I like to write either in a chair by the window in my apartment, ideally with a cup of tea and maybe a candle burning, or at a coffee shop in my neighborhood, again with a cup of tea or maybe a cappuccino. I write all my first drafts long-hand in a journal; I feel like I’m much more imaginative writing this way than at a computer. I try to write for about an hour in the early morning each weekday, and again for an hour or a little more on Saturday or Sunday (depending on the week, though, I might write a little more or a little less).
Which fictional character would you like to swap places with for a day and what would you do?
Maybe this is cheating because it’s TV and not books, but I’d trade places with the Doctor and travel through time and space. I’d go back in time and visit Queen Elizabeth I and Shakespeare, and then go to Gallifrey and hang out with the Time Lords.
The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is the story of a brilliant and enigmatic filmmaker, told by the people who loved her most. I had wanted to write about a filmmaker named Sophie Stark for years before I started the book; I even wrote a few pages, but then put them aside. After I finished my first book, America Pacifica, I started trying to write about Sophie again in earnest, and that’s when I got the idea of writing the book from multiple perspectives. Once I realized I could tell Sophie’s story through multiple points of view, the book started to come together.
What’s your favourite word?
I don’t know if I have a favorite word, exactly, but I have some words I use a lot (maybe too much). In America Pacifica I used the word “filthy” a lot — in my defense, the post-apocalyptic world I was describing was really filthy. In The Life and Death of Sophie Stark, my editor pointed out I used the words “mad,” “sad,” “bad,” and “whiskey” more than was strictly necessary, which I guess says something about the mood of the book. I ended up replacing some of them; now the characters occasionally drink wine instead of whiskey, and get angry instead of mad.
What’s the best and worst part of the writing process for you?
The best part is probably writing the first draft, with my journal and my cup of tea, spending that time in my own head just slowly coming up with the story. The worst part is probably typing it in; that’s the price I pay for not typing it in the first place. Revising can also be scary. First drafts feel low-pressure, but then when I’m revising, especially on deadline, sometimes I’m scared I’ll never get it right.
What’s your planning process before beginning a novel?
I actually plan very little before I write a novel. For The Life and Death of Sophie Stark I did read some books about filmmaking and talk to some filmmakers, but I didn’t write an outline or anything like that. I don’t really know what’s going to work until I start writing, so planning and outlining don’t help me much — once I have a basic idea, I just have to jump in.
What would your superhero name be and what would you choose for your superpower?
I think I’d like the powers of a falcon — I would fly super-fast and also have super vision so I could spot enemies and hazards from hundreds of miles away. Maybe my name would be Falcra.
Which five fictional characters would you like round for a dinner party?
Odysseus, Nell from Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age, Lessa from Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series, Ariel from The Tempest, Mrs. Dalloway (she can host).
If you could cast your book for a film, who would you cast?
For Jacob, maybe Oscar Isaac (his character in Inside Llewyn Davis is a little like Jacob). For Allison, maybe Romola Garai. Sophie would be the hardest one to cast — I actually think Kristen Stewart might do a good job, although she’s a little too conventionally beautiful for the role.
Which five pieces of advice would you give to new writers?
If you were told you could only own three books, which three would you pick?
The Odyssey, The First Five Books of Poems by Louise Gluck, Infinite Jest.
Anna North is a writer of fiction and nonfiction. Her first novel, America Pacifica, was published in 2011, and her second novel, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark will be published by Blue Rider Press in May 2015. She has been a writer and editor at Jezebel, BuzzFeed, and Salon, and is now a staff editor at the New York Times.