Interview with Amy Aderman

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
As it happens, one of the first stories I remember writing involved an enchanted mirror. My English class in elementary school had to take some kind of test that involved creative writing. We were given a prompt and told to write a story about it. Our prompt was that you come across a strange mirror lying around one day. What happens?

From what I remember, I wrote a story in which the mirror allowed the person who had it to travel through time. The mirror may very well have been broken, too.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born and raised in Western New York, which turned out to be very influential during the writing of "The Way to Winter." Several of the experiences the characters have during the winter were based on my own experiences, such as when Gerda, Kai, and Eva are walking upon the frozen surface of Lake Ontario. When I was a teenager, I once went for a brief walk on the shores of one of the Finger Lakes during the winter. I thought that the sand was strangely lumpy and it took several minutes before I realized that instead of land, I was walking on the lake itself. I didn't fall through the surface, but I hastily retreated.
What was your favorite part of writing "The Way to Winter"?
There were many things I enjoyed while writing this book but I would have to say that I had two favorite parts: the fairy tales and gardening.

I had so much fun researching Scandinavian fairy tales and folklore, that sometimes I had to tear myself away and remind myself to get back to writing! There are so many interesting stories that it was difficult to decide which ones I wanted the characters to retell during the novel. Part of the fun was deciding how the Snow Queen should react.

I am very fond of conservatories and particularly like visiting them during the winter, when it's so cold outside. Even if you've been to the same one many times, it still seems like there's always something new to look at. Although I've never been employed in one, I did spend a number of summers working in a garden center. Those months taught me a great deal about gardening and I was amazed to discover how many different kinds of flowers exist. Some of the tasks weren't fun, such as dealing with plants that had become infected with bugs, but there were a number of more enjoyable things to do, such as trimming the herbs when they became overgrown. These experiences were useful when I was wondering about what the Snow Queen would dislike. It seemed natural that she would look down upon anything that needed warmth and light to survive, which tied in well with developing Gerda as the Snow Queen's opponent. The opening scenes of "The Way to Winter" changed a great deal during revisions but the novel always began in Vasa's conservatory.
Aside from "The Snow Queen," what are some of your other favorite fairy tales?
Short answer: All of them! I don't think I've ever met a fairy tale or folktale that I didn't find interesting.

Longer answer: There are some stories that I never get tired of re-reading. I love just about any tale that involves trolls, such as "The Troll with No Heart in His Body" and "The Cat on the Dovrefjell." "The Story of Hild the Good Stepmother" from Iceland delights me due to featuring a non-evil stepmother and an intelligent woman who knows how to manipulate a doom and gloom prophecy. Conversely, I also enjoy "The Juniper Tree" from the Brothers Grimm, due to the over-the-top evilness of that story's stepmother.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I first tried traditional publishing for "The Way to Winter." I spent over a year querying literary agents and unfortunately didn't receive any offers. Even though the constant rejections weren't annoying, I don't regret the process as it gave me time to confirm that this was what I wanted to do. I also ended up making another set of revisions for the entire novel. Eventually I ran out of patience for querying but I knew that I still wanted to publish this novel. And here we are!
What are you working on next?
I have fragments of many stories in progress, but my main project is a novel set in the same world as "The Way to Winter." It's about Rika, the raven girl who has trouble with people stealing her feather cloak, and what happens when she leaves the Summer Queen's palace for an adventure of her own.
Who are your favorite authors?
I love the works of many authors, but one of my all-time favorites is Peter S. Beagle. There aren't any short stories or novels by him that I haven't enjoyed. "The Last Unicorn" is one of the first movies I remember watching and the books is just as wonderful. Beagle does a terrific job of creating characters you wish you could meet in real life, and stories that grab your heart.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Writing! Gardening! Libraries! Books I haven't read yet!
What is your writing process?
I still write many of my first drafts by hand. I enjoy the feel of it and it helps to keep me from getting distracted by the Internet. I try as much as possible to get to the end of a story before turning back to revise. I'm usually successful at this with short stories but it's harder with novels--I went through at least three or four drafts of "The Way to Winter" before I made it to the end.
What music do you listen to when you write?
Most of the time I listen to instrumental music, since the lyrics can distract me. Sometimes I choose soundtracks--while writing "The Way to Winter" I often listened to the soundtrack from "The Hours," particularly when I was working on scenes featuring Kai and the Snow Queen. Sigur Rós became one of my favorite artists to listen to while writing this novel. I also listened to albums featuring traditional music related to Scandinavian cultures. Two albums I recommend are:

"Fiddlespel: Dance Music of Scandinavia" by Laurie Hart and Sarah Cummings, and

"Vägen" by Peter Puma Hedlund. This album features music played on the nyckelharpa, an instrument I had never heard of until I saw Hedlund play one at the Scandinavian Folk Festival in western NY several years ago.
Published 2014-03-11.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Way to Winter
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 85,180. Language: English. Published: February 8, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fairy Tales
In this adventure-filled retelling of “The Snow Queen,” it’s the start of a winter like any other in our world where Gerda works in her beloved conservatory while her twin brother, Kai, falls in love with their new neighbor. When Kai becomes the victim of a cursed mirror that can create an eternal winter, Gerda is forced to journey through another world in a desperate attempt to save her brother.