This is the question I am asked by readers: if you intended to write a trilogy about the Ivanov family, why not write them in the correct historical order? Why write the first part of the story last?
A simple answer: when I sat down to write my first book, The Russian Concubine, I had no plans to make it a trilogy. You have to understand that the convoluted processes that go on in an author's brain are mystifying even to an author! I had no idea when I wrote it that Lydia Ivanova would come to play such a large part in my life or that I would fall in love with her beautiful damaged mother, Valentina.
So when I finished the second book - The Concubine's Secret(UK)/The Girl From Junchow(US) which follows Lydia's search for her father - two things kept elbowing out all others in my mind.
1) Firstly, how did Valentina Ivanova become the woman she did? What happened? What gave this private, secretive pianist such strength and yet such crippling weakness?
2) Secondly, what was Russia like to live in before the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution? I had shown Russia during its grim repressive regime under Stalin's communism and now I wanted to show the other side of Russia. The glamorous side. The world of the Russian Court, the most extravagant and decadent in all Europe, with the final days of glory of Nicholas II, Emperor and Tsar of all the Russias.
It sounds a straightforward task, doesn't it? No such luck. I quickly discovered there are even more pitfalls in writing a prequel than in writing a sequel.
Throw-away references to the past in the other two books plagued me and had to be shoe-horned into the new one - which meant two characters both called Nikolai (argh!) and Valentina aged 15 years old when she first met Jens, not 17, as I needed her to be in Jewel (aargh!). Constantly I was tripped up. Harder still was planting in my portrayal of Valentina the seeds of the person she was to become.
Nevertheless I loved writing The Jewel of St Petersburg and exploring Valentina's world, displaying the magnificence of Russia as well as its suffering. Giving a glimpse of how the two are twined inexorably together. So now I shall sit back and keep a sharp eye on Valentina as she flashes her red skirts in the bookstores.
Tuesday, 3 August 2010
It's here at last - The Jewel Of St Petersburg. My latest book's Publication Day in the US.
I wake with the soles of my feet tingling and my pulse beating too fast. It's a great feeling after a year's hard work, not just by me but by my whole team at Berkley - my editor Jackie Cantor, as well as those in Production, PR, Sales and Marketing. Thanks guys. I want to say a particularly big thank you to Berkley's design department who have done a fabulous job on the cover. It's truly sumptuous.
Good early reviews are coming in:
"Gripping, elegant and fierce, this is a classic war-torn love story, and Furnivall's best yet." Library Journal
"A delight for Furnivall's fans, and equally a joy for those new to her work." Publishers Weekly
"A memorable love story that will speak to readers' hearts and minds." Romantic Times Magazine
"A jewel of a book." Barnes & Noble.com
One thing readers are probably not aware of is the significance of Amazon at book-launch time. Amazon is the largest bookseller in the world and during the first few weeks of a book's life, you'd be surprised at how many publishers and authors keep a sharp eye on what comments are being posted on the Amazon website. It gives them a finger-on-the-pulse feel of public reaction to a book. If you like an author's work, take the time to say so. It's easy if you are signed up to Amazon, and authors honestly do appreciate it.
Communication with my readers is part of what makes this whole writing thing so rewarding for me. So hey, if you enjoy The Jewel Of St Petersburg, do me a favour and stick a comment on Amazon. And if you want to talk more, you can email me as well on firstname.lastname@example.org - I promise I'll reply to every one of them.