AT only 29, Anna Snoekstra’s accomplishments are staggering.
After studying screenwriting at RMIT in Melbourne, her critically-acclaimed debut novel Only Daughter was picked up by Universal Pictures and the option has just been renewed for another two years with the screenwriter of The Girl on the Train attached.
Her new novel The Spite Game, published by HarperCollins Australia, is a searing story of revenge and retribution — a walk on the dark side of domestic suspense, described by the publishing team as “Liane Moriarty meets Stephen King’s Carrie”.
Today she tackles The Sunday Book Club’s ten questions.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer — and becoming a crime writer in particular.
As a small child, I had hearing difficulties. It meant I developed a strong lisp, which I was hideously embarrassed about. I was a really quiet kid, and writing became a way for me to communicate freely. I had the most fun with dark stories about monsters and vampiric grandmas. At night, I would sometimes sneak into the living room to watch foreign horror movies with subtitles on SBS with the television on mute.
What appeals to you about the crime genre? What are some of its challenges?
I love digging deep into the darker side of the human psyche. It’s fascinating to try to understand that side of our nature, although it does have its challenges. After a day on psychopath forums and burrowing into old police files in the archives, I’m not the best dinner guest.
Your new novel is The Spite Game. What’s your elevator pitch?
Ava is mercilessly bullied by a group of girls in high school. Unable to move on, she spends the next ten years tracking down each of her bullies, stalking them and exacting catastrophic revenge.
What inspired you to set it in Melbourne and how does Melbourne influence the story?
I was inspired by the way a city can reflect your experiences. Melbourne is like a character in the book. As a teenager, Ava wanders the streets of Clifton Hill after school and sneaks into bars on Brunswick Street with the girls who end up victimising her. She lurks outside residential colleges and follows people to lectures at Melbourne University.
Later, she attends crowded book launches at Readings Carlton, stands in the long line at Mamasita on Collins Street, and sits watching in the shadows at the hole-in-the-wall architects’ bar that used to be on Meyers Place.
A lot has happened in this city in the last ten years. Only a few years ago, Occupy Melbourne took over City Square, now that space has been excavated for a new train station. Places are rapidly changing or even disappearing completely.
Do you need to like your characters to get into their heads?
Not at all! In fact, it can be more fun if I don’t. Everyone is the hero of their own story. I love to try to understand how people rationalise doing terrible things.
Crime is Australia’s most popular genre – why do you think it continues to appeal so much, particularly to women, in this current political/cultural moment?
It’s a very complex subject, one which I’m sure countless PhDs are being written on at the moment. I think that crime fiction creates a safe space for women to explore their fears, and a way to flip the narrative that has been casting women as voiceless victims for a very long time.
What do you set out to do with your female characters within the genre?
I think it’s very important to create women who aren’t sanitised, easily consumable objects. The women I write about have dark sides and can be morally questionable. They take action, make mistakes and are absolutely the masters of their own destinies.
What do you hope readers take away from The Spite Game?
An insight into what can happen if you don’t let go.
What do you like to read?
At the moment, I’m reading short story collections. Australia has some phenomenal short story writers. The collections of Laura Elvery, Jennifer Down and Laura Elizabeth Woollett are currently at my bedside.
What do you plan on writing next?
I’m currently working on a feature film screenplay. My background is in screenwriting, so it’s really exciting to be doing it again after such a long break.
The Spite Game by Anna Snoekstra, published by HQ Fiction, is in good bookstores and online from October 22.