Before I introduce you to author Sophie Littlefield, let me introduce you to the heroine of her debut novel, A Bad Day for Sorry.
Stella is a 50-year-old vigilante who, Peter Finch-like, got mad as hell after years of abuse by her husband and decided she wasn’t going to take it anymore. When the story begins, she’s gotten rid of hubby and is running an underground business helping other women stand up to their loser boyfriends/spouses, using whatever method necessary (including S&M restraints).
The prologue below describes a day on the job:
Whuppin’ ass wasn’t so hard, Stella Hardesty thought as she took aim with the little Raven .25 she took off a cheating son-of-a-bitch in Kansas City last month.
What was hard was making sure it stayed whupped.
Especially on a day when it hit a hundred degrees before noon. And you were having hot flashes. And today’s quote on your Calendar For Women Who Do Too Much read Find serenity in unexpected places.
“Fuck serenity,” Stella said. And she shot the trailer.
You wanna read more, don’t you? You’ll have to pick up the book! It’s an intense, crazy ride that involves Stella taking on a client whose husband has disappeared with her baby. Stella is tenacious and blunt like a female House but without the limp, so she’ll not only verbally assault a bad guy, she can kick his ass, too. If you’ve ever had revenge fantasies about the people who have done you wrong, you can avoid jail time by living them out through Stella.
For FAQs about Sophie, the book and her tour, click here. But first, enjoy our Nerd Chat as Sophie talks about sex toys, zombies, cussing in front of church friends and finding the silver lining in rejection.
PCN: You wrote nine unpublished novels before this one. What was the first thing you did when you heard Bad Day was going to make it into bookstores?
Sophie Littlefield: I screamed and screamed. I was at my son’s high school lacrosse game when I got the news, so no one really minded. I also spun around in circles for a while and thanked the Big Guy (God as Stella/I understand Him) about a hundred times.
PCN: You’ve gotten glowing reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Entertainment Weekly, to name a few. Anything you want to say to all the people who rejected you?
SL: That would take a very long time, because I swear I was rejected by every literary agent in America in the course of a decade of submissions. You may think I’m exaggerating, but when I come across an agent who didn’t reject me, I want to go “Where have you been hiding yourself, Cupcake?” and buy them a drink.
As far as what I’d say to all the others? I would say “Thank you.” Because they made it possible for me to end up with Barbara Poelle. Here are just ten random reasons why Barbara is the perfect agent for me:
- She doesn’t mind if I cuss
- She doesn’t mind if my characters cuss
- She never told me to make my characters prettier or skinnier
- She finds my social gaffes amusing
- She breaks into song inexplicably; so do I (though I’m a little shy about it)
- If you tell her a sappy story about anyone, it could be the guy who did your taxes or even a Republican, she always goes “awwww”
- You can’t gross her out when describing the gory scenes you plan for your imaginary horror novel
- She likes the right people, the ones who are cool on the inside, where it counts
- She never, ever tells me to slow down or calm down or take a break
- She loves her job as much as I love mine
PCN: Wow, I want her to be my agent and I don’t even need one. When’s the last time someone did something that made you want to go all Stella on them? Are family and friends a little more afraid of you now knowing what you, er, Stella can do?
SL: Sadly, people are not quaking in fear. I think it’s because I’m deceptively friendly-ish. The other day a person of my acquaintance pissed me off extremely and I don’t think he ever knew it, because on the outside I had that well-brought-up-Midwestern-gal-grimace/grin going on.
But as soon as he sauntered off, I did this thing that my daughter taught me. You take your thumb and forefinger and place them in front of your face, then close one eye so it looks like you are holding the person’s head delicately in your fingertips…and then you squeeze, imagining their skull being crushed like a grape. Oh, is that ever satisfying.
So what did this guy do, you’re wondering?
PCN: Well, yes.
SL: He told me how to do my job. My writing job, the thing that is born in my soul and flows in my veins. Yes, ma’am, in the name of “career advice” (that I had not asked for) he had the nerve to tell me I was doing thing A wrong and needed to do more of thing B and stop doing thing C. And I was like, Oh yeah, remind me again when I’m waving at you from the top of the New York Fucking Times Best-Seller List, buddy. Well, I was all like that on the inside, anyway. On the outside I think I said “I’ll have another beer.”
PCN: What was his job?
SL: He is another writer, and a very, very gifted one. Which just goes to show you that smarts ain’t everything.
PCN: Hmm, you’ll have to tell me who it is, off the record. But enough about him; let’s talk sex toys. How much research did you do on those gizmos in the book to make sure they’d work as effective restraints for bad guys?
SL: Hee hee hee. Well, that’s kind of funny, actually. I didn’t start out planning to write about gizmos. In fact, I was kind of woefully short of gizmo knowledge. All I wanted to find out was the name of those plastic disposable handcuffs the law folks are using these days, and I Googled “restraints.”
Turns out the bondage community is super creative and imaginative and resourceful…The first website I landed on was an eye-opener, I’ll tell you that. I just couldn’t look away.
And then it hit me: all those gags and collars and spreader bars would make excellent tools for an out-of-shape middle-aged lady to keep a fellow where she wanted him, no matter what she intended to get up to with him. So that became my excuse.
I’ll be honest…it’s fascinating. You think you’ve seen it all, and then some creative person comes up with something new! God bless the irrepressible human spirit, is what I say.
PCN: Stella gets into some wild scrapes. Any interesting scenes that didn’t make it into the final edit?
SL: Yes indeedy. In the early draft of the Stella story, she just flat-out killed all the abusers she encountered. I’d come up with all kinds of methods of death-dealing and places to stash the bodies. I was even keeping a list to use in future books in the series.
Then my editor, Toni, gently explained that a murderous Stella wouldn’t fly with readers—she had to leave her “parolees” alive. At first I was disappointed. But now I think Toni was right—Stella’s convictions don’t allow her to kill unless it’s in self-defense. It’s made her a stronger character.
PCN: You’re currently on your first book tour. Any interesting experiences so far?
SL: I’ve only done a few events so far and the sound of my own heart pounding in my throat, and the feeling that I’m about to hurl, have cut down on my noticing skills. (I get nervous. I’m naturally shy and awkward.)
I will say it was “interesting” to read my prologue—which contains the words “ass,” “bitch,” and “fuck” in the first couple of paragraphs—out loud to a hometown crowd that included my kids’ elementary school teachers, librarian, and principal. And some friends from church. And my friend Adrienne’s darling parents.
PCN: Nice. Did anyone say anything to you afterwards?
SL: To my amazement, every single one gave me a compliment or encouragement or, in one case, a fierce hug with a wink and a whispered “keep kickin’ ass.”
Before the event I had considered toning myself down, perhaps censoring the passages or substituting “bleeps” for the cuss words. But then I thought, if I can’t start being myself now, at the age of 46, then when??? I don’t want to save up all my zest and vitriol only to unleash it in a fevered deathbed torrent. I think that would be confusing for everyone, don’t you?
PCN: Very! I’m glad you’re letting some of it out now through Stella. I think she’d make a great cinematic character. Has Hollywood come calling?
SL: Ha ha, well, there’s been some fun moments where I thought, “Oh goody, this is where I get my ass in US magazine!” So far, no follow-through, though. My experienced author friends tell me this is how it goes; Hollywood’s just an ongoing tease.
PCN: If it does happen, who would you like to play your kick-ass mama? I think Stella’s guns weigh more than most of the well-known 50ish actresses working today.
SL: Ain’t that the truth? I had a hard time coming up with actresses to play either Stella or [her client] Chrissy, since they’re both a little plump (putting them squarely in line with the average American woman, I might add). What do you think about Wynonna Judd?
PCN: Can she act?
SL: I don’t know if she can, but I think she’d make a great Stella, even if she’s a little young. She looks like she has attitude to spare. If she’d be willing to bulk up a bit, I think Felicity Huffman would be aces.
PCN: How about Geena Davis? She’s about the right age and we know she can do the outlaw-with-a-gun thing from Thelma & Louise.
SL: Oh, Geena’s pure genius! She’s going to have to eat a few cheeseburgers and frump up a little, but she’s perfect. And you know what, I bet she and I end up being BFFs once they start shooting. We’ll probably go shopping together and stuff, maybe double-date for the Oscars.
PCN: And Sheriff Jones?
SL: There’s only one man for the job: that devilishly handsome Ed Harris. Sigh.
PCN: That’s even better than I imagined! Switching gears for a bit, you have a YA book coming out next year called Banished. What’s harder: writing as a 50-year-old woman, 16-year-old girl or a zombie?
SL: Okay here’s a giant secret—writing them was easy because they’re both me. Stella’s me in a few years if someone unwisely pushes me just a little too hard. And Hailey, the heroine of my young adult series, is me at sixteen: gawky, insecure, angsty, and sensitive.
As for zombies…come on, they’re zombies! Aren’t you insanely jealous I get to write about them and get paid for my efforts?
PCN: Oh, I’m one itch away from shoving you down the stairs (it’s a compliment; see explanation here) so let’s wrap this up, for your sake. Final question: If you had a Calendar for Women Who Do Too Much like Stella’s, what would be the quote for this year?
SL: Oh, you’re good, Elyse. Hmmm. (Thinks hard.) “Careful what you wish for, sister, because once you get out of your own way you’re going to get more of it than you ever bargained for.”