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Interview with Sophie Saint Thomas: “I allow the first draft to be as messy as possible.”

Sophie Saint Thomas is an award-winning journalist and author based in New York City and originally from the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

Her exhaustive list of bylines includes VICE, Playboy, GQ, Glamour, Marie Claire, PRIDE, Cosmpolitan, High Times, Gawker (RIP), Harper’s Bazaar, and more. 

She is the author of five books: Finding Your Higher Self, The Little Book of CBD for Self-Care, Sex Witch: Magickal Spells for Love, Lust, and Self-Protection, as well as the forthcoming Glamour Witch and Weed Witch. 

Previously, she’s worked as a columnist for VICE, producer for MTV Networks, and Refinery29’s sex staff writer. She is the co-creator and author of The Intimacy Journal: A Sex & Cannabis Log Book. Saint Thomas is also a published poet, although she reserves most of her poetry for her lover. Her work focuses on sex, drugs, glamour, and subcultures.

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Hi Sophie, great to have you on Famous Writing Routines. We’re really excited to talk to you about your writing routine and process. For those who may not know, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself? 

I am a journalist and author based in New York City and originally from the U.S. Virgin Islands. My bylines include VICE, Playboy, GQ, Glamour, Marie Claire, PRIDE, Cosmpolitan, High Times, Gawker (RIP), Harper’s Bazaar, and more.

I am the author of five books: Finding Your Higher Self (Simon & Schuster), The Little Book of CBD for Self-Care (Simon & Schuster), Sex Witch: Magickal Spells for Love, Lust, and Self-Protection (Weiser), as well as the forthcoming Glamour Witch (Weiser) and Weed Witch (Running Press/Hachette Book Group). Previously, I worked as a columnist for VICE, producer for MTV Networks, and Refinery29’s sex staff writer. 

My work focuses on sex, drugs, glamour, and subcultures such as the occult. Additionally, I am Allure Magazine’s resident astrologer. 

I’d be interested to learn more about how you balance your journalism work with your own writing. Does one element fuel the other, or is it more of a juggling act? 

It’s all my writing! I love being an author so much but journalism helps me stay plugged into the scene. I do create extremely detailed to-do lists and calendars so that I don’t miss a deadline and create time for everything. 

Can you take us through the creative process of your forthcoming book, Glamour Witch

Glamour Witch is my most significant undertaking to date. Most of my experience as a journalist is in sex and drugs, but I work for Allure Magazine, which is Conde Nast’s beauty publication, and I adore all things glamour, especially after I discovered that the word originally meant to “cast a spell.”

However, from body modifications to the history of witches getting killed for beauty tricks, I had much to learn, so this one involved a lot of research and reading everything I could find on the subject. Then, I re-word and add every fascinating detail I learn into a document. I use this to map out a detailed outline of my book, using poster boards (I love going analog whenever possible) to help get a better visual of the book’s organization.

From there, I start writing. I allow the first draft to be as messy as possible; more often than not, it’s better than I would have guessed. After that comes editing, revising, repeat. I like to print out my manuscripts and edit them by hand using pen and paper, as I tend to find errors that my eyes miss while working on my computer. 

What does a typical writing day look like for you?

I’ve always been a night owl, so as a result, I tend to sleep in and start working around 10 AM. During the business day, especially in the first half of the day, I take care of my Allure column and other articles out of the way. Because I work from home and have been since 2013, I don’t have a traditional work schedule.

Sometimes I take a Tuesday off to get a mani/pedi and sleep in, but I spend my entire weekend working. It just depends on the deadlines. But generally speaking, the second half of the day (and night) is just for me and my books. This is when I can get creative and weird, and work alone, just me and my cat (Major Tom Cat), to give my books my all. 

Do you have a target word count or a set amount of hours you like to write each day?

No, it just depends on what I’m working on at that particular moment. 

Can you talk about some of your must-have writing tools? 

Grammarly has been a big help with grammar, and I generally work out of Google docs (although publishing often still lives in Word). As mentioned, when I’m in the brainstorming and early phases of a project, I love going analog, outlining on big poster boards with different colors, and highlighting and marking up printed-out manuscripts.

During the research phase, which ideally I use actual books rather than e-books, I love Post-Its to mark pages and make notes of what I like. And as the author of three cannabis books, I’d be lying if I didn’t thank cannabis for aiding me in my nighttime creativity, although when I’m on the clock and working with editors, I stick to coffee. I get distracted by music with words while writing, but I love playing ambient music, such as Aphex Twin or the OG Brian Eno. 

Whenever you hit a roadblock during a writing session, what are some of the methods you use to get back into the flow of things?  

  • Just start writing, even if it’s gibberish. Seriously, you’ll be shocked at how often something usable comes out of it. In my experience, the most challenging roadblock can just be starting. 
  • Get high and meditate with a notebook before you to write down ideas as they arise. 
  • Working out releases feel-good chemicals from your brain’s stashbox that always give me breakthroughs. 
  • If you really have a roadblock, step away. Work on something else or go dancing and have some fun. Let the unconscious do its job and trust it will come to you. 
  • Authors must read. I read books every night before bed (usually Stephen King) and can’t stress enough how much reading helps with writing. 

What does your writing workspace look like?

I live in a gorgeous apartment in Hell’s Kitchen with my partner, we moved in together during the pandemic, and the city views help keep me motivated. It’s a dream. My desk is so messy and covered in notes and books that you can’t even see it, but I have a Stephen King quote taped to my desk, and my cat, Major Tom Cat, is always standing by. 

Photo courtesy of the author

Before you go…

Each week, we spend hours upon hours researching and writing about famous authors and their daily writing routines. It’s a lot of work, but we do it out of our love for books and learning about these authors’ creative process, and we certainly don’t expect anything in return. However, if you’re enjoying these profiles each week, and would like to send something our way, feel free to buy us a coffee!

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