Monday, January 1, 2018

#AuthorInterview: Jennifer Laam, author of The Lost Season of Love and Snow

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author Jennifer Laam to Flashlight Commentary to discuss The Lost Season of Love and Snow.

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Welcome to Flashlight Commentary Jennifer. It’s a pleasure to have you with us. To start things off, please tell us about The Lost Season of Love and Snow.
Thank you! The Lost Season of Love and Snow is set in 19th century imperial Russia and tells the story of Natalya Goncharova and her tumultuous marriage to Russia’s greatest poet, Alexander Pushkin, who died tragically in a duel fought over Natalya’s honor. After his death, Natalya’s reputation suffered, as she had been the cause of the duel. I think it’s time to hear Natalya’s side of the story.

At risk of sounding impertinent, where did you find this story? Did it strike like lightening out nowhere or was is something that came to you over time? 
As a student, I was fascinated with the story of Alexander Pushkin’s life and death, which always struck me as romantic in a morbid way. I didn’t know much about his wife, only rumors that she may have been unfaithful and perhaps even the tsar’s mistress. Fast forward twenty years or so. As I’m thinking of topics for a new book, I “bump into” Natalya Goncharova in Martin Cruz Smith’s Tatiana. A yacht is named after Natalya and there is much talk of beauty, disloyalty, and betrayal. At one point, a character even refers to her as “Pushkin’s whore.” After reading, I had to learn more and found a Newsweek article about her. Pushkin scholars have recently uncovered more information on Natalya’s intellectual ambitions. That made me want to spend time with her and get to know her world.

Natalya Goncharova is a lesser-known historical figure. How did you go about bringing her to life in The Lost Season of Love and Snow? 
Since her husband, Alexander Pushkin, is so well known, I focused primarily on books about him for my research. It was fascinating to see how Natalya’s historical reputation evolved over time. All of the books made the Pushkins’ world come to life, but later ones were far kinder to Natalya.

Natalya’s relationship with Alexander Pushkin is the obvious heart of the novel. How would you define and characterize their romance? 
I think they shared an intense erotic and intellectual chemistry and this is how I portrayed their relationship in my book. Their correspondence seems playful and high-spirited. They both enjoyed attention and attracted admirers, but I believe they were intensely in love.

Do you have a favorite scene in The Lost Season of Love and Snow? 
I’m torn. I loved writing Alexander and Natalya together, but scenes featuring antagonists are even more fun because you can let characters say absolutely the worst things possible. So my favorite scenes are the exchanges between Natalya and her sister, Ekaterina, early in the book, where they are giving one another a terrible time. Even though Ekaterina is definitely an antagonist in my book, the more I think about it, the more I want to tell the entire story through her point of view.

Is there a character you felt particularly close to while writing The Lost Season of Love and Snow? 
I bonded with Natalya and felt I understood her. The world she experienced as a young woman may have been different than mine, but I related to the challenges she faced when dealing with men, particularly men in power. I’ve laughed nervously when a man said something inappropriate. I’ve been blamed for the bad behavior of a man. I’ve tried to pretend everything was all right for the sake of outward appearances and my own reputation.

Authors are often forced to make sacrifices when composing their stories. Is there a character or concept you wish you could have spent more time on while writing The Lost Season of Love and Snow?
Writing on a deadline is a necessity, but a challenge. In this case, it meant I couldn’t explore Alexander’s literary legacy as thoroughly as I would have liked. At the same time, this makes the novel focus on Natalya and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

If you could sit down and talk with one of your characters, maybe meet and discuss things over drinks, who would you invite and why? 
I want to meet Alexander and Natalya and see how close I got to the truth of their relationship. Natalya was a fascinating woman married to a genius. I want to know what that was like: emotionally, intellectually, and, yes, sexually.

If you could pick a fantasy cast to play the leads in a screen adaptation of The Lost Season of Love and Snow, who would you hire? 
Since I write historical, I usually know what many of my characters looked like in real life. I love television and movies, though, and want to cast everything in my head as well. 

Natalya: Sophie Turner aka Sansa Stark from Game of Thrones
Alexander: Alfred Enoch from How to Get Away with Murder (He’s too tall and too young, but I want to make this work.)
Georges (the other man): Charlie Hunnam (why not?)
Tsar Nicholas I: Damian Lewis because he did such a great job of portraying Henry VIII in Wolf Hall that I figure he’s a natural fit for the “Iron Tsar.” 

What do you hope readers take from their experience of The Lost Season of Love and Snow? 
My goal is always to entertain and to get someone to turn the page and stay up past bedtime to read one more chapter. Of course I want to leave readers feeling satisfied. Since most of the characters in this novel are fictionalized versions of real people, I would be honored if readers finish my book and then take a few minutes to learn more about Natalya and Alexander. Finally, I hope Natalya’s story will inspire readers to look closely at the way women are portrayed in history books. I think Natalya got an unfair shake for many years and I hope to be some small part of changing the way we view women. 

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Jennifer Laam is the author of THE SECRET DAUGHTER OF THE TSAR, THE TSARINA'S LEGACY, and the forthcoming THE LOST SEASON OF LOVE AND SNOW (January 2018), all from St. Martin's Griffin.

Jennifer has lived in Los Angeles and the suburbs of Detroit, and has traveled in Russia, England, France, and Finland. When away from her computer, she enjoys fussing over animals, binge watching her favorite TV shows, planning cosplay for Comic Con, and line dancing. Jennifer currently lives in Northern California, where she works for her alma mater, University of the Pacific.

Website   |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Goodreads

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