Monday, July 9, 2012
Color of Snow
Guest Post by Brenda Stanley
The Color of Snow has been described as dark or mysterious. I feel most of my writing fits this description because I enjoy looking at the strange and unusual things in life. My novel will definitely make some people uncomfortable. I like to look at situations and issues and try to figure out how people will react. For years I was a crime reporter, so I enjoy investigating stories and learning about the parts of life most people try to hide. When I wrote The Color of Snow, I was working on a story about a young girl who went missing years ago and has never been found. I started thinking about what would happen if she were to suddenly show up now. I loved putting myself in Sophie’s shoes and seeing things for the first time.
Sophie’s relationship with Damien is both intense and tempered. Her father has raised her to believe that she will destroy anyone who truly loves her, so she is torn between her love for Damien and her fear of causing him harm.
The story changes between what is going on with Sophie and what happened in her parent’s past that brought her to where she is. I wanted readers to experience the often isolated feeling of living in a vast rural area, but also the mental confinement of a small town.
Mental illness, teen pregnancy, religious intolerance, and racism are all big parts of The Color of Snow. I like my characters to face challenges and see them grow from them. It is not only the conflicts with the other characters that keeps the story going, but also those within the person’s own mind.
I wanted Sophie to be unusually beautiful so that people treated her strangely and therefore made her feel even more alien when she is first discovered. She has transformed from a tragic kidnapping victim to a mythical ghost from the past and this makes her transition into her new life even more difficult.
My ties to the Mormon Church go back to my great-great grandparents. I was raised in the teachings of the Mormon religion and even though I am no longer a member, I have many friends and family who are still very active in the church. My descriptions of the Mormon culture are how I view it and how I feel someone who has never been exposed to it might see it. I think there are a lot of people who are curious about the Mormon religion and have misconceptions. I feel I’ve been both candid and fair in my portrayal.
The Color of Snow Excerpt
Malad, Idaho, early spring 2009
Spring had spread across the fields and pastures. Cottonwood trees fluttered their newly sprouted greenery, and purple asters covered the rolling hills. The snow had melted and Stephanie and I started taking the horses on rides up the valley. It was incredibly liberating to roam and wander without fear.
There was a trail leading from the foothills up into the forest, and once we were in the midst of the wild spruce and lofty pines, the noises of cars and life around the ranch disappeared. The sound of hooves on early spring dirt was solid and steady. The breeze was still crisp, but the sun reached down and warmed our shoulders. For almost an hour we rode in silence. We both were in awe of the day and the splendor that was ours alone to enjoy.
At the top of the hill, the trail opened up to a small plateau and a blue mountain lake. I gasped at the incredible beauty of it. I smiled at Stephanie and she nodded in acknowledgement. Her eyes were bright and her freckles seemed to glow in the sunshine. The horse she rode was a black mare my grandfather was going to sell. Stephanie loved the white diamond-shaped patch on her forehead, and scolded him for even thinking about selling Black Bean. My horse was an old buckskin gelding named Clyde. He lumbered along and rarely went faster than a slow trot, but for a beginner like me he was perfect.
Stephanie turned her horse down the hill and toward the lake. “Do you want to go swimming?” she called back.
“I don’t know how,” I answered.
She giggled as she reached the water’s edge. “You don’t need to. The horses do it all.” Her hair was pulled into two short pigtails and they bounced with each step of her horse.
I waited and watched as she urged Black Bean into the water and out into the lake. As the water got deeper, the splashes became larger around its legs as it pushed forward, and soon they were floating along smoothly.
“Come on!” she yelled, waving me in. She had her legs pulled up on the sides, trying to avoid getting completely soaked. They were pale and freckled like her face, and seemed to make up most of her body. Stephanie wasn’t much taller than I, but her legs and arms were long and made her look gangly and even thinner than she was. She waved so hard she almost fell off the horse, and started laughing as she steadied herself.
It looked like fun, but I was terrified. The water was immense and dark. The largest amount of water I had ever been in was my own bathtub. I wondered what would happen if I fell off in the middle. Stephanie and Black Bean were in the center of the lake and they looked like a serene harmonious duo.
I gave Clyde a slight nudge and he walked to the shoreline. The water lapped as I waited and watched Stephanie continue to beckon. She looked like she was having a marvelous time and wasn’t worried in the least. I patted Clyde and prodded him with the heels of my sneakers. He seemed unconcerned as he clopped loudly into the water. I took a deep breath and told myself to keep looking forward and it would be okay. Clyde had no hesitation, which helped ease my fear.
The sun beat down on us and made splashes of water light up as Clyde moved forward into the water. The splatters that hit my exposed skin were freezing and made me realize how cold it would be if I did fall in. I fixed my eyes on the opposite shoreline and put my faith in Clyde. The horse had a wide back, and as we got deeper into the lake, I curled my legs back the way Stephanie did and clung to his mane. We were riding bareback that day, because Stephanie didn’t want to spend time putting on saddles.
I held my breath as we got further away from the shore and closer to the very center of the lake. At one point I looked down, staring deep into the abyss. There was no bottom, and I felt my stomach turn, knowing I would surely die if I left Clyde’s back.
As the horse rhythmically propelled us along, I began to feel a sense of buoyancy and freedom. When we crossed the center point and were on our way to the other shore, my confidence turned to elation. I started to breathe again and smiled at what I had accomplished. I sat up straight, closed my eyes and imagined I was flying, gliding along on my winged unicorn, soaring through clouds and racing the wind. When I opened my eyes, I giggled at my foolish imagination, but couldn’t help beaming at what an amazing adventure it was.
When the horse’s hooves made contact with the lake bottom and we started to emerge from the water, I wanted to burst from relief and joy. “That was the most wonderful thing ever!”
Brenda Stanley's Bio:
Brenda Stanley is the former news anchor at her NBC affiliate KPVI in Eastern Iadho. Her writing has been recognized by the Scripps Howard Foundation, the Hearst Journalism Awards, the Idaho Press Club and the Society for Professional Journalists. She is a graduate of Dixie College in St. George, Utah, and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Brenda lived for two years in Ballard, Utah, within the Fort Duchesne reservation where the novel is set. She and her husband live on a small ranch near the Snake River with their horses and dogs.