From The Booking Desk:
Today we are joined by Sophie Littlefield for an interview about her new novel Blood Bond and her career up to this point. Sophie Littlefield is the the author of many books across different genres, so please check out her website for more details. I can tell you, any one of her books is worth your time. Enjoy!
SCHEDULING UPDATE: Please visit the blog again on Friday for the BOLO Books review of Blood Bond.
BOLO Books: Joe Bashir is a new character for you. I know that he has appeared in at least one short story, but what made you want to write a full-length novel featuring him? Joe is a non-practicing Muslim Pakistani-American with a very diverse group of friends and co-workers. What about this multi-cultural group made them a good cast of characters for a mystery series?
SOPHIE: I’m finding as I continue to write in a variety of genres that one of the themes that comes up again and again is other-ness – of feeling like you don’t belong in the group in which you find yourself. We all experience it at times; it’s one of the things that binds us all and ought to lead us to be more empathetic and kinder. But it’s the nature of humans to exclude, and exclusion leads to all kinds of fascinating outcomes.
I came up with Joe’s character years ago when we lived in an affluent area much like Montair, the fictional community in Blood Bond. I became interested in the ways that subtle anti-Asian sentiment showed itself in a place where everyone believed themselves to be above racism. Just because it’s subtle doesn’t mean racism is any less affecting. It just takes different forms.
BOLO Books: Blood Bond is the first of your novels to feature a male protagonist. Did you face any new challenges because of this? How hard was it to get into the mind of a male character after many books from female perspectives?
SOPHIE: I’ve actually written short stories from a male point of view. I put considerable effort into getting the voice right. I had conversations on the subject with Craig McDonald, a friend and a fantastic author with a very “male” voice. Craig, who was always generous with his time and expertise, helped me understand where I tended to go wrong. We once had an email exchange about whether an author could ever write flawlessly in the opposite gender; I think we were both inclined to believe it would be impossible, but that it was still a worthy exercise, and that you could come really close.
BOLO Books: Blood Bond is being released as an e-only endeavor. How did this decision come about and do you think that it will have any effect on the success of the book?
SOPHIE: One of the great things about trying new formats is that you can tell stories that haven’t found a niche elsewhere. In the case of this book, I had to wait until the time was right and until my agent found the right editor. That, incidentally, was something of a coup, because my new editor is Abby Zidle, someone I have adored from afar for *years*. Because Joe is a different sort of character, it’s really important to have the right team in place, one that is not only willing but enthusiastic to take some leaps.
For instance, because there are no precedents in place, it’s anyone’s guess whether people will find Joe sympathetic, much less charismatic. We don’t know if people will be interested in the kinds of stories that will be inspired by his unique place in society. Also, as is typical of me, I’ve written a genre-blurring novel; Joe’s romantic and family relationships make this a more character-focused story than other procedural series entries. In the past I have found that this can disappoint some readers (people accustomed to a fast-paced crime story find there’s too much character development, while those interested primarily in the relationships can find the mystery plot superfluous) but I believe there is a readership for the type of story I love to read and write. We just need to find it, and unfortunately I don’t have any great insights about how to do that. Which is the second reason I’ve chosen my publishing team with care: besides providing the excellent editing I need, it is their job to pay attention to promotional and marketing concerns, something that I am neither skilled at nor particularly interested in.
BOLO Books: As a quilter and quilt-enthusiast, I was particularly intrigued by one of the secondary characters in Blood Bond, Marva. Do you have a particular interest in quilts that made you want to include that topic in your book?
SOPHIE: Good heavens, yes!! Before I started writing all day, every day, I did a lot of sewing. I worked as a copy editor for C&T Publishing (a major publisher of quilting books), wrote reviews of quilt books, and had a stash that took up our entire guest room. I have not been able to indulge this particular passion for several years, but hope to sometime in the future.
BOLO Books: Your career has been very diverse in the types of writing you have done. You have had great success with everything from your Stella Hardesty mystery series to your post-apocalyptic zombie series, Aftertime. You have even written several young adult novels. Is there anything else you would like to try? And how do you determine what genre a story idea is best executed in?
SOPHIE: Yes, yes, yes! I want to write nearly everything – it would be much easier for me to list the genres I am *not* determined to write. For instance, I doubt I’ll write erotica, (though I’ve tried!) and technical thrillers as well as certain types of spec fiction are outside my expertise. But I have a horror project simmering on the back burner, and I am determined to write a literary novel one of these days.
I am fairly indifferent to genre distinctions, which is probably not the most career-focused attitude to take. It is really important to me to honor the story even when it pulls away from genre conventions. Not surprisingly, this is also the type of story I most enjoy reading – the ones when, when you turn the final page, you wonder “What the heck was that, anyway?”
BOLO Books: If forced to choose only one format for all your future reading, which would you choose: Hardback, trade paperback, mass-market paperback, or e-book? And why?
SOPHIE: Hmmm. This seems like a better question for the smart marketing people at my different publishers. I’m committed to the idea that the non-writing aspects of making books are best left to those who are good at them, which is why I’m not particularly involved in decisions like cover art and release date strategy and so forth.
But now that I re-read your question I see that you’re asking about my own preferences, which is a tough question. Book format, for me, has everything to do with how I am reading. I take my kindle hiking and to the gym, because of its portability. But I prefer to hold a book in hand. I like to have a hardcover on my bedside table at all times, because it just feels right for bedtime reading. I tend to read several books at once, and the format’s usually dictated by whatever’s available.
The current stack on the coffee table looks like this: the parts of the Sunday New York Times I haven’t gotten to yet; Bon Appetit and Vice and The New Yorker and Oprah; an out of print paperback by T.R. Pearson, a ponderous copy of The Twelve, and a Greg Iles from several years back. It’s interesting, because the latter two are actually too big to be a comfortable read in the format they’re in. Perhaps – and I’m just sayin’ – they could have been a bit more tightly edited…or perhaps a different format might have served better. Finally, on my kindle are two manuscripts I am reading with the intention of blurbing them.
(Detail image from one of Sophie Littlefield’s favorite quilts)
Great interview! Once again, you have me determined to check out a new (to me) author!
Love the interview. Thanks for sharing.
I really like that Ms. Littlefield has experimented with so many genres and narrators of both genders. Sometimes successful authors get good at one thing, then they stick with it. It’s nice to hear an author say she wants to stay true to the story, even if it takes her outside of her comfort zone, and it makes me want to read her work.
Thanks Rebecca. I think that you would particularly enjoy Sophie’s YA stuff. The Banished/Unforsaken duo of books rank very high on my all time favorites list. I may post a review of her other YA title, Hanging By a Thread, in the coming weeks.