Sunday, February 28, 2016

0 Carol Snow, author of THE LAST PLACE ON EARTH, on a novel needing a plot

We're thrilled to have Carol Snow join us to share more about her latest novel THE LAST PLACE ON EARTH.

Carol, what was your inspiration for writing THE LAST PLACE ON EARTH?

I was reading LIFE AFTER DEATH, Damien Echols’s haunting memoir of his time spent on death row after being wrongfully convicted a gruesome triple murder. Early in the book, he describes showing up at his best friend’s house – only to find that the friend and his entire family have disappeared. I used that scenario, in a completely different context, to launch THE LAST PLACE ON EARTH.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

THE LAST PLACE ON EARTH is my ninth novel. I have never written a book that was not published, which makes me sound either super talented or super lucky. However, if you take into account all of the novels that I started but didn’t finish, the word count would easily add up to two or three books. Also, I spent fifteen years working on my craft before ever attempting to sell my first novel – and by “working on my craft” I mean writing a filing cabinet’s worth of short stories (this was back in the day of paper) that never made it to print. Now, I am lucky to have a really smart agent. Last fall I sent her 125 polished pages and settled in for her praise and promises for a big book deal down the line. Instead, she told me (very nicely) that the book, for various reasons, would be a tough sell, plus she didn’t connect to any of the characters. That was not what I wanted to hear, obviously, but I knew she was right, and after licking my wounds, I shelved that project and moved onto something else. I keep waiting for writing to get easy, but I guess that is not going to happen.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

Years ago, I began what I thought would be my first novel, which was based on one of the many short stories I wrote over the years (only one of which was ever accepted for publication, in a really obscure literary journal). The book had everything, I thought: a strong, funny voice; a quirky, likeable protagonist; a distinct setting; and compelling characters. Why, then, was writing such a slog? Why couldn’t I gain any momentum? Finally, after about 150 pages, I realized what was missing. My book had no plot. One random thing would happen. People would talk. Then some other random thing would happen. Then some other people would talk. But there was no story arc, no forward trajectory, no point to any of it. So, yeah. There’s my AHA moment: a novel needs a plot. While I realize how obvious that sounds, a short story can get away with minimal action if there’s a strong voice, interesting characters and a final epiphany. But in a novel, not only does a lot of of stuff have to happen – that stuff has to lead to other stuff that happens, and it all has to have a point.


The Last Place on Earth by Carol Snow
Henry Holt and Co.
Released 2/23/2016

Daisy's best friend is missing . . . and not for the reasons she thinks.

Henry Hawking is sixteen years old, brilliant, funny, and sly--and now he's missing. But no one seems worried except his best friend, Daisy Cruz, who knows that Henry's security-obsessed parents would never leave town without taking proper precautions. And Henry would never go away without saying good-bye.

Daisy considers all the obvious explanations for Henry's disappearance (federal witness protection program, alien abduction) before breaking into Henry's house. In his room, she finds a note that pleads, SAVE ME.

Desperate to find Henry, Daisy follows his trail deep into the California wilderness. What she finds there makes her wonder if she ever knew Henry at all . . . and if the world as she knows it will ever be the same.

Purchase The Last Place on Earth at Amazon
Purchase The Last Place on Earth at IndieBound
View The Last Place on Earth on Goodreads


Called “an author to watch” by Booklist, Carol Snow is an American author of contemporary women’s fiction and young adult literature. After graduating from Brown University with a degree in psychology, she spent many years writing literary short stories before accepting that she couldn’t go more than a few hundred words without cracking a joke. She eventually turned her attention to crafting humorous, heartfelt stories with wider appeal, and in 2006, Berkley/Penguin published her first novel, Been There, Done That, which Publisher’s Weekly called “humorous, wise . . . romance with a bit of social commentary.” Since then, she has written four more books for adults, Getting Warmer (2007), Here Today, Gone to Maui (2009), Just Like Me, Only Better (2010), and the newly released What Came First (2011), about which Laura Fitzgerald, bestselling author of Veil of Roses, said, “Carol Snow mixes her trademark humor with tenderness and understanding in this good-mom/bad-mom tale of unexpected twists and turns.” Carol has also written two young adult books for HarperCollins, Switch (2008), an ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, and Snap (2009). Foreign rights to her books have sold to publishers in Germany, Norway, and Romania.

Carol Snow grew up in New Jersey. Much of her childhood was spent immersed in books; the rest was focused on avoiding dodgeball. In addition to her psychology degree from Brown University, she holds an M.A.T. in English from Boston College. Before getting her first book published, she had the typical (for a writer) assortment of odd jobs: tour guide, tutor, chambermaid, waitress. She worked for a T-shirt company, a child services agency, and a vanity press. She even had a short stint in local politics. Her campaign brochures were really pretty, with flawless punctuation.

Since leaving New Jersey, Carol has lived all over the place: Rhode Island, London, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Utah, Arizona, and, now, Southern California, where she shares a cat-fur-coated house with her husband and their two children.


Have you had a chance to read THE LAST PLACE ON EARTH yet? Has a memoir ever inspired a novel idea? Have you ever realized you were writing a novel without a plot? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Shelly, Martina, Erin, Susan, Sam, Lindsey, Sarah, Sandra, Kristin, and Anisaa

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