Saturday, January 10, 2015

1 Sophie Littlefield, author of INFECTED, on learning to write faster-paced novels

What scene was really hard for you to write and why?

INFECTED opens with the memorial service for the uncle of my main character. Carina has already suffered the loss of her mother, and she never knew her father, and has no other relatives. So she is entirely alone in the world. As I wrote the early scenes in the book, which Carina must act quickly to save herself, I was thinking about my own children and how blessed they have been to have loving parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and “family-of-choice” adults in their lives. I was literally in tears thinking about what it would be like for someone my son or daughter’s age to have to face difficult moments alone.

How long did you work on INFECTED?

Of all of the books I have written (seventeen so far!) INFECTED required the most conscientious rewrites. In all, it took about eight months from when we first sketched out the idea in New York City to when it was finally finished.

While I got the original draft of the story done fairly quickly, my editor, Krista Vitola, and I took several months to go over the scenes and really make sure that each character’s motivations and actions were true to who they were. We also wanted to make sure that Tanner and Carina’s relationship developed at a pace that was both credible and matched the excitement of the plot. Also, the timeline aspect of the book was difficult to get exactly right: if I never have to do “time math” again, I’ll be happy!

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

I think this is my most action-fueled story yet, and I loved learning to write a faster-paced novel. For quite some time now, I have been working to improve my plotting skills so that the reader is invested in the fate of the characters throughout the book. I wanted people to be on the edge of their seats while they turned the pages! I have to give credit to my editor and agent for coaching me and helping me pare down unnecessary narrative while increasing the action. I can’t wait to use these skills in future books.

What do you hope readers will take away from INFECTED?

Several reviewers have already praised the science and technology aspects of the book. While it wasn’t my primary motivation in creating this story, I wanted to write characters whose interest in code-breaking, math, and technology is something more than the old “geek” stereotype. I wanted my protagonist to be complex, interesting, and charismatic, and to show that she is far more than just an athlete or a good student. In fact, I named her after my daughter’s friend Carina, who is one of the most interesting, fun, and smart girls I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Now that my daughter is in college, we have had some great conversations about what it is like to be an aspiring writer for a young person today. People from my generation did not have as many different tools at our disposal, nor were there as many paths to publication. I think that can be a blessing, of course, but it can also be overwhelming for a newer author trying to make sense of all of the apps and programs and devices available, as well as choosing how she wants to get her work into the world.

BUT: the most important challenge never changes. To write well, you need do only two things—the same things I have been doing since elementary school. Read and write – and repeat! Books are the greatest teachers for any writer, and it’s by reading a wide variety of genres and styles that you will develop your own voice. Get into the habit of writing every day, and your skills will grow without you even being aware of it. Build a writing community, exchange ideas and critique each other’s work, and write your heart out!

What are you working on now?

I’m just finishing up my next adult novel, which is an exciting time because it means I can start thinking about writing a young adult book again. I have a head full of ideas and I’m making pages and pages of notes while reading books that have been recommended to me. It’s really the “idea soup” stage, too early to say what the next story will be about, but I can’t wait to begin!


by Sophie Littlefield
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Released 1/6/2015

The race-against-the-clock feel of TV’s popular show 24 meets the action-packed romance of the film Run Lola Run. This high-concept teen thriller sends readers on the race of their lives.

Carina’s senior year is spiraling downward. Fast. Both her mother and her uncle, the only two family members she’s ever known, are dead. Their deaths were accidents, unfortunate results of the highly confidential research they performed for a national security organization. Or so she’s been told.

She’s not buying it.

After finding a unique code hidden beneath the stone in a ring her mother left to her, Carina goes straight to the only family she has left: her boyfriend, Tanner.

The people Carina loved kept dangerous secrets. Secrets that make her question the life she’s been living up to now. Her life is on the line, but more importantly, so is Tanner’s. And if she fails? He dies.

Purchase Infected at Amazon
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Sophie LittlefieldSophie Littlefield grew up in rural Missouri, the middle child of a professor and an artist. She has been writing stories since childhood. After taking a hiatus to raise her children, she sold her first book in 2008, and has since authored over a dozen novels in several genres. Sophie's novels have won Anthony and RT Book Awards and been shortlisted for Edgar, Barry, Crimespree, Macavity, and Goodreads Choice Awards. In addition to women's fiction, she writes the post-apocalyptic AFTERTIME series, the Stella Hardesty and Joe Bashir crime series, and thrillers for young adults. She is a past president of the San Francisco Romance Writers of America chapter. Sophie makes her home in northern California.

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