My Resurrection Blogfest post is here.
With gratitude to Hashem, I humbly announce the release of You Cannot Kill a Swan: The Love Story of Lyuba and Ivan, my first Russian historical. I came up with the germ of the idea sometime in the early Nineties and started a picture book based on it, began writing an actual book-length story on 30 January 1993, and finished the first draft on 26 August 2001. Over the last three years, and during the actual writing of the first draft, I’ve edited, revised, polished, and rewritten that material so many times. It must’ve taken thousands of hours to finally hammer out the finished product, as perfect as I could get it.
There was so much hashgacha pratit (Divine Providence) in the way this story came together. It was just a shapeless hot mess when I began it at 13, and I sort of just stumbled into the idea of Lyuba (then called Amy) first falling in love with Ivan and then having secretly been in love with him since childhood. But so many wonderful plot elements were there, and able to be molded into something a lot better, such as:
Anastasiya Voroshilova, the shallow fashion plate whom Ivan uses to try to make Lyuba jealous. She’s so fun to write, and such a perfect antithesis to Lyuba.
Pyotr Litvinov helping his anti-Bolshevik friends in spite of his own political leanings. He double-crosses his father and older brothers to save his friends and get them to America.
Creepy, delusional, obsessed Basil Beriya and his decidedly unmutual crush on Lyuba. He easily became the secondary antagonist of Part I, and the catalyst to one of the pivotal midway events.
Katrin Nikonova, the inveterate radical who hypocritically also chases fashions and an extravagant lifestyle just as her best friend Anastasiya. I had so much fun turning her from girl to woman, someone who gives up childish things and really lives her political beliefs after she realizes Bolshevism isn’t the right movement to be supporting.
Georgiya Savvina, a slightly younger version of Katrin.
Lyuba’s original preference for Boris became a pretended preference, due to how her mother always impressed upon her the importance of marrying for money and not love. I was able to use this charade to instigate the book’s major storyline.
While Lyuba and Ivan might appear bad on paper to other people, it’s obvious they don’t know how to be normal. They’ve both had traumatic childhoods, and developed façades so other people would never know how scarred their hearts and souls are. To them, abnormal is normal, and they can’t control their brains compelling them to act in ways they know aren’t normal or healthy. But together, they implicitly understand one another.
As Lyuba tells her aunt Margarita near the end of Chapter 1, “Storm on the Horizon”:
“….I admit I was really mean to him when I first met him, but I took back all my mean words the moment I realized he was just another wounded soul putting on a façade to the world. I don’t trust any other man to touch me. He doesn’t care I’m not a physical virgin or that I have that black mark in my past. Maybe it’s because he was abused by his own father, in a different way, and wounded souls gravitate to each other through some unseen force overseen by God….”
And as Ivan says to Lyuba after she’s given birth to Tatyana, her blood daughter by Boris:
“….Isn’t it obvious to you that we’re soulmates? We’re two wounded souls who are scarred where no one can see it, and we understand what’s driving some of our seemingly confusing behavior. You’re the only one who knows the real me, and I’m the only one who knows the real you….”
But it’s much, much easier said than done for these two wounded souls to live happily ever after. First they have to weather intense amounts of Sturm und Drang.