Faye Snowden is the author of The Killing series (Flame Tree Press) featuring homicide detective Raven Burns. A Killing Rain, the second book in the series, was released in June, 2022 and was selected as one of CrimeRead’s best gothic fiction novels of the year.
Faye has published short stories and poems in various literary journals, anthologies, and small presses. Her articles have appeared in Writer’s Digest and Salon. Her short story, “One Bullet. One Vote,” was selected for inclusion in The Best American Mystery & Suspense 2021. Faye is a member of MWA, as well as Sisters in Crime, and served as secretary for SinC National. Aside from her publications, she managed two boys, a husband, five dogs, and three writing fellowships over the years. Today, Faye works and writes from her home in Northern California.
A Killing Rain (Flame Tree, 2022) – Former homicide detective Raven Burns returns to Byrd’s Landing, Louisiana, to begin a new life but soon finds herself trapped by the old one. Her nephew has been kidnapped by a serial killer, and her foster brother becomes the main suspect. To make matters worse, she is being pursued by two men— one who wants to redeem her soul for the murder Raven felt she had no choice but to commit and another who wants to lock her away forever.
Do you write in more than one genre? I love this as a lead question because it’s an important one that’s not asked often enough. Even though I describe myself as a mystery author, I write all kinds of things. I’ve been lucky enough to publish in Salon and Writer’s Digest and craft short stories that were well received. As for longer works, I started by writing romantic suspense. I’ve recently been enjoying the journey of creating southern gothic crime fiction. But it’s important to strengthen your writing muscle by experimenting with other genres. Writing short stories does that for me. I don’t know how good I am at it, yet, but I would love to be one of those people who could sit down and dash off a short story in one sitting. I’ve read that Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, was such a person. If you are ever looking for writing advice that will both inspire you and make you smile, check out his Zen in the Art of Writing. I dream about taking up his challenge of writing one short story a week for 52 weeks. New Year’s resolution, anyone?
What brought you to writing? Absence brought me to writing. The things that were missing in existing media. I’ve said before that I used TV and books as an escape when I was growing up. The problem was that I didn’t see a lot of stories with people like me in them. I found myself rewriting the stories I watched on television or read in books by filling them with African Americans and strong female characters essential to the plot.
I think the first thing I ever wrote for public viewing was a poem called Insanity. I don’t know where it is now. But I remember my English teacher at first accusing me of plagiarism and then saying that if I did write the poem, I had a talent that needed to be developed. I decided to focus on the latter half of that backhanded compliment, and now here I am today.
Tell us about your writing process. My writing process changes with each book. But basically, the first thing I start with is an idea or maybe some questions. For the Killing series, the questions I started with were these— in what ways can a daughter escape the sins of her father? And how much should she be held accountable for those sins? I usually have a character in mind by then. Sometimes, they show up whole, and I don’t have to do much development. Others I have to spend some time getting to know them. Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird has a great chapter on how to develop character. After that, I build a skeletal outline and then free-write. What happens after free-write? You guessed it. Edit, edit, edit.
When I think about the editing piece, I’m reminded of the rumor that Jack Kerouac wrote his famous novel, On the Road in three weeks on a continuous roll of computer paper (Jack Kerouac’s Famous, ‘On the Road’ Again’, NPR). I remember going through college and grad school ultra-impressed by that. Now that I’m a writer myself, I’ve learned that what many seldom mention is what happened after. The scroll draft went through many revisions, rewrites, and edits, as it should have. To me, that proves my mantra. Write fast. Edit slow.
Kerouac’s Famous scroll
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave or run wild? Yes! My characters do not obey. You’d think it would be Raven who believes that rules regarding her job are mere guidelines and authority figures should be challenged as the character I have the most problems with. But, no. She’s easy. It’s the laidback Billy Ray, her former partner, who is going to much darker places than I’d like. I’ve found through the years that sometimes you have to let characters go where they will. Chances are it’s the story that is driving them into other lanes.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? Byrd’s Landing is a fictional town in Louisiana based on the years I’ve spent growing up there. I like fictional spaces because they allow you the flexibility that real settings do not. And because I based the fictional setting on the place where I spent my formative years, it’s a rich, fertile ground for storytelling.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Yes, the first is to read and read widely, even things outside of your comfort zone. Ray Bradbury is credited with saying, “There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.” (Our Top Ten Ray Bradbury Quotes, NEA) I always tell new writers to fall in love with reading, especially if they weren’t already in love with it.
The second is to study the craft. I used to think that anyone could write, but I don’t think that now. Anyone can start writing from pure exhilaration after stumbling upon a brilliant idea. If they lack craft, however, they will run out of steam when the excitement does. I think it was Neil Gaiman who said inspiration will only take you so far, but it’s craft that will get you the rest of the way.
The third is to be professional. This is a business, after all. Don’t publicly trash agents or other writers or other writers’ works. And put some distance between you and your work product. Be thoughtful about suggestions for improvements, and become that writer who finds value in the editing process.
And finally, find your community. I belong to both Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I would be lost without them.
How do our readers contact you? I hang out on Twitter and Instagram occasionally. A lot of people are gravitating toward my Facebook page as well. Here’s a snapshot of where you can find me in the ether.
Great interview, George. I so agree with Faye on “don’t publicly trash agents or other writers or other writers’ works.” Writing is hard work and the more positive we can all be in being supportive is crucial to success for all.
Faye & Karen, I couldn’t agree more about trashing people. I learned the hard way several decades ago. I still remember the well-deserved consequences.
I love the “write fast, edit slow” statement. Author Terry Pratchett said, “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story,” and I keep that quote taped to the bottom edge of my computer screen to remind me not to get bogged down in the trifles during the initial draft. I’m going to add your quote, Faye! Thanks for sharing your insight, and I look forward to exploring your books.
Great interview. You give a whole lot of excellent advice on writing. I’m glad you’re finding so much success. I met Ray Bradbury once and found him fascinating. Thanks for sharing your expertise and good luck with your series.
Thank you, Michael. How lucky you were to meet Ray Bradbury. He has always been one of my favorites
Faye and George, I come away from reading this interview inspired. Inspired to keep going, to try new things, and to be the best person I can be. A rather tall order, wouldn’t you say? Faye, you have been so influenced and touched by others before you, and you have that special magic of being able to influence, to touch, it forward–to grow and to help others grow behind you. Thank you.
Oh, Pamela. Thank you. I’m glad you were inspired. And with thinking like that, I bet you are already that good person you strive to be. You take care.
So much wisdom here – thank you Faye and George for sharing this with us 🙂
Great interview Faye, your characters sound intriguing. I found your explanation of “can anyone write” particularly interesting. I’ve had that discussion multiple times recently. I agree with your view. Of course anyone CAN, but do they have the craft. Thanks for posting.
You are welcome, Darlene. Glad you enjoyed it.
Thanks for sharing this great information. So helpful to new writers.
You are welcome Kaia. Glad it was helpful. Take care.
A wonderful interview, Faye, full of wisdom and sound advice. I didn’t meet Bradbury like Michael but stumbled across the author speaking to a rather small group of students at the community college where I started my higher education. One of my favorite mystery/crime stories is his “The Utterly Perfect Murder.”
Thank you, Vinnie. I’m going to check out that story. I missed that one.
Such a poignant statement that absence brought Faye to writing. So grateful she is bringing such vivid light to the literary world!
Thank you, Marie! That made me smile and will keep me smiling all day.
Faye – So wonderful to see your mention of Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird. It is a must-have tool in any author’s toolbox. Such a wonderful resource. Enjoyed your post!