Anna Snoekstra & Her Debut Novel Only Daughter
We all have an inner critic. Some can be destructive, dastardly things that are best ignored and some push you to refine and rethink. Author Anna Snoekstra’s just happens to be a finger-wagging, no-nonsense kinda lady who prods her prose to improve. A keen writer since she was a child (diary entries were her thing), she has also been a film reviewer, screenwriter and now adds novelist to the list. The Melbourne-based writer’s first book Only Daughter enters the murky world of secrets, disappearance and identity.
Where did you get the idea for Only Daughter?
I remember it vividly. I was working nights at a cinema in Melbourne. I got home at midnight and, just as I was dropping off to sleep, I heard the sound of glass smashing. It was my car window. After that I couldn’t sleep, and started thinking about paranoia and fear. I’d recently watched the Ingrid Bergman film Anastasia, and begun to think about how that story would play out in contemporary Australia.
How did the idea for Only Daughter develop?
I re-watched some old gaslight noir films, like Secret Beyond the Door and Suspicion, which are great examples of unease and paranoia from a woman’s perspective. I also did some practical research like getting in touch with a NSW Missing Persons Detective, who gave me some great insights.
What are your earliest memories of writing?
I wasn’t great at communicating verbally as a child, so writing became very cathartic for me. I have so many diaries! I recently read an entry from one from when I was seven, which began ‘Saturday: Today I vomited. Then we went to the swimming pool!’.
Who are the writers who have influenced you the most?
When I set out to write a novel, my aspiration was to write something that didn’t meander. I wanted the story to be precise, every word to be integral. Two of my favourite books are Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan, and The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton. With both these books, I remember exactly where I was when I read them and I can still keenly feel the emotions I felt when I finished each of them (unease and regret for Sagan’s, buckets of tears for Hinton’s).
How do you silence your inner critic?
I don’t. Most of the time, she only comes out when something is truly bad. I can be impatient at times, and when my eyes are burning and my fingers are sore, I often think that maybe what I have is good enough. That’s when my inner critic appears, wagging her finger at me and clicking her tongue – for some reason, my inner critic is a no-nonsense middle-aged woman with horn-rimmed glasses.
You’ve studied creative writing and cinema, as well as a post-grad degree in screenwriting. How have they shaped your writing?
When I was studying creative writing I believed that you had to use a minimum of two adjectives to describe anything you mentioned. My laboured and enthusiastic writing was so flowery and expressive that it was often more nonsensical and asinine than it was poignant and affecting. Screenwriting taught me that less is more.
Essentials for a solid writing session…
Rosehip tea, carob banjo bears, reading glasses and no Internet connection.
What other jobs have you had while or before writing?
While I was writing Only Daughter I was working nights at a cinema. Although it wasn’t intentional at the time, I think my job really influenced my story. One of my characters works at McDonald’s in the book and details like the comradery I felt with my colleagues and the late nights coming home exhausted and smelling of oil and cleaning products definitely found their way into the story.
What’s the hardest part of being a writer?
Writing can be very isolating. I spend up to 10 hours a day not talking to anyone, and that can make me get a little weird!
And the most rewarding?
Creating a whole world is amazing. It’s like you are making a film and you are the director as well as the cinematographer, and the actor for every single part! Sometimes the worlds I create in my novels are more real to me than the actual world and I think that is pretty special.