An interview with Ruth Lauren, author of The Prisoner of Ice and Snow

School Library Journal handed down this verdict for The Prisoner of Ice and Snow: Anyone who likes adventure, survival stories, folktales, or novels with strong female protagonists will not be able to put this down.

And this is exactly why I love this book. The fast pace, the vivid female characters, both good and bad, and the fight against the odds. I expect all kids will find this fantasy thrilling, especially girls, who are sometimes relegated to the role of side kick in middle grade action/adventure. Add this to your shelves! But before you do, see what author Ruth Lauren has to say about writing this book. If you are working on middle grade fantasy yourself, read closely Ruth’s process for world building – fascinating!

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading a book. It was something I innately loved. I lived most of my young childhood with my nose in a book, but it never occurred to me to write, not until I was in my thirties. But after I wrote my first book (70,000 words of very terrible YA paranormal) there hasn’t been a time when I haven’t been working on a manuscript.

What was the hardest part of writing The Prisoner of Ice and Snow? 

I’d actually been on submission to publishers with three other books before Prisoner. None had sold and I was pretty much in despair. All those books were contemporary, so when I wrote Prisoner it was because I wanted to have fun and write a fantasy adventure all about girls, which was very different to what I’d been writing before. Something clicked and I really did have a lot of fun writing it. It sold at auction almost immediately. So all the hard parts about writing for me actually came before I wrote Prisoner! (And after, of course. Book 2 wasn’t quite as easy!)

The world building is so fabulous in this book. Did it come to you all at once or did you build it up as you went along?

Thank you! The general idea came to me first. I was watching Prison Break with my son and I wondered what that sort of story would be like if it was about two young sisters instead. After that I thought about where I could place the sisters to make their escape from prison even more challenging. I wanted an unforgiving climate and terrain in a cold, snowy, frozen world where the elements themselves could cause problems for the characters and bleed through into every part of the planning Valor has to do to try to break her sister out of prison. Some of it stemmed from looking at images on Pinterest. I make a board for every idea that I have and I find it really helps me to visualize the world and individual scenes if I can link it to a picture. I drew on elements of the Russian landscape and traditional clothing but I also wanted to create a matriarchal world where only women can rule and where they often have positions of power.

Prisoner is populated by strong female characters – both good and evil. Which were more fun to write?

The evil ones of course! I did have a lot of fun with Valor because she’s headstrong and flawed and impulsive, but it was very satisfying to write all these female characters in ruling positions and places of power—and then have them sometimes abuse that power!

I wanted the sisters to inhabit a world where it would never occur to them that positions of power weren’t open or available to them. They don’t have to struggle or overcome to gain those positions and they see women in every role I put in the book—from ruler to doctor to prison guard to hunter. It’s something every child should see reflected in books and in the real world.

Who are your favorite authors?

So many! Although I have to acknowledge that some of them have problematic aspects that I didn’t understand when I was a child. I loved and still love Watership Down, The Secret Garden and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

More recently I’ve loved books by Gillian Flynn, Patrick Ness, Ryan Graudin, Kristin Cashore, Laini Taylor, Maggie Steifvater, Rainbow Rowell and Katherine Rundell.

My absolute favourite as an adult is The Night Circus.

What is your favorite thing to do when not writing?

Boring and obvious answer: reading. I do love going to the cinema and eating out though. And I’m a big fan of taking a walk in the woods. I have a lot of kids and cats too—they’re my favourites.

What are you working on right now?

I’m currently drafting an exciting middle grade sci-fi standalone set on another planet, which I hope you’ll get to read one day.

There’s also a sequel to PRISONER OF ICE AND SNOW. It’s called SEEKER OF THE CROWN, coming from Bloomsbury in April 2018. No spoilers, but I can’t wait to go back to Demidova with Valor and Sasha for more adventures.

How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?

You can find me on twitter: @Ruth__Lauren

Instagram: @Ruth_Lauren

Or on my website: