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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ten Tantalizing Questions & Contest with Sophie Littlefield, Author of BANISHED

Have you ever wanted to learn more about your favorite authors?
Ten Tantalizing Questions is designed not only to showcase exciting new books on the horizon, but to also provide a glimpse into the personalities of the authors behind them.

"There are thousands of thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen and writes." ~William Makepeace Thackeray

My guest today is author Sophie Littlefield. Sophie is the author of the acclaimed novel, Bad Day for Sorry and it's followup Bad Day for Pretty. Her young adult novel, BANISHED releases this month. Sophie was kind enough to drop by to give us some insider scoop on the book and give away one signed copy!  Details below.

Sophie grew up in central Missouri, daughter of a history professor father and an artist mother. She earned a degree in computer science at a large Midwestern university and made very little use of it. After living in Chicago for ten years, she and her husband packed up the kids and moved to Northern California in 1998. She's been keeping house and writing ever since. She published a number of short stories and articles before landing an agent and selling her first novel in the spring of 2008.

Official Website & Blog


1. Banished is the first book in a new Young Adult series. It’s about Hailey Tarbell, a small-town girl who discovers she’s heir to an ancient legacy and the powers that come with it.  Can you tell us a little more about the book, and share with us a favorite line, scene or passage?

BanishedHailey has several strikes against her when it comes to fitting in. She's an orphan who lives with a cruel grandmother whose only source of income is selling drugs and fostering a cast-off child; she has no money, no car, no cute clothes; and for some reason, even the strange kids who live in the worst part of town won't talk to her.

Still, Hailey is strong - stronger than even she knows. She has become the primary caregiver to Chub, the four-year-old foster child, and she gives him the love and attention he craves. And she has a plan for leaving as soon as she finishes high school.
I love Hailey's strength and determination. Early in the book, when a stranger shows up with an offer to help her escape her miserable life, Hailey is tempted, but her courage and love of Chub overrides her longing for freedom:
- - - - - - - - - - - -
"I'm taking you with me," Prairie said.
My heart did a little flip at her words. Leaving - even if it wasn't the way I planned, even if it was with a stranger - the thought was almost irresistible. I wanted to say Okay, fine, let's do it.  To hell with school, with the stupid kids who'd made fun of me forever. To hell with our falling-down house, the weedy yard, the long walk to the grocery. Anywhere would be better than here. I was tempted to say "Sure, let's go right now," before she changed her mind.
Instead, what I said was, "I can't leave Chub."
- - - - - - - - - - - -

2. What three words do you think best describe your novel?

Dark, astmospheric, and redemptive.

3. Do you remember the first words you ever wrote for Banished, and are they still in the novel today? 

Oh! Yes, I certainly do. I loved them. I was devastated when we made the decision to take them out, but the book had gone in a new direction and it was the right decision, because the backstory was no longer necessary and didn't strengthen the story.

Hailey's gift traces back to an ancient Irish curse and blessing, and originally I had a prolog that was set centuries ago in the tiny Irish village. 

I'll share the first few lines of the prolog here. I'm considering putting the complete prolog on my web site if readers are interested in it.
Ireland, County Tipperary
Summer, 1349
 “T’is done,” Feidhlim mac Ruadhraige murmured in his lover’s ear. He drew her close against him, and together they looked down at the village below as twilight gave way to night, oil lamps winking on in the windows and making a pretty constellation of the cottages and barns below.

4. What was your inspiration for Banished-- can you give us any insight into that first spark that helped form the basis for the plot? In addition, can you tell us about how Banished transformed since your initial rough draft?

A Bad Day for Sorry: A Crime NovelYes, and thank you for asking!  I love talking about how stories evolve.
I knew that I wanted to write about healing - and even that is a story in itself. A very close friend of mine, a fellow author, had jokingly asked me what superpower I would want. I think he'd chosen the ability to make himself invisible. And it came to me with perfect clarity that I would want the ability to lay on hands, to heal someone with touch and intent.

I also had a good understanding of what my protagonist would be like. I wanted to saddle her with lots of problems from the outset, so that when she was tested, she would have to reach all the way into her soul to find the strength to overcome. I've been called an "emotion junkie;" while  I occasionally love a "light" read, I prefer stories that force us to confront our greatest fears and test our strongest convictions.

As I mentioned, I had developed a complete backstory for how Hailey's female ancestors became healers, and the men of the village became Seers, who occasionally glimpsed the future. As I wrote the contemporary story, about Hailey's struggle with two sets of antagonists, that backstory became less and less important, and finally I took it out completely. 

Also, there is a zombie element in the book that evolved after I sketched out the draft. This evolved from my belief that all gifts - paranormal or otherwise - have a dark and a bright side. For instance, someone with the gift of empathy must bear the pain of feeling others' hurts. Or someone with the gift of music may use it to express their sorrows in addition to their joys.

So when I thought about the healing gift, I asked myself what could go wrong if it was used in the wrong, or forbidden, circumstances: what if Hailey tried to heal a soul who had already passed on?

5. If you could inhabit the life of one literary character and dive into their world for just one day, who would you choose and why? 

King DorkWhat a marvelous question! There are so many choices. Let's see - for today, since I was just re-reading KING DORK by Frank Portman, I would like to be 14-year-old Tom Henderson. This probably sounds weird, but I'd love to re-experience high school not just as a boy but as one who was confident enough to be himself, and cool enough to come up with all those band names.

6.Can you share with us some of the challenges you faced to publish Banished? Is there anything about the process that you would do differently, knowing what you do now?

BANISHED is my third published novel (I have a mystery series for adult readers) but the eleventh book that I wrote. I have a wonderful literary agent named Barbara Poelle who helped me talk through my idea for BANISHED and read early versions, making suggestions that helped me improve it before we ever sent it to editors for consideration. I was lucky that BANISHED was quickly bought by Delacorte, as well as a second novel.

Then the real work began.

There were problems with the book that could only be solved by a significant and deep re-write - and then another one. I have to credit the editors who worked on the book with me for not giving up, and for continuing to come up with new ideas to address the issues that we found. This was a new experience for me; both my previous novels underwent light editing only. 

In the end, I'm very, very grateful that the editorial team asked for these changes, even though at the time they, um....may have made me cry a few times. There were some days I wanted to throw the book at the wall, and other days when I just wanted to quit. But I think it's true in all of life that the harder we work toward a goal, the more we cherish success at the end. I'm really proud of BANISHED. And if I've learned a lesson from the experience, it's to look at revisions as a gift, a chance to improve the work I care so deeply about.

7. Do you have anything in common with Hailey’s character in your novel? Do you ever base your characters on real people you come into contact with?

Hailey is very much like me - or at least like I was at her age. I felt very awkward in high school, and never felt like I found my place. In BANISHED, I've used physical and social details to show her isolation - I never experienced anything as stark as she does -but I think the basic emotion is very common and I wanted to explore that. 

I also have a sister a number of years younger who I helped take care of when we were growing up. I wish I could say that I was as good to Kristen as Hailey is to Chub, but I wasn't. I was mean and ornery and awful, and I'm very lucky she even still talks to me! But I did want to write about the experience of having a younger sibling who relies on you for the most basic needs, and how that bond can bring love into an otherwise lonely existence.

I definitely use real people as inspiration for characters. A couple of the mean kids, as well as gentle Sawyer, were modeled after kids I knew long ago. And no, I'll never tell who. :)

A Bad Day for Pretty: A Crime Novel8. In Banished, Hailey grapples with some new healing capabilities she‘s discovered about herself. If you were able to pick any one supernatural power to try out, which one would you want to have?

As I mentioned, I would love to be able to heal. But my second choice would be something my kids and I call Stretch-Arms. You know how sometimes you're lying on the beanbag watching TV and you really need the bag of Doritos on top of the refrigerator but you just can't stand the thought of getting up to get them?  Well, imagine if your arms could go all rubbery and streeeetttch out as long as they needed to, into the next room and up on the fridge...also, when you're lying in the hammock you could use Stretch-Arms to push off the tree so you could swing without making an effort. There's dozens of uses for Stretch-Arms, really. (And now you know how lazy I secretly am.)

9. If Banished was to be made into a movie, do you have certain actors you envision in the lead roles or do you think unknowns would be best suited to play them?

Oh, I'd love it if unknowns played all the parts! The reason is that I think we bring our expectations into the experience when we know an actor's work before we see a movie. There's something really exciting about seeing a character for the first time and suspending disbelief, letting yourself imagine that who you are seeing on the screen truly is who the person is in real life. I love to let myself get really deep into a movie. (If you're the type of person who goes "aw, *that* would never happen" in the middle of the movie, then we can't go together. :)

10. Can you give us any insider scoop on what we can look forward to in the next series installment? Any upcoming projects or new series in the works?

Sure! The second book in the series is called UNFORSAKEN and will follow BANISHED next year, in the fall of 2011. This picks up Hailey's story where BANISHED leaves off, with an even greater threat to not just her and her loved ones, but to the larger world as well. Also, Hailey and Kaz get closer; their friendship blossoms into a full-scale romance.   And there's a deeper look into a couple of the villains and how they became who they are. All in all, I'm very happy with UNFORSAKEN and I hope readers will find it a satisfying conclusion to the story begun in BANISHED.

I'm delighted to announce that I have signed on to do two more young adult novels with Delacorte. I'm thrilled to continue working with my editor, Stephanie Elliott, and I can't wait to see what we'll come up with. Right now, anything's possible!


Delacorte Books for Young Readers (October 12, 2010)

 There isn’t much worth living for in Gypsum, Missouri—or Trashtown, as the rich kids call the run-down neighborhood where sixteen-year-old Hailey Tarbell lives. Hailey figures she’ll never belong—not with the popular kids at school, not with the rejects, not even with her cruel, sickly grandmother, who deals drugs out of their basement. Hailey never knew her dead mother, and she has no idea who her father was, but at least she has her four-year-old foster brother, Chub. Once she turns eighteen, Hailey plans to take Chub far from Gypsum and start a new life where no one can find them.

But when a classmate is injured in gym class, Hailey discovers a gift for healing that she never knew she possessed—and that she cannot ignore. Not only can she heal, she can bring the dying back to life. Confused by her powers, Hailey searches for answers but finds only more questions, until a mysterious visitor shows up at Gram’s house, claiming to be Hailey’s aunt Prairie.

There are people who will stop at nothing to keep Hailey in Trashtown, living out a legacy of despair and suffering. But when Prairie saves both Hailey and Chub from armed attackers who invade Gram’s house in the middle of the night, Hailey must decide where to place her trust. Will Prairie’s past, and the long-buried secret that caused her to leave Gypsum years earlier, ruin them all? Because as Hailey will soon find out, their power to heal is just the beginning.

This gripping novel from thriller writer Sophie Littlefield blazes a trail from small-town Missouri to the big city as Hailey battles an evil greater than she ever imagined, while discovering strengths she never knew she had.

Official Rules:
1.You must be 13 year or older to enter.
2. Open to entrants with a valid U.S. mailing address only. 
3. Entries must be received by Midnight EST on November 1st 2010. 
4. Once contacted, winners have 48 hours to respond with their mailing address.
5. To enter to win, simply fill out the form below. Good luck!  


Marg K. said...

Great interview. Some really interesting questions and answers that have now increased my interest in this book.

Thanks for the giveaway!

Kristen said...

Great interview!!! :) I love the insight she shared about how her and the main character are alike. Can't wait to read this one!

Lea (YA Book Queen) said...

Nice interview! Love your questions, :)

Little Miss Becky : ) said...

Stretch-arms!! I love it! I need that power, too!
I definitely can't wait to read Banished!

Cathy W said...

Thanks enjoyed the interview, sounds like a great read.
cjwallace43 at gmail dot com

Mrs. DeRaps said...

I think it's great that you'd like the movie version of Banished to be played by undiscovered talent. It's sometimes true that I have a hard time picturing established actors as other characters in movies.

Can't wait to read this book!

Martha Lawson said...

Hi! You are a new to me author. I love finding them!! Your books look awesome, I can't wait to read them.

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

Thanks for sharing part of the prologue! i can see why you didn't want to take that part out! the book looks amazing!

justpeachy36 said...

Banished looks like a very interesting beginning.
I like the 10 tantalizing questions idea...

beca said...

This Book looks AMIZING I just know I'm going to like when I read it. Too bad the second book, UNFORSAKEN, only comes out next fall. Awesome giveaway!!! I'm in!!!

becarattacaso @ yahoo . com

beca said...

This Book looks AMIZING I just know I'm going to like when I read it. Too bad the second book, UNFORSAKEN, only comes out next fall. Awesome giveaway!!! I'm in!!!

becarattacaso @ yahoo . com

donnas said...

Great interview. I love the sound of the book too. Thanks for sharing!!

latishajean said...

What a great interview this book sounds very good have to add it to my read pile. Great giveaway thank you very much for the chance!

debbie said...

It sounds like Hailey is a very strong character. I enjoy it when authors write young women that are strong, and can get through anything.

cait045 said...

I am excited for Sophie's book. I love new books and for new Sophie is a new author for me.

hammiexoxo said...

This book sounds amazing! Great interview! :)

Book Sp(l)ot said...

Oh, I want to read this book so, so badly (if you couldn't tell already from my post!-I've been put off book buying since my birthday's this week or it would be bought already).

I loved reading your interview, too. It was great to learn so much about the book and Sophie through the two interviews. Thank you for having a contest I could enter :D

SandyG265 said...

I like the cover for Banished.

Tiffany said...

Can't wait to read Banished! I love that it's set in Missouri. I live in Kansas City and it seems like books are always set somewhere more glamorous.

Carol M said...

This book sounds really good! I would love to read it and then pass it on to my granddaughters. I know they would enjoy it, too!

Julie said...

This book sounds really good. I think it's cute to see which actors the authors think fit their characters if the book were to be a movie.

Mesmerix said...

Great interview and sounds like a fantastic book!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

No need to enter me, babe. I'm here to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you.

Keep this awesome stuff coming!

holdenj said...

The new YA book, Banished looks very good. I have heard good things about The Bad Day series, and I look forward to reading this one.

MannaB said...

Sophie - I love the titles of your adult books! Thanks for the interview!

Jill of The O.W.L. said...

Wow she's written 11 books! I'm still working on my first! Great interview. Very interesting to hear her inspiration and the amount of revision she had to do!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a amazing book...def on my TBR...great interview and thank you for doing a contest!

Marianna said...

Great interview! Awesome contest! I am just loving the cover for Banished! I am dying to read it!!!

Pondering Page said...

I tried to buy this book at my local Borders and they didn't have it, so I'm hoping to win it. It sounds sound interesting and I LOVE the cover!

Bere said...

Oooh fantastic interview, Kim! I had actually heard very little of Banished, but now that I know a little more about it, it sounds really great. I have just added it to my wishlist. Thank you for bringing it to my attention Kim. The cover is really great too. =)

Demi Torway said...

cool beans!! Excited for this giveaway!

Nikki said...

Great interview! I can't wait to read this book!

Beth Sanzo said...

This books looks too awesome!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and the great interview!

It was neating seeing where the spark of inspiration came from for the storyline. looking forward to reading this!

Pam S

Jessy said...

I think Stretch Armstrong Arms would be really cool to have. But I think if I had them I would become really heavy from not getting up to do anything!

Lily said...

Niceee! Thanks for the giveaway book butterfly.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

What fun answers! Great questionnaire :)

Jenny Le said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lesley said...

I really love this interview, you wrote some great questions and the answers are awesome too! :)
I can't wait to read this book, it looks like it will be one of the best of the year!

Jenny Le said...

I'd really like to win this book. Thank you!



Wrighty said...

I can't wait to read this book! It sounds like a great story and I'm sure all of that hard work and long hours will pay off.

I think Stretch-Arms is a great idea too! That's not lazy, it's creative! I always thought moms should grow an extra pair of arms when each kid was born and then they would drop off when they were 18 or so. We'd all look like an octopus but it would be so handy!

Thanks for the giveaway! :)

Lena said...

Great interview! I've been wanting to read Banished. I love that Sophie shared her first lines with us, but sad she had to edit it out.

Aline said...

I really want to read this book , the idea sounds amazing . I hope Sophie decides to put the whole prologue online.

Anonymous said...

I heard lots of things about this one, good things to be exact. So I went to her website to read about Banished and I found it to be very interesting. I'm curious about reading it. Oh! And how she got the idea for Banished is surprisingly, the same way I got my idea for my story. Except it was different. Now after reading this interview, I really want to read it.

Kristina Barnes♥ said...

Awesome interview! I loved how in-depth Sophie got with most of her answers.

linaramz said...

Great interveiw! And thanks for the awesome giveaway!

Bella said...

Loved the interview! Thanks for sharing. I'd love to read this one!

Jessica said...

Yay for Missouri! ;) Where I live now!

Great interview. Haven't read this series yet but this cover is totally amazing! May have to start!

Jenny Le said...

Sounds like a really awesome read! :)

Aik said...

Thanks for the giveaway! This book sounds really interesting!

Brynne said...

These seems like a really awesome book!! Can't wait to read it!!