Interview: A.D. Miller

A.D. Miller

What influenced the writing of Snowdrops?

Miller: When I was a foreign correspondent in Russia, I wrote an article about the role of snow in the life of Moscow. I discovered the concept of the “snowdrop”: Russian slang for a body that lies buried in the snow, emerging in the thaw. The image seemed to capture the harshness of life in Russia for some people, but also potentially to be a metaphor for other, novelistic ideas, too, such as the way experiences or aspects of your personality that you try to repress can catch up with you. I fixed on the voice of the narrator–a lonely, drifting, 30-something expat. Those were the two initial elements of the novel.

Who has most influenced your writing?

As a novice fiction writer, I am very conscious that influence is mostly something to be resisted. But, looking at my book as objectively as I can, I’d say Dostoevsky’s nasty psychologising and Gogol, for the way that, in The Overcoat, he writes about the Russian winter as both a physical and symbolic phenomenon. Also Babel, who for me is the supreme journalist turned fiction-writer.

As a child, did you know you wanted to write?

Yes. I wrote lots of bad poetry as an adolescent, then a bad play and worse short stories in my early twenties. I wrote a non-fiction book – a family memoir called The Earl of Petticoat Lane, which is really about class and immigration – before I felt brave enough to try a novel.

What do you find most challenging when writing?

In the case of Snowdrops, depicting the narrator’s moral decline through his voice, in a way that didn’t feel mechanistic, was tough. First-person narration is in general much harder than it looks.

Can you offer any advice to those undiscovered writers out there?

Take criticism. Take risks. Keep going: as much as talent, writing books is a matter of stamina and morale.

Are you working on anything at the moment?

Yes: a new novel, set partly in California but mostly in London. No more Russia, at least not in novels. It’s another story about morally flawed men, though set over a longer time frame than Snowdrops and with a broader cast of characters.

A.D. Miller will be speaking at a free event on campus at 6.30pm in Thomas Paine Study Centre Lecture Theatre on Monday 12 November, in conversation with Henry Sutton.


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harrietfarnham Harriet is the editor of Arts. Email her at

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May 2022
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