Today we have an author spotlight that is going to give us a little insight into the mind and work of debut author Kerri Turner.
Her debut is the Last Days of the Romanov Dancers and we are featuring the book in February.
Hi Kerri, welcome to Beauty and Lace. Thanks for talking to us today.
When did you know you wanted to pursue a writing career?
I always thought I’d write a book, even when I was young. My plan was to have a career as a ballerina first, and then turn to writing. The ballet ambitions didn’t quite go where I expected and hoped them to, but it turns out writing makes me even happier and more fulfilled than dance did.
The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers is your debut novel, how did it feel the first time you held a copy in your hand?
I cried! My hands were shaking and I had to call my husband before I opened it because I was so nervous.
Can you tell us a little about the book?
It’s set in pre-revolutionary Russia and centres around the dancers of the Imperial Russian Ballet. The two main characters, Luka Zhirkov and Valentina Yershova, come from poor factory-working backgrounds, which makes them something of an anomaly in a world of aristocrats and well-connected wealthy. They tackle their new positions in very different ways: Luka is uncomfortable with the luxuries being afforded him, which include exemption from conscription to the war his brother is fighting in, whereas Valentina embraces her role by using protectors to get ahead. Class divides, civil unrest, war and other factors combine to put the two of them, and the relationship they begin to build, under threat.
This is an historical novel set in the early 20th Century. I’m sure lots of research was required. Can you tell us a little about your research process and sources?
I started off by reading books that looked as though they would give a good, generalised overview of the topics I wanted to cover. Theatre Street: the Reminiscences of Tamara Karsavina by Tamara Karsavina, Imperial Dancer: Mathilde Kschessinska and the Romanovs by Coryne Hall, and Blood on the Snow: Eyewitness Accounts of the Russian Revolution by Elisabeth Heresch were some of the first books I read, and from these I began to build both an understanding of the time/setting and an outline for the book. Once I knew exactly where my book was going to go, then I was able to research more specific points. For these I interviewed people, turned to trusty Google, found old, out of print memoirs written in the era, and spent hours watching other people’s holiday footage in Russia. Eventually I was able to go to Russia myself and visit the places I was writing about and ask questions of the locals.
Where did the inspiration from the story come from?
I was reading The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky. It was a later version, and a new introduction by Joan Acocella had been included. There was a single sentence which read ‘In those days in Russia there was a heavy sexual trade in ballet dancers’. I knew right away I’d found the beginnings of a book.
Your passion for ballet is strong. Can you tell us a little about how you share that passion away from writing?
I teach ballet regularly. I primarily focus on teaching adults, with special classes for over 55’s. I love being able to give people an opportunity to learn ballet when they thought the chance had long since passed them by, or bringing them back to an art form they’d once done and loved a long time ago. I also substitute teach classes for children at some local ballet schools.
Are you working on anything new you can tell us about?
Yes, I’m currently working on my second novel, which is also historical fiction. It’s called The Daughter of Victory Lights, and is a standalone novel. It takes readers from London during World War II to the early 1960’s in the Isle of Wight. Like The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers, it has a woman at the centre of it who feels constrained by her circumstances and her place in society, and we follow her as she decides whether to conform to the role expected of her or break the rules and make a new life for herself. There is also a performing arts element to it.
What was your favourite book of 2018?
The Lace Weaver by Lauren Chater
Which release are you most looking forward to in 2019?
The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff
What is the most important piece of advice you were given as an author starting out?
That when someone you’ve gone to for feedback on your manuscript says a certain, specific thing is wrong, they aren’t always 100% correct, but it’s important to figure out why they came to that conclusion. By doing so you’ll often find something that does need improving, clarifying, or fixing. It also helps you make sense of things when feedback from multiple sources seems to directly contradict one another.
Thanks for your time Kerri and what a great piece of advice that was. Good luck with the release and I look forward to hearing our members thoughts.
The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers is published by HQ Fiction and is available now where all good books are sold.