Wednesday, February 23, 2011

GUEST BLOGGER: Sophie Littlefield

INTRODUCTION:  Please welcome author Sophie Littlefield, who has kindly agreed to be the first ever guest blogger to visit In one eye, out the other...  I have been a fan of Sophie's work for a while now, and I'm kind of amazed by her range as a cross-genre novelist.  I was introduced to her via her Stella Hardesty mystery series, the first two of which I've reviewed here and here.  Next, Sophie published a young adult fantasy novel, Banished.  Now, she's released an honest to goodness zombie apocalypse!  Aftertime is garnering rave reviews from Publishers Weekly to readers on Amazon.  My review may be seen here. 

Now here's Sophie...

When Susan invited me to write something for her blog, I racked my brain to see if there was a topic I hadn’t discussed lately, and realized I’ve never really talked much about my writing environment – the time, place, and conditions in which I find myself creating zombie-infected worlds and damaged, yearning characters.

I wish I could say that I have a favorite little coffee shop down in the Mission district, where life in all its variety teems around me; where the homeless rub shoulders with the hipsters and the smells of Korean barbecue and baking artisan bread mingle with the odors of garbage and sweat; where folks duck in for shelter from the fog and drizzle, or to read their newspapers in dozens of languages or to write their memoirs; where a long day at the keyboard can be rewarded with a cocktail in an edgy bar or a walk in the mission gardens.

But no. I write in my little home office for hours at a time, starting around 6:30am when I get up, ending at midnight, and interrupted roundly by all the duties of the suburban mom – driving, grocery shopping, cooking, lacrosse games and music lessons and trips to Home Depot. Sometimes – usually if I can sweet-talk my daughter into coming along – I go to the Starbucks down the road, which shares strip-mall space with a See’s and a Subway and a Baskin Robbins and a Petco.

That’s about as exotic as I get. But in a strange sort of way, I think that the blandness of the suburbs – not to be too hard on my zip code but it does smack of comfortable predictability, of sameness, of conformity – lends itself to giant leaps of the imagination. There’s little in the way of competing stimuli, for instance. A Starbucks is a Starbucks is a Starbucks – whether the shelves of attractively arranged mugs and the subway-tile backsplash is positioned here or over there – and one cell phone toting suburban telecommuter isn’t, I’m afraid to say, all that different from another. (I am aware of the hypocrisy of that statement and accept that the proper response is probably “but wait – isn’t one bottle-blond middle-aged Volvo-driving wedge-heel-wearing zombie author pretty much the same as the next?”)

When there’s not a whole lot going on in one’s environment, one’s mind goes more easily into that vortex of creation where stories are born. My eyes glaze over with visions of teeth tearing flesh, for instance, or desperate coupling in ravaged and abandoned streets, or even mothers reunited with children they’d given up for lost. All the attendant emotions, the sensory details, are so immediate when there are no distractions. (It’s a little disorienting to put the finishing touches on a dismemberment scene only to have a nice older lady in a velour track suit ask if I’m using the extra chair, and I’ve missed more than a few high school pickups and dentist appointments because I lost track of time – but anything for the demoness muse, I always say. She giveth and she rendereth stupid.)

In AFTERTIME my main character, Cass Dollar, is decidedly not standard suburban issue – she’s a beautiful but self-damaging recovering addict who lives in a trailer and works at a convenience store. But as I write the third in the series (HORIZON, due out next year) I introduced a character more like, well, me. This character was an affluent housewife in Sacramento whose days were filled with volunteering and shopping and lunching and trying on clothes until the Siege, which robbed her of everything she knew. And only then did her true self emerge, and I’m having fun creating her journey of self-discovery.

Now I’m not saying that every 40-something woman needs the threat of zombies to come into her authentic self…sometimes, becoming an author at the age of 45 is all it takes.


  1. I just finished Aftertime and loved it! Now I will have to go pick up Banished.

    I've always wondered how people could write in a coffee shop with all the people coming and going - I found just writing in the public areas at the university too distracting (writing papers for school work, I have no aspirations to write otherwise).

  2. Hey WB, I'm so glad you enjoyed the novel. I look forward to hearing about Banished. It's the only one I haven't read, I kind of doubt I'll go there.

    So, you wonder how people can write in coffee shops? I have no problem understanding that. I'm good at tuning the world out. What I DON'T understand is how you can be a nice, suburban mom like Sophie and imagine the story she told in Aftertime. After I finished reading it, I wrote her and said, "You're really a lot creepier than you seem at first glance," or something to that effect.

    Not only that, but her mystery series protagonist is like this kick-ass, fifty-something, gun-toting hell-raiser. You see the photos of Sophie. She's super sweet and friendly in person. I was like, "Where the hell are you channeling this woman from?" Writers are strange creatures, I tell you.

  3. Thank you so much for having me here, Susan! And you *know* that I'm saving the "creepier than you seem" quote for a blurb. Just you wait :)

    WB, thank s so much for reading! I may have picked up my affinity for crowed, bustling work environments when I briefly worked as a receptionist for a university - people coming in and out of the building all day long. At first it was distracting but after a while, I couldn't imagine working any other way.

  4. Sophie, it was a pleasure to host you. Please come back anytime!

  5. Thank you both for the insight. And it is probably something you get use to (I use to fall asleep anywhere because noise didn't bother me after growing up with nine siblings, not I can't now after living on my own for so long).