How much of The Crown’s Game is based on history and how much is made up?
I like to think The Crown’s Game draws on history in a way similar to how Robin LaFevers’ Grave Mercy (and the entire His Fair Assassin series) does—based on real history but consciously altered when the magic of the story calls for it.
I love 19th century Imperial Russia, and I am so thrilled I get the opportunity to write about it. Many people know about the end of the Romanov dynasty (Anastasia, Rasputin, the Bolshevik Revolution, etc.), but most don’t know about the Romanovs before that time. I wanted to bring that era to life.
The Crown’s Game is set in the autumn of 1825, and many of the characters and events both in this book and the sequel (which I’m working on) are historically accurate. I tried to reflect the geopolitical tensions of the time, such as the conflicts between Russia and the Ottomans and Russia and the Kazakhs. Also, Tsar Alexander I and his wife, Elizabeth, were very real.
That said, I made up a lot, too. After all, this is a fantasy novel. For example, one of the main characters, Pasha, and his sister, are products of my imagination. They’re the tsesarevich (crown prince) and princess of Russia, but in reality, the tsar and tsarina’s children actually died in infancy.
For those history buffs out there, though, I’ve included an Author’s Note at the end of the book which touches briefly on the differences between what really happened in Russia and what I created.
Did you have to do a ton of research?
I have a degree in Russian literature & history from Stanford, so a lot of my research was actually done years ago during college, before I even knew that all that work would one day become a book. When it came to writing The Crown’s Game, much of what I’d studied just came flowing back. I had to do some research to check up on facts here and there, and I did do additional research on the Kazakhs and their complicated relationship with the Russian Empire, because I hadn’t studied much about that subject in school, and I wanted to make sure I understood Nikolai’s past, as well as the political tensions in Russia, properly.
Where is Ovchinin Island? I can’t find it on a map.
Ovchinin Island, the fictional island on which Vika lives, is named after my penpal! (We met when we were teenagers and are still friends today.) He’s since asked me for the GPS coordinates of this so-called place that bears his last name. Funny guy.
Who is your favorite character?
It would be impossible to choose a favorite! But I can answer who was easier and harder to write.
Nikolai came easily to me. I knew who he was from the very start; I identify with him the most, so I could read his soul pretty clearly. (My friends would all say I’m too smiley and cheerful to be Nikolai, but he and I share a dark, quiet quintessence—for him it’s on the outside, for me, it’s buried inside, for only a few to see.)
Vika was often harder for me to write. She is wild and fearless, and I am not, so I had to channel other people I knew in order to get Vika right. But just because she was more difficult to write doesn’t mean I love her any less. I love all of my characters fiercely, just like a mother loves all of her babies, no matter how challenging they may be.
I’ve heard some people say there’s a love triangle in your book, and some say there isn’t. What’s the right answer?
To me, this book is not just about romantic love; it’s about all kinds of love. It’s about love between family, between friends, and also between potential lovers. So it’s a whole mess of entanglement among the characters and these different types of love. When you look at it that way, it’s not a love triangle or quadrangle. It’s just the chaotic web of real life, the love we make and break and try to weave back together again.
What does the ending of the book mean?
Well, without spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t finished reading yet, the ending means a lot of things, not only about the characters, but also about the human spirit. It’s about our capacity to love and hope, even when the world seems it is at its darkest.
I know that’s probably not the answer you wanted, and for that one, you’ll have to wait for the sequel. Sorry…
Is there a sequel?
Yes! The Crown’s Game is the first of a duology. The sequel is called The Crown’s Fate, and it will be out on May 16, 2017.
Are there other questions you’d like me to address? Send me a message from my Contact page, and I’ll post answers for the most popular questions.