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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Interview with Jennifer Laam

 I'm so happy to welcome Jennifer Laam, author of "The Lost Season of Love and Snow."

Your books are set in different periods in Russia, which (unfortunately for readers like me) seems to be an uncommon subject. What draws you to writing about that particular country?

I grew up in the Central Valley of California. History has always been a form of escapism for me, so I was drawn to the other side of the world. In my first novel, The Secret Daughter of the Tsar, the main character, Veronica, expresses similar sentiments.

Having said that, my true fascination with Russian history was born in the early nineties, when the Soviet Union collapsed. The possibilities for a new world, a better world, seemed endless. I don’t think those possibilities have yet become reality, but the dream endures. Once I focused on Russia, I was drawn in by the complex personalities: Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, the Revolutionaries, and the last Romanovs. I never looked back.

What inspired you to write about Pushkin?

As a college student, I grew fascinated with Alexander Pushkin’s world and the details of the fatal duel fought over his wife’s honor. His beautiful wife, Natalya Goncharova, was rumored to have been unfaithful, and perhaps even the tsar’s mistress. Whenever a woman is the subject of gossip, I want to hear her side of the story.

Years later, I ran into Natalya again in Martin Cruz Smith’s Tatiana. Present day characters refer to her in derogatory, demeaning ways and even blame her for Alexander Pushkin’s death. My interest was re-sparked, and after researching and learning more about Natalya, I knew I had to tell her version of the events that led to her famous husband’s duel.

What is your favorite scene in the book?

My favorite scenes to write were between Natalya and her sisters, especially Ekaterina. I made Natalya and Ekaterina antagonists. I loved writing snarky dialogue and exploring the tense dynamics of their relationship. When a beta reader wrote “she is awful” (or something along those lines) about Ekaterina, I knew I was on to something. Please understand, though, I have sympathy for Ekaterina, just as I do for Natalya. This wasn’t an easy world for women.

Who is your favorite character?
The fictionalized version of Natalya depicted in the novel is a combination of my interpretation of Natalya as a historical figure and my own quirks, opinions, and romantic view of life. I’d never written in first person before. Once I started, I absolutely loved it. When you dive that deep into someone else’s head, it’s hard to tell where they end and you begin. Given that she’s partially me, Natalya was bound to become my favorite character. ;)

If you could bring three people, fictional or non-fictional, with you to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?

To answer this question, I will briefly set aside my love of Russian history and focus on my equally strong love for science fiction and fantasy. On a deserted island, I want companions who are both resourceful and good company. I first select Captain Jean-Luc Picard for his steady leadership and rational approach to life. Besides, in his spare time, he might help us stage impromptu Shakespeare plays. Secondly, I choose Captain Malcolm Reynolds for his willingness to do what needs to be done. In some situations, I’m sure we would need to act first and worry about consequences later. He’d make the days pass faster with witty banter and is also easy on the eyes. Finally, I’d bring the Mother of Dragons, Daenerys Targaryen. I’m assuming her dragons will come along, and I want to watch them fly overhead while I relax on a beach.

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