Thursday, October 17, 2013

Q&A with Jennifer Laam, Author of The Secret Daughter of the Tsar

Please join me in welcoming debut author Jennifer Laam to Let Them Read Books! I have been itching to get my hands on The Secret Daughter of the Tsar ever since I saw that cover and read the description! (Click here to read my review :) Jennifer was gracious enough to sit down and answer a few questions for me. Check out her awesome answers and then enter to win your own copy of The Secret Daughter of the Tsar!

From the Back Cover: In her riveting debut novel, The Secret Daughter of the Tsar, Jennifer Laam seamlessly braids together the stories of three women: Veronica, Lena, and Charlotte. Veronica is an aspiring historian living in present-day Los Angeles when she meets a mysterious man who may be heir to the Russian throne. As she sets about investigating the legitimacy of his claim through a winding path of romance and deception, the ghosts of her own past begin to haunt her.

Lena, a servant in the imperial Russian court of 1902, is approached by the desperate Empress Alexandra. After conceiving four daughters, the Empress is determined to sire a son and believes Lena can help her. Once elevated to the Romanov’s treacherous inner circle, Lena finds herself under the watchful eye of the meddling Dowager Empress Marie.

Charlotte, a former ballerina living in World War II occupied Paris, receives a surprise visit from a German officer. Determined to protect her son from the Nazis, Charlotte escapes the city, but not before learning that the officer’s interest in her stems from his longstanding obsession with the fate of the Russian monarchy.

Then as Veronica's passion intensifies, and her search for the true heir to the throne takes a dangerous turn, the reader learns just how these three vastly different women are connected.

Hi Jennifer!
Thanks for taking the time to join us today!

What inspired you to write The Secret Daughter of the Tsar?

I have been fascinated with Russia and particularly the last Romanovs for a long time. Around the same time I developed this interest, however, DNA proved that the most famous “Anastasia,” a woman named Anna Anderson, couldn’t possibly have been the grand duchess. In one of the many books I read on Anastasia, I stumbled across another theory, a less well known theory, about a possible missing daughter of the last tsar. This got my imagination rolling. I started jotting down ideas on how to fictionalize that story. Eventually I started thinking about characters and timelines and then actually drafting a book.

What kind of research did you do to prepare for this novel? Did you come across anything that surprised you?

I read many books on Alexandra and late imperial Russia, along with books on Occupied Paris during WWII. Although I’ve been to Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Paris, I didn’t travel specifically to research this novel. My budget didn’t allow for it at the time I was writing. Maybe next time!

As I did background research, I was always intrigued by the number of individuals who popped up out of the woodwork over the years, claiming they were one of Nicholas and Alexandra’s children and somehow or another they had miraculously escaped the massacre of their family. And so many people were willing to believe. This got me thinking about why these stories are popular and why we’re drawn to them. It informed the section of the novel that takes place in the present.  I really wanted to focus on why the last Romanovs appeal to our sense of historical imagination and our need for survival stories.

What kind of challenges did you face in crafting a single story around three women from different time periods?

The biggest challenge for me was keeping the three timelines synched. At one point, I decided to have fun with my markers and created a huge, multicolored timeline that spanned from 1900 to the present. That was actually one of my favorite projects during the writing process.

Veronica, Lena, and Charlotte are three very different women, yet they are bound together by a common thread. How did you shape their individual characters? Which one is your favorite?

Each one of the three female leads represents different parts of my personality. I didn’t plan it this way, but it became more evident as I rewrote and rewrote. Lena is the part of me that remembers what it was like to just start out on your own and create an identity separate from your family. Charlotte is closer to who I am now, older and a bit more jaded and perhaps fearful that the “best years” are behind her.

The character most like me, however, is definitely Veronica. She’s ambitious, but also insecure. She can come off as a bit pompous from time to time, but she can also be called out on it and is quick to make fun of herself. She struggles with self-doubt and trust issues, but I think she grows and better deals with those issues over the course of the book. Since she is essentially me, she’s my favorite. I admit it!

What are you working on now?

Currently, I’m working on a sequel to The Secret Daughter of the Tsar.  I want to continue Veronica’s story and explore other historical periods. One of the sections is set during the time of Catherine the Great and the protagonist is her former lover and trusted advisor Prince Potemkin. He was passionate, sensual, energetic, spiritual, loyal, and also dealt with periodic bouts of depression. I absolutely adore him!

Thanks, Jennifer! Sounds great!


Win your own copy of The Secret Daughter of the Tsar. Enter by leaving a comment on this post along with your email address.

This giveaway is open to residents of the continental US and ends at 11:59pm Wednesday, October 30, 2013. Winner will be selected at random. Thanks, and good luck!

This giveaway is closed and the winner has been selected.
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  1. I'm one of those you mentioned, who have always been fascinated by the Romanovs, and their tragic story. And I agree the cover is beautiful!. Thanks for the giveaway.

  2. yes, yes I love stories around the Romanovs! Even as a young girl with everything going on about Anastasia. So excited for the giveaway!

    Laura Kay

  3. I wish I knew more about the Romanovs!!! I know the general history but would love to spur my appetite by reading this just sounds so good. And the cover...come on just BEAUTIFUL!!! Thanks for the giveaway!

  4. The Romanovs have always intrigued me. Your novel would be memorable and very special. Thanks for this wonderful giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  5. I enjoyed this informative interview and would find this book fascinating since The Romanovs are extremely unforgettable. Many thanks. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  6. This sounds like such a good story, the Romanovs continue to be an excellent source of fiction. I love that cover too, how beautiful is that. Thanks for the chance to win a copy. carlscott(at)prodigy(dot)net(dot)mx

  7. I love Russian HF. thanks for the giveaway! Emma @ Words And Peace ehc16e at yahoo dot com

  8. Fascinating take on a powerful period in history.
    kaiminani at gmail dot com

  9. So, so excited for this book, and dying to read more historical fiction set in Russia in general. I've studied more modern Russian history but would love to read more about the Romanovs! - dahlia.adler at gmail

  10. Great Interview - thanks for the opportunity to win a copy! I have always been fascinated with Russian history and look forward to reading the book.

  11. I love Russian HF...and new authors. Lovely cover. Thanks. nanze55(at)hotmail(dot)com

  12. I truly feel sorry for the Imperial Russian family however if they had paid attention to the needs of the people and not spent a fortune on palaces and Faberge eggs they would not have met their doom. By the time they were murdered they were despised by the starving Russian people. I think the rich here in the United States should heed the lessons of the Romanovs. I look forward to the day when a BIG CHANGE is made here.

  13. i would so love to read The Secret Daughter of the Tsar!!
    thank you for the giveaway!!

    cyn209 at juno dot com

  14. This looks great! Thanks for the giveaway!
    mestith at gmail dot com

  15. This book looks very interesting to me. Thank you for the chance to win it.

    griperang at embarqmail dot com

  16. I don't know much about this time period in history and would love to read this book to learn more. This sounds like a fascinating book that I would like to read.

    tmrtini at gmail dot (com)

  17. I have been fascinated with the Romanov family since I wrote a report on them in 5th grade, so I'm always looking for anything to read that even remotely concerns them. Thank you for the chance to win a copy of your book!

  18. I love the cover! Hfaur04 at gmail dot com

  19. Sounds fascinating; I'm looking forward to reading it!

  20. The cover is so beautiful if i saw that at the bookstore i would have to have it haha

  21. I have been wanting to read this book for a long time! THanks for having the giveaway!

  22. I've read some reviews about this book and would really like to read it.
    Thanks for the giveaway! florry_20 @


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