Nobel Prize Winning Interview with Colette Snowden

Hello to the survivors of 2020, I am 100% certain that 2021 is gonna be completely different to 2020, much calmer and more huggier….what!?! another lockdown already? Well it didn’t take long for the fan to get by the brown stuff did it? Also, I’m still being ignored by the Nobel Prize committee, even though I call each interview prize winning…oh well I’ll wear them down eventually. To help keep my sanity in the crazy zone I’m going to put more effort into doing these interviews. First up is Colette Snowden, her second book (the amazingly titled Captain Jesus) is released at the end on January, you can pre-order it HERE: Everybody flap enthusiastically at Colette!

Q1: How have you been handling the pandemic?

I bought a 16kg bag of flour from an enterprising local when panic buying emptied the shelves at the start of the first lockdown, then baked a lot and drank a lot of wine (sometimes at the same time). There was some walking up hills and celebrating being able to go places when lockdown eased, followed by a Zoom social life and more wine in tier 4. The virus got me in December, just in time to save me from the Christmas food shop, and I’m starting the year with a recently acquired dog and a horror of home schooling – all the clichés except banana bread really.

Q2: I’m absolutely gutted for you having your book launch in the middle of the current lockdown. Have you got any unique plans of getting the book out there? Any online events planned?

There is a virtual launch on Wednesday 27th January at 7.30pm, which anyone can attend by emailing for an invite. I’m really sad that I won’t get to be physically in a room with people for the launch because meeting people and chatting was something I really enjoyed when my first book, The Secret to Not Drowning, was published. Readers’ experience of a book is so personal to them and the ability to talk and hear individuals’ stories of how the narrative has touched a chord with them is a really special thing. However, there are lots of upsides to doing launch events online – no-one has to travel so anyone can join in, bad weather and childcare won’t keep people away, there’s a brew or a bar down the hall, and if you can’t decide what to wear you can just rock up in your PJs.

Q3: Tell us a bit about Captain Jesus, what is it about and how did you come up with the idea?

Captain Jesus is a story across two narratives, told by Jim, a 10-year-old boy, in the present, and Marie, Jim’s mother, when she was a 16-year-old girl in the 1990s. In the present day narrative, we meet Jim’s family just before a tragedy happens and the story takes us through how it impacts them. In Marie’s narrative, we learn about the events that shaped her adult life and her mother’s, which explain Marie’s responses to the tragedy and the role of guilt and bitterness.

I set out to write a novel about faith and the different forms it takes. My theory is that, as children, we put all our faith in our parents and, when we can no longer do that because they are only human, just like us, we need to put our faith in something else. For some people that’s religion, or it might be superstition, astrology, nature, or a God substitute, like a lucky charm. It might even be a combination of things. That idea led me to a Catholic family and a magpie, but the actual starting point was my neighbour’s washing line. They had black pegs on the empty line, which looked like birds (I am short-sighted; it’s an advantage for exercising the imagination). So I began with the visual image of a magpie pegged on the washing line in a pseudo-resurrection and went from there.

I write quite organically [does that sound better than with a serious lack of planning?] so I didn’t know where the story would go. It was only when I read it back that I realised that it’s as much about loss and healing as it is about faith.

Q4: This here blog is the Gnome Appreciation Society and whilst reading Captain Jesus I noticed no Gnomes, there is a garden in your story and yet no Gnome. What gives?

You didn’t see the gnomes? Is that a failure or my imagination or yours?

Ha! I also suffer from bad eye-sight, unfortunately so bad it ruins my imagination.

Q5: Are you much of a reader? What is your favourite book?

I think all writers are also readers, which can be a catalyst for sitting down and writing and a source or creeping imposter syndrome. It’s those books that you read and wish with every chapter that you’d written it that become the benchmark for everything you read and everything you write.

Favourite book is a hard one to call because there are so many to choose from and so many I haven’t read yet. I’m going to say Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was by Sjón; there is so much packed into so few pages and a really beautiful ending.

Not heard of Moonstone, sounds interesting, another book added to the epic reading list.

Q6: What set up do you have for writing? Nice view? Any music playing in the background?

I prefer quiet and an empty room if I can. Between working and lone parenting time is precious, so a lot of Captain Jesus was written in the early morning when it was dark outside with just me, my laptop and a pot of coffee. It was good to focus on making the most of the time before I was pulled away by school runs and work and a great way to tap into my half-awake creative brain.

Q7: I have seen on twitter that you have been posting some images to show scenes from Captain Jesus which I think is a great idea, how about a soundtrack for the book? Care to name a few songs that would go well with the reading experience?

I like the idea of a soundtrack but I think my need for quiet when I’m writing means that I don’t associate the story with songs. There are a couple of references in the book that might be the start of a play list – Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping and some Spice Girls; I’d probably go for Viva Forever. If I were travelling back in time to 1997, my playlist would be full of Oasis and the Charlatans so I’d throw them in, and perhaps some classics that link to sunny days in the garden but have dark undertones – Mr Blue Sky, Seasons in the Sun, Perfect Day.

Mr Blue Sky, that one goes so well with the book.

Q8: If you could go into a book or movie as one of the characters which book would you choose and how would you influence the story?

On a purely soppy, emotional level I would be Cathy in Wuthering Heights. At the point where Heathcliff overhears her saying she could never marry him, I’d make sure I/she noticed he was standing there and that he heard the end of the sentence about how much she loves him. Then they could both be saved from the miserable stuff that happens afterwards. It would be a much shorter book though and I’m still not sure it would be a happy ending for either of them.

As my very wise English teacher told us, by all means fall in love with Mr Rochester but don’t fall for a Heathcliff. Excellent advice.

Q9: What is your favourite meal? And if you could pick one person to share that meal with who would you pick?

I love Moroccan food, so maybe a lamb tagine with couscous and a salad grown under a hot sun as nature intended. At this moment in time, the one person I would share it with is my mum – she’s been shielding for the best part of a year so it would be wonderful to sit down for a meal with her.

Q10: What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve done during the lockdown and if we are ever free of the rules again what is the first thing you’ll do?

I’m not sure I’ve done anything embarrassing during lockdown – it’s been a pretty quiet and fairly dull time. I did have a ‘Get Cummings Out’ poster in my window for months, which people assumed had been drawn by my 11-year-old, but I did it with her felt tips. I’m very proud of that terrible artwork though, and I’d like to think it tipped the balance for his resignation in the end.

When we’re free of rules I will go to interesting places every weekend, visiting people I’ve not seen, except on a screen, for months and using my red passport as much as I can across Europe before I’m forced to trade it in for a black one.

The rainbow was my daughter’s handiwork

Q11: What plans you got for the future, you made a start on the next book?

Yes, I have started the next book and I’m enjoying writing something that’s quite different from what I’ve done before – third person narrative and multiple points of view across a really defined and restricted time frame. I have another one in mind after that, but it involves travelling to somewhere that’s not very accessible to do some research/experience the place, so we’ll see if I can make that happen. Definitely a project for after lockdowns of all kinds are lifted!

That is fantastic news, I still have to read The Secret To Not Drowning but it is great to know there is more on the way.

Practical task: I am doing a gnome gallery on my blog, can you create a piece of artwork based on Gnomes, can be any medium and you are welcome to name the piece.

Gnome biscuit made by Jenny from Captain Jesus

Fantastic idea, biscuit art!

Thank you to Colette for taking part in this, I really enjoyed finding out about how Captain Jesus came about. If like me you want to stalk Colette then you can find her on TWITTER and FACEBOOK.

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