All Shona wants is a simple life with her young son, and to get free of Maynard, the ex who’s still living in the house. When her teenage daughter goes missing, she’s certain Maynard is the culprit. Her mother, Greta, is no help as she’s too obsessed with the devil. Her Uncle Jimmy is fresh out of prison and has never been entirely straight with her. Then there’s the shaman living in her shed. Shona soon discovers that the secrets she buried are as dangerous as the family curse haunting her mother.
- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Sandstone Press Ltd. (16 Feb. 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1910985546
Short of saying get out there and buy this, there is nothing I can actually tell you without going above and beyond the synopsis. This book goes at a nice easy pace with a lot of different components within the story. Shonas mother is called Greta and her parts of the story are in the first person narrative, which I loved, and the rest is in the third person narrative which comes across as Greta seeing everything that is unfolding. I remember as the story reached its climax I could feel my chest tighten, then a sense of awe and release come over me. While reading, I actually felt like I was hovering over everything as it happened and could do nothing but watch.
I want to welcome the author of ‘The Devil in the Snow’, Sarah Armstrong and thank her and Sandstone Press for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.
Hi, Sarah. Thanks for being here, on this the last day of your blog tour. This is both my first blog tour and author interview. I am very pleased to be part of this blog tour as I really enjoyed the book.
What was your inspiration for this story? I ask because as I read, it truly felt like it was unfolding in front of me as if I was a part of the story.
Hi, and thanks for having me! This novel developed from lots of different ideas that all came together. I knew that I wanted to write about a woman whose marriage had failed after the loss of a child. When I realised that my main character lived in Colchester near a C20th fairy sighting, I started to think about all sorts of folktales, like the devil’s hoof prints in Devon, and more local ones, like the Green Children who appeared in Woolpit. I remembered that someone had said, in passing, how weird Coggeshall was because of the crossed ley lines. I started to wonder what was behind these stories, because the ideas behind them linger. At the same time, I was reading non-fiction about Greenland, and art fraud, and everything began to link around my original idea of the broken family.
Greta was my favourite character, something about her spoke to me and it wasn’t just because her narrative was in the first person. Who is your favourite character in the book and why?
Oh, I’m glad – Greta is my favourite too! The whole novel is contained by Greta because only she can see everything, and everyone, for what they truly are. She is the one with the real fight on her hands and doesn’t even think of backing away.
Absolutely! She had me holding my breath and tearing up at the end.
Near the start, you reference Heaney and ‘Jonathan Livingstone Seagull’, a poet and a book that have both impacted my life greatly. Are there any writers or books that have impacted you as a person and possibly gave you the inspiration to become a writer?
There are so many books that have become almost like memories, but the odd thing about the ones you have mentioned is their link to my life. My uncle was the Heaney family vet in Northern Ireland, and Heaney was linked through his friendship with Ted Hughes to the poet I studied for my PhD, Sidney Keyes. In 1990 I had met a Dutch woman who had legally changed her name to Jonathan after reading Jonathan Livingstone Seagull. It struck me as almost an act of worship, and books can be life changing in strange ways. There are so many writers I admire now, but I think those early writers of my childhood, John Gordon, Rosemary Sutcliffe and Alan Garner, are where it all started.
Wow, that is all so amazing. Sidney Keyes lived too short a life but his writings were prolific. My biggest regret with Heaney was missing out on a lecture he was taking but his words live on. I can totally get where the Dutch lady was coming from…like you said, ‘books can be life changing in strange ways’.
What is your writing format? I would love to know if you are someone who brainstorms, starts at the end and works back or possibly you are a free writer who has the story reveal itself like an orchid flower as the petals of the bud open daily and eventually the beauty within is visible.
So far, it has been a different approach each time. For The Insect Rosary, I knew the place was important and framed everything else – people would come and go to the farm, but the farm would almost remain unchanged by them. It also started as a Nanowrimo novel, so I had a notebook of sketchy outlines and just wrote it. The Devil in the Snow was about the links and connections between people and times, and I needed to plan it much more carefully. For both novels, I couldn’t start writing without some idea of where the ending would be, even if the ending changed as I went along.
When writing, do you aim for an amount of words or pages a day or do you just write for as long as you feel the creativity flow?
I need to be horribly practical about it. I have four children and I teach with the Open University, and months can go by without writing a word. I keep notebooks handy to catch ideas, and I know what I’ll be writing when I get the chance. Sometimes it’s tricky to get back into it, and sometimes it’s exciting to remember where I have got to.
Are we going to have the good fortune of seeing any more of your work anytime soon?
I hope so, given the time to write! My next novel is about a woman who is determined to make her son perfect. I know where it is set, but I’m not sure about when.
As a parent I could totally relate, then again we won’t know until the book gets released!!
This is a question I ask everyone because I believe it says a lot about a person. Do you write your drafts of books or whatever else using pen and paper or do you hop straight to the keyboard? Personally, I am a pen and paper person.
I think pen and paper is essential for the planning and exploring stage, and I normally write the first couple of pages by hand before I type it up. Once I start typing, I return to paper to work out plots and complications.
When reading, what is your favourite genre and how do you prefer to read your books? With the handiness of e-readers it has become more convenient to use an e-reader however for me nothing beats the smell and feel of a paperback in my hands.
My favourite genre is literary fiction, but I read a lot of historical fiction and SF as well, and there are some great YA fantasy authors, like Patrick Ness. I have never owned an e-reader, and am so happy about the resurgence in paper books. There was something cold about not being able to lend or borrow a loved book. Of course, I am a bit short on shelves…
Gosh, sounds a bit like my house!
Is there anything about yourself that you would like our lovely readers to know about yourself? Possibly the ability to lick your elbow??
When I volunteer at the local Harry Potter Book Night to make spell books, I make a pretty good witch!
Thank you so much for your time and I am going right now to buy a copy of your first book ‘The Insect Rosary’ and get stuck into it ASAP. Between enjoying your writing style and the fact it is set where I live it is a must for me.
Thank you, that’s so nice to hear! I’m in Belfast in April, presenting a paper at Damsels in Distress, a fairy tale conference at Queen’s University. It will be great to be back!
I hope you enjoy yourself at the conference! I was for attending but unfortunately, the dates don’t suit…ah well, what can be done?!
Thank you again and thanks to Sandstone Press for inviting me to be part of this blog tour and providing me with a copy of ‘The Devil in the Snow’.
If you missed out on the rest of the blog tour you can catch up right here:
Meet the Author
Sarah Armstrong teaches creative writing with the Open University. Her short stories have been published in magazines and anthologies, and her novels are published by Sandstone Press. Sarah lives in Essex with her husband and four children.