Can you tell us about your newest book, The Tsarina’s Legacy, in 35 words or less?
In the past, an old flame tries to win back the love of Catherine the Great. In the present, a young heiress embarks on an adventure to make a lasting mark on troubled contemporary Russia.
What was your favorite scene to write?
One of my favorite characters is the villain of the timeline set in the past: Platon Zubov, Catherine’s much younger lover and a perpetual source of mischief and frustration for my hero, Prince Grisha Potemkin. I loved writing the scenes between Platon and Grisha because their dialogue was snarky and funny and they are just plain mean to one another. I loved the gender flip in those scenes, too. In historical fiction, I think we’re more accustomed to seeing female characters fight over a king or emperor because that’s how those things usually played out in real life. I loved letting two men fight for the romantic favor of a powerful empress instead.
What was the hardest scene to edit out?
I edited out an entire section from my rough draft and it was SO hard. My first novel, The Secret Daughter of the Tsar, had three timelines and I originally wrote three timelines for Tsarina as well. The deleted section told the story of what happened to Veronica’s father as a young man in Spain in the 1970s. As I revised, even though I liked writing the character, that storyline was not coming together as I’d hoped. It was difficult to let go, but it had to be done.
Are you currently working on anything else?
Yes and I’m excited to share! My next novel is called Lady Pushkin and tells the story of Natalya Goncharova who married Russia’s most famous poet, Alexander Pushkin. A great beauty of her time, Natalya has been reviled for what was perceived as her role in Alexander’s death in a duel, and it was even rumored that the tsar wanted to make her his mistress. All of this is juicy, and on top of that, Natalya had literary ambitions of her own. Lady Pushkin is scheduled for release in Winter 2018 and I can’t wait for readers to know her story.
Do you have a favorite quote from The Tsarina’s Legacy?
Okay, I hope this doesn’t sound too weird but I wrote a line to make me feel better about myself as I get older and I let Grisha think it about Catherine:
Catherine’s appearance was far from perfect, not anymore. But then what dullard sought perfection in a woman when complexity was far more alluring.
Catherine also continually quotes Peter the Great: Delay is death. Lately, I’ve faced difficult decisions in my personal life and that line keeps running through my head.
If you had to give The Tsarina’s Legacy a theme song, what would you choose?
The Lightning Strike (What If This Storm Ends?) by Snow Patrol because I listened to that song over and over while I was revising this book. I’m a sucker for epic build-up in novels and in music.
What is the best book you’ve read recently?
I know I’m way behind on this one, but I recently finished and fell in love with The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.
What is currently on your TBR pile?
Lots of YA, including Morning Star by Pierce Brown and The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye.
Then…Grigory “Grisha” Potemkin has had a successful long association with the powerful Empress Catherine of Russia. But Catherine and Grisha are older now and face new threats, both from powers outside of Russia and from those close to them. Haunted by the horrors of his campaign against the Muslim Turks, Grisha hopes to construct a mosque in the heart of the empire. Unfortunately, Catherine’s much younger new lover, the ambitious Platon Zubov, stands in his way. Grisha determines that to preserve Catherine’s legacy he must save her from Zubov’s dangerous influence and win back her heart.
Now…When she learns she is the lost heiress to the Romanov throne, Veronica Herrera’s life turns upside down. Dmitry Potemkin, one of Grisha’s descendants, invites Veronica to Russia to accept a ceremonial position as Russia’s new tsarina. Seeking purpose, Veronica agrees to act as an advocate to free a Russian artist sentenced to prison for displaying paintings critical of the church and government. Veronica is both celebrated and chastised. As her political role comes under fire, Veronica is forced to decide between the glamorous perks of European royalty and staying true to herself.
In Jennifer Laam’s The Tsarina’s Legacy, unexpected connections between Grisha and Veronica are revealed as they struggle to make peace with the ghosts of their past and help secure a better future for themselves and the country they both love.