Broken Windows and Red Skies: Writing Only Daughter by Anna Snoekstra

About the book

Published: 20th September 2016 (MIRA)only-daughter-jacket-small

In this chilling psychological thriller, one woman’s dark past becomes another’s deadly future

In 2003, sixteen-year-old Rebecca Winter disappeared.

She’d been enjoying her summer break: working at a fast-food restaurant, crushing on an older boy and shoplifting with her best friend. Mysteriously ominous things began to happen a presence in her room at night, periods of blackouts, a feeling of being watched though Bec remained oblivious of what was to come.

Eleven years later she is replaced.

A young woman, desperate after being arrested, claims to be the decade-missing Bec.

Soon the impostor is living Bec’s life. Sleeping in her bed. Hugging her mother and father. Learning her best friends’ names. Playing with her little brothers.

But Bec’s welcoming family and enthusiastic friends are not quite as they seem. As the impostor dodges the detective investigating her case, she begins to delve into the life of the real Bec Winter and soon realizes that whoever took Bec is still at large, and that she is in imminent danger.

Broken Windows and Red Skies: Writing Only Daughter

I wrote the majority of Only Daughter in my head, lying awake in the dark hours of early morning. I had been woken by the sounds of my car windows being smashed in, and was feeling paranoid and nervous.

What better way to get back to sleep then to tell yourself the scariest story you can think of? The next morning I wrote frenzied pages of notes (while on hold to a windscreen repair service). Already, I had a feeling that this idea was something special.

I had just watched the amazing Ingrid Bergman film Anastasia, and was captivated by the story of impersonation. For a long time I’ve been fascinated by the Gaslight genre of the 1940s, especially Du Maurier’s Rebecca, and loved the idea of using that framework in a contemporary way. Together, these inspirations formed the basis for the story of a woman who, like Anna Keroff, impersonates a girl who has gone missing a decade earlier. However, I didn’t want the missing girl to be voiceless, so I gave Bec Winter her own chapters, allowing her to tell her story herself.

My favorite stories are the ones that investigate the darker side of the human psyche, especially when the protagonist is someone I can relate to. For Only Daughter, I wanted to write something that I myself would love to read. I like to read stories featuring female characters that are relatable, even when they behave badly. Most of all, I aspired to write a story that could crawl under your skin and stay there.

Writing Only Daughter was a very natural experience. I wrote the first draft during one of Melbourne’s hottest summers. Sucking ice, my feet on my desk, the story of Bec Winter’s last week poured out of me. Perhaps this was because I grounded this section off of my memory of another hot Australian summer.

I grew up in the suburbs of Canberra, and I’ll never forget January 2003, when the Canberra bushfires turned the sky red. Setting Bec’s story during this time made her feel even more real to me. I was a teenager myself at the time and that week has been vivid in my memory every summer since.

Now, Only Daughter is on shelves in countries on the other side of the world from me. It’s so amazing to imagine people who have totally different life experiences to me reading and sharing it. Strangely, I feel so lucky that someone smashed in my car windows that night.

About Anna Snoekstra

Anna Snoekstra was born in Canberra, Australia in 1988. She studied Creative Writing and Cinema at The University of Melbourne, followed by Screenwriting at RMIT University. She currently lives in Melbourne with her husband and tabby cat.

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