Just over a year ago now, I went to writing group and said, “I have an idea, and I want it completed in three months.” Start to finish, drafted and edited, my goal was to pitch this story to a publisher at LTUE, a large writing conference held in Provo, Utah every year. There was a fire deep inside me telling me that after eight other manuscripts, this—THIS was it. I worked on a dedicated schedule, making the word count happen. Fast forward, and I not only accomplished my goal, but received an offer for publications at Immortal Works.
My dear friend, acquisition editor Amanda Hakes, wrote a wonderful description of Shattered Snow after I sat down with her for a brief interview. Here's what she had to say.
"Shattered Snow is about Keltson Grammar, a man who willingly breaks the laws restricting time travel so he can rescue the under-looked and the unfortunate throughout history. He hides his identity under the guise of a white-masked face in a mirror, never revealing to his clients or their rescuers who he is. But when his mission catches the eye of Lilia, 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 missions and his hidden 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 is the chapter heading 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. There are also gorgeous illustrations by artist Kaelin Twede laced throughout that absolutely bring the story to life.
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.
I’m bringing on Rachel to talk about the creation of Shattered Snow—the way the process 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 Snow White’s story... and plenty of 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 translated 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 so important to me to make it as accurate as possible. (by the way, 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 that when someone goes back in time to fix a bad thing, that fix changes so much of the present that they usually 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 it. If the timeline is changed, there will be legal consequences. If you go back too many times 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 to the way it originally 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.
As far as turning those tropes you spoke of on their head, the best fantasy and science fiction stories all require their cool gadgetry or magic to come with a cost. Even though my time travel is science fiction based, I treated it as if it were a magic system. 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.
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 naturally, 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.
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 for me 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 your Snow White character. What led to the decision to meld the historically accurate name of Margaretha von Waldeck with the name you felt drawn to (Bianka) 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 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, turning her more readily into the Snow White we all know and love. And without giving any spoilers, had significant weight to the ending of the plot. After you read it, we can talk. ;)
AH: This was 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 final book in the series, Saving Winter, and hope to have the rough draft done for Nanowrimo. I have a new series starting up in January called Granted: Curse of the Emerald Jinn, and six other finished manuscripts on the backburner. I’m not giving up on them. They’ll be out someday.
I want to thank Amanda for the amazing interview, and if you have something you are ready to query, let me send you her way with your manuscripts! Check out the submissions page for Immortal Works here!
You can find the eBook and Audiobook versions of Shattered Snow here,
or you can visit my shop to purchase a personally signed paperback edition here.