Susan Beth Pfeffer, author of This World We Live In (review here), was nice enough to take time from her day to answer a few questions.
Library Dad - I liked how This World We Live In fit into the post-apocalyptic genre. What made you choose a world in ruin as your background for this story?
Susan Beth Pfeffer - I like disaster stories and there's something so interesting about the end of the world. I have no ability to write what I call leaping the lava stories (where the hero bravely leaps over a lava flow roughly the width of the Hudson River). What I'm good at is exploring family dynamics. So I decided to see what would happen to a family under the worst possible situation.
It turned out I love ending the world. This World We Live In is something of a sequel to two different books, Life As We Knew It and The Dead And The Gone. Both books deal with the immediate aftermath of the same worldwide catastrophe. In This World We Live In, the characters meet each other. The focus in all three books is simple everyday survival. Not just physical survival, but coping with emotional loss as well.
LD - Do you feel comfortable being placed in the same category as other post-apocalyptic authors like Richard Matheson, S. M. Stirling, and Steven R. Boyett?
SBP - When I wrote Life As We Knew It, I thought of it as a family problem novel, with a really really big problem. After it got shortlisted for the Andre Norton Award, I discovered it was science fiction. Since then I've learned it's post-apocalyptic. It is a tribute to my lack of knowledge of the field that I still can't spell apocalyptic.
LD - What's your favorite part of a typical day?
SBP - I have a kitten named Scooter who'll be a year old in February. Every morning around 7, he wakes up and plays what I call Purr On The Neck. He climbs on my face (sometimes he yanks my hair), and purrs ecstatically. Purr On The Neck can last for as long as ten minutes (at which point he tends to start playing Bite The Hand That Should Be Feeding Me).
I've had cats my entire adult life, but Scooter is the only one who's ever done this. It's our morning ritual. There's something quite luxurious about having a kitten proclaim how thrilled he is to be waking up with me.
LD - What's the simplest thing you never learned to do? Whistle? Skip? Ride a bike?
SBP - I'm not sure I remember how I learned to whistle (I'm an excellent whistler by the way, although I can't carry a tune when I sing), but I do remember being taught how to skip (by my brother) and how to tie shoelaces (by my mother). Both times I was stunned that I could actually master such complex tasks.
I never did manage bike riding though. I will never understand why grownups can't ride tricycles.
LD - What accomplishment are you most proud of?
SBP - I really don't like doing things for people. I don't like being asked to do a favor (and I try very hard not to ask other people to do favors for me).
Many many many years ago, a friend of mine asked me to go to a fast food place that was selling different Looney Tune glasses each week. For some reason she couldn't get there.
I did her the favor and I didn't resent doing it.
I remain very proud of myself for not feeling put upon.
LD - Who is the most under-appreciated author you know?
SBP - I have no idea.
I mostly read non-fiction. But I do have a real fondness for domestic thrillers from approximately 1950-1975. Husbands murdering wives. Wives murdering husbands. Perfectly ordinary people doing heinous things (or knowing someone doing heinous things).
It could be that entire genre is under-appreciated.
Thanks again to Sue for her time and answers!