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Author Interview: Sophie Littlefield

Thursday, December 20, 2012
Today, I'm delighted to be interviewing with Sophie Littlefield, author of Hanging by a Thread.

Summer is the best part of the year in Winston, California, and the Fourth of July is the highlight of the season. But the perfect town Clare remembers has changed, and everyone is praying that this summer will be different from the last two—that this year's Fourth of July festival won't see one of their own vanish without a trace, leaving no leads and no suspects. The media are in a frenzy predicting a third disappearance, but the town depends on tourist dollars, so the residents of Winston are trying desperately to pretend nothing's wrong.

And they're not the only ones hiding something.

Clare, a seamstress who redesigns vintage clothing, has been blessed—or perhaps cursed—with a gift: she can see people's pasts when she touches their clothes. When she stumbles across a denim jacket that once belonged to Amanda Stavros, last year's Fourth of July victim, Clare sees her perfect town begin to come apart at the seams.

In a town where appearance means everything, how deep beneath the surface will Clare dig to uncover a murderer?

Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into writing.
I grew up in the Midwest, in a family that valued books and reading. My dad was a professor and my mother was an artist, and we spent every Saturday at the public library. I wrote my first “book” at the age of eleven, a post-apocalyptic tale where a girl discovers that she is the only person left on the planet - in the middle of a shopping mall. I think I might have watched a little too much Twilight Zone!

I never stopped writing after that, though I majored in computer science in college and took a job with an accounting firm. When I married and had children, I stayed home and wrote when I could. It wasn’t until my kids were almost teenagers that I was able to start working seriously towards publication. I landed my agent, Barbara Poelle, in 2008 and she sold the ninth book I wrote. Hanging by a Thread was my tenth published book.

What draws you to the thriller/crime genres?
My earliest reading passion was fairy tales - the dark ones, where witches and sorcerers and cruel kings can only be defeated by a heroine who possesses wits as well as beauty and purity of heart. Somewhere along the way, I decided that wits were the most interesting of these three qualities.

Crime fiction showcases the most dramatic aspects of the human psyche, often unearthing secrets that ordinary people - the ones we encounter in our everyday lives - keep hidden away. I’m always more interested in what people are feeling and thinking on the inside than on what they are presenting to the public.

Winston is a town that values appearance. What is the importance of this as the setting for the murders and Clare's story?
Just like individuals, entire communities often strive to preserve a false appearance. In the case of a tourist community, keeping up appearances is meant to help boost the economy, but it mirrors the unhealthy desire to cover up trouble that, left unattended, can get out of control and lead to tragedy.

In Winston, the deaths of two young people have had a negative affect on the tourist industry, so people work hard to pretend that nothing is wrong - even if that means risking another death.

Why did you decide to give Clare a unique ability to help her in solving the mystery of the murders?
My prior young adult novels (Banished and Unforsaken) explored the gift of healing, which I found to be a fascinating exercise. Giving a character such a gift is a double-edged coin, and exploring how the gift both complicates and enhances her life makes a story richer. The challenge is to make the gift work seamlessly with the murder plot: it can’t be superfluous to the story - it has to be critical to resolving the mystery.

Most people would run away after encountering a clue to a murder. Why does Clare persist in pursuing the murderer?
As the mother of a teenage daughter, I’m constantly reminded how much empathy young people really have for each other. Often books and movies cast teen girls - especially the popular, pretty ones - as competitive and unfeeling. In reality, I think almost every girl is highly sensitive to others’ emotions, and genuinely care for their welfare, even if sometimes there’s a layer of insecurity and awkwardness that keeps it from being expressed. Clare, like the girls I’ve known, can’t turn away from someone in need without trying to help.

I love the vintage aspect of Hanging by a Thread. What inspired you to make Clare a seamstress and one that specializes in redesigning vintage clothing?
Sewing was my hobby for many years before I became a full-time writer. I don’t sew garments any more, but I made clothes and tailored vintage pieces when I was in my twenties. I thought it would be fun to create a character who channeled her creativity into a craft that I knew well.

What is your favorite vintage clothing?
I own a blouse that my mother made by hand when she was in high school. Every stitch is perfect - I’m sure she got an A on it! I also own her wedding gown, which she made. She had a tiny waist - I would never have fit into that gown.

What are you working on right now?
I am just wrapping up my next young adult novel, which features a boy and girl infected by a deadly virus. And as far as sewing goes, I just hemmed some curtains and mended my son’s favorite shirt!

Sophie's Website | Facebook | Twitter
Sophie grew up in Missouri, attended Indiana University, and worked in technology before becoming a stay-at-home mom. She lives in Northern California. Her first novel, A Bad Day for Sorry has been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, Barry, and Crimespree awards, and won the Anthony Award and the RTBookReviews Reviewers Choice Award for Best First Mystery.

1 comment on "Author Interview: Sophie Littlefield"
  1. I adore Sophie!! She is such a sweetheart :D I'm so eager to read more from her!!


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