Happy Thursday, gang! I was lucky enough to get the lovely Sophie Littlefield to let me interrogate her (again), so please welcome her to the blog. Sophie is the author of Aftertime, the upcoming Rebirth. She’s also penned a mystery/crime series and a YA series!
Your dystopian thriller Aftertime was a disturbing look into a possible future, and you have the 2nd in the series , Rebirth, out in July! Why do you think Dystopian is so popular?
As I’ve talked to people about my own books and others in this category, I’ve learned that there are a few different types of readers who gravitate here. There are the thrill-chasers who love a good battle of good versus evil; the philosophers who are deeply thoughtful about what cataclysm means for humanity and how it reflects our current society; the monster fans who are all about the creature, how it evolved and what drives it and the details of its existence. A good story – the old Steven King books from the 70s and 80s come to mind – will satisfy on several of these fronts. There is nothing tawdry about writing or enjoying a visceral scare, though critics seem to enjoy skewering horror almost as much as romance.
There is a whole body of scholarship devoted to exploring the contemporary dystopic vision (in fact, I’ve been invited to be on a panel with all these academy folks to discuss this very topic) and how it reflects our times. I’ve paid keen attention to the debate but have yet to hear an answer that satisfies me. Do zombies represent our acquisitive, pre-economic-collapse selves, at war with the new reality? Is the apocalypse really about the death of contemporary culture? I suppose it’s fun to talk about, but after a while I’m itching to get back to the writing.
What do you like to see in a good thriller or mystery?
I’ll confess I am all about the characters. When I think about my favorite books, they all feature fascinating and deeply drawn characters. For instance, I’ve just started reading Kate Atkinson (ONE GOOD TURN; STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG) – her work features gorgeous, slowly unfurling explorations of the people in the story, both primary and peripheral. Others in this camp include Elizabeth George, Holly Black, and Charlie Huston. It’s really not about tone – whether cozy or violent and noir, this type of story always draws me.
What makes you toss a book aside in frustration?
The converse of the last question! There are some very well-reviewed dystopic books that I’ve recently picked up that drop the reader right into the action, but I struggle mightily to care about the characters because I don’t know what motivates them. I find it especially jarring to be put into a fight or escape scene with no clues to the protagonist’s backstory (and no, knowing that s/he is hot does not count!)
I would like to add that this is not a value judgment, just my own personal preference. I’m a firm believer that there’s room for as many types of books as there are types of readers. My brother, for instance (a fellow author and my constant critique partner) is much more of an action guy. Where I might wander into navel-gazing, he’ll always stir things up with a chase scene or gunfight.
If someone wrote a book about you, what would they title it?
STARTED LATE, TOOK MY CALCIUM. (see above…) I did not publish my first book until I was 46 years old, not for a lack of trying (I’d written quite a few that never sold.) Now that I have the job of my dreams, I’ll do whatever it takes to hold on to it. I try to honor the craft by working on it was great care and attention, by reading widely and by sharing my discoveries with others. I also am determined to stay healthy so I can carry out all my plans and schemes. I’m not a marathon runner or anything like that, but I do try to get some exercise and make as few stupid decisions as possible –both so I can continue to be a smothering, invasive parent to my teenagers and so I can write everything I think of.
Is there anything you’d like to share about upcoming events or projects (teasers welcome)?
Why, yes, and thanks for asking!The second and third books in the AFTERTIME trilogy will be out next month and next February, and are titled REBIRTH and HORIZON. Writing this series has been a wonderful experience, because after acquiring the first, my editor Adam Wilson worked with me to explore the possibilities of where the story could go. At its core is Cass and her relationships, and I did some things in the second and third books that I would like to think are both brave and true to her character. They felt risky and also immensely rewarding.
The third in the Stella Hardesty mystery series is out this month. It’s called A BAD DAY FOR SCANDAL and it cracks me up, even after reading it umpteen times. Very different in tone from AFTERTIME, this series takes pot shots at middle age and features a crazy bunch of characters who may or may not be inspired by some of the odd folks in my own life. (If you’re interested in trying out this series, the ebook of the first – A BAD DAY FOR SORRY – is available for a little while for $2.99)
Finally, my second young adult novel will be out in October. UNFORSAKEN is the companion to my first YA, BANISHED, and it continues to follow Hailey Tarbell, a young girl with abilities that both empower and endanger her. I’ve just begun working on a new young adult novel for 2012 that introduces a whole new character, and I’m loving the process, but I don’t want to jinx it by talking about it too early!
Visit Sophie at her website
Read my review of Aftertime
Read my review of Banished