Book of the Month: Black Snow Falling
Black Snow Falling is about two young people separated by time: Ruth, the daughter of a wealthy family in 1592, and Jude, the Candlemaker’s son in 1543.
Ruth is 15 years old and has big ideas for her future. She is in love with her childhood friend, Silas and hopes they will leave for London and begin a new life together. However, Ruth’s Stepmother has very different ideas, and Silas has plans all of his own.
Jude is the son of a poor Candlemaker. He is friends with Ruth’s Grandfather Richard who gives him the chance to change his fate and become the Master of Curiosity at the King’s court. However, a dark and evil presence steals Jude’s dreams while he sleeps. He loses all hope and is led to life of pain and darkness by the Dream Thieves.
49 years later and the Dream Thieves have returned to Crowbury. They work their way through the whole town, stealing hopes and dreams. Ruth is the only person who can see them, and it is up to her to rescue those who have fallen prey to their darkness. Terrified beyond belief, she sets out on a treacherous journey to put right the wrongs caused by the Dream Thieves, and their wicked human accomplices.
Black Snow Falling is a beautifully written and is an enchanting work of magical realism. Exploring themes of loss, hope and resilience, this book would be an excellent choice for groups looking to explore these issues. Read our interview with author L.J. MacWhirter below, then answer the question at the bottom of the page for a chance to win a copy of Black Snow Falling.
What inspired you to write Black Snow Falling? In particular, where did your idea for the Dream Thieves come from?
The inspiration came as a result of a conversation with a young adult as we hiked as a group through dramatic, mountainous Glen Etive in 2002. I was volunteering for a charity that gave struggling young people an adventure in the wilderness. This young man had endured a hard start in life with many setbacks, yet he was still telling me about what he wanted to do in the future – to work as a gardener. Despite all he’d been through, he still had hope. I found myself wishing that nothing more would happen that could take this away from him. A chilling “what if” struck me. What if our hopes and dreams could be taken away from us? I imagined dream halos, spinning around our heads like the halos representing purity in old religious paintings… those dream halos could be stolen. The image was so powerful it gave me goose bumps as we walked. I knew this idea was a novel – and I knew I had to write it.
The whole concept felt like a metaphor for life at its hardest – when things are tough, doesn’t it feel as though there are hope-stealing monsters around?
As for the young man I met, I hope he’s busily working away in a flourishing garden.
What research did you do for this book?
Lots. I felt the story would be more frightening as magical realism, where fantasy collides with the real world. But I needed to locate it in a place and time where my characters could easily lose hope. So that’s why I decided to set it in the past, even though the idea of hope-stealing monsters is a story for today. I chose the 16th century as it was a dynamic time with both progression and oppression.
The research was fascinating. Highlights included finding a 100-year old book containing the letters of Queen Elizabeth I. Her modernity was startling. In the opening pages of my novel I’ve quoted from one letter to her brother, “the life of man is nothing but a dream of shadows”, which plays straight into Black Snow Falling. Books like these helped me create a sense of authenticity for the period.
Places I researched included Tudor buildings such as Bramall Hall, which inspired my fictional Crowbury Hall. Important details were found in the V&A, Science Museum, British Museum and Shakespeare’s Globe in London, the Science Museum in Florence, and the National Library of Scotland. It was amazing how all these threads came together to weave the story.
What was your favourite thing about writing Black Snow Falling?
Writing this novel was like living inside a film, describing what was happening around me – it felt so real. I felt born to write this story. I also enjoyed the creative challenge of making a complex magical realism plot feel simple to read. However, if I can bend the question a little, my very favourite thing was hearing someone say Black Snow Falling and the Carnegie Medal in the same sentence.
It wasn’t all roses, though! Frustration and disappointment were there too – you can read a blog about my long publishing journey. I think Ernest Hemingway said, “Writing is easy. You just sit down at the typewriter and bleed.”
Will there be a sequel to Black Snow Falling, or do you have any other books in the pipeline?
I’m keeping my cards close to my chest right now… suffice to say, three stories are bubbling away. I wish I could just focus on writing fiction and produce them faster, but freelance copywriting pays the bills (and can be fun!).
For the chance to win a copy of Black Snow Falling, just answer this question: