By: Maria Alexander
Publisher: Raw Dog Screaming Press
Publication Date: November 2nd, 2016
Charity Jones is a 16-year-old engineering genius who’s much-bullied for being biracial and a skeptic at her conservative school in Oak County, California. Everything changes when Charity’s social worker mother brings home a sweet teen runaway named Aidan to foster for the holidays. Matched in every way, Charity and Aidan quickly fall in love. But it seems he’s not the only new arrival: Charity soon finds the brutally slain corpse of her worst bully and she gets hard, haunting evidence that the killer is stalking Oak County. As she and her Skeptics Club investigate this death and others, they find at every turn the mystery only grows darker and more deadly. One thing’s for certain: there’s a bloody battle coming this holiday season that will change their lives – and human history – forever.
Will they be ready?
1) If you emptied out your purse, wallet, desk drawer, pockets, backpack, beach bag, saddlebag, or fanny pack, what would we find?
My purse itself is actually far more interesting than its contents. It’s a Wild Thing backpack I call Trog. (The band The Trogs wrote the song “Wild Thing,” after all.) He has amazing artistic detail and hangs on my back like he’s clinging to my shoulders. He was quite the international icebreaker when I was living in France, where they’ve never heard of Where the Wild Things Are. And, yes, he gets lots of attention.
If you’re familiar with Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, you could say Trog is my daemon. I told Pullman this in a fan letter and he sent me a postcard back. Absolutely thrilled me.
2) What is your writing process? Are you a plotter or a panster?
I come from a screenwriting background. So, structure is very important to me, which means I outline. When I started Snowed, I thought I was writing this sweet magical romance. But something terrible fell out of nowhere at the end of Chapter 5 – something I hadn’t anticipated but it felt right. (If you’ve read the book, you know what that is.) That’s when I realized I was actually writing something very dark. I went back and totally revised the outline. I’m working on the sequel, Inversion. The first draft only took three months because I knew the broad strokes and all the characters. So, I don’t always need a thorough outline to write, but I do need to know the big moments.
3) What is your number one writing tip?
If you want to be a writer, join the writing community. Go to conventions. Join writer organizations. Meet other writers, editors, publishers. This makes it real and introduces you to people with whom you aspire to do business.
4) Describe your book in 5 words or less
A wicked, kickass Christmas mystery.
5) What are some “fun facts” you can share about the characters from your book or the world you created for it that may or may not have made it to the final draft of the book?
- Most of the kids bullying Charity all go to the same evangelical church, which employs a toxic youth pastor who’s steeped more in the crazy thinking of our current political climate than the Bible. He encourages their worst behavior.
- Some of the more decorative parts for Charity’s robot Miss Yoyodyne came from a movie studio through her friend and FIRST teammate Mark Vandermeer back when she was living in Los Angeles. Mark’s dad was a prop master for a few major science fiction movies. A lot of the material he gave them wasn’t strong enough, but some pieces worked very well.
- Charity’s favorite color is purple and anything with galaxies on it.
- Charity’s parents met at a Doctor Who viewing party. They’re huge nerds.
6) Do you have a special story behind your inspiration for the book?
Many years ago, on a miserable November night, I was feeling especially Grinchy as I was driving home from an awful, long-distance job. I’d always had a tempestuous relationship with Christmas. So when an instrumental version of “Carol of the Bells” came on the radio, it struck me as the darkest piece I’d ever heard. I’d just read Neil Gaiman’s “Nicholas Was,” which already had me in a myth-twisting mood. By the time I got home, I had a new story in my head, and all I had to do was sit and write. “Coming Home” was the result: a wicked flash fiction piece that was part social commentary, part bah-humbug, and completely surprising. I shared it with Neil, and he said, “This is the story I should have written.” That floored me, of course, but it was wonderfully validating.
It was published a dozen times and stolen even more before it was produced as a one-act play by Women in Theater in Los Angeles, and even adapted to podcast by Pseudopod.org. But I knew it had potential to be a bigger work. I didn’t really figure out how to adapt it to novel, though, until late 2012.
7) Who was your favorite character to write and who gave you the most trouble?
Oh, god, I had so much joy writing everyone that I can hardly say. I’d say Leo gave me the most trouble because he really was as shy in my imagination as he was as a character. I had to coax him out, unlike everyone else who pretty much leapt from my fingertips. (Or, rather, tongue because I dictated the first draft.)
8) If you could ask a character of your choice from SNOWED one question what would it be?
I’d ask Mrs. Cartwright what the hell she was thinking not dealing with things sooner, but I know the answer to that question.
9) What scene from the book are you most proud of (because of how you handled the atmosphere, characters, dialogue, etc)?
I wish I could answer this question. The book’s twists and turns are too explosive to discuss any scene past Chapter 5. But I’ll tell you this: I was highly self-conscious about being white and writing from the POV of a girl of color. Two of my beta readers were teens mixed like Charity. I also spent almost two years on mixed girl Tumblrs, just reading and learning. Listening. I tried to do that with all the diverse characters in the book, although I could have done better for Keiko. I’m open to anyone contacting me who has problems with or praise for these characters.
10) Is there a scene that you had difficulty with and just had to “power through” to finish the book?
11) What is next for you? What are you currently working on?
I’m very close to finishing the sequel, Inversion. And I’m also working on another YA novel (possibly a series) about the historical marvel known as La Maupin, the renowned 17th century swordswoman and opera star. Genderqueer and bisexual, her real name was Julie d’Aubigny. The story starts when she’s 16 and already a deadly force when she meets a horrific threat to both the people of France and herself. There’s more magic in France than a thousand Englands – and none if it’s good. France needs Julie’s blade and bravery to save them from the darkness rising before it’s too late.
Maria Alexander is a produced screenwriter, games writer, virtual world designer, award-winning copywriter, fiction writer, and poet. Her stories have appeared in publications such as Chiaroscuro Magazine, Gothic.net and Paradox, as well as acclaimed anthologies with legends such as Clive Barker, David Morrell and Heather Graham.
Her debut novel, Mr. Wicker, won the 2014 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Publisher’s Weekly called is, “(a) splendid, bittersweet ode to the ghosts of childhood,” while Library Journal hailed it in a Starred Review as “a horror novel to anticipate.” She’s represented by Alex Slater at Trident Media Group.
When she’s not wielding a katana at her local shinkendo dojo, she’s being outrageously spooky or writing Doctor Who filk. She lives in Los Angeles with two ungrateful cats, a pervasive sense of doom, and a purse called Trog.
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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us. The author info, image, giveaway, and more were provided by The Fantastic Flying Book Club.