: An interview with Sophie Littlefield

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Hi Mrs Littlefield. Thanks for accepting my interview and welcome to my blog. Tell us something about you.Who is Sophie Littlefield? Strengths and weaknesses.

I am a single mother of two grown kids. I live in Oakland, California, in a wonderful area full of lively ideas and art and restaurants. My longtime boyfriend is a police officer – and yes, I do use him for research! We have just acquired a black laborador puppy, who requires a lot of attention. I suppose my strength is deep, passionate commitment—to my children, family, friends, and of course my work. I work very hard and I try to be cooperative cooperative and encouraging to my peers. As for weaknesses—when I am working, I often neglect the rest of my life. I would like to achieve better balance!

Tell us something about your background, your studies, your childhood.

I was raised in a small town in Missouri, in the Midwest of the United States. My mother was an artist and my father was a professor, and my brother and sister and I were all great readers. In the evenings the entire family would pick up a book and read until bedtime. We were also lucky to live in an area where it was safe to stay out all day and play, and we spent our summers camping and hiking.

What jobs have you held in the past before becoming a full-time writer? What can you tell us about this experience?

I studied computer science in college and worked for a large accounting firm writing code for several years. The truth is that I was never very good with computers, and I was very glad to leave that behind when my children were born! After that, I was a stay-at-home parent until my children were teenagers when I returned to writing full time. I wrote nine novels before finding an agent and publisher.

Is The Missing Place based on a true story? What was the starting point in the writing process?

There was an article in People magazine about the “man camps” – the temporary housing for oil field workers – that caught my attention. I was very intrigued by the idea of all these men leaving their homes and families, some of them thousands of miles away, to work in these grueling conditions.

Could you tell us something about the plot of this book?

Two young men find employment in the oil fields of North Dakota, but go missing after several months. The book tells the story of their mothers’ frantic efforts to find them, and how the women learn to work together despite their great differences.

How long did the process of writing The Missing Place take?

From research to the final draft, it took about eight months.

The opening chapters presents the protagonists: Colleen and Shay. Could you tell the audience what happens?

Colleen has flown from Massachusetts, where she lives, to North Dakota to search for her missing son. The only lodging she can find is with the other mother, who she finds vulgar and annoying. The authorities do not wish to talk to the women, so they have to pool their resources to search for clues.

North Dakota’s oil platforms are a strange and unusual setting for a novel. Can you describe this scenario?

There is a quiet beauty to that area of North Dakota, but in winter it is quite brutal. The oil boom towns are crowded with workers seeking places to stay and provisions to sustain them, and the highways are clotted with trucks carrying workers and equipment. Cold winds blow snow and sleet, and ice coats the road. The oil rigs can be seen dotting the horizon everywhere you turn, great alien structures that look both menacing and imposing.

What is/are your favourite scene(s) in The Missing Place?

I am most fond of the scenes describing the interactions between the two women. Friendship is complicated, and the anxiety and tension of the situation meant that I had to work hard to create believable emotions and dialog.

If Hollywood calls, what will your recommendations be for the parts of Colleen and Shay?

I wish I could give you an answer for this one, but I watch very little television and I don’t know who the best actors are! I’d be thrilled, of course, but I’d have to leave the casting in the hands of the experts.

Do you read other contemporary writers? Who are some of your favourite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?

I read every day, and my most pleasurable hours are often spent with a book. I have so many favorites in nearly every genre that I can only answer in the moment…I just read Maestra by new author Hilton and was deeply impressed. I am influenced by many American short story writers – I am fond of the form – and by literary thriller writers both from the US and in translation. Herman Koch comes to mind. I love the grit lit or southern noir genre, of which Daniel Woodrell is surely the boss.

What are you reading at the moment? Could you name any interesting american thrillers?

Ah! I see I’ve anticipated your question, though Hilton is UK, not US. LUCKIEST GIRL ALIVE by Jessica Knoll is a great debut. Megan Abbott is spectacular, of course.

Do you enjoy touring for literary promotion? Tell to our readers something of amusing about these meetings.

I do enjoy touring, though I prefer to do it with friends (my best friends are authors Juliet Blackwell and Rachael Herron). We often interview each other and I always like to see if I can sneak in an unexpected question to throw my friends off balance J We’ve all been at this long enough that we have friends all over the country, so it’s nice to catch up over beer afterward. Sometimes readers come along and I love to ask them about their lives, to turn the tables a bit and discover what they are reading and what insights they can share that haven’t occurred to me.

What is your relationship like with your readers? How can readers get in touch with you?

I try to answer all my emails, but as you have already noticed, I am often slow to respond when I am deep in a book – which is nearly always! I beg patience of those who are kind enough to be in touch.

Will you come to Italy to introduce your novels?

It would be my great pleasure and I hope I will be able to do so in the future!

Finally, the inevitable question: what are you working on now?

I’ve just completed a draft of a new novel set in the garment district of New York City after World War II. It’s been fascinating to learn about this world.

Thank you so much for inviting me to chat!

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