I adore Sofi and the Bone Song with my whole heart. It’s a book with thrilling magic, a swoon worthy romance story line, and a character journey of discovery. So when Adrienne Tooley agreed to chat with me, I was overjoyed. Please check out the full interview as we chat about music, magic, and more!
Sofi and the Bone Song
Music runs in Sofi’s blood.
Her father is a Musik, one of only five musicians in the country licensed to compose and perform original songs. In the kingdom of Aell, where winter is endless and magic is accessible to all, there are strict anti-magic laws ensuring music remains the last untouched art.
Sofi has spent her entire life training to inherit her father’s title. But on the day of the auditions, she is presented with unexpected competition in the form of Lara, a girl who has never before played the lute. Yet somehow, to Sofi’s horror, Lara puts on a performance that thoroughly enchants the judges.
Almost like magic.
The same day Lara wins the title of Musik, Sofi’s father dies, and a grieving Sofi sets out to prove Lara is using illegal magic in her performances. But the more time she spends with Lara, the more Sofi begins to doubt everything she knows about her family, her music, and the girl she thought was her enemy.
As Sofi works to reclaim her rightful place as a Musik, she is forced to face the dark secrets of her past and the magic she was trained to avoid—all while trying not to fall for the girl who stole her future.
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How did you land on a bone lute? I love the idea of both and so the combination together is fabulous! How do you describe the setting of the book in terms of vibes, time period inspirations, etc?
When coming up with the imagery of this book, I knew that Sofi’s father’s instrument needed to be special. She needed a reason to covet it, and it needed to stand out in a world of already rare instruments. Some of the earliest instruments were made from bone, and I wondered how that might translate for something larger, like a lute. I knew I wanted Sofi’s instrument to be a stringed one—because I play guitar, I felt like I could do a better job with my descriptions of the actual playing and connection Sofi had with her own lute and its strings.
I’d describe this book as whimsical, vaguely medieval-fantasy inspired but also still character-driven. If you’re looking for tropes, consider: rivals to lovers ! It’s got the vibes of a Phoebe Bridgers/Taylor Swift sad-girl-folk playlist.
What was the easiest and hardest part of creating the world of SOFI? Were there any elements you had from the very beginning that stayed the same or may have drastically changed?
I always knew the world of Velle was going to be winter based. Tromping through snow and trekking through this sort of climate was always a part of this road-trip-type novel.
Sofi also always played the lute. Her father was always sycophantic. Lara was always a sweet, innocent girl who Sofi unfairly painted as a rival., Jakko was much mor ugh CC involved in earlier drafts, but I loved him so much that I couldn’t fully let him go.
The Guild of Musiks was a newer addition, but I feel like their presence was so intrinsic to Sofi’s journey that now I can’t imagine the book without them (especially Denna!)
The magic system– both the bone magic and the Papers were recent additions as well. I tend to require a lot of time to develop my magic systems in order to fully flesh them out.
One thing that was always in place with this book was the relationships–I knew Sofi needed a love-interest who challenged her and pushed her to her limits. She needed someone who questioned her world-view and inspired her to look past her father’s training. Lara really showed up in that sense and this book would not be the same without her.
Sofi having to kind of unravel this idea that suffering is how you create art and the ‘guidance’ of her father was emotional to say the least. Can you talk about your inspiration for this element of SOFI? Was it difficult to write the character of her father?
It was very difficult. I have a wonderful father so there wasn’t a lot of direct inspiration there. But I did a lot of acting and performing from childhood and those environments can often lead to less than ideal teaching methods. I wanted to bring a little bit of that to the forefront–I know kids in sports also have to deal with this, as well as ballerinas…
But I also wanted to make sure I was highlighting the truth of what it means to dedicate your life to something, without the promise of the payoff. The dedication without the confirmation of success. We can say that all it takes is hard work and dedication, but is that always true? I wanted to offer a book to perfectionists, to offer them a chance to answer that question.
Lara and Sofi’s relationship made my heart melt. What was your first image or idea of Lara’s character? Did her character change through drafting? I liked how you examined how she has to acknowledge her own privilege, how was it to combine Lara’s character and her background?
Lara is the best. Truly. She has always been as well-rounded as she appeared on page, albeit with a different backstory–I knew she needed to be a perfect foil to Sofi, she needed to illustrate to her the disparity between what Sofi’s life has offered her and the world at large, but she also needed to be interesting enough for Sofi to follow. Still, her acknowledgment of her own privilege was necessary for Sofi to be able to trust Lara, but of course it was also cause to mistrust her.
The loss of Sofi’s lifelong dream obviously begins the book with a monumental loss. Did SOFI begin any other way? Did you always know some of the twists and ending while drafting? I guess that leads into what style of drafting or writing you prefer – is it different with every project?
This was always the way SOFI began. I knew exactly what her loss would be. So while her backstory developed and changed dramatically throughout each draft, her loss was always prevalent and informed the next steps.
I am always evolving… I did not plot with this book–but probably should have. It might have changed the way that I revised if I’d better considered the next steps of this novel. Moving forward, I’m starting to consider outlining far more frequently than I ever used to, and with my new duology it’s basically essential… Sadly.
How was it to write SOFI versus SWEET & BITTER? Do you think Tamsin and Sofi would get along well? Who are the two side characters from your books that would become BFFs?
I had a lot of fun drafting both of these books, but SOFI was a different experience—it changed a LOT during revisions, but I had so much fun uncovering those additional layers that eventually became so intrinsic to the story.
I think Tamsin and Sofi would see a lot of themselves in each other, and with that recognition might come a little bit of distrust, but would ultimately become begrudging friends because Wren and Lara would adore each other.
Marlena and Viiv would immediately become best friends. They both play that almost-outcast role but they have so much ambition and skill and I can see them connecting immediately.
Some may not know about your musical talent, but how was it to write a book so heavily influenced by music as a musician yourself? Were there any musical touches or things you wanted to include in SOFI but couldn’t figure out how to work in?
It was so exciting! I really wanted to pull in my own experiences and influences and I really felt like I had the opportunity to explore what it felt like writing music and Sofi’s desperate cling to her artistry (I like to think I’m not as intense as she is…)
I really wanted to create a record with the songs from the book, but I ran out of time between my full time job and writing and drafting a new book… so instead I came up with a cover EP instead…
About the Author
Adrienne Tooley (she/her) was born and raised in the desert suburbs of Southern California. She grew up in the theater, earning her B.A. in Musical Theatre from Point Park University. She and her wife currently live in New York City with their puppy, Kit (short for Biscuit). In addition to writing novels she is also a singer/songwriter and has released several EPs which are available on Spotify & other streaming sites. Her novels, SWEET & BITTER MAGIC, and SOFI AND THE BONE SONG are out now from S&S/McElderry. In 2023, she will publish THE THIRD DAUGHTER, the first in a duology from Christy Ottaviano Books/LBYR. She can be found on Instagram and Twitter at @adriennetooley.