I can’t quite believe I’m doing this interview! One of my all-time favourite books is The Snow Child. It’s so magical and mysterious, and I always re-read it around Christmas. Not long ago, I sent The Snow Child’s author Eowyn Ivey a message on the off-chance that she might do a Q&A for my blog. I was so happy when she responded with a yes! So, here it is – my interview with one of my favourite authors! (beams with happiness)
The Snow Child is one of my favourite books. It’s why I’m beyond excited to have you on my blog! I know it’s inspired by folklore but I don’t know much about it! Can you tell me about the inspiration behind it?
Thank you for having me, Charlotte! The Snow Child was inspired by a Russian fairy tale called Snegurochka. It tells of an old man and woman who are unable to have children. One day they build a little girl out of snow and she comes to life. I wasn’t familiar with the story until years ago when I was working as a bookseller at Fireside Books here in Alaska. I was shelving books one evening, just before closing time, and I came across a children’s picture book that told the fairy tale in just a few sentences. I knew right then that it was the story I wanted to tell. I abandoned a different novel that I had been working on for almost five years and set out to write The Snow Child.
What is your new book, To the Bright Edge of the World, about? I can’t wait to read it!
My standing joke is that I’m going to have to volunteer at Fireside Books so I can find any future ideas for novels, because both of my books so far have been inspired by my work there. In the case of Bright Edge, my newest novel, it was an 1885 report of a real-life military expedition into the heart of Alaska. It came into the bookstore as a rare, out-of-print book and I was fascinated it. So the Bright Edge retells the expedition, but with fictionalized characters who, as they travel farther up the imaginary Wolverine River, encounter the fantastical. The expedition is led by Colonel Allen Forrester, and the other part of the story is told by his young wife, Sophie, who is facing her own adventures and hardships in his absence. The novel is told through journals, letters, documents and images.
Your books are both set in Alaska. Is Alaska a place you know well or did you just decide to set them there?
I know and love Alaska — I grew up here and still live here with my family. It’s where I start as a writer, and for now I can’t imagine writing about any other place.
How did you begin writing? Did you intend to become an author?
I always loved to read, and even in high school I was drawn to writing and literature classes. But in college I majored in journalism and I spent nearly 10 years working at a local newspaper. It was partly a pragmatic decision — I had no expectation that I could financially survive as a fiction writer. But eventually I realized that I should try writing what I have always loved to read — fiction! So I left the newspaper and went to work at Fireside Books, hoping that it would give me the time and creative energy to work on my own writing. It was the best decision I could have made at that time in my life.
If you had to write a book for a completely different audience and in a different genre to your usual writing, what would you pick?
Great question! I am intrigued by writing that merges multiple genres, especially that play with the concepts of memoir, fiction, poetry, and visual art, truth vs invention. It would be fun to try blurring those boundaries.
What authors do you like to read? What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
As a bookseller and avid reader, I could go on for hours about the books I’ve read and loved. The first novel that made me want to be a better writer, that made me hope that someday I might write a novel, was Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich. She and many other authors fill me with awe — Toni Morrison, Annie Proulx, Marilynne Robinson, Larry McMurtry, Cormac McCarthy, Wallace Stegner. I love to read poetry and nonfiction adventure stories and … see, I could go on and on. Specifically while writing Bright Edge, I looked to books as varied as Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and William Vollman’s The Ice-Shirt for inspiration. Right now I’m reading Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow, several nonfiction books about bear attacks, and listening to the audiobooks of The Lord of the Rings.
I think The Snow Child would make a great film. Would you like to see your stories adapted for the screen, or are you happy with them being left as books?
Actually, The Snow Child has been optioned for a film by Tangerine Entertainment, and I recently read over their screenplay. I was thrilled and impressed with the approach. It has also been made into an opera in the UK, and another team including Alaskan producers are looking at taking it to the stage as a musical. It’s fun because when I was researching the Snegurochka fairy tale, I discovered all these beautiful Russian paintings and lacquered boxes that were inspired by scenes from the fairy tale, and they in turn inspired me. I love the idea of art begetting more art, and more art. As for the specifics of how The Snow Child is transformed into something different, like a film or stage production, I feel as if I’ve let go of the story and it’s on to new adventures without me.
I’m going to end on an evil question (sorry)… if you could never write again or never read another book, which would you choose?
Actually that isn’t a hard of question for me — I would choose to read, always and forever.
So, there we have it! Thank you so much to Eowyn for stopping by and answering a few questions.
I loved coming up with the questions and reading the answers! I can’t wait to see if The Snow Child film works out, and I would absolutely love to see a musical version. I also can’t wait to read To the Bright Edge of the World!
Click the photos of The Snow Child and To the Bright Edge of the World below to buy them. (affiliate links)
About Eowyn Ivey
Eowyn Ivey’s first novel, The Snow Child, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction and an international bestseller. Her newest novel To the Bright Edge of the World will be released August 2, 2016. Eowyn was raised in Alaska and continues to live there with her husband and two daughters.