Exclusive Interview: Girl In Snow Author Danya Kukafka
Given that she spends her days editing other people’s words as an assistant editor for Riverhead Books, you might think the last thing Danya Kukafka would want to do is write a novel of her own. But Kukafka doesn’t follow your…rules. Which is why she’s written Girl In Snow (hardcover, digital), a novel that author Paula Hawkins (The Girl On The Train) calls, “…a perfectly-paced and tautly-plotted thriller.”
Photo Credit: Elliot Ross
To begin, what is Girl In Snow about?
Girl In Snow is about a small community in the aftermath of a tragedy. I was interested in exploring the difference between love and obsession, and how what we see is often different from what is true.
Where did the original idea for Girl In Snow originate, and how different is the final version from that initial idea?
Girl In Snow is told from three characters’ perspective, but it started out with just one: Cameron, the teenage boy who fears he may have killed his classmate. The original idea started with the creation of this character, and everything else flowered out around that. The final version is very different from the initial idea, and much wider in scope.
My understanding is that Girl In Snow started off as a short story. But how much of that story wound up incorporated into Girl In Snow? Like would there be a point, outside of curiosity, for you to publish that short story?
One of the three characters is Jade, a teenage girl who lives in this small Colorado community, and her perspective began with a short piece I wrote for a class at NYU. This piece is actually published already, in The Gallatin Review, though it’s very different from Jade’s world as Girl In Snow readers know it now. If you’d like to check it out, the story is called “Zap,” and I think it’s still available online. I’m not a big short story writer in general, though. Never say never, but I can’t really see a collection in my future.
Girl In Snow has been called a thriller, a whodunit, and a mystery. What would you call it?
The book intentionally has elements of mystery, but to me it’s more a coming of age story. Each of the three characters must come to terms with truths about themselves, and unbury their own secrets, and in this sense it’s more about their journeys than it is about who killed Lucinda Hayes.
Are there any authors or specific books that you think were a big influence on what you wrote in Girl In Snow or how you wrote it?
Yes! I obsessively read both [Jeffrey Eugenides’] The Virgin Suicides and [Stephen Chbosky’s] The Perks Of Being A Wallflower as I was writing this book. The first, for perspective, and the second for tone.
What about non-literary influences such as movies or TV shows? Do you think any of them had an impact on Girl In Snow?
I came to Twin Peaks when the book was almost finished, but I wish I’d seen it earlier. It has such a wonderful ominous feeling at its core. But during the writing process, I did love to watch such shows as True Detective, and I grew up watching Law & Order, C.S.I., and Criminal Minds. My mom loves them.
Given your last name, I’m sure you’re tired of Kafka jokes. But do you think there’s anything Kafka-esque about Girl In Snow? Or did you intentional avoid doing anything Kafka esque because it would be too obvious?
Ha! I like this question. I’ll admit, I haven’t actually read much Kafka.
Now, a lot of mystery novels these days are not stand-alone books, but are instead part of a series, usually centered around the cop or detective who solved the mystery. So is Girl In Snow the first in a series?
Girl In Snow is definitely a stand-alone novel. I wrote it with the intention of satisfying a reader in the end, and I won’t revisit these characters again in my writing. I love them, but I’m excited to write something completely new.
Now, I don’t want to get you in trouble, but during the day you work as an assistant editor for Riverhead Books. Are you at all worried that you might lose your job if your boss finds a typo or grammatical error in Girl In Snow?
Luckily, work as a book editor is much more structure and style-based. We leave typos and grammatical errors to the copyeditors. My job as an assistant editor is more about shaping a book in a fundamental sense, and I love being able to think artistically about books that are not my own.
My colleagues at Riverhead have also been very supportive of my writing career so, hopefully, I’ll be there for a while.
So has there been any interesting in making a movie or TV show based on Girl In Snow?
There has been some talk of it, and I have signed with an agent for film. I think either a film or a television show would be wonderful, but I think I personally lean towards a feature film, since this book is so self-contained. Though if someone wanted to make a television show, I’d be fascinated by the idea and execution.
If it was going to be made into a film or show, who would you like them to cast in the lead roles and why them?
Oh, dear. Hmmm. If Paul Dano were still the age he was in Little Miss Sunshine, I think he’d make a great Cameron. We’d need someone brooding, but still lovable.
Finally, if someone really enjoys Girl In Snow, what would you suggest they read next and why that?
If they enjoyed the teenage aspects of the book, I’d recommend Marlena by Julie Buntin, or The Mothers by Brit Bennett, which I was lucky to work on at Riverhead. If they liked the more subtle mystery aspects, they might like Dare Me or The Fever by Megan Abbott, or Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. I also always recommend The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.