Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Spotted Interview: Sophie Littlefield + Banished

Today, I have a special guest - Sophie Littlefield, author of Banished which was released yesterday. I spotted her and asked her a few questions that popped in my head after visiting her website.

Your book has a pretty cover! Do you think that the cover art reflects the mood of Banished in general? Why/how?

I was very lucky to get this beautiful cover. I wish I could say I had something to do with it, but I didn't - it was all the work of designer Stephanie Moss, working with a photo by Lara Jade. One interesting thing about it is that we all loved it so much we changed Hailey's eye color in the book to match! Originally Hailey had golden-brown eyes, like my daughter.

What or who inspired you to write Banished?

A while back - several years ago - one of my friends asked my what superpower I would choose, and I thought of Healing. I thought it would be so cool to be able to lay on hands and summon powers from both within and through time...and then I wanted to work in a little ancient backstory using things I had learned from my friends Lynn and Trish who know everything about Irish and Celtic mythology. These were the things on my my mind when I knew I wanted to write my first book for young adults.

What lessons will readers pick up from your novel?

I think that at the heart of the book is encouragement to leave room for hope, even when life seems very bleak. I created a heroine who is tough and capable because she has to be, not because she necessarily wants to be; her problems have made her withdrawn and pessimistic. On her journey she comes back to life in a sense because she realizes she can find justice and that she is unique and uniquely gifted and that there is a place in the world for her to shine.

What was it like modelling Hailey, the main character in Banished, after your 16 year old self?

It was a wonderful, if occasionally difficult, experience to revisit feelings and emotions from long ago, but to put them into a fictional context where I had control over the outcome.

Since you somewhat modelled Hailey after your teen self, did you discover new things about yourself?

Absolutely. This will have people my age nodding their heads, but it is difficult to imagine when you are young - as alone and different as I felt all those years ago, other people were going through similar things and were not judging me nearly as harshly as I assumed. In recent years I have gotten in touch with a few people through facebook, people I wasn't especially close to during high school, but who I thought had blessed and easy lives. Not so: everyone was dealing with problems, some of them far more difficult than I ever imagined. And everyone has wonderful quirks and passions that we all tended to keep hidden back then, when we were all just trying to fit in.

I also learned that there were things about my old self that I cherish and am trying to put back in my life. I was very passionate as a teen; I could draw for hours, or listen to music or write poetry. I have convinced myself that I don't have time for these pursuits any more, and that's a mistake.

Were you able to understand what you went through in your teenage years through writing Banished?

Yes, but also through reading young adult fiction by other authors. I think authors today are doing a great job of addressing issues many kids face, honestly and openly, and I can't stress enough that this is a good thing. I am very, very saddened by parents' attempts to censor certain books, like SPEAK and WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson. If I had access to books like these when I was in high school and college, it would have helped me understand some of the things that I and other people were going through.

How do you incorporate sexualization in your book? How do you make sure that it is appropriate?

This is an important topic to me, and while I know that I will offend some readers (or their parents) I want to address sexualization carefully and honestly. In BANISHED and the sequel, Hailey and her friends are the target of inappropriate sexual attention from men. This is hardly a rare event - all over the country, young girls are the target of everything from mild catcalls to rape, and I wanted to show a girl resisting and succeeding in keeping her self-concept intact even when she feels powerless.

I do think that my daughter's generation is much, much stronger and abler to stand up for themselves than my own, and it is my prayer that no girl should be abused. But sexual misconduct comes in so many layers and shades of gray, and I want to be one of the voices who cares about righting wrongs, big and little.

Banished is out! How do you feel about this?

I'm so thrilled! The other night I was driving a car full of kids to the high school homecoming dance, and we were talking about books, and they were telling me what they'd recently read and why they loved certain books and authors. And I felt so honored to be a part of that world. I'm truly blessed to have this job and I hope that I never take it for granted.

Any last words?

Thank you so much for inviting me, Precious!

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.*

*taken from Barnes and Noble site.
**Sophie's photo was taken from her website.

1 comment:

  1. I have been so excited about this book and can't wait to read it. I loved your inteview. Great questions. Your review also makes me want to get dressed right now and head the books store. Great job.