An Interview with The Snow Child Author Eowyn Ivey

An Interview with Snow Child Author Eowyn Ivey

The Snow Child Author Eowyn Ivey


All good things come to those who wait and now The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey is out in paperback!

It has become one of my favourite books of all time, so here’s my review to explain why:

The story is set in the beautiful, yet harsh environment of 1950’s Alaska. Jack and Mabel are struggling, both to survive and to stay close as the land reaps few crops and the loss of their one and only child leaves a void between them.

One night the couple build a snowman of a little girl, complete with gentle features, scarf and mittens. The next morning when the snow girl is gone, with footsteps leading away into the woods. Soon the couple begin to see a young girl around the frozen forest, appearing and disappearing in an instant but wearing the scarf and mittens. Is she lost, is she real, are they suffering from cabin fever or has their snow child really come to life?

This modern fairytale is most definitely one of the most beautiful and heartwarming (and occasionally heartbreaking) books I have ever read. From the very first few pages, where Mabel walks into the wilderness and lets fate decide if she should live or die, by walking across the partially frozen river, I was stunned by the beauty of the writing and the imagery that really brings the Alaskan wilderness to life. Descriptions of snowflake patterns, crunching ice and cutting winds are so perfectly detailed, they’re enough to give you the shivers.

The characters are also beautifully crafted, especially Mabel. I wasn’t sure I was going to take to her at first but as you follow her through the trials of survival and hope in Alaska, she turns from a timid, broken lady to an admirably strong and confident character. Faina (the snow child) is also expertly portrayed as a beautifully elfin creature at one with the forest but also with enough detail of her history and survival in the woods to not let her become too sickly sweet and to always leave you wondering about the outcome to the tale.

No spoilers here but the ending is also fabulous. As soon as I finished it, I literally wanted to pick it up and start back from the beginning.

In short, I adored this book and just didn’t want to end, even though I was desperate to know what happened. It really is a fabulous story of hope, love, survival and friendship. If you need one recommendation for the coming year, this is it.

I was lucky enough to be able to pose a few questions to the lovely Eowyn and pick the brain behind this beautiful story –

Interview with Eowyn Ivey

The Snow Child has been a massive hit in hardback and looks to be only bigger in paperback, when you’d finished writing it, did you feel that you had written something that had the potential to be huge, or were you unsure of how people would react to it?

I never in my wildest imagination thought anything like this would happen. I work as a bookseller so I knew the odds were against me. I am not exaggerating when I say that each and every day I marvel at The Snow Child’s path.

Throughout the whole book, I just had no idea how it would end, did you know well in advance how you wanted the characters to end up?

Strangely, no. Like my main character Mabel, from the beginning, I had the different possible outcomes of the fairy tale. I also knew I could leave the fairy tale entirely and take the story in a different direction. It really wasn’t until I began to write the last few chapters that I knew, or perhaps accepted the inevitability, of how it was to end.

Do you have a favourite character in the book?

A wonderful question! I feel a great deal of sympathy for Mabel and Jack, and Esther was a lifesaver, but Faina was the most interesting to me as a writer. She was a way for me to explore the complex contradictions of the Alaska wilderness.

Was the story something you had in your head for a long time before you put pen to paper?

No. I tried to resist, but I couldn’t. When I was struck with the idea for The Snow Child, I had invested nearly five years in another, unfinished novel and felt like I should finish it first. But this new idea kept calling to me. After a few weeks, I abandoned the other novel and began doing research and jotting down ideas for The Snow Child.

I had never heard of the Russian fairytale that this book took inspiration from, was it something you grew up with or discovered in adulthood?

It seems strange to me now, but I had never heard of Snegurochka until a few years ago. At Fireside Books where I work, I stumbled on an illustrated retelling of the Russian fairy tale for children. It was only after I began to research the story that I realized it has been around for generations and inspired paintings, ballet and opera.

The Snow Child has also been beautifully written, have you done any writing courses or anything similar to encourage your style?

Thank you! I received my degree in journalism and worked as a newspaper reporter for about nine years before becoming a bookseller. I’ve attended writing workshops and conferences over the years. But beginning when I was a little girl and my mom read poems to me, I have been exposed to a lot of wonderful writing, and I would love to think that has influenced me as well.

Is there anything else in the pipeline from Eowyn Ivey we should be looking out for?

I am working on another novel. It’s still early, but like The Snow Child it is set in historical Alaska and has some magical/mythological elements. I’m having a lot of fun with it!

1 Comment

  1. Rebecca
    August 30, 2012 / 8:36 am

    Such beautiful artwork. I adored The Snow Child as well – I have two copies already!

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