Today it is my pleasure to welcome novelist Eva Stachniak to Literate Housewife. She is celebrating the publication of The Winter Palace, a book I reviewed earlier this week as part of her book tour. I hope you enjoy Eva’s post as much as I did. It provides interesting insight to The Winter Palace and it’s sequel.
This post is also a giveaway post. If you live in the United States or Canada and would like the chance to win a copy of The Winter Palace, please leave a comment to this post. This giveaway is open to entries until Wednesday, January 18. I will announce the winner the next day. Good luck!
Without further interruption, here is Eva Stachniak’s wonderful post about the connection between historical fiction and research:
On writing historical novels and the temptations of research
I’ve long suspected that indiscriminate research is the ultimate writer’s excuse. If writing becomes hard, there are always all those wonderful books to read and places to visit, all related with the novel and thus guilt-free.
When I decided to write a novel about Catherine the Great I knew of at least eight excellent biographies of her, in addition to her own Memoirs, letters, and plays. A quick search through academic databases unearthed a seemingly unending bibliography of scholarly articles, on every aspect of her reign. If that was not enough I took a trip to St. Petersburg, for I could not imagine writing about Catherine without seeing the place where she spent most of her life.
My notebook quickly filled with descriptions: of the Winter Palace and the Hermitage, paintings Catherine collected, objects she touched: cameos, engraved stones, her china collection, her jewels. Then came the palaces where Catherine spent her summers: Oranienbaum, Tsarskoye Selo, and Peterhof. And the small Monplaisir pavilion where Alexei Orlov woke the then Grand Duchess of Russia up on June 28, 1762 to take her to the capital where she would proclaim herself Empress.
How do you contain all this?
In the end it was one sentence from Catherine’s letter to the British ambassador in Russia which saved me from despair. The ruling empress Elizabeth Petrovna’s health has just begun to fail when Catherine wrote: Three people who never leave her room, and who do not know about one another, inform me of what is going on, and will not fail to acquaint me when the crucial moment arrives.
The crucial moment was to be the death of the empress. But who were the spies who will not fail to inform her? The moment I began thinking of these spies I realized that I’ll have to write two novels, the first narrated by one of the spies who helped the young Catherine in the long and dangerous way to power, the second narrated by the older Catherine, at the end of her life, an empress and mistress of many spies. The Winter Palace is the first of the two, The Empire of the Night—which I am working on now—will be next.