CRANFORD, NJ — “You don’t have to wait until you’re an adult to be someone. You can do something with your words now.”
Cranford High School sophomore Sophia Marie Joseph is practicing what she’s preaching. On Friday, March 13, the 16-year-old’s first novel, “Madeira,” will be released on Amazon Kindle.
“The sound of the gunshot echoed through the alleyway,” begins the book’s synopsis. “That night, Beatriz Cardoso Madeira did not realize that the murder of her former lover would become the catalyst of a war between the Delgado and Madeira cartels, nor did she realize her daughter Isabella would be caught in the middle of it. Ultimately, the murder of Emilio Formosa Delgado at the hands of Beatriz would throw the illicit drug world of Portugal into a tailspin. To save herself and ensure the Madeira cartel stays in power, Beatriz is willing to do anything — no matter the cost.”
Joseph prides herself on her Haitian heritage and her innate writing ability, which she discovered as a child. She began by scribbling on stapled-together printer paper.
“When I was younger, I had a difficulty with words,” she said in a March 6 phone interview with LocalSource. “Writing things became easier than saying the actual words out loud. Writing slowly became my passion from there.”
Joseph began planning the concept of her novel in eighth grade and wrote the book in ninth. An unrequited love she witnessed spawned the idea.
“The book revolves around a toxic relationship between this one couple,” explained Joseph. “I drew from the people around me. I saw this man trying to get with a woman one day and he was trying to get her to love him, but it wasn’t working. It was a case of unrequited love. For me, it was so horrifying and sad to see, because she would never love him.”
Joseph’s novel was inspired by her realization, at a young age, that the world can’t be viewed through a black-and-white lens or a photo-enhancing Instagram filter. In her book, she shows how good intentions can drive people to do bad things. For example, one of her characters is a father who turns to a life of crime in order to someday see his wife and children.
The book also explores the sociopolitical landscape of Portugal, showing how the country’s dictatorship exacerbated income inequality.
To publish her novel, Joseph used Amazon Kindle, which publishes both electronic and paperback books. She paid for an illustrator, Vanessa Mendozzi, whom she found through a writing website called Reedsy.
Once the novel is released on March 13, Joseph will be able to add the title of “author” to her developing list of personal and academic achievements.
Coming up next: graduating high school and getting an undergraduate education at a prestigious institution.
“I intend to go to an Ivy League school and major in English,” Joseph told LocalSource. “I’d like to spend my life writing and publishing books. I’d also like to build houses in impoverished countries. But for now, I’d like to attend an Ivy League school, such as Brown University.”
Joseph’s goal is to inspire young people to show their worth now rather than later. She feels inspired by her own journey from word-struggling child to wordsmithing young adult.
“It fills me with pride,” Joseph said. “I’ve struggled with words all of my life. Once I get my words out there, it’ll be the best feeling ever.”
The book is dedicated to Joseph’s grandfather, Oxone Joseph, with whom she was very close when growing up.
“He would call me his story girl as he would listen to my stories, no matter the topic,” said Joseph. “He always listened. He was very special to me.”
“Madeira” is currently available for e-book preorder on Amazon and will soon be available in paperback.