Today, the extremely talented Jennifer Laam joins us to answer some questions about her debut novel, THE SECRET DAUGHTER OF THE TSAR. It is a historical reimagining of the Russian Revolution and the fate of the Romanov blood line, as told through three fascinating women.
After the interview, leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of her book!
1. THE SECRET DAUGHTER OF THE TSAR tells the amazing story of what could have happened if Tsar Nicholas II had a fifth daughter who escaped Russia before the revolution. What attracted you to this period of history and to the Romanov family?
I feel attracted to times of upheaval. I grew interested in Russian History during the events leading to the collapse of the Soviet Union. From there, I started reading about the first Russian Revolution in 1917 and Rasputin and the last royal family. I think I was most drawn to the beauty of their lives, at least on the surface, and the juxtaposition of that beauty with the sad state of the country politically and the family’s ultimate fate.
2. Rather than just tell the story from the “secret daughter’s” point of view, you decided to weave together the tales of three different women at three different points in history. Why did you decide to format the story this way?
From the first time I started to jot down ideas, I wanted to tell the story this way. I wanted to explore our continuing fascination with the Romanovs, particularly with individuals who claimed to be Anastasia or another member of the royal family who had miraculously escaped the massacre at the Ipatiev House. It seemed natural to have one story set in imperial Russia, one in present day, and one in a time period that would connect the other two stories.
3. What will readers love most about this story?
I think my novel is romantic, and not just in the sense that all three women have intriguing men in their lives (side note: they do!), but in the sense that it deals with our connections to the past. The way we view the past, even when we romanticize it, informs our present lives and the way we see the world. I’m drawn to historical imagination even more than I’m drawn to straight academic history. I think many readers will relate to this.
4. So your debut novel officially came out in October, published by the prestigious St. Martin’s Press. How has your life changed (or not) now that you’ve finally achieved the dream?
Deep down, I think I wanted the multi-book deal, the movie option, and the home on the beach. That may have been a tad unrealistic for a debut novelist. Nevertheless, now that I’m officially published, something wonderful has happened. I feel validated, especially when I receive feedback from readers. When I meet new people, I feel comfortable telling them I’m a writer. I feel like I can make this my career and that is incredibly exhilarating.
5. Can you tell us a little about the process that got you there, and what you learned along the way?
My process for this novel was haphazard. I worked on numerous drafts on and off for at least ten years. Several years ago, I went through a major life upheaval. I decided it was time to really buckle down and get this thing done. I joined a local writer’s group through meet-up. This is how I found my critique partners. They bolstered my courage. I finally finished the book and decided to query. I found my agent, the amazing Erin Harris, through Twitter.
Along the way, I learned how much I depend on my writing group to keep my spirits up. My writing partners keep me motivated. They guide me through my weaknesses and remind me of my strengths. And I try to do the same for them. They keep me going.
6. The road to publication is never without its rough patches. How did you weather those storms?
My writing group kept me focused. I found the roughest patch in the road to publication was the point at which all my edits were complete and the manuscript was truly out of my hands. And then it was a matter of waiting for the publication date. The only thing that kept me sane was starting a new manuscript and chatting about it with my writing buddies. Difficult as it is to start from scratch, it’s a joy to create something new.
7. What is the best piece of advice you’ve received that you can share with aspiring writers?
Write every day. This is more a case of “do what I say not what I do,” but it’s excellent advice. Sometimes you need to step away from your current work, but you can always jot a few lines down in a journal or have fun with another project. In my opinion, writing is like working out. It’s hard to start each day, but once you do, you feel better. It’s also hard to get back into it once you stop for too long. At the same time, you don’t want to get too mechanical. Mix it up. After a recent bout of writer’s block, I started to write with pen and paper again, instead of directly onto the computer. It was a simple change, but it worked!
8. I’m sure you’re very busy promoting THE SECRET DAUGHTER OF THE TSAR, but can you tell us what to expect next? Are you working on anything at the moment?
I’m working on a companion novel for THE SECRET DAUGHTER OF THE TSAR. I follow some of the characters from the contemporary plot line into present day Russia. Their story connects with a story set in the past. The historical section features Catherine the Great’s most impressive lover/advisor, Prince Potemkin, and how he dealt with Catherine’s final favorite: a very pretty but perhaps not particularly talented young man named Platon Zubov. I’m having fun with that situation.
Check out Jennifer’s website at jenniferlaam.com, and be sure to follow her on both Twitter and Facebook. I’ve been assured that she loves to chat 🙂
To win a copy of Jennifer’s book, please leave a comment below. The giveaway will remain open until 11:59 p.m. Thursday, December 19, at which point we’ll pick a winner at random. Best of luck to you all!
Because next Wednesday falls on Christmas, there will be no author interview next week. But don’t worry! I’ll be back on New Year’s Day with Julie Anne Lindsey, author of DECEIVED, MURDER BY THE SEASIDE, and several HONEY CREEK romances. What a fabulous way to kick off 2014!
I hope you all have a wonderful holiday!
If you are a published/soon-to-be-published author and would like to be interviewed for Skipping Midnight, please click here.
72 responses to “Jennifer Laam rewrites history — and offers a holiday gift!”
This book sounds fabulous. I’ve been interested in the Romanov’s since I was a kid and was sad to hear that none of them survived that night. Its nice to imagine that one of them escaped and can’t wait to read the story of an unknown Grand Duchess.
Thanks, Veronica! You and my protagonist share the same first name, by the way:)
I’ve been waiting for Christmas break to sit down and read this book. I love a bit of fiction about that family and time period!
Thanks, Elizabeth…I love that time period as well and hope you enjoy.
What a great angle to take with this fascinating story. I, too, have always loved reading anything about the Romanov family. I’m really not sure why, but I have always been drawn to their story. Crossing my fingers now for the draw :).
And to you Laura, this is a great interview, and I am looking forward to checking out more of your blog.
Thank you so much! You made my day 🙂
You are so welcome – I can’t wait to read your book too. It sounds great, and I am a total book freak, so I can never have enough books to read. You should see how long my TBR list is!! 🙂
Thank you! I found it to be an intriguing angle on the Romanovs. Good luck!
I can’t wait to read. I am fascinated with the Romanov’s!
Thanks, Elaine–me too:)
I have always loved anything about the Romanov family and can’t wait to read this book! And perfect timing – just before the Christmas break.
Jan, thank you and hope it makes for a good holiday read.
This book sounds so good! This type of historical novel really interests me!
Thanks, Whitney! I appreciate it.
I have always been fascinated with the Romanov’s. I cannot WAIT to read this book. It sounds absolutely fascinating!!
Thanks! Hope you enjoy it.
This sure sounds interesting!
I’ve been excited about this book for a while now, and reading this interview has made me even more excited. I really enjoy reading about the Romanov’s and this is a great new twist.
Glad to hear this, Claire. I appreciate the support for my novel!
I am an avid historical fiction reader from Mexico and I am really excited about reading this book. Although I dream of someday going to Russia, it was a trip with my parents just after the fall of the Berlin Wall to East Germany which got me really interested in Russian history. One of my favorite books is about Catherine the Great. I long to visit St. Petersburg, but until that day comes, reading is a way to travel without leaving home!
Reading IS a fantastic way to travel! But I hope you do get to see St. Petersburg someday soon!
I’m fascinated by Catherine the Great as well and really enjoyed the Robert Massie bio. St. Petersburg is amazing. I hope to make a return trip in the next year or so.
I can’t wait to read this book. It sounds so interesting. A companion novel would be fabulous.
Thanks, Jessica! I have added a few new twists to the companion novel and getting even more excited about it.
I am very interested in reading this book and sharing it with my daughter. She is a freshman in college majoring in Russian and has a fellowship to travel to St. Petersburg and Volgagrad. We would both love to read your novel.
Thanks, Cathy. And congratulations and safe travels to your daughter. That sounds exciting.
Thanks for the interview- now I REALLY can’t wait to read the book. It sounds incredibly fascinating and right up my alley!
Yay-thanks, Kimberly. Enjoy!
Great interview. i have loved Russian history since collage.. I am looking forward to reading The Secret Daughter of the Tsar .
That’s when my love affair with Russian history began as well (college). Thanks for stopping by, Wendy!
Too weird, one of my book club members just suggested this title to me this week. We were going through our favorite historical fiction when she started on about this new release about the Romanov’s. Definitely going to the top of my to-read pile now.
Denise, that is so cool to hear! There is also a reading guide at the back of the book and I would be happy to chat with your book club if there’s interest. Easiest way to get in touch is through FB or Twitter:)
This book sounds so interesting! I’ve had it marked to read at Goodreads for a little while!
Thanks, Desiree! I appreciate the support.
I’m excited about this book! I find the Romanov family fascinating, in a tragic way. Reading your interview and finding that this book is about three different women makes me all the more excited, since I like a novel with more than one strong character.
Amanda, I really enjoyed using that structure with three different characters and exploring different time periods. I want to continue that format in future books.
Thanks Laura for sharing this post in a Goodreads comment for me. I love it when authors are really into their book topics and settings. It always makes the books feel so much more natural and keeps my interest. Thank you for the advice to an aspiring writer. I’m a bit lazy when it comes to being regular in my writing. I can’t wait to read your book!
Thanks, Jacklynn–I’m glad the advice is helpful. I struggle to find regular writing hours as well, but once I buckle down (usually after indulging in a few distractions), it’s worth it:)
You’re welcome, Jacklynn. I’m glad you made it over 🙂
Thank you for the opportunity. I have always loved anything about the Romanov family and look forward to reading this book! And perfect timing with the summer holidays here where I can embrace my love of historical fiction.
I’m glad the timing worked out, Helen. It’s amazing to me how popular the Romanovs remain. They are fascinating.
A fascinating subject and I’m looking forward to reading the book!
Thanks, Margaret and enjoy:)
SO excited to read it. I am always had a strange fasination for royal history, the Romanov family in particular.
Royals are completely fascinating, Virginia, I agree! The Romanovs are my favorite, but the Tudors are a close second.
I’ve been looking for a book to satiate my obsession with the Romanovs! Looks like my Christmas break is planned out!
Perfect! Thanks, Tami. I have to say, I think the lovely cover works well with Christmas decor.
This sounds soooo good! Can’t wait to read it and thank you so much for the chance to win a copy!
Thanks, Lisa, and happy reading!
Sounds amazing! I love stories about Russian history as well as German history. This will be a good one to read over Christmas break snuggled up to the fire with a cup of hot cocoa. Can’t wait to read it!
I think hot cocoa will go well with The Secret Daughter of the Tsar. Of course, hot cocoa goes well with everything in my opinion;)
Great interview! I would love to read this book! 🙂 I haven’t read much about the Romanovs, so it will be a fun read!
I also really appreciate hearing about the publishing process; I would love to have a book published someday. I have three young children, so it’s hard to find the time, but I will keep working hard!
Keep at it Ophelia! You’ll get there!
Hi Ophelia-it took me a long time to brave the publishing process. A little bit of writing every day helps (in my opinion), even if it’s just 10 minutes. Good luck to you!
I have always been intrigued by the Romanov family particularly the story surrounding the last Tsar. I happened upon this book one day at Barnes & Noble , I caught the title out of the corner of my eye. I literally walked past the shelf on a different mission, but stepped back to take a closer look at this novel.
Right then I got on my smartphone and added it to to my Goodreads list. A few days later I was introduced to this blog and upcoming interview – talk about timing! Regardless of whether I win or not, I’m planning on reading it shortly after the holidays!
And Jennifer you seem like such a down to earth person – makes me want to read this all the more. Best of luck to you 🙂
Things happen for a reason 😉
Brenda, this is good timing indeed! I’m glad the title caught your attention. Thanks for reading my interview and for your good wishes!
This book is on my “to read” list. I love historical fiction and I am looking forward to reading it. I wanted to say something more about the book and how great it sounds, but I just woke up from a nap, and my four kids are going crazy over here. Lol!
Wow. Good luck with that!
Ha, ha! Thanks, Chaundra. I hope you enjoy a nice evening with your kids:)
Wow. Love historical fiction. Looks like a good one.
Thank you and hope you enjoy!
I think I will have to move this to the top of my to read list!
That’s what I like to hear, Kathryn! Thank you:)
I love books with a history background. Look forward to reading this one it sounds really good.
Thanks, Rebecca! I hope you enjoy it.
This sounds fabulous. I’m fairly new to novels set in Russia but I read one and now I can’t stop! This has been on my ‘to read’ list for a little while but has just shot up to the top. Thanks for the interview it was really interesting to read.
Hi Penelope-glad to hear I rose to the top of your list! Thanks for reading.
I just read a biography of Catherine the Great this year and have been obsessed with the story of Anastasia since I was little (thanks to Disney and the Dear America: Royal Diaries). I love reading new perspectives of this era and I love novels that intertwine character narrations. Can’t wait to read this book!
Thank you! I’m re-reading Massie’s bio on Catherine right now as research for my next project. She was fascinating!
Wow! This book was so masterfully written, it shows all the heartaches and tears of the past Romanov Dynasty! I loved it!