one of these unsung superheroes invites into their personal ‘batcave’.


If you were to write the ‘origin’s episode’ of your writing what would be the most important scenes?

The day I “landed” in history when my family moved to the Virgin Islands. The islands are a former Danish sugar colony, and just walking the streets you are immersed in history. I became so enthralled with the culture, architecture, and beauty of the islands that I decided to write a novel that would bring the Danish colonial era to life.


What did your early efforts look like?

My childhood was spent reading historical fiction. I didn’t start writing fiction until my children were in school full time.


All superheroes have their mild-mannered secret identity, what is yours? I promise we won’t tell.Sophie Schiller Press Photo

My alter ego is an adventurous woman who loves the ocean, snorkeling, speaking foreign languages, trying exotic new foods, and jetting off to exotic new places. I hate the commonplace and ordinary. I would rather be hiking in the Himalayas or heading through the Panama Canal than visiting another humdrum shopping mall.


Who are your partners in crime? What are their superpowers?

I have a Croatian military consultant, a very good friend, who I rely on for his expertise in nautical and military matters as well as espionage and sabotage. He is retired from the military and spends his time researching and writing articles about u-boats, espionage, and military topics. He has been an extraordinary gift. In addition to being a wonderful human being, he has been enormously supportive over the years.


Where do you get your superpowers from?

Hard work, determination, perseverance, optimism, and unshakable dedication.


Where is your secret lair and what does it look like?

I have an office with plenty of shelves for books and research material, a cork board, and writing resources that I’ve collected over the years. It’s not glamorous but it’s fully functional.


What kind of training do you do to keep your superpowers in world saving form?

A lot of reading, research, and historical digging. I’m a member of a critique group that has been supremely supportive in ways I could have never imagined. We are all equally committed to each other’s success.


How do you insure they are used only for good?

I love my readers and I want them to have the best possible reading experience!


Granted, you probably don’t get to wear your superhero costume a lot, but if you did, what would it look like?

A Chanel suit, pearls, and Chanel #5 perfume: powerful enough to take down any villain.


What is your kryptonite? What are the biggest challenges faced with in your writing?

The normal bureaucratic hassles of life that one has to deal with. They demand your full attention, which takes you out of writing mode.


What was the super-villain that threatened to stop your latest project and how did you vanquish it?

The fact that nobody believed in my last project but me. But I persevered because I believed the story had to be told and I was the one that had to tell it. The 3 protagonists, who were real people, left no descendants to recount their life stories, so I wrote “Race to Tibet” as an ultimate act of kindness to them, so that their story would not die.

I also wrote the novel so that more people would read about the history and culture of Tibet, to give them a greater understanding of that country’s past and what the Tibetan people are going through today.

I believe strongly that the unique culture of Tibet should be preserved for future generations, and that can only be accomplished if more people read about the country and learn about it. When the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama die, the Tibetan people will lose an important link with their past. There will be no more Dalai Lamas or Panchen Lamas in the future, most likely, and that is a huge crime to the Tibetan people.


What important lessons have you learned along the way?

That greatness comes if you just believe in yourself and work hard.


What have been the best/most memorable experiences along the way?

Having my book reviewed in Publishers Weekly and receiving a very favorable review. That was mind-blowing.


If you did this again what would you do differently and what would you not change? What is the best (writing or otherwise) advice you have ever gotten and why.

I wouldn’t do anything differently other than hire an editor at the last stage of the writing process. Hiring one too soon before major edits and rewrites is a waste of time and money. Also, I would use Beta Readers at every stage of the process.


Tell us about you new book and why we need to drop everything and get it now.

My latest endeavor, “Island of Eternal Fire” won’t be out until 2017, but I would love to let readers know about it. It’s the story of the greatest volcanic disaster of the 20th century, (what I call “America’s Pompeii”) that took place in Martinique in which 30,000 were killed in 5 minutes. It’s a story of survival amidst impossible odds, and I incorporate a lot of folklore such as voodoo, old West Indian legends, and a bit of sorcery, as well as a great deal of political intrigue.


What’s in store for you in the future? Do you have any other big projects on the horizon?

I have 2 possible future projects in mind, one about an obscure 18th century French composer who almost died at the guillotine and another that may involve Alexander Hamilton’s early life in the West Indies.



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