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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Interview: Silent as the Snow by Emily Pattullo

Emily Pattullo is a writer of many things, including poems, songs, and her first novel, Ring Around Rosie, a story for teenagers about child trafficking. She has worked extensively in magazine publishing in London and then for a time in New Zealand. Emily talks to NZ Booklovers about her new novel.

Tell us a little about Silent as the Snow.

Silent as the Snow is about four friends, Anna, Rudy, Seth and Dougal. One snowy night, when they are teenagers, they accidentally kill someone – then it snows, covering everything up. They decide to keep it a secret but then one of them is accused of murder and sent to prison. Twenty years later they are brought together following a funeral, but it soon becomes clear that what each of them recalls of the accident isn’t what the others remember. The story then unravels the intricacies of what happened all those years ago, and how an unusual sequence of events changed four lives forever.


What inspired you to write this book?

I have always been interested in how the experiences we have and the decisions we make as young people shape us so radically as adults. I wanted to write a story surrounding a big, life changing event that gave me the opportunity to unpick the lives of the characters to reveal their true selves underneath the trauma. It gives me a lot to work with around characterisation, which is what I’m most riveted by when writing a story. And I also like to focus on the question, how well do we really know anyone, especially those closest to us?


What research was involved?

The biggest part of my research, which is something I do constantly anyway, is to observe others and ask many, many questions! I have always been curious about what makes people tick, why they are the way they are, who they were as children versus who they are now, and what defined that.


What was your routine or process when writing this book?

I spent a lot of time in the library, for a change of scene and the quiet. I can write at home but sometimes it’s nice to ‘go’ to work; there are less distractions! I always listen to music when I write too, as it can be very emotive which I find helps with bringing out the feeling in a story.


If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

The accident actually occurs in 1990, so because the book has flashbacks to that time I would include a song by The Cure; in fact the band is actually mentioned in one of the scenes, as Anna and her friends are into that kind of music. Also, something by Pearl Jam. Then, for the ‘present’ time, I would include ‘Circles' by WILDES.


If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?

I don’t now about the four friends, but I would love Gillian Anderson to play Anna’s mother, Olivia.


What did you enjoy the most about writing Silent as the Snow?

Quite a bit of what I write is ‘unconscious’ so the best parts are often when I read back something I’ve just written and am surprised by where the story has gone, often not where I had originally thought! And I’m like, oh, yeah, that was a good idea, wish I’d thought of that!


What’s next on the agenda for you?

I am currently revisiting a story I started before Silent as the Snow, called Missing Sunny Day. It’s similar in that it’s character driven, with a dark event at its centre that is unravelled through the characters and how they deal with it and with each other. 


I have also written, and am soon to release, a creative journal called 12 Creative Steps to a Fulfilling Life, which explores, through writing and drawing, what steps might be needed to move towards a more fulfilling life.

Photo: Rachel Bevan


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