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Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Boy Made of Snow by Chloe Mayer - Book Review, Interview & Giveaway

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Review by Suze

It's 1944 and Daniel's father is away from home, fighting against the Germans. Nine-year-old Daniel and his fragile mother Annabel are trying to manage on their own. However, Annabel is suffering too much to be a motherly person. She doesn't keep the house tidy, Daniel often needs to take care of his own meals and Annabel hardly ever checks where he is. The one thing they share though is their love for fairytales. Annabel reads them aloud to Daniel every day. For Daniel it isn't exactly clear where magic ends and real life begins and he tries to protect his mother as well as he can from approaching dangers.

There's a troll living in the area. The troll is looking for food in bins, he doesn't have a place to live and he sleeps in a tunnel. Daniel keeps an eye on his biggest enemy, so the troll can't harm his mother. The troll isn't the only distraction though. There's a PoW camp close to their home. One of the prisoners chops wood at a nearby farm and by buying the logs for their fire Annabel and Daniel get to know him. For Daniel Hans is a foreign prince, far away from home. For Annabel Hans is a distraction. She finally feels alive after many years of being numb inside. Hans has plans that involve both of them and can put them all in danger. What will happen when he executes them?

The Boy Made of Snow is a beautiful heartbreaking story. Annabel just pretends to be capable of taking care of Daniel, but isn't managing all that well by herself. She has no support system, her family is living far away, her husband is fighting for his country and she doesn't have any friends. Daniel grows up without a clear idea of what is real and what isn't. He strongly believes in the fairytales his mother reads to him and thinks trolls and lost princes actually exist. This leads to a dangerously twisted idea of reality. I clearly felt the inevitability of trouble and because of this I was kept on the edge of my seat from beginning to end.

Chloe Mayer has a great way of writing about black, white and all the grey in between. I loved how she plays with what is real and what isn't. She knows how to work with suspense. I liked that she's chosen to use alternating points of view and writes from both Daniel and Annabel's perspective, that makes the story come to life in an incredible way. They are both broken and they find themselves in a downwards spiral they can't get out of. This makes compelling reading. The gorgeous haunting descriptions of their world sometimes put tears in my eyes. Chloe Mayer managed to shock and surprises me many times. The Boy Made of Snow is a fantastic original story that I highly recommend.

Advice

If you love original poignant historical fiction you don't want to miss The Boy Made of Snow.

About Chloe Mayer



Chloë is obsessed with facts and fiction. She gets her facts fix by working as a freelance reporter for national newspapers, and her fiction fix by either reading or writing it in her spare time. Earlier in her career, her work as a journalist on regional titles saw her shortlisted for various awards, including newcomer of the year and reporter of the year. She went on to work as a news editor overseeing several newspapers before becoming a freelance journalist.

She has lived and worked in Tokyo and Los Angeles and decided to try her hand at fiction in the US, where the first short story she ever wrote beat more than 8,000 others to win a prize and publication in an anthology. She was so surprised and delighted she immediately began work on her first novel.

After spending much of her twenties living abroad, she returned home to the UK and now lives in east London, not far from where she grew up.

Links

Website // Twitter // Amazon

Interview

1. Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself? 

I live in East London in a tiny flat that is stuffed with books. No matter how quickly I read, the piles of “to be read” books never seem to go down. (This might be because I accidentally keep buying more.)

2. Could you describe the main characters of The Boy Made of Snow in seven words each?

This is so difficult! Let’s see…

Daniel: A child obsessed with dark fairy tales.

Annabel: A desperately lonely mother looking for escape.

Hans: German Prisoner of War who befriends them.

3. What inspired you to combine a WWII story with fairytales and how did you approach this fantastic idea?

The entire novel is designed to read a little like a dark fairy tale, and I think that strange time lends itself well to the backdrop of a story where the characters are grappling with what it means to be good or bad. Also, a key section of the book happens during a snowstorm a couple of years after the war – and there really was a prolonged period of incredibly heavy snow in 1947.

4. Your main characters are dealing with heartbreaking mental issues, how did you prepare to write those difficult scenes?

Most modern readers will no doubt look at some of the characters and confidently diagnose a mother battling with post-natal depression or a soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. But I was careful not to use those terms within the book because such illnesses simply weren’t widely recognised or discussed during those times. The characters themselves aren’t really aware they have illnesses; they blame themselves for their feelings – which they see as failings – and simply get on with things. So I had to write the scenes from the point of the view of the characters, who were all just trying to muddle through. It was very sad.

5. You’ve traveled a lot, how does this influence your writing?

I was living in LA during a particularly boiling summer when I started writing The Boy Made of Snow and I think I was fantasising about cold weather! The hotter it got outside – and my apartment at that time didn’t have air conditioning – the chillier my novel became!

6. How did your writing journey start?

Like most authors, I’ve been writing since I was a child. I became a journalist when I grew up because I realised I could get paid to write stories all day! But I always knew I wanted to write a novel at some point. One day, when I was living in the US, I stumbled across a short story competition and decided to enter. So I wrote the first piece of fiction I’d written since I was at school, and was stunned when I beat thousands of other writers to win a prize and publication. That gave me the motivation – and validation – I needed, and I began work on my novel almost immediately.

7. You write about the uncertain times of WWII, how did you handle the research for your story and how did you capture the exact right atmosphere of this time?

I didn’t worry too much about the research at first; I just wrote my story because I figured that was the most important thing. I think the atmosphere mostly stems from the characters and their beliefs and behaviour. But on subsequent drafts, I started to check I’d got the details right – how the ration books actually worked and so on. One of the most difficult things I researched was trying to work out how a British police officer would trace a German PoW living in a tiny village in Europe – in the days when there were no computers or social media!

8. You are obsessed with facts and fiction, what’s the influence of this passion on The Boy Made of Snow?

I love writing about facts in my job as a freelance newspaper reporter, and I love making stuff up as a novelist. It’s great fun that I get to wear both hats! With historical fiction, like The Boy Made of Snow, I created a made-up story around the known facts of the war – so I guess in that way I got to indulge both passions.

9. You also work as a reporter, what’s the best part of writing both books and articles?

They’re very different disciplines, but I love them both. With newspaper journalism, the work is often exciting and the pace is relentless – I’m writing at breakneck speed to meet daily deadlines – and there’s such a buzz when you get a front page of a national paper. The publishing world moves at a glacial pace in comparison. For example, my novel didn’t come out in shops until more than a year after I’d signed the contract! But that brings its own joys.

It’s so wonderful to have time to reflect on my work and edit it and polish it – and work with a wonderful team of people, including my agent and editor. And no amount of front pages compares to the first time I saw my book for sale (in Waterstones in Piccadilly Circus). That experience was like a dream come true, and it made me quite emotional!

10. What are your plans for the future?

I’m hoping to keep juggling journalism with fiction, if I can, because I enjoy both careers. I’m currently editing my second novel – another piece of dark historical fiction. And I’ve also started jotting down some ideas for my third book, which might be a bit of a departure for me because it seems to be a contemporary psychological thriller. We’ll see how I get on with that though… So watch this space!

Giveaway

One very lucky reader of With Love for Books will receive a signed hardcover copy of The Boy Made of Snow by Chloe Mayer.

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The winner will be notified by email and has 3 days to respond. All of our giveaways are international.

30 comments:

  1. The Boy Made of Snow sounds like a poignant, memorable and haunting story inspired by The Snow Queen.

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  2. Combining fantasy and World War II sounds quite original!

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  3. This is one I really want to read Chloe!
    jan

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  4. The title is intriguing.It sounds like my kind of book. Thanks for sharing it.

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  5. This sounds like a great book. I will have to check this one out.

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  6. This novel sounds like a compelling read.

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  7. This sounds like a fantastic historical fiction book, looking forward to reading this.

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  8. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and The Boy Made of Snow sounds really interesting, looking forward to read! :)

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  9. Your book sounds fabulous, I love stories set around WW2

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  10. It sounds a really interesting book

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  11. I love WWII stories and this one sounds amazing! :)

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  12. This book looks achingly beautiful. And as a sometime psychotherapist and clinical psych, I found parts of the review and interview particularly poignant and interesting.
    Thank you,
    --Ann

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  13. This sounds a really interesting read, and different from other historical fiction

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  14. Very unusual story. Will be intrigued to read this story.

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  15. I love, love, love the review! There was this way of wording that is inspiring me to read a book in a genre that I would normally skip.

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  16. I love the idea of combining a homefront period drama with a mythical creature.

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  17. Sounds like an ambitious debut novel.

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  18. Sounds like a good read

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  19. looks interesting!

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  20. This sounds like a really interesting read. I'm always looking for new authors and styles of book that I haven't read before.

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  21. this sounds like such a great read

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  22. Merci pour cette chronique qui me donne bien envie de découvrir ce livre !!

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  23. I love the fact that Chloe was writing about winter during a scorching summer. I often read books set in summer during the winter.

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  24. Thanks for the great prize and competition. Good luck everyone!

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  25. Sounds like a really good read. Have read a few WW11 books lately. This is definately going on my 'to read' list

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  26. Sounds interesting and has something to learn about life and relation

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