An interview with Fiona Snyckers
Everyone here at Modjaji is excited to dive into 2021 and the fabulous books it will bring. Among those fabulous books is The School Gates by Fiona Snyckers, a skewering critique of private school privilege through the eyes of a dance teacher.
We sat down with Fiona recently to pick her brain about her creative process, the highlights of her career so far, and the advice she would give emerging writers, among other things.
Congratulations on winning the NIHSS Award for 2020 for Best Fiction Novel for Lacuna! How does it feel to be recognised in this way?
Thank you! I felt incredibly thrilled and honoured to win both this award and the SALA Award in 2020. Any of the shortlisted authors would have been a worthy winner, so I was fortunate to be chosen.
Take us through a typical day in your life.
I feel like the pandemic has upended everyone’s idea of what is typical! I wake up shortly after 6am, shower and get dressed. I feed my four cats first and then my family (priorities!)
After breakfast, I take a long walk with my dictaphone, aiming to get 2000 words dictated before lunch. This often doesn’t work out.
The afternoons are spent doing mom stuff and trying to self-edit the previous day’s chapter. I will try to fit in emails and admin at this time too.
In the evenings, I phone my mom, cook supper while listening to a podcast, and watch something on Netflix with my husband. Then I will catch up on any writing left undone from earlier in the day.
I try to read before bed, rather than falling into a social media rabbit hole, but this also doesn’t always work out.
How does your creative process differ when working on different genres? For example, your Trinity series for young adults as opposed to your works for adult readers such as Lacuna or the forthcoming The School Gates.
I wrote Trinity on Track, Lacuna, and The School Gates all at the same time. I brainstormed ideas and put them down in a working document. As the writing progressed, I would check my ideas document to make sure I hadn’t forgotten something.
I left The School Gates in a drawer for a while, before redrafting it extensively. Some manuscripts need that kind of total rethink from a new perspective.
You are a prolific writer, with titles available on Amazon and through traditional publishers. How does the experience of being published differ between the two avenues? Do you ever get frustrated with traditional publishers’ methods and pace of working?
I love both traditional publishing and indie publishing and hope never to have to choose between them. Interestingly, traditional publishing allows more scope for original, quirky, and difficult-to-classify work. Indie publishing works best when you give the readers exactly what they expect within a predictable genre.
The School Gates
is a difficult to classify book. Is it social satire? Mom-lit? Contemporary romance? Maybe it’s all three, and that’s okay.
Tell us about some of the highlights of your writing career so far.
Having my first novel accepted for publication by Jonathan Ball Publishers was a great thrill. I love going to literary festivals and immersing myself in book talk for a few days. The writers and publishers I have got to meet have been fantastic. I once sat next to Barbara Trapido at a dinner, which was a huge honour.
What are you working on next?
A series of cosy witch mysteries for indie publication, and a domestic noir thriller for (hopefully, eventual) traditional publication.
What advice do you wish you’d been given when you were an emerging writer?
“You think you know everything, but you don’t. Invest in a proper writing course and save yourself many future rejections. And read Stephen King’s On Writing.”
Thank you, Fiona! We can’t wait for people to read The School Gates.