Sandra Dallas, a former Denver bureau chief for Business Week magazine, is the author of 18 novels, five middle-grade novels, and 10 nonfiction books.  A member of the Colorado Authors Hall of Fame, she is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2023 Colorado Book Award for historical fiction for “Little Souls.”

SunLit: Tell us this book’s backstory. What inspired you to write it? Where did the story/theme originate?

Sandra Dallas: I read a book on the Spanish Flu and about how people were so frightened of it that when someone died inside a house, the residents often took the body outside and left it on the parking for the death wagon to pick it up. I thought, Wow!  What a great way to cover up a murder! 

So I wrote “Little Souls” and sent it off.  The reaction was, “Who cares about the Spanish Flu?”  Fast forward six or seven years when COVID was underway. My agent called and asked, “Remember that manuscript you wrote on the Spanish Influenza?”  

SunLit: Place this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the book as a whole? Why did you select it?

Dallas: The excerpt sets the stage for the book — the fear of Spanish Flu, and later, how it could be used to hide a murder victim. It also establishes the connection between sisters Lutie and Helen.

SunLit: Tell us about creating this book. What influences and/or experiences informed the project before you sat down to write? 

Dallas: I read a great deal about the Spanish Flu and came to understand the fear people had of it, much as people a hundred years later feared COVID.  


Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at

SunLit: Once you began writing, did the story take you in any unexpected directions? If so, how would you describe dealing with a narrative that seems to have a mind of its own?

Dallas: My narratives all have a mind of their own.  I don’t outline.  I know how the book starts and have a good idea of how it will end. I don’t know how I’ll get there.  Characters and situations jump out at me while I’m writing.  

I have to be receptive to them. I thought Lutie’s boyfriend Will’s very wealthy family would be snooty and look down on her, for instance.  It turned out that from the start, they were kind and compassionate and loved her.

SunLit: What were the biggest challenges you faced, or surprises you encountered in completing this book? 

Dallas: The biggest surprise was Will’s mother’s backstory.  I’d thought she would have been just another girl from a rich family.  It turned out she had a sordid background.

SunLit: Has the book raised questions or provoked strong opinions among your readers? If so, how did you address them?

“Little Souls”

>> Read an excerpt

Where to find it:

SunLit present new excerpts from some of the best Colorado authors that not only spin engaging narratives but also illuminate who we are as a community. Read more.

Dallas: The book was not controversial.  The biggest response was from people who knew nothing about the Spanish Flu and how similar the reaction was to that of COVID.

SunLit: Walk us through your writing process: Where and how do you write.

Dallas: I write a page a day, single-spaced, about 600 words, then the steam runs out.  Next day, I edit that page, and add another page. Third day, I edit the first two pages and write another, and so on until the pages get unwieldy, and I start over again.  

Writing can take an hour to three hours, but I’m always thinking about the book, and I go back to my computer 10 or 20 times a day to make an addition, change a word or a name, rewrite a paragraph.  I always keep paper with me to write down ideas or record a conversation I’ve just overheard. Writers today also spend an enormous amount of time on promotion. 

SunLit: How did youconduct research for your book?

Dallas: Research was one of the things I liked best about writing “Little Souls.”  The places in the book — Baur’s restaurant, “The Great White Way,” Colfax Avenue, City Park and ice skating, and Capitol Hill are all real places that existed in Denver in 1918.  I knew many of these places only 30 years later, when I moved to Denver as a girl, in 1948.  

I even incorporated my experience as an employee at Neusteter’s, a woman’s specialty store. I don’t much like reading microfilm, but I did spend time in the Western History Department of the Denver Public Library researching Denver in 1918, as well as looking at Neusteter’s ads to find out what was fashionable. 

There are descriptions of those ads in “Little Souls.” I put all this into the story just because I wanted to, but it turned out that was one of the things readers — at least those in Colorado — liked best about the book. 

SunLit: Tell us about your next project.

Dallas: I’ve just published “Where Coyotes Howl,” a novel about a cowboy and a school teacher who marry and go to ranching in Wyoming in 1916.  It is a hard-edged story about the challenges settlers faced — starvation, domestic abuse, unending work, heat and cold and wind, and even madness — set against the deep love of a young couple.

Quick hits: A quirky collection of questions

SunLit: Do you look forward to the actual work of writing or is it a chore that you dread but must do to achieve good things?

Dallas: I dreaded writing nonfiction, because I knew exactly what I had to do: get notes and other information into a readable form. But I love writing fiction, because I never know what’s going to happen, and sometimes there are real surprises. 

Once I realized toward the end of my book that two of my main characters were going to marry each other. I was so happy that I hugged myself. And they were pretty happy, too.

SunLit: What’s the first piece of writing – at any age – that you remember being proud of?

Dallas: A perfectly awful poem about my favorite sport.  I won a pair of ice skates with it.  I think I was nine or 10.

SunLit: When you look back at your early professional writing, how do you feel about it? Impressed? Embarrassed? Satisfied? Wish you could have a do-over?

Dallas: My first professional writing was for Business Week magazine. I was an assistant and later bureau chief (the first bureau chief in the magazine’s history).  Because the article went through various editors, who made it much better, it was very professional, so I was proud of it.

SunLit: What three writers, from any era, can you imagine having over for a great discussion about literature and writing? And why?

Dallas: I would be much too tongue-tied to ever invite my favorite authors to dinner, especially since I am a bad cook.

SunLit: Do you have a favorite quote about writing?

Dallas: The chapter title in Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird”: “Really shitty first drafts.”

SunLit: What does the current collection of books on your home shelves tell visitors about you?

Dallas: I have books that I’m reviewing, books that I’m using for reference for what I’m working on, books on slang, books on the West, my books in various editions, and antique books (such as ”Gody’s Lady’s Book”) because I want people to think I’m a bibliophile.  Usually people say, “That’s a lot of books.”

SunLit: Soundtrack or silence? What’s the audio background that helps you write?

Dallas: Silence.

SunLit: What event, and at what age, convinced you that you wanted to be a writer?

Dallas: It was in the back of my mind since grade school.  But I really decided on it in high school when I realized I wouldn’t make it as a movie star.

SunLit: As an author, what do you most fear?

Dallas: Rejection.

SunLit: Also as an author, what brings you the greatest satisfaction?

Dallas: Royalty checks.