Date: February 28th 2018
Time: 7:15 am
Sound: Earsplitting shrieks
This is a little story about the snow that led to a very different story about the snow.
We’d gone to bed the night before, wondering if it would really, really happen this time. The promise of snow. Or depending on where you live and work, the threat of snow. But for us, in the middle of Dublin, with the flexibility to work from home, and three excited children, it was most definitely a promise.
And there it was. A garden covered in a blanket of white, like nothing we’d ever seen before. By 7:17 am the kids were out in the garden, jackets over pyjamas. We watched from the warming-up kitchen, coffees in hand, almost as excited as they were. Just not enough to go outside in pyjamas. School would be closed, we knew that long before the texts arrived. There was no way we could walk anywhere, let alone drive.
So we hunkered down and bunkered in, and for three days, we lived in a suspended reality of snowmen and igloos and hot chocolate and cold fingers. Radiators covered in drying gloves. A homemade sled from an upturned table. Outside until it got too bone-cold. Taking turns to work and mind the kids. Coming in as it got dark, battening down the hatches, ready for the storm. Inside, looking out. The blanket glistening. The eerie pink glow of snow under streetlights. The quiet. The unprecedented beauty.
And the slightest trickle of something else.
Not fear, that’s too strong a word. But the unknownness of it. We’d never been snowed in before. What if it lasted a week? A month? We had enough food to keep us going for five or six days. Ish. We could be inventive with pasta and pasta and pasta, no doubt. But longer than a week? That could get tricky. It wouldn’t happen. Of course it wouldn’t happen. But what if it did? What if?
That’s what I remember most about the suspended reality – it was beautiful, and it was eerie too.
There was bonding and camaraderie – we worked together with neighbours, some we’d never met before, to shovel snow and clear the road. My neighbour gave me bread because I’d eyerolled the bread rush, and hadn’t bought enough. And down on the green, parents swapped stories of failed attempts to work from home. But then I remember seeing a shovel, all on its own, upright, wedged in the snow. And suddenly I imagined something buried underneath, something that would only come to light when the thaw came. That’s what it was like that week – a mix of beauty and eeriness.
Then there were the footprints, the ones that were bigger than anyone’s shoes. Who had made them, how had they got into an enclosed back garden? Weird. But not too weird. Until suddenly I imagined what it would be like if instead of built-up Dublin, you lived in the middle of nowhere, miles from your nearest neighbour, and woke up to find strange footprints. Right outside your bedroom window. That might be creepy. Like the snow. Beautiful and eerie.
And that’s when I had the idea for the book. Footprints. Snow. A woman who lives on her own, miles from anywhere. A woman who is fascinated by true crime, and has her own reasons for researching unsolved mysteries. I threw it out to the kids. They liked it. They asked for more hot chocolate. I made the hot chocolate, and as fresh snow began to fall, I started to write.
The Sleeper Lies is the end result – the book inspired by the sinister side of the snow, and appropriately enough, the launch party is tonight, two years since it all began!