Sunday, May 16, 2010

Interview and Review: Whiter Than Snow by Sandra Dallas

Whiter Than Snow

Release Date: April 2010
Price: $12.49 (hardcover)

What I Liked:
First of all, I will say that Sandra Dallas is a superb writer. Whenever I read other reviews that say that about someone, I'm skeptical. But this time, my skepticism was unfounded. I found myself immediately drawn into the story, and could barely put it down when I needed to take a break. I love that feeling. As heartbreaking as it was to read in places, it was completely engaging.

Of course, since I also write about the 1920s in the West (well, at least the main setting was in the West), I was immediately drawn to the storyline, and she did not disappoint me. I found the setting and the details of the plot to be realistic and engaging, consistent with what I know of the West at this time, and consistent with the research I have done about the early 20th century (and earlier, although I know less about that). As a history buff, there is nothing that takes me out of a novel quicker than misinformation, but Sandra Dallas was impeccable on that front. There was absolutely nothing to pull me out of this story. I was in it until the end.

If I have any criticism at all, it was the breadth of the plot. I could easily have spent much more time inside this book even than I had, because the characters were so rich. I just so appreciated Ms. Dallas' writing style and development of her characters. The cast was rather large, and it's difficult to make a reader invest in many characters, but the nature of the plot and the great writing made that easy to do. All in all, I would highly recommend this book as a good historical women's fiction read.

Book Blurb:
WHITER THAN SNOW opens in 1920 on a spring afternoon in Swandyke, a small town near Colorado’s Tenmile Range. Just moments after four o’clock, a large split of snow separates from Jubilee Mountain high above the tiny hamlet and hurtles down the rocky slope, sweeping up everything in its path – including nine young children who are walking home from school. But only four children survive. 

WHITER THAN SNOW takes readers into the lives of each of these families. Ultimately, each story serves as an allegory to the greater theme of the novel by echoing that fate, chance and perhaps even divine providence, are all woven into the fabric of everyday life. And it’s through each character’s defining moment in his or her past that the reader understands how each child has become its parent’s purpose for living.
I would like to welcome New York Times bestselling novelist Sandra Dallas to our monthly Author Interview here at Enduring Romance. Sandra's latest release, Whiter Than Snow, came out in April and is now available for purchase at your nearest bookseller.

Rebecca: Whiter Than Snow, your latest release, takes place in the West in the 1920s. This is such an unusual time for a historical novel. Can you tell us what inspired you to write this time period?
That’s a tough one, Rebecca, because I don’t really know.  I think when I got the idea, it came complete with the time period.  I do love writing about the 1920s and 1930s, however.  1920 seems to me to be the ideal time period to include characters who range from a Civil War veteran to a Jewish girl on New York’s Lower East Side. 
R: What made you choose a small town as the location for this story?
Most mining towns are small.  But I wanted a cohesive group of people, characters who all related to a disaster, and that seemed to work best in a small town.

R: What's the one thing you'd like your readers to take away from this book?
The randomness of tragedy.  God does not punish us for our sins by bringing disaster; nor does He reward us with happy endings because we’re good.  Things happen for no reason.  You can explain them.  You can only react.

R: Our audience at Enduring Romance is comprised of both readers and writers. So, I'm sure the writers here would love to know: what draws you to the craft of writing?
I’ve never wanted to do anything else, except perhaps be a movie star, and that didn’t work out. I was a journalist for 35 years, and I can’t imagine not writing.  I love sitting at my computer and letting my imagination and my characters take over.  The most exciting things happen.  They surprise me, and sometimes, they disappoint me, too. When writing Whiter Than Snow, for instance, I kept asking why one or two more children couldn’t have survived. But that wasn’t to be.
R: As a reader, also, I would love to know: do you think about your audience as you're writing?
No, I write for myself and then my agent and editor.  If I fooled around trying to write what I thought readers wanted, I’d screw it up. Still, I am aware of what my readers want and don’t want.  They don’t want explicit love scenes or foul language, for instance, but then, I wouldn’t write that anyway.
R: Who are the fellow authors (past or present) whose writing you admire the most?
Truman Capote for the beauty of his language, and Anne Lamott for the wonderful insight and humor in her nonfiction books.
R: If you could, give us a sneak peek into the current Sandra Dallas project.
I’m writing something set in Colorado.  But not everything I write works.  So I don’t want to give specifics.
R: And a just-for-fun question. If you could go anywhere in the world right now, no strings and no rules, where would you go and why?
Turkey.  And I’m going there in the fall with my daughter Dana.  I love the beauty, the history, the friendliness of the people.  And, oh heck, I love shopping in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar.

R: One more just-for-fun question, because I'm a foodie and a nosy one, at that. What's the best restaurant you've ever eaten at, and what you order when you go there?
This week, my husband and I celebrated our 47th anniversary at Barolo Grill in Denver—tenderloin and chocolate truffles.  I also love the Ship Tavern in the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver, always prime rib.  I used to eat there all the time when I worked for Business Week.  (I was the magazine’s first female bureau chief.)  I integrated the bar, once reserved for men only. Funny, now that I write this, I realize I eat red meat when I go out.  I almost never eat it at home.
R: Any parting thoughts?
They will come later. Dorothy Parker once said her repartee was going home in a cab.  That’s where my parting thoughts are.

R: Thank you so much, Sandra, for taking the time to sit down with our readers at Enduring Romance. We're very happy that you took the time out to speak with us, and thanks for the opportunity to review your book.


Nayuleska said...

Great review Rebecca - it seems like a book that I'll need tissues for.

Thanks Sandra for the interview! I like to learn about the author's thoughts behind the book.

Rebecca Lynn said...

Oh, definitely tissues!!

I loved making the interview questions. Although I like Kimber's interviews better. I tend to want to know random stuff like what their pets names are and where they ate their best meal. :-) I have to think... okay, FOCUS on the writing, Rebecca.

And then I ask about what their favorite flavor of Campbell's Soup is, and I'm just fired... haha!

Nayuleska said...

But the random stuff is good - I mean, writing q's they've probably answered a lot already.