How “The Life and Death of Sophie Stark” Began
By Anna North
The idea for “The Life and Death of Sophie Stark” actually came to me several years ago, long before I started working on the book in earnest. I wanted to write something about a female filmmaker, but at first I thought she’d be a sort of political documentarian. I actually imagined her becoming the official filmmaker for a South American leader, someone like Hugo Chavez. I wrote a few pages about Sophie Stark (her name came to me very early in the process), then put them away and didn’t return to them for a long time.
When I did pick up Sophie’s story again, after I was finished with my first novel, America Pacifica, I discovered that the political aspects of the original idea weren’t as important to me as exploring Sophie. I wanted to write about someone who was kind of mythic, who would be remembered as larger-than-life in certain ways. But I also thought a lot early on about Sophie’s flaws, about the ways she hurts the people she cares about on her path to attaining larger-than-life status. In some ways I was inspired by the stories of famous artists (Picasso comes to mind), who were revered after their deaths and sometimes during their lifetimes, but who sometimes made life very hard for the people around them. I wanted to explore the personal costs — to the artist and to others — of creating an artistic legacy, and I wanted to do it in the context of a female artist, since the artists canonized by our society are so often male.
As I was working on the book, I got inspiration from other sources too. Jacob’s music was inspired to some degree by Iron & Wine (although Iron & Wine is better — Jacob doesn’t quite hit his stride artistically until late in the book). When I thought of Sophie physically, I sometimes thought about the young Patti Smith. And I was inspired by the cities I’ve lived in, most of which make an appearance in the book. I was back in Iowa City recently, where I went to graduate school, and I realized that I’d modeled the house Robbie lives in at the end of the book on the house I lived in there — I’d forgotten I was even doing it. So while the initial inspiration for the book was a fairly specific idea about filmmaking, the book as a whole ended up pulling together a lot of experiences and interests I’ve had over the years.
A huge thank you to Anna North and Lucy at Orion. ♥
The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is released TODAY. Click here to get hold of your copy.
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.