It’s not often when reading a book that you know the exact venue where the action takes place, especially not in a book with a dystopian setting, but that’s exactly what happened when I read Snow by Gina Inverarity. I posted a pic of Chateau Tongariro on my Instagram account yesterday to celebrate this serendipity. But for now, sit back and read Gina’s fascinating answers to all my questions about her retelling of the fairytale Snow White. PS: If you’re after your next knitting project, keep reading to download the pattern of Snow’s shawl.
NLK: My burning question — where is the chateau located? Is it based on Chateau Tongariro on Mt Ruapehu? Also, I loved that you mentioned glow worms. Are they at Waitomo? How did you approach the real life geography of New Zealand in your story world?
GI: You’re absolutely right that Chateau Tongariro was a source of inspiration for the big old house in the book. I’ve never been inside but it really caught my imagination when we visited Mt Ruapehu a few years ago. But, using my authors’ licence, I actually picked up that chateau and put it down again somewhere in the northern high country of the South Island. That’s vaguely where the action takes place. In the book the geography has been changed by sea level rise which alters everything – very convenient for me, not so great overall. Glow worms are just so amazing – how can you not put them in a book? And I find it comforting to think of glow worms being here long before we were and still doing their thing long after we’re gone.
NLK: Can you please share some of your inspiration for the writing of Snow? What were some of the challenges in creating the story world?
GI: I worry constantly, like most sane people, about climate change and acting to prevent it. In Snow’s world climate collapse has happened and she is dealing with what happens ‘after’. I guess I wanted to pose the question, what happens then? And the consequences are not all bad but in general life is very hard and people don’t have much time for anything but surviving. So is that what we want? Can you live without the internet? Are you prepared to live on rabbits you’ve caught yourself? I’d prefer not to, really. So how do we travel into the future safely? Snow’s world is very simple – limited communications, limited power, limited resources. So following Snow’s example, maybe we can all learn to live with less.
NLK: The voice of Snow is very distinctive, how did you approach developing this voice? Can you please share some of the writing process behind writing the book?
GI: Snow’s voice came to me in one of those inspired moments. The first line of the book came into my head and I wrote it down. The inspiration behind that though is jealously and narcissism, those human vices that never go away. So Snow’s stepmother’s obsession with her mirror and the modern obsession with seeing yourself reflected in social media. The story developed from there and ended up taking a different direction in its main themes but that’s where it started. I do a lot of research when I’m writing. My internet search history is very strange! I’ll read up on everything from how to use the stars to navigate to watching YouTube videos of bears catching trout in rivers and then (probably unwisely) searching ‘what would be the best chemical to use if you wanted to poison a river?’ So that’s my writing process. It’s great fun using facts to make up stories.
NLK: Were you influenced by the many versions of Snow White? How? Can you please elaborate?
GI: I’ve always loved new versions of old stories. One of my all-time favourite movies is Clueless, a re-telling of ‘Emma’ by Jane Austen. And, I would argue, the movie rivals even the original book for its witty repartee and flawed characters. I think those kinds of versions can introduce new audiences to classic work by using modern language and relatable characters to allow readers to find their way in more easily. And as an editor and someone who has studied literature, I’m interested in the skeletons of stories, as in their underlying structure. Which is all a long way of saying that Snow White the fairytale is itself a version of an even older folk tale and so my book is another in a long line of re-imaginings. My version gives Snow more control and independence than she tends to have in the folktales. As I see her she’s a survivor, which she probably was all along, at least until Disney got involved and turned her into a maid.
NLK: How does a background in publishing influence your writing?
GI: It’s made me realistic about how hard it is to make and sell books and so how much people in the industry do it for the love of books and reading. That kind of passion and dedication is not something to take for granted so I really wanted to create something worthwhile and lasting. I also know a lot about the practical side of things like how many words to write, how to be thinking of your audience and how long the whole process can take from beginning to end.
NLK: Your love for the natural landscape shines through your storytelling. Can you please tell us about your forest and whether it influenced your depiction of trees in Snow?
GI: Actually we bought our forest after I wrote the book so I think the book influenced the purchase more than the other way around. But forests are magical, how can you walk through one and not wonder at the age and sturdiness of trees? All that they see and quietly let pass by? We travelled a lot when we first moved to New Zealand and like everyone who has ever been here says, it’s a spectacular place. I grew up in country South Australia where there is barely a hill, let alone a mountain, so being able to see snow-capped peaks in the distance from outside my house made a really big impression on me.
NLK: Do you have any advice for emerging writers?
GI: Look after the process and the results will speak for themselves. Which, by the way, is advice that applies to almost anything – baking, football, writing. It’s all in the details and day after day of putting in the time to practice. If you make noodles every day for your whole life, you’re eventually going to make some pretty good noodles.
About Gina Inverarity
Gina Inverarity worked for many years as an editor for a range of publishers. Her first children’s book, The Brown Dog, was published in 2017. Gina owns a forest in New Zealand and hopes to live in it one day. For now she lives in Wellington with her partner and two daughters. Snow is her first young adult novel.
Download Gina’s FREE design for the shawl worn by Snow.
Connect with Gina Inverarity
Read my review of Snow (Will be live on 8 May)
Watch the book trailer for Snow