Author Jennifer Laam & THE SECRET DAUGHTER OF THE TSAR

Posted by on Oct 22, 2013 in Author Interviews, Blog | 0 comments

I’m excited to welcome author Jennifer Laam to Between the Sheets today. Her debut historical novel, THE SECRET DAUGHTER OF THE TSAR, releases today from St. Martin’s Griffin. I’ve been drooling over this cover since it was released. I can’t wait to tear into this book.

About the Book

Jennifer seamlessly braids together the stories of three women — Veronica, Lena, and Charlotte — and imagines an alternate history for the Romanov family – one in which a secret fifth daughter, smuggled out of Russia before the revolution, continues the royal lineage to dramatic and unexpected consequences.

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How did you become interested in Russian history and the Romanovs?

It’s a weird thing. I grew up at the tail end of the Cold War when the Soviets had become a tired military non-threat. Gorbachev came in and carried out all his reforms and the Soviets almost seemed cuddly.  But in 1991, there was an attempted coup. It occurred to me we could all go back to the “bad old days” of living under the threat of nuclear annihilation. In the end, the coup failed and the Soviet Union ceased to exist. Those sweeping changes in Russia fascinated me and I wanted to know more about the history behind it all.

The last Romanovs intrigue me because frankly they were beautiful and the world they were born into was beautiful and then it all imploded around them. I think we’re naturally drawn to the combination of beauty and tragedy and chaos. Around the same time I was really getting into Russian history, DNA proved that the most famous Anastasia pretender, Anna Anderson, definitely wasn’t Anastasia. What a bummer! I think the Anastasia fairy tale appeals to our need for survival stories. We needed someone to walk away from the massacre of that family. And then I read another possible (if unlikely) tale of a Romanov survivor. That is where the first hint of an idea for my novel began.

Do you see yourself in your protagonist? 

Oh yes! My contemporary heroine, Veronica, started out as a secondary character in another novel. I abandoned the project, but got attached to her and wanted her to be the main character in THE SECRET DAUGHTER OF THE TSAR. I guess it’s not too surprising because I see now that she’s a stand-in for me. I have given her all of my anxieties and insecurities and self-doubt and heartaches. Like me, Veronica was raised in California’s Central Valley…I was born in Stockton and she is from Bakersfield. She moved to Los Angeles (as I did), but deep down she’s proud of her ties to the Valley. And she shares my taste in music.

Share a juicy cultural tidbit about Russian history.

This is going further back in time than my novel, but apparently at one point Ivan the Terrible was one of Elizabeth I’s suitors. Can you imagine them together? Supposedly, she took the offer seriously, or at least as seriously as she took any of her marriage proposals. This makes me picture Elizabeth trapped high in a cupola-shaped tower, and yet somehow still able to manipulate and outwit Ivan as he descends into madness. The possibilities for alternate historical fiction are endless!

Do you have advice you’d like to share with aspiring writers?

Keep at it! I’ve been writing since college. I don’t think anyone believed I would ever work up the courage to submit pages to an agent. I just needed to wait for the right time. And, as with everything, the more you work at it the better you get.

Can you talk a little bit about your next project?

I’m working on a sequel to THE SECRET DAUGHTER OF THE TSAR. I want to continue Veronica’s story. One of the other sections is set during the time of Catherine the Great. I’ve fallen madly in love with Catherine’s best known advisor/lover, Prince Potemkin and I tell that story from his point of view. This is a challenge. I haven’t written in a male voice in a long time. And I’ve often told my friends I have no idea what men think. But I do know I’m having fun with it and look forward to the time I get to spend with Potemkin.  I think that’s a good sign!

Speed Round

Favorite Vice: Spicy food. I put hot sauce on everything.

Hidden Talent: Trivia (I was a contestant on Jeopardy…although I wound up in third place.)

Best Place on Earth: The Bay Bridge, driving into San Francisco, just as the fog breaks. The Golden Gate Bridge is more glamorous, but the Bay Bridge is the one I take to get into the city. Runner up: Anywhere in Los Angeles with a good view of the Hollywood sign. I am a California girl!

Favorite Russian dish: Pelmeni (dumplings), dripping in butter and stuffed with potatoes. Carb-fest!

jenniferAbout the Author

Jennifer Laam earned her master’s degree in history from Oakland University in Michigan and her bachelor’s degree from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA. She has lived in Los Angeles and the suburbs of Detroit, traveled in Russia and Europe, and worked in education and non-profit development. She currently resides in Northern California. THE SECRET DAUGHTER OF THE TSAR is her first novel.

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