#LoveOzYA Q&A with Mette Jakobsen for THE SNOW LAUNDRY
Mette Jakobsen is from Denmark but resides in Sydney. She is an adventurer, author and playwright. Her novels have been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize, topped the Indie Book List, and mentioned on Oprah’s Booklist. Mette has taught creative writing at universities and several of her plays have been broadcast on ABC Radio National.
#LoveOzYA’s Alexandra Patrikios and Emma Holifield recently chatted to Mette all about her first YA title, THE SNOW LAUNDRY, out now with HarperCollins Australia.
For those who haven’t read it yet, can you tell us what THE SNOW LAUNDRY is about?
Seventeen-year-old Ally is at the centre of the story. She is one of 400 homeless young people who have been promised new and better lives in exchange for their votes. But instead of receiving freedom, Ally and her friends are forced to work for the new administration.
When Ally’s boyfriend Bon vanishes into thin air, her search for him leads her to discovering that the homeless kids are really lab rats intended for scientific testing. And as Ally delves deeper into her search for Bon, she learns the frightening truth behind his disappearance.
Do you remember the very first seed of inspiration for this story? If so, what was it? And what other sources of inspiration sustained you through the writing process?
I’m not exactly sure what the first seed of inspiration was. I think it was a combination of things. But from the very beginning I was interested in exploring themes around injustice and war, and I adore dystopia.
I am very visual writer, so images often sustain my writing. For this novel these particularly images help me imagine Ally’s world: Rain Moths, brooding city scapes, endless expanses of forest, laundry steam, concrete stairwells, Ferris Wheels and abandoned amusement parks.
Why do you think this story is valuable for young readers, especially? Or, to put it another way: why did you want to specifically write a YA story?
I wanted to write a story that explores real-life issues such as belonging, the testing of friendships, first love and how to make your way in the world when you don’t fit in. And when Ally, made her appearance in my imagination, I couldn’t resist her. I was instantly drawn to her resilience, and I was keen to write about someone who’s never had parental love and has to make her own way in the world.
Did you see the world in THE SNOW LAUNDRY as a dystopian prediction for what our world could become?
As I was writing THE SNOW LAUNDRY, I watched numerous documentaries on homeless youth living in tunnels in Russia, Ukraine and Brazil. In some instances, they didn’t only struggle with homelessness but were also targeted and killed by the police. Unfortunately, aspects of this book are already happening right now in different places in the world. But I hope the main conspiracy in the story won’t ever happen, and that we can make a difference to homeless youth in the future.
What inspired the antagonist, Eleanor Maslin?
I was particularly interested in the charm and charisma of some dictators. And I was interested in how it can be difficult to see through this kind of charisma if you’re desperate for love or for things in your life to change.
Eleanor Maslin is the kind of fictional character that you love to hate.
The towers are such a large part of this story – did a real place inspire them?
I have a fascination with abandoned high rises and spend (far too much) time looking at pictures of abandoned buildings from times of the Cold War. Although the Towers in my novel are not abandoned but simply parts of a repurposed hotel, the feel of sparse concrete architecture definitely made it into the story.
We hear you’ve been writing the sequel to this book in Finland – what is it about that location that’s so inspiring for your writing?
The writing residency I stayed at is in the middle of the woods. It was my second time visiting. The place is a great place to work because there are only two things to contend with: trees and your imagination. The solitude was excellent for deep writing work, and the woods greatly inspired the large forest surrounding the Towers in the novel.
Do you see THE SNOW LAUNDRY as having series potential beyond a duology?
If readers are keen, so am I 😊