Author interview: Eowyn Ivey on her début novel “The Snow Child”

Author photo (Courtesy of eowynivey.com)

Eowyn (pronounced A-o-win) Ivey is the début author of The Snow Child. her novel was listed in Oprah Magazine among 10 titles to “Pick Up Now” in the February issue of 2012. From London, The Times, Daily Express, and The Independent all name The Snow Child as a book to watch for in 2012. Her novel has also been selected for UK Waterstones prestigious “11” award. This book is my top pick for 2012 too!

A little bio on the author

Eowyn LeMay Ivey was raised in Alaska and continues to live there with her husband and two daughters. She received her BA in journalism and minor in creative writing through the honors program at Western Washington University, studied creative nonfiction at the University of Alaska Anchorage graduate program, and worked for nearly 10 years as an award-winning reporter at the Frontiersman newspaper.

I’m delighted that I get to interview Eowyn Ivey today. Please read on for lots of questions about the author and the book!

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Why do you write? What do you strive to elicit in your readers?

I write because I love to read. Since I was a little girl, I’ve adored the feeling of climbing inside a vivid story, of being completely in that other place with these other people. I guess if I have one simple goal as a writer, it’s to give that experience to a reader. When I receive a letter from someone who says they feel like they’ve been to Alaska and befriended my characters, I am exhilarated as a writer.

So, what are your inspirations for your writing?

Alaska. It’s the starting ground for my writing. All my essays and fiction are set here. It is a complicated place to live, so I think I write in part to try to understand its hold on me. That’s why the Russian fairy tale of the snow maiden really set my imagination alight when I first discovered it – here was a magical story set in a landscape that could be the Alaska wilderness. It was such a revelation to me.

For so many readers, your novel, The Snow Child, flawlessly captures the magical world of Alaska along with being a beautiful story. How do you describe The Snow Child?

US cover for "The Snow Child"

I hoped to show not just the romanticized beauty of Alaska, but also what a hard and lonely place it can be. The Snow Child is the story of a couple, aging and sad, who are trying to find a new life here, and of a wild little girl who helps them fall in love with the land.

Did you create The Snow Child from your experience in living in Alaska or from research?

It is very much based on my own life here, which eliminated some of the need for research. I’ve plucked chickens and butchered moose. My husband and I both grew up here, and we hunt for our meat for the year, and jar salmon and wild berry jam. We heat with a wood stove and haul water and grow a garden. But the difference is we do this out of choice, not necessity. We have the safety nets of modern society – banks and credit cards, grocery stores and electricity. I had to imagine what it would be like for Jack and Mable to live so close to the land that their very survival depended on it.

One of a writer’s hardest challenges is finding the time to juggle writing with other aspects of their lives. How have you balanced these aspects?

I have a very full life, and for that I’m grateful. But when I set my heart on writing, I can always find a way. Even if it’s just an hour at night after my daughters go to bed, or my lunch break at the bookstore. I’ve found that at least for me, it’s less about hours in the day than priorities. When writing is important enough to me, I make the time.

What has your experience been like on your path to publishing? (I heard you found your agent easier than most!)

My path has been entirely contrary to everything I ever heard or expected. I was only about three-quarters finished with my manuscript, and had no intention of pitching to an editor or agent, when I met Jeff Kleinman of Folio Literary Management at the Kachemak Bay Writers Conference here in Alaska. On a whim, and at the urging of my mom, I signed up to talk with him about my novel. He surprised me by asking to see the first hundred pages, and the next day at the conference offering to represent it. I was stunned. Then, after I worked for a year or so finishing and refining the manuscript, he took it out to publishers. When Little, Brown & Co. acquired it here in the United States, it simultaneously was picked up by publishers in the UK, Australia, German, Italy, and eventually in more than a dozen countries around the world. All of this was beyond my wildest dreams.

What’s next for you, Eowyn? Do fans have to wait long before they get to read your second novel? (Yes, I might actually die if it’s too long.)

Thank you for asking. I am working on another novel, one that will share some similarities with The Snow Child – historic Alaska, some fantastical elements. But I’m imagining this one to be more epic and adventurous in scope. It’s very early in the process yet, but I’m having a lot of fun with it.

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Thank you, Eowyn for chatting with me about your début novel. This is definitely one to look out for, book lovers. Don’t miss out on the book that everyone’s talking about. Links below:

Eowyn Ivey’s website

Eowyn Ivey’s blog

Places to buy The Snow Child

Follow her on Twitter

Readers, have you read The Snow Child already? Do you have any questions? 

12 thoughts on “Author interview: Eowyn Ivey on her début novel “The Snow Child”

  1. I was excited to see your references to author Arthur Ransome. During summers on a remote island off the coast of Maine we would read aloud his books about the Swallows and Amazons while the children washed the dishes. Our sailboat was named Swallow as well.

  2. Thanks for visiting my blog and liking ‘The Mouse & the Microlight’!1.

    Funnily enough I’ve just downloaded ‘The Snow Child’ onto my Kindle and will be reading it when I’ve finished my current book. T

    • Thanks for visiting. You know, I asked to review this book back in Nov. and now its a NYT bestseller in hardcover fiction. It’s so wonderful that it’ll probably make even more lists.

  3. I finished the book today. I was thrilled by the author’s wonderful characterization, use of metaphor, but mostly the flow and sway of her words. I have suggested this book to all my book club pals, as well as my own readers. Beautiful, fulfilling story.

    • It’s hard imagining many people thinking its a bad story. I mean, sure, it may not be everyone’s taste but it’s sill great. Period.

      Thanks for commenting! I hope the book club likes it too!

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