My Buccaneer Blogfest post is here.
Today begins A Hero’s Blog Hop, wherein writers and bloggers write a post from the POV of a favorite hero and offer up giveaways. Through 31 July, there will be over 100 giveaways and 3 grand prizes:
1st Grand Prize: A Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet
2nd Grand Prize: A $50 Amazon or B&N Gift Card
3rd Grand Prize: The following Swag Pack!
To enter, just comment on each blog with your e-mail address.
Though my all-time favoritest male character is Maxwell Stanley Seward, Jr., of my Atlantic City books, I decided to use my second-favorite male protagonist, the handsome, sensitive, long-suffering, sweet, loyal, stubborn Ivan Ivanovich Konev of my Russian novels. What a journey it’s been with him since I created him on 31 January 1993, on my family’s first computer, our ’84 Mac!
I wrote my first superlong Russian historical novel, You Cannot Kill a Swan: The Love Story of Lyuba and Ivan, in three major periods between 31 January 1993 and 26 August 2001 (ages 13-21, as amazing as that seems in hindsight), and spent almost a year editing, revising, rewriting, and polishing after I resurrected it a decade later. I initially began the sequel, The Twelfth Time: Lyuba and Ivan on the Rocks, right after finishing the first book, but suffered burnout and put it away indefinitely. I went back and started all over again last year, going by my mammoth memory and the notes/outline I’d made in 2001. The sequel was written from 11 June-5 November 2011, and, Baruch Hashem, I’ll start the third book, Journey Through a Dark Forest: Lyuba and Ivan in the Age of Anxiety, sometime this fall. It remains to be determined when I’ll write the prequel and the later books in the family/historical saga.
Because I already know what’ll happen in the third book and how it’s going to end, this post is written as though it’s on the eve of the Epilogue, “Back to an Ordinary World,” in early September 1948.
My Vanya is six feet three, so strong he can bend a horseshoe with his bare hands, and has deep brown hair and eyes. I picture him sort of looking like a taller, Russian Tony Hicks of The Hollies (the band from whom I took my pseudonym), with that mop of thick brown hair, a perpetually boyish face, and dreamy eyes.
Greetings from 1948! I’m Ivan Ivanovich Konev, and my beautiful soulmate Lyubov Ilyinichna and I live on our own thriving farm in a Russian immigrant community in Minnesota, near Lake Superior. We live next to our best friends since grammar school, who moved from Manhattan with us. Lyuba and I have nine lovely children, three of whom are still at home. So far, we’ve got seven grandkids.
I was born in Moskvá on 5 July 1898, 23 June Old Style. I didn’t have the happiest childhood, since my father became an alcoholic when I was quite young and beat the hell out of me every single day for years. And at school, till I was about 13 years old, all my teachers were always hitting my hand, thumping me on the head with heavy books, tying my hand down with rope, tying weights to my hand, and threatening to beat me because God saw fit to make me left-handed.
When my Lyuba moved from St. Petersburg in March of 1908 and her family moved next door to mine, I finally had a little ray of sunshine. Lyuba didn’t like me for the first month we knew each other, since she believed the popular, chatterbox, class clown facade I’d adopted to hide my true wounded self. Then she realized I was a hurting, wounded soul like she was. Her own father abused her every day for years too, and I was the only guy she trusted to get close to her, in spite of how many male friends she had.
My Lyubochka and I have been through a lot together, like the Revolution and Civil War, the tough realities of immigrant life in New York, a tumultuous on-again, off-again relationship when she still believed she didn’t deserve a nice guy, the nefarious schemes of our firstborn’s pathetic blood father, my former best friend, and a terrible accident in December ’38 that I still blame myself for. I shouldn’t have let Lyuba join me in making that delivery in such a heavy snowstorm when she was eight months pregnant with our eighth child.
I lost control of the truck, and she was banged against the door and window so severely her water broke, her head got a serious gash, and her right arm, wrist, and hand were broken so badly she’s now a lefty like me. I won’t even get into how she was abused at the hospital and suffered terrible flashbacks to what her father used to do to her. Thank God, the head of the department helped me get her out of there, and our baby Sonyechka was safely born at home, albeit to a very injured mother.
This was also during the period when our firstborn Tatyana was away in New York, living with her blood father and wanting nothing to do with me after she found out the man who’d raised her since the night she was born isn’t her blood father. Thank God, she found out the truth about what her blood father is all about, and now holds me as her real father once again.
I miss my homeland every day, but I’m also thankful every day my family and friends and I are safe in America. I’m living out my boyhood dream, being a farmer in the American Midwest. And Lyubonka and I have nine children, just the number I always wanted. We even brought our Kabardin horse with us when we immigrated in 1921, and after years of being kept in a Long Island stable on Lyuba’s crazy radical friend Katrin’s dime, he’s finally with us full-time again.
Very soon Lyubonka and I will be having a renewal ceremony for our 25th anniversary. And after that, we’re going to the University of Minnesota. I’m 50 and Lyuba is 48, a few months shy of 49, but it’s never too late to get a degree. Age isn’t important. I’ll be pursuing my long-abandoned boyhood dream of being a real artist, and Lyuba wants to study literature.
We’re no longer as young as we used to be, but we’re not decrepit just yet. And our youngest Tamara will only be 7 in December. After all the tumult Lyuba and I lived through during the first half of our lives, I hope the second half will be much calmer and more peaceful. I don’t think I’ll lose any of my love or passion for her as I get older. We went through so much to earn our happily ever after, and now I’m sure everything really will be smooth sailing from now on.
Entries for my giveaways. You’re welcome to look around in old entries for the answers to the questions.
1. Follow my blog. +1 point
2. Follow me on Twitter (@Anyechka). +1 point
3. Blog or Tweet about the contest. +3 points
4. Comment on this post. +1 point
5. Ivan originally had a middle name, before I realized Russians only have patronymics. His middle name was the same name as one of the main male characters. What was it? +5 points
6. Until I resurrected the first book last year, Lyuba primarily went by a decidedly non-Russian name. What was it? +5 points
7. What is the more or less final length of the first volume? (Hint: Over 300,000 words, under 350,000.) +3 points
8. What is the length of the sequel’s rough draft? (Hint: It’s longer than the first book!) +3 points
9. What is my guesstimated length for the third book? +3 points
10. Who was the band I primarily listened to while writing the sequel and ended up, to my surprise, becoming a big fan of? +3 points
11. Who was the Dutch children’s writer who inspired me to write these books in present tense? +4 points
12. What is the name of Ivan’s pointless baby sister who’s born when he’s 26? (Hint: It’s the Russian form of a name that’s now considered rather middle-aged or geriatric.) +5 points
13. What are the three Manhattan neighborhoods where most of the second book and Part II of the first book are set? +4 points