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Anna Snoekstra on Mystery, Horror and Suspense 

Anna Snoekstra is an award-winning author and screenwriter. She is the author of Only Daughter, Little Secrets and The Spite Game. Her novels have been published in over twenty countries and sixteen languages. She has written for Meanjin, KYD, Lindsay, SMH, LitHub, The Griffith Review and is a profile writer for The Saturday Paper. Her most recent novel is Out of Breath (2022) and in 2023 she released her first audio drama This Isn’t Happening

Ahead of her Crime Fiction Intensive, Anna spoke with our Marketing and Communications Officer, Sarah Giles, about audio drama, psychological thriller and pacing her practice. 

What does a typical day at work writing look like for you? How do you keep yourself focused and achieve your writing goals? 

 I had a baby six months ago which threw a wrench in all my habits! Although unexpectedly, I’ve been writing prolifically since he was born. I typically walk to a café which is about fifteen minutes away with my baby in his carrier. He’ll fall asleep by the time I get there, which gives me about forty-five minutes of writing time. This time is precious, so I write manically, often not bothering with punctuation. I’ve started writing by hand in a notebook, initially just because it’s more lightweight. I’ve found this experience quite creatively liberating, as all my usual self-editing or procrastination methods have gone out the window. I think it’s great to shake up your writing habits, take risks and challenge yourself. It’s something I never want to get complacent about. 

More broadly, I find giving myself short windows to be essential to hitting my goals. I mean that in terms of actual writing time (no more than an hour or two at a time) but also how long I give myself for a draft. I’ll give myself just a few months to focus on a project intensely, and then I’ll take some time out before coming back to it. I find this gives me both immersion and perspective. 


Did your writing process differ when creating your recently released audio drama This Isn’t Happening? 

Yes and no! It was still intense and immersive but was also different because of the format. I originally wrote the story as a short screenplay which I put to one side because I wasn’t happy with it. Like the final product, it was in real time set on a date which isn’t as it seems. I always loved the concept and the final reveal, but there wasn’t enough insight with a visual medium but a short story wasn’t quite right either. I went back to it two years later when the idea of writing an audio drama was presented. The form was perfect, as it included both the performance of the two actors but also the interiority of what is going on in the protagonist’s mind. I love audio dramas because they can be so intense, like the characters are whispering in our ears. Once I discovered this form which fit the project so perfectly, the re-writing was easy. 


What are your top tips for writers who are working on their own psychological thrillers? 

  • You can get away with a lot if your protagonist is compelling. You reader doesn’t have to like them, but they do have to care what happens to them. 
  • Always ask yourself what you want the reader to think the story is about and what it is really about. It’s more fun if these two things are different! 
  • Think deeply about the emotional journey that your story is putting your reader through. Remember: mystery is head, horror is gut and suspense is heart. 


It was announced in 2023 that Ultimo Press had acquired your next novel The Ones We Love. What can you tell us about this exciting new project? 

The Ones We Love is coming out in early 2025. I can’t wait! It’s about a family of four who each become complicit in covering up a crime committed by the older daughter. It’s written from all four perspectives over a week in time which was so much fun and included many a spreadsheet! Although focusing on the aftermath of a crime it’s really about the deep misunderstandings and love of the family.  


Without giving away any spoilers, what can folks expect from your upcoming Crime Novel Intensive with Writers Victoria?   

I’m going to take participants through my method of creating a novel: I start with setting, from which I find characters which then lead to the plot. There will be a lot of play because I believe genre and tropes can be so fun. Writers who already have a concept will come out with something stronger and tighter, and those who don’t will come out with all the ingredients to start their thriller! 

Places are still available for Anna’s Crime Novel Intensive course. Members of Writers Victoria receive up to 37% off the full price of all clinics, workshops, seminars and courses. Writers experiencing financial and social barriers to developing their skills are encouraged to apply to The Writers Victoria Fund for subsidised attendance at workshops and clinics.

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