The Temptations of Research ~ A Guest Post & Giveaway from Eva Stachniak

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.


  • At 2012.01.12 11:31, Karen White said:

    Love to win a copy of this – just put it on my TBR list yesterday! It’s great to hear of those moments where inspiration takes over and all the “perspiration” pays off 🙂

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    • At 2012.01.12 13:08, dogearedcopy said:

      I’m really torn between wanting to read this in print and wanting to listen to the audio edition! Sooo, whichever comes my way first! Regardless, I’m very much interested in The Winter Palace 🙂

      • At 2012.01.12 13:16, Kristy McRae said:

        This book sounds wonderful! Thanks for the opportunity to enter the giveaway. It’s definitely a title that’s going into my TBR pile.

        • At 2012.01.12 13:49, Wendy Burd Kinsey said:

          I have this on reserve at the library I would love to have my very own copy to read.

          • At 2012.01.12 15:54, itchbay said:

            Oh, yes, please! I’ve been adding so many of the books you’ve reviewed into my TBR stack, it’s nearly about to fall over! I may have to make a back-up stack.

            And thanks to Eva Stachniak for sharing her tale about her inspiration and efforts. I think historical fiction is my most favorite genre, and I’m always intrigued to learn how the authors are inspired to write about their subjects.

            • At 2012.01.12 17:50, Julie said:

              You are the third blog where I’ve read a review of this book and have determined that at some point I must read it. Definitely log me in for a copy of this.

              • At 2012.01.12 18:14, Wendy said:

                I’m excited to hear she has the second book already in the works! I would love to read The Winter Palace! Thank you for the entry!

                • At 2012.01.12 19:05, Heather Martinez said:

                  So interesting to read this post. I already decided I want to read Winter Palace. Would love to win in!

                  • At 2012.01.13 11:47, Jessica M said:

                    This is such an interesting post (and an amazing sounding book!). I already wanted to read The Winter Palace but now I am even more excited! Thanks for the chance to win a copy. 🙂

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                    • At 2012.01.13 12:34, Eva Stachniak said:

                      Many thanks for all your great comments. Please enjoy “The Winter Palace.”
                      You made my day!

                      • At 2012.01.13 14:56, Tallulah Grace said:

                        After reading your post I can’t wait to read this book! Thanks for the review!

                        • At 2012.01.13 17:39, Emma @ Words And Peace said:

                          I enjoyed that book and would love to offer it to friends. thanks for the giveaway.
                          Emma @ Words And Peace
                          ehc16e at yahoo dot com

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                          • At 2012.01.14 00:30, ikkinlala said:

                            I’m impressed by people who make it past the research stage… I don’t think I ever could!

                            • At 2012.01.14 18:50, Catherine said:

                              I have read several reviews of this book and definitely want to read it! And of course, reading about a namesake of mine just adds to the mystery and enjoyment! Would love to have a copy of The Winter Palace to savor!

                              • At 2012.01.15 23:52, Sheila (Book Journey) said:

                                This looks good… I have seen it on the blogs and I am drooling a bit -would love a chance to win it 🙂

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                                • At 2012.01.16 16:26, Elizabeth A said:

                                  Love historical fiction and this one looks great. Have added it to my TBR list. Would love a chance to win a copy. Thanks.

                                  (Required, will not be published)

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