Interview ~ The Dogs Of Littlefield by Suzanne Berne


What's the best advice anyone has ever given you?

Back in the days when to submit stories to magazines you had to mail them, a college writing teacher of mine used to say, “It’s only stamps!” 

How do you react to a bad review? 

Not well, I’m afraid. Usually I sulk for months, and feel tortured by self-doubt, and imagine that everyone I know is quoting verbatim from that bad review at dinner parties and over lunch, shaking their heads sadly while secretly enjoying my humiliation. Eventually I realize that most likely no one but me paid any attention to it.

What was your favorite book when you were a child/teen?

I loved Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, which I discovered when I was fifteen. I also loved Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel and Carson McCullers’ Member of the Wedding. And I read a lot of Barbara Cartland and Anya Seton romances.

What's one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?

Self-importance is lethal to good writing.

Do you write as you go, or do you have the book all planned out from page 1?

I wish I could plan out my books—it would be so much more efficient. But as soon as I try to map them out I lose all interest. E.L. Doctorow said that for him, writing was like driving at night. “You never see further than your headlights,” he said, “but you can make the whole trip that way.” I thought that was a good way to put it. Of course, he also said that writing was a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.

How long does it take you to write a book?

About four years, on average.

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dogsPublisher: Simon & Schuster (January 12, 2016)
Genre: Literary Fiction/Suspense
ISBN-10: 1476794243
ISBN-13: 978-1476794242
Buy: Amazon, Kindle, IndieBound, The Book Depository


A “brilliantly done” (Sunday Times, London) comedy of manners that explores the unease behind the manicured lawns of suburban America from the Orange Prize–winning author of A Crime in the Neighborhood.

Littlefield, Massachusetts, named one of the Ten Best Places to Live in America, full of psychologists and college professors, is proud of its fine schools, its girls’ soccer teams, its leafy streets, and charming village center.

Yet no sooner has sociologist Dr. Clarice Watkins arrived to study the elements of “good quality of life” than someone begins poisoning the town’s dogs. Are the poisonings in protest to an off-leash proposal for Baldwin Park—the subject of much town debate—or the sign of a far deeper disorder? Certainly these types of things don’t happen in Littlefield.

With an element of suspense, satirical social commentary, and in-depth character portraits, Suzanne Berne’s nuanced novel reveals the discontent concealed behind the manicured lawns and picket fences of darkest suburbia. The Dogs of Littlefield is “a compelling, poignant yet unsentimental novel that examines life, love, and loss” (Sunday Mirror, UK).

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suzanneI am the author of the novel The Dogs of Littlefield, first published by Penguin in the UK; it is now being published in the U.S. by Simon & Schuster.

My previous novels are The Ghost at the Table (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill), featured on NPR’s the Diane Rehm show, during which my mother was an unexpected caller, and then pretended not to be my mother–perhaps an NPR first–A Perfect Arrangement (Algonquin), and my first novel, A Crime in the Neighborhood (Algonquin).  

My short fiction and essays have appeared in magazines including Ploughshares, Agni, The Threepenny Review, Mademoiselle, Vogue, The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, and The Quarterly.  I’ve received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

I teach creative writing at Boston College and the Ranier Writing Workshop.  I have also taught at Harvard University and Wellesley College, and am currently the fiction editor of The Harvard Review.

My first ten years were spent on a horse farm in Warrenton, Virginia, though no one in my family liked riding horses, before we moved to Washington, DC.  I have also lived in Connecticut, where I attended Wesleyan University, and Iowa City, where I graduated from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.  My husband, Ken Kimmell, and I live just outside of Boston.  He is the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, in Cambridge, and we have two daughters, both in college.  I have no hobbies.  But I do have a large and very nice dog, Chip, who requires a lot of ball-throwing, time that I would otherwise spend quietly pursuing my thoughts.

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