Eowyn Ivey, author of the magical and beautifully written, THE SNOW CHILD, came all the way from Alaska to New Zealand, and Chelsey chatted with her about her debut novel.
Your debut novel, THE SNOW CHILD is beautifully written! I understand that it’s inspired by the Russian fairy tale of the snow maiden. How did you come across the original fairy tale?
I worked at a bookstore in Alaska and was re-shelving books when I came across the Russian folk tale, SNEGUROCHKA. It really spoke to me, and the moment I read it I knew I had to do something with it – that it was the one. I’d actually been working on another novel for some time, and I’m not normally one to just abandon something I’ve been working on, but I did to work on The Snow Child.
But the novel isn’t really a straight re-telling, is it? Mabel, the protagonist actually reads SNEGUROCHKA in THE SNOW CHILD.
No it’s not a complete retelling, and I realised that the story had already been told in lots of ways. This was way freeing, because The Snow Child is instead a conversation between the characters and me and the original tale.
Because the book is based on a fairy tale, it would have been easy to write it as a retelling for children. Why did you choose to write THE SNOW CHILD for adults?
Because children aren’t really my interest as a writer. THE SNOW CHILD for me was an exciting path to a magical story – for adults.
Can you tell Chelsey’s readers about THE SNOW CHILD?
THE SNOW CHILD is based on the Russian folk tale of the snow maiden, but I took it and set it in 1920s Alaska. There, Jack and Mabel are struggling to make a home when a little girl appears after they build a child out of snow.
Why did you choose THE SNOW CHILD in the 1920s?
I’m not a historical writer, but for me it was a practical matter. The novel wouldn’t work if it was set now, because if there was a little girl running around the forest, authorities would be involved with helicopters to track her down!
Your depiction of Alaska is that it is incredibly magical, but also a very tough place to live – at least in the 1920s. You live in Alaska yourself – what is it like to live there now?
There are places in Alaska where you can live in an apartment, with coffee houses down the road, but where I live is still the wilderness. It’s a challenging place to live and many are fairly self-sustainable. At the same time, Alaska has been romanticized by others, and I wanted to explore that in the novel.
THE SNOW CHILD has received fantastic reviews, and high praise. Did you have any inkling that it would be this popular?
I didn’t allow myself to think this would happen to the book once I’d finished it, I was always very excited about the idea [of THE SNOW CHILD]. It’s just flabbergasting!
The novel has also been published in several languages. What has the reception been like in other countries.
I get emails from all over the world, and Norway had THE SNOW CHILD on its bestseller list for months, so it’s been going great!
What sort of books do you like to read?
Contemporary fiction is my first love!
Are you working on any writing projects at the moment?
The publishing process takes much longer than I realised, but I started something new when THE SNOW CHILD was first acquired. I’m part way into it and it’s set in Alaska as well, but it’s not a sequel.
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