Take 5: The Color of Ice with Barbara Linn Probst; plus CONTEST

Congratulations to WU contributor Barbara Linn Probst on the October 18th publication of her third novel, The Color of Ice! Set in Iceland’s otherworldly landscape of glaciers and thermal lagoons, and framed by the magical art of glassblowing, The Color of Ice is the story of a woman’s awakening to passion, beauty, and the redemptive power of unconditional love.

Barbara is an award-winning, Amazon best-selling author of contemporary women’s fiction. Her previous novels Queen of the Owls (2020) and The Sound Between the Notes (2021) were gold and silver medalists for prestigious national awards, including the Sarton and Nautilus Book Awards. The Sound Between the Notes was also selected by Kirkus Reviews as one of the Best Indie Books of 2021.

Learn more about the novel that Lisa Barr, New York Times bestselling author of Woman on Fire, calls an “exquisite…passionate tale of love, loss, redemption, and healing as seen through the power of glass and ice” below!

First, a contest!

There’s a holiday tradition in Iceland, where The Color of Ice is set, called Jolabokaflod, which means “the Christmas [or Chanukah] book flood.” Everyone, young and old, gives books to friends and family as holiday gifts—and then they spend the evening reading in bed and eating chocolate, or reading by the fire while sipping hot chocolate. Now, that’s my idea of how to celebrate a holiday!

In honor of Jolabokaflod, I am giving five lucky winners a special Jolabokaflod “swag bag,” pictured below!  Details about the contest at the end of this post.

What’s the premise of your new book?

BP: The Color of Ice is the story of a woman who takes a chance—traveling, on impulse, to “the land of fire and ice” where she meets a glass artist who awakens a hunger in her for everything she’s told herself she doesn’t need anymore. Passion, vulnerability, risk, her own art—and a capacity for unconditional love and generosity that she never expected to find.

You could say that the premise of the story is that we are capable of more goodness than we think.

What would you like people to know about the story itself?

BP: The Color of Ice was truly a story that “found me,” unfolding as I gave myself to it.  I’d been to Iceland a few years earlier, with no intention of using it as the setting for a novel.  But when I had the inspiration to frame a story around glassblowing—the way I’d framed my earlier books around painting and music—the image of the blue icebergs of the Jökulsárlón lagoon came to me, all at once, and I knew immediately that this was the essence of the story.

And then, when I had a glassblowing lesson and the instructor showed me the punti scar, which is the mark left when the piece is freed from the pipe on which it’s been formed—I knew what the story needed to be. It’s no exaggeration to say that Iceland and glassblowing showed me the way. My job was to be open, listen, and try to “incarnate” what they were telling me, to bring it to life through my characters.

What do your characters have to overcome in this story? What challenge do you set before them?

BP: Cathryn, the protagonist of The Color of Ice, has spent fifteen years as a single mother “doing it all.” If the price of her ultra-competence has been the dimming of her fire—well, she’s accepted that, partly because a self-imposed penance about her husband’s death, and partly because she’s come to like the sense of control that her carefully-curated life provides.

What she must overcome—through a series of choices and risks, with escalating stakes—is that very competence and feeling of control. The contradictory nature of glass itself—a substance we can look at and through; workable only when molten, neither solid nor liquid—become a kind of guide. So too, Cathryn’s relationship with Mack, the glassblower to whom she’s powerfully drawn, challenges her beliefs about what she wants and who she is. Ultimately, the challenge she must face is the question of what it truly means to love someone.

What unique challenges did this book pose for you, as a writer?

BP: Every book has its own challenges, but one of the biggest challenges in writing The Color of Ice was to be true to a craft that spoke deeply to me, but I didn’t really know, not in the way I knew music and the piano for my last book. Authenticity is very important to me, so I needed to do much more than read books and go to museums. I interviewed glass artists, watched them work, and even tried it a few times myself. It was totally awesome!

The other challenge had to do with my protagonist.  I seem to have a tendency to start out making my protagonists bitter, brittle, cold, and not terribly likable. (Doctor Freud?)  An important part of my journey with each novel has been to allow the protagonist to open, soften, become more human and accessible. That’s happened in different ways with each book, but with The Color of Ice, a key moment was when I did an exercise that I wrote about right here on WU: I let Cathryn tell me off. As I wrote in that essay: “My protagonist pulled no punches and told me exactly what she thought of me—how I was projecting my own hang-ups onto her, making her too defensive, and suppressing her kinder impulses. She told me that I needed to love her more.”

Luckily, I listened—but then I had to contend with a different problem! Once I let her surrender to what she was feeling for Mack and become more vulnerable, I had to deal with the opposite problem—of making her seem too passive, a woman abandoning her entire vacation to chase after a guy.  I had to go deeper, and then deeper still, to find a place beyond those easy polarities where surrender, courage, power, and generosity come together. Only there would Cathryn be capable of the act that defines the story.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of having written this book?

BP: It feels strange to say this, but writing The Color of Ice made me aspire to be a better person.

As I said, I have a tendency to create protagonists who are, at least in the beginning, rather closed-off. Cathryn was like that for sure, and I wanted her to “thaw,” bit by bit, and open to a compassion and unconditional love that, for me, represents a human ideal.

This wish became even more important to me because of everything that was happening in the world. I wanted to write about someone who was struggling to be better, more generous and loving. I couldn’t bear to frame a story around anything else.

To do that, I had to feel what I wanted Cathryn to feel—to live up to what I was writing about. To try, anyway.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to write this book, especially during the long months of quarantine when “regular” life stopped, and I was able to immerse in the enchantment of the story world as it unfolded. It was truly a special time for me.

Learn more about THE COLOR OF ICE at Barbara’s website or at the links below.

Congratulations, Barbara!


TO ENTER, just post a comment (honor system) telling us that you’ve pre-ordered a copy of The Color of Ice!  That’s it!  Contest is open through October 21st, so you won’t have long to wait. Five lucky winners get a bag of Jolabokaflod chocolates, an icicle ornament, and other bookish swag.


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