Most authors can tell you stories about how during the writing process of one of their books, a supporting character hijacked their novel and took the plot into a different direction. Choosing Sophie was hijacked by the plot itself. That’s why I detest synopses. Before they make the decision to award you a contact, publishers expect you to tell them the story before you’ve sat down to write it, which in some cases can strangle one’s creativity in the cradle.
With the best of intentions Choosing Sophie began as a story about forty-year-old Olivia deMarley reconnecting with Sophie, the twenty-year-old daughter she’d given up for adoption at birth by going back to college to finish the degree track she’d abandoned when she dropped out to become a mother. At Olivia’s insistence, mother and daughter became roommates, which provided for additional tensions. Because Sophie was a jock, she was her college’s softball ace. There was a subplot involving Olivia inheriting her late (and estranged) father’s minor league baseball team, the Bronx Cheers.
And suddenly, the manuscript became two books; the first half was all about the two women being in college together with all the attendant weird and awkward dynamics; and the balance of the novel was all about what happened once Olivia, a former burlesque star, inherited the Cheers. As things transpired, the baseball storyline became so dominant that dozens of pages of the college roommate element were excised and the entire first half of the manuscript was rewritten to accommodate the story that was bursting to be told.
Not only did the cast of colorful and egotistic minor leaguers take control, but suddenly it became a story that was as much a valentine to America’s pastime as it was a story of a woman’s journey-two women, actually-to reconnect and see if it was possible to get past regrets and recriminations and begin anew with respect and understanding.