Faye Snowden is the author of three published mysteries with Kensington– Spiral of Guilt (1999), The Savior (2003, 2004) and Fatal Justice (2005, 2006). She has published short stories and poems in various literary journals and small presses including The African American Review, Calliope, Red Ochre Lit, Bay Area Poets Coalition and Occam’s Razor.
Although born in San Fernando, California, she was uprooted while young to a place where supposedly people had swamps in their backyards and alligators for pets. She didn’t have any pet alligators in Shreveport, Louisiana, but an amazing, resourceful single mother raised the family of six in a shotgun house. And she had a cat named Blue.
At eighteen, Faye left Louisiana to join the Navy. The Navy gave her an opportunity to spend some time living in Naples, Italy and on both US coasts–Washington, DC and northern California. After the Navy, she went to work as an information technology professional in various industries while on her way to a masters in English literature. Aside from her publications, she also managed two boys, a husband, five dogs and three writing fellowships following her Navy years. Today, Faye works and writes from her home in Northern California.
1) First, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me! When did you know that writing is what you were called to do? What is it about being a writer that you love the most? What about being a writer frustrates you the most?
No, thank you for reaching out! I love talking about writing. Funny enough, I don’t think that I realized writing was a calling until a few years ago. I have always written, loved books and literature, but it was always something I did because it felt normal. There are a lot of writers in my family, including my Dad, so it wasn’t unusual to want to make up stories and commit them to paper. But a few years ago, I felt that it was more of a calling and that I had a responsibility, especially in our current climate.
The thing that frustrates me the most is what I love the most about writing. And that is staring at that blank sheet of paper or computer screen. Starting is scary. I have to get over the fear with tricks. But then creating something out of nothing is the reward. That’s what I love the most.
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
Sure. The series that I’m writing now is about Louisiana homicide detective named Raven Burns. Her father was the notorious serial killer Floyd Burns. She has spent her entire life making up for what he has done, and frankly, it’s destroying her soul. The books are based on the elements: fire (the first one), water (the second one). The third and fourth books will be based on wind and earth respectively. In each book, Raven will make a decision that will either bring her closer or take her further away from the life her father led. You can find out more about me and the books at https://www.fayesnowden.com/. They can also follow me on Twitter (faye_snowden), and to a lesser extent, on my Facebook author page.
3) What projects are you currently working on?
Right now, I’m working on the book of my heart. It’s about the Harlem Hellfighters in the First World War. I plan to work on it during National November Writing Month. Aside from that, I’m trying to sharpen my short story writing skills. Always fun stuff.
4) What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
Another deceptively simple question, a great question. I’ve had poems, short stories, books published. I’ve been accepted to competitive writing fellowships, given talks on writing, etc. Though those are achievements, the biggest for me personally is the realization that I must do the work not for the publications, for the awards, etc. but for the reason I’ve been allowed this talent in the first place. The greatest achievement has been to take my writing seriously, while understanding that in the bigger scheme of things, it’s not serious at all. That sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? I guess what I’m trying to say is that it shouldn’t be so serious that you are afraid of it, while at the same time, you should work hard to become a better writer.
5) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career?
Not well in the first part of my career. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I’ve curled up in a ball beneath my desk after someone bluntly told me that my writing wasn’t strong enough. But those moments are rare these days, almost nonexistent. Maybe it’s a function of my age, but I understand how subjective this business is, and how steeped in patriarchy, racism, sexism, etc. as well. If I think the work is good (and believe me, good writers know when the work is not good), my approach to rejection entails only one word— onward.
6) Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel?
It’s hard for me to stick to a schedule nowadays, but I try my best. I’m more of a planster in that I have the rough outline, I call it the bones, which I flesh out as I write. Another funny thing, I think about the novel for a about a year and a half. After that, I can have the writing done in as little as six months. It’s when I’m actually writing that I stick to a schedule.
7) Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?
No, but I understand the hesitation as I’ve had it myself. There are great writers even today who started in their fifties, some in their eighties. It’s too late when you’re on your deathbed. Other than that, go for it.
8) Are you an avid reader and have you always been? What’s the first book you ever read that really touched you emotionally and moved you? Who is your favorite author? What book are you currently reading?
I’ve always been an avid reader of everything. The first book that woke me up was Toni Morrison’s Tar Baby. The first book that made me realize how beautiful and powerful writing can be was Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. I can’t pick a favorite author as it’s like asking me to pick a favorite child. I would say Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Stephen King, Ann Petry (she’s fierce), and Gwendolyn Brooks for poetry, and many others. Also, I like horror a lot, and Jonathan Janz is also someone that I love reading. Right now, I’m reading A century of Fantasy: 1980-1989: The Greatest Stories of the Decade edited by Robert Silverberg, Sandra Wong’s Die on Your Feet, and Samuel R. Delany’s About Writing.
9) How has the current state of the world affected your writing? Because writing is an isolated practice, do you find it easier to deal with quarantine? Has it stifled your creativity or has it made you even more driven to get things done?
Many authors out there have said the current state of the world has provided many opportunities to write, and they are producing. Not for me. It’s made me anxious and unhappy. Frankly, I just want to crawl into bed with a flashlight and a book and put my head beneath the covers. But I know I can’t do that. I have to do whatever I can to produce, because as your earlier question indicated, writing for me is a calling and a responsibility. So yes, I am driven to get things done.
10) What are your thoughts about how the publishing industry as it is being represented today? Do you lean more towards traditional publishing or self-publishing as a preference? Does being a hybrid author interest you?
The state of the publishing industry today is not welcoming to women, BIPOC, or LGBTQIA+ authors. What I’ve found is that if you’re different, breaking into traditional publishing is much tougher. Getting paid comparably is even tougher. But I like traditional publishing because I have a pretty hectic day job, and don’t have time to actually do the tasks necessary to produce and market the book. I think that when done right, women, BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ authors can make their voices heard by self-publishing. I would go hybrid if I had to, but right now I simply don’t have the time.
11) I feel like writing is a remarkable tool to help people not only express themselves, but also to cope emotionally and mentally. I know for me I write to be and feel more authentic. What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity? How does writing help you to be more empowered in your purpose?
Writing is therapeutic for me, but I have to be careful the way I use it. My childhood was very painful, lots of trauma. I’m the kind of person who cannot confront that trauma directly. It causes more issues for me. I know some authors do this, but I cannot. Maybe someday. Writing fiction helps, though, because I can, as Dickinson says, tell the truth but come at it ‘slant’. Writing fiction helps me feel more empowered because I can explore those issues without dredging up more pain.