‘This impeccably researched historical novel tackles the true story of a female journalist ahead of her time‘
– Salt the Snow
Today it a pleasure to chat with Carrie Callaghan, author of the recently published historical fiction novel, Salt the Snow.
Described as a ‘a vivid tale‘, Salt the Snow was published on February 4th with Amberjack Publishing. Carrie Callaghan is very passionate about history which is very evident from our chat below. I do hope you enjoy!
[ About the Book ]
Salt the Snow follows the story of American journalist Milly Bennett. Milly has covered murders in San Francisco, fires in Hawaii, and a civil war in China, but 1930s Moscow presents her greatest challenge yet. When her young Russian husband is suddenly arrested by the secret police, Milly tries to get him released. But his arrest reveals both painful secrets about her marriage and hard truths about the Soviet state she has been working to serve. Disillusioned, and pulled toward the front lines of a captivating new conflict, Milly must find a way to do the right thing for her husband, her conscience, and her heart.
Salt the Snow is a vivid and impeccably researched tale of a woman ahead of her time, searching for her true calling in life, and love. In today’s era of women speaking out, this novel takes a fresh look at the extraordinary women whose legacies have been nearly lost to history.
[ Q & A with Carrie Callaghan ]
Your main character, Milly Bennett, is based off the historical figure of the same name. Why did you choose to write a novel with her as the focus?
A few years ago, I read Milly’s posthumously published account of her early years, and her story really struck me. She was brave yet vulnerable, with a big heart that both felt for the world’s less fortunate and fell for the wrong men. I’m a big nerd, so writing is often an excuse for me to learn more about a particular subject, and in this case, I wanted to learn more about Milly. I loved finding out how she spent her years in Moscow and Spain – and I found some fascinating mysteries about her life that I think only fiction can solve.
Your first book, A Light of Her Own, also focused on a real historical figure in Dutch painter Judith Leyster. Have you always been interested in history?
Ever since I read Knight’s Castle in elementary school, I’ve been captivated by the stories of those who came before us. Even when we don’t see it, those stories are woven into our lives, and I’m delighted when research and storytelling make the threads visible.
How did you go about researching 1930s Moscow?
Compared to researching 17th century Holland, finding information on 1930s Moscow was a breeze! Still, I had a lot of learning to do. I’m guessing I read about a dozen books, watched lots of online movies, and, more than anything, relied on Milly’s own words in the hundreds of letters of hers that I read. She was such a vivid chronicler.
What are some of the challenges you found when writing about the location and time period?
I can’t speak Russian and wasn’t able to travel to Moscow, so there was a steep learning curve. I wouldn’t have been able to understand Russian culture like a Russian writer could. But since I was writing about Americans in Russia, and I had their own descriptions of their lives and thoughts, the challenge was much easier.
If Salt the Snow was made into a feature film, who’s your dream cast for the main roles?
This is where I bite my lip and think hard. I watch very little TV or film (I love a good movie, I just don’t have the time), so I don’t have a ready made cast in mind! Kristen Schaal, maybe, for Milly? And Jonathan Groff for Zhenya? I’m terrible at this!
Why is historical fiction an important genre?
Oh goodness, I’ve written whole essays on this. I feel so passionate about the importance of historical fiction! The short of it is that history can tell us how people have lived, the billions of different ways that lives can play out and the echoes and ripples those lives had that touch our own; while fiction distills those lives into a narrative that captures our attention and answers the questions that facts alone cannot.
How is Milly’s story relevant to today’s current political and social climates?
Milly struggled with so many things we still face today: the difficulty of seeing past wishful thinking and straight to the truth; the challenge of living life on your own terms; the weight of wanting to ease the world’s pain; the difficulty of forgiving ourselves and learning to truly love.
In terms of future work, do you have any ideas what you’ll write next?
I continue to nurture a formidable obsession with the Spanish Civil War, and so I hope my next book will take place there. I’m excited to try writing entirely fictional characters amidst real settings, so I think I’ll try that. Though I do still have a few historical women I’d like to write about some day in the future!
[ Bio ]
Carrie Callaghan is a historical fiction author living in Maryland with her spouse, two young children, and two ridiculous cats.
She is the author of A Light of Her Own (Amberjack, 2018), a portrait of the recently rediscovered Dutch artist Judith Leyster. Her short fiction has appeared in Weave Magazine, The MacGuffin, Silk Road, Floodwall, and elsewhere. Carrie is also an editor and contributor with the Washington Independent Review of Books.
Twitter ~ @CarrieCallaghan