Just over a year ago now, Rachel Huffmire came to writing group and said, “I have an idea, and I want it completed by February 2018.” Start to finish, drafted and edited, her goal was to pitch this story to an agent at LTUE, a large writing conference held in Provo, Utah every year. Fast-forward and Rachel not only accomplished her goal, but found her story a home at Immortal Works. The idea that became Shattered Snow will be making its way into the world on January 9, 2019
Exploring the space where Time Travel and Fairytale meets, Shattered Snow is about Keltson Grammar, a man who willingly breaks the “Observation Only” law restricting time travel in 2069 so he can orchestrate the rescue of the under-looked and the unfortunate. He hides his identity under the guise of a white-masked face in a mirror, never revealing to his clients or their rescues who he is. But when his mission catches the eye of Lillia, a woman who wants to escape her present more than anything, and consequently sucks in Margaretha, a young countess who is destined to die, his vigilante empire and his identity may just come crashing down.
Rachel’s novel is rich with historical details, utilizing them to both trap and uplift the characters inside. She has created a time travel experience that is fresh and enchanting. If you have ever wanted to time travel, this story will scratch the itch. If you have stuck up your nose at time travel in the past, this may have you re-thinking your prejudices.
One of my favorite parts of the novel are the chapter headings- documents, historical or otherwise that give you a glimpse into the depth of the consequences at hand. These are so well written that even those documents dated for 2069 read as if they are 100% real.
But the true page-turners of Rachel Huffmire’s novel are the characters. Without a hard eye on good and evil that exists in most fairytales, Rachel is able to build up even the villain as someone we want to succeed, though we know it would mean disaster. If there were ever a batch of characters I wished could get their happy ever after, these three would be it.
Until this books can make it into your hands, I’m bringing on Rachel to talk about the creation of Shattered Snow- the way the process has made her grow, the way she developed an intriguing spin on time travel, and the inside scoop on the characters that drive the story.
Amanda Hakes: Both historical fiction and science fiction takes an immense amount of research. Now, you have combined the two! Being the fantastic researcher you are, I know you’ve delved into all kinds of sources to get deep into the subject you're writing about. What are some of your favorite things you learned while researching for Shattered Snow?
Rachel Huffmire: I absolutely loved researching for Shattered Snow. Time travel is a perfect ingredient for the Snow White’s story... and plenty other fairy tales for that matter. Bringing in real-life historical facts was important to me, so I scoured the internet and library for any information I could get my hands on.
One of my favorite things I learned was about Margaretha von Waldeck and how she was likely the inspiration for the Grimm Tale. Getting to know a real person’s story brought the character to life. I took virtual tours of the castle she grew up in, read German research papers about her tie to the Grimms fairy tale, found oil paintings that still hang in the Waldeck Castle, studied her family tree, meandered through the forest around her home via google street view, learned about her religion, and everything else I could! The internet is an amazing resource.
I also conducted plenty of research on the time period. I was constantly faced with questions like “Would Lilia use a doorknob to exit a room? Could she lock the door?” As tedious as it might sound to stop and research doorknobs for fifteen minutes in order to get one small detail right, it was genuinely entertaining. Did you know that doorknobs weren’t patented until 1878 by a Mr. Dorsey? Tell me that’s not ironic.
Even after the work I put in, Immortal Works hired a proofreader to fact check all my research. I was amazed at how thorough my editor was. She found so many enriching details that made this story even more historically accurate.
AH: The trope most associated with time travel is someone goes back in time to fix a bad thing, but that fix changes so much of the present that they decide life was better the way it was, so they set out to straighten the mess they made. The downside of this trope is that none of the consequences have their intended impact because time travel can fix it. But Shattered Snow takes this trope, and its faults, and improves on it. If the timeline is changed, there will be legal consequences. If you go back too many time in the attempt to fix what went wrong, there are physical ramifications. What inspired you to write time travel this way? What are some of your thoughts on the way time travel is used in your favorite stories?
RH: When I was young, I played a game called the Journeyman Project. It had a big bad guy who messed up time and a government agent who had to restore it back to the way it was. I remember being so frustrated as my agent interacted with the past that I wasn’t allowed to help some of the smaller subplots I came across in the past. As I began thinking about time travel, those frustrations resurfaced, and I realized having a character who went beneath the law to make those changes as a good guy would make an exciting story, and one that I wanted to explore since I was young.
AH: The Pause, cold and isolated, is a place in between time that Keltson uses to keep control of his projects. I love that this place you created perfectly represents the collision in your story between magic and technology. Tell me how you came to the beautiful idea of all organic matter in The Pause visually splitting into everything it could become?
RH: Stopping time has always been interesting to people and is an idea found frequently in fiction. As I thought about how I could make this idea unique to my world, I realized that it’s an unnatural state; therefore it needed to feel unnatural to people who stepped into it. I figured if time paused, light would no longer move, thus, walking through space would create odd shadows in the air that wouldn’t fill back in. Also, frozen time demanded that it be cold, both in a literary and scientific sense.
Brandon Sanderson talks about demanding magical consequences. This is what makes the story interesting, or else they could just go back and fix things whenever they wanted. When I read about Snow White running through the forest where animals jumped out at her, and branches tugged at her dress, I needed the forest somehow growing and living despite it being paused. I actually pulled the idea of shattering from another book I had outlined, where a girl was able to see all the future versions of herself, depending on what path she took. The combination turned out to be really exciting.
AH: Lilia, Keltson, and Bianka have these captivating lives. Each of them is so unique, but I specifically love Lilia’s chop shop background. What was the process like discovering where Lilia worked, or the background that went into Keltson and his family?
RH: I don’t do a lot of character development before I write a story because the characters develop as the plot demands. I found Lilia had to be excellent at repurposing broken time travel equipment to fulfill her purpose in the plot, so putting her in a chop shop helped justify some of her expertise and make her more believable. She also had to be really desperate to stay in the past, so making her completely destitute in the future also became a necessary part of her.
For Keltson’s background, I originally wanted him to be an antihero, but he just came out with such a strong moral compass as I wrote him, that I let him do his own thing. He didn’t have a family in the first drafts. But one day during edits, his street rat brother showed up, and suddenly the Grammar family existed: a gambling father and two runaway sons. Surrounding Keltson in a life of crime, and to see him still care about morality made me love him even more. It suited Keltson’s role as The Mirror well, to be willing to break the law (because that’s all he’s known his whole life) but to do it for altruistic reasons.
AH: I know that when you began writing this book, you went back and forth on what to name Bianka. What led to the decision to meld the historically accurate name with the name you felt drawn to for the character?
RH: I put a lot of weight in the names of my characters. If you look up the meaning of each character’s name, they are kind of blatant descriptions of who they are. For example, Bianka means white, or pure. I feel like changing her name from Margaretha to Bianka as The Mirror interfered with her timeline showed how her path truly became different from the one fate intended for her. And without giving any spoilers, had significant weight to the ending of the plot. After you read it, we can talk. ;)
AH: This is your debut novel, and you're publishing traditionally with Immortal works, which means upon signing you had access to a crew of designers, editors and a publisher who all had your book's success in mind. What parts of this process surprised you? What are some of your biggest takeaways?
RH: I honestly love the family at Immortal Works. They are all genuine gems, and every interaction with them teaches me something new. I was surprised by how much I learned through the editing process. I’ve been writing every day for seven years and felt like I had a pretty good handle on what made good writing. But after receiving the self-edit packet, and applying their editing standards, I immediately felt like I was looking at an author who was publishable. It didn’t feel like me at all- mainly because I wasn’t using passive voice anymore.
Then, once I started working with my editor, she dropped some major truth bombs about who was the actual protagonist of my story and helped me know exactly where I needed to start the book. Her advice and corrections throughout taught me so much about using every single word to build images in the readers’ minds. It’s been a lot of hard work, but I definitely think the learning curve this year has shaped me to be better.
AH: It’s never too early to talk about the next thing! What other books are you working on right now?
RH: I am more than halfway done with the sequel, Spinning Briar, and hope to have the rough draft done for Nanowrimo. I have a short story I’m querying, and six other finished manuscripts on the backburner. I’m not giving up on them. They’ll be out someday.
AH: Tell me about some of the events that your readers can look forward to in the very short tim before the book is released?
RH: New things are happening every day! I’m currently arranging my book signing tour in California and Utah (locations will be given in my newsletter. I am also arranging a blog tour, some collaborative author giveaways, and a release party! If you want to see me somewhere, just send me a message. ;) I also have a book trailer in production, so keep your eyes out for that. I also have some pretty fantastic Advance Reader reviews of Shattered Snow from some big names that I can’t wait to share.
Thank you Rachel Huffmire for letting us in on your creative process. If you want to learn more about Rachel Huffmire and be included on the giveaways and events that will happen closer to the book launch you can find her at Rachelhuffmire.com. You can always find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, of course, but you can also read her articles here on Writing Through Brambles. Don't forget to pre-order your copy of Shattered Snow on Amazon. If you have any questions for Rachel, leave them in the comments below- she’s always happy to answer!
If you want something, it’s up to you to figure out how to get it.
This idea sounds overly simple, and yet, it took a mini life crisis at thirty for me to consider it. Up to that point, I’d been waiting for two specific things to happen before I dared even think about my dream of authoring a book. Those two things? Permission and ideal timing.
Let’s back up a bit. I grew up in a home full of expectations. Some were exerted by my family, some I created on my own. Those expectations included such things as being a good daughter, a good student and a good employee. After I got married, the idea that certain expectations must be upheld pushed me into pouring all my energy into being a good mom, spouse, and housekeeper. None of these expectations were well defined. I had no way of knowing if I was doing it “good” enough. I exhausted myself with worry, thinking I’d never get it right.
A week before my thirtieth birthday I was struck with the significance of another decade of my life slipping by. My dream of becoming an author hadn’t amounted to anything. The reality I had created for myself as a parent didn’t include me in it anywhere. I had invented this expectation that motherhood was an endless cycle of caring for everyone else first and my dreams could wait until the timing was better, until my first baby slept through the night, until the next baby slept through the night, until they napped at the same time, until they started school, until, until, until.
It’s November, everybody! This is one of my favorite months of all time. There’s plenty of candy leftover from Halloween, fall is in full swing, and Thanksgiving promises a whole day full of delicious food, warmth, and fun. In my family, while we’re all too full to get up, we have a tradition where we go around the table and take turns talking about what we’re grateful for.
For the longest time, I considered myself a hopeful hobby writer. This year, though, I’ve claimed writing as my official career! When people ask me if I have a job, I say, “Yes! I’m an author,” and I don’t feel like an imposter. I’m finally on the road to becoming the sort of writer I’ve wanted to be for as long as I can remember, and now there are so many more things to be grateful for! This month I want to talk about a few of those things. Beyond that, I want to encourage you to think about things that you’re grateful for. I hope you enjoy this list!:
Psychology is a powerful tool to use in fiction. Even if your characters aren’t human, giving them human traits and struggles will allow your readers to connect with them on a much deeper level. In this blog post I’ll discuss the value of using psychology in your writing, the best way to go about researching, and most importantly, what NOT to do when including mental illness in fiction.
Disclaimer: I’m not an expert. I hold no degrees, wrote no thesis, and have limited life experience with many of the topics I mention here. I have done what any good writer does when confronted with the need to include something in a story that they aren’t familiar with: research.
My interest in using psychology in fiction started when I wrote my first published novel, Woven. Without giving you too many spoilers, one of the characters has a magically-induced form of Dissociative Identity Disorder, known more commonly (but incorrectly) as Multiple Personality Disorder. People with this disorder show dramatic shifts in personality and identity, and every aspect of their being is affected: temperament, dialect, memory, physical ability, intellectual knowledge, and even gender.
Psychologists now believe that DID largely occurs in individuals that were abused as children, and the mind literally splinters, or dissociates, in order to keep from being damaged by living out the memory of the trauma. Re-integration of the personalities allows for the divided individual to acknowledge each split inside them and become one, if they choose, or at very least live more harmoniously. That’s DID in a nutshell. There are a lot of stigmas associated with the illness, plenty of ways to incorrectly portray it, and fortunately for me, plenty of real-life stories to sift through as I wrote this character in my book.
I even found out while writing Woven that a family member was diagnosed with this mental illness. She’s also a writer, and she agreed to read Woven once it was finished. To paraphrase her words, there were parts of the story that were so real they were difficult to read because she identified with the character so completely. In other words, I nailed it. She loved my book, and her response validated all the research and effort I had put into compiling it.
So what does knowing my experience do for you? Let’s start with talking about what adding or deepening the influence of human psychology can do for your story and those that read it.
We're all writers, we're all moms, writing our way through the "brambles" of life and our stories.