I was tagged for this by Teresa Cypher some months back, but didn’t have enough of a break in my blogging schedule to participate immediately. Instead of focusing on my hopefully almost completed WIP Journey Through a Dark Forest (which I’ve been working on for over two years now!), I’m using my other WIP.
1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?
My primary protagonist, Aleksey Nikolayevich Romanov, was a real person. His life was cruelly taken from him a month before his 14th birthday, and my story is a fantasy of what might’ve been had he been rescued, defied the odds by surviving into adulthood, and become the Tsar.
My secondary protagonist, Arkadiya Mikhaylovna Gagarina, is completely fictional. She’s a morganatic princess from Yekaterinburg who quite by accident stumbles into the role of a lifetime. This 32-year-old spinster steals the 25-year-old Tsar’s heart and becomes the most unlikely Tsaritsa.
2) When and where is the story set?
The meat of the story is set from July 1918–May 1945. I’m not yet sure when the Epilogue takes place, only that it’s many years after the end of WWII. The primary settings are St. Petersburg and Tsarskoye Selo, Russia, with the opening chapters in Yekaterinburg and most of Part II set in Paris. The chapter which closes Part III is mostly set in Batumi, Georgia.
3) What should we know about him/her?
Instead of hardening his heart and vowing to become a ruthless autocrat in response to his family’s imprisonment and the murders of his parents, Aleksey wants to find out what drove these people to Bolshevism and such a hatred of his family so he won’t repeat his parents’ mistakes. Since he’s forced to adopt a quiet, interior life of the mind in order to live as long as possible, he has a lot of time to educate himself on history, political science, and psychology. He also studies these subjects at the Sorbonne and chooses to live in Belleville in the Twentieth Arrondissement, among the working-class, so he’ll have firsthand experience and won’t just be some limousine liberal.
4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?
Like most people, even non-Russophiles, know, Aleksey was born with hemophilia, inherited from his maternal great-grandmother Queen Victoria. The disease was passed along to a number of Europe’s ruling houses, thanks to the rules dictating that royalty only marries other royalty, and kept alive because all these royals were related to one another several times over. He survived several life-threatening injuries as a boy (the worst suffered in Spała, Poland in 1912) but then got stronger and healthier as he got older. In spite of his improved health, he never forgets he could die at any time, from something as minor as a paper cut or stubbed toe.
As the Tsar, he has to be many things to many people. A lot of royals and aristocrats think he’s a madman because of all the sweeping reforms he starts passing as soon as he officially comes to power in 1929. He’s also ordered to find a bride in order to be coronated, though he’s resisted romantic attachments for years out of fear of passing on his sickness or leaving a young widow and orphans. Then the ruling classes are even more horrorstruck because his bride is seven years his senior and a morganatic princess, instead of a royal princess of the blood and younger than he is.
And just when it seems everything is finally smooth sailing, a new war breaks out in 1939 and the invading Germans put St. Petersburg under siege for three years. This greatly complicates his rescue mission of occupied Europe’s Jewish community.
5) What is the personal goal of the character?
Just to live as long as possible and make a name for himself as the most modern, enlightened, compassionate, belovèd Tsar in history.
6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
My current working title is And Aleksey Lived, changed from the original working title, How Would You Have Ruled Us, Aleksey? You can read more about it by clicking on the appropriate tags for this post.
7) When can we expect the book to be published?
My guess for a publication date would be sometime in 2016, which allows enough time to complete the book and properly edit and revise it.