YABC: Do you have any mantra that gets you through the drafting process?
Jennifer Laam: When inspiration strikes, I spend days gleefully rubbing my hands together because I have THE BEST IDEA EVER. I tear through the draft, still convinced this will eventually turn into THE BEST BOOK EVER. These wonderful mantras run through my head for about the first two‐thirds of the draft. And then I stall because, let’s face it, endings are hard. Suddenly my mantra goes negative and I’m sure this is THE WORST IDEA I EVER HAD IN MY LIFE AND WHAT WAS I THINKING AND THERE ARE A MILLION BETTER USES OF MY TIME. I don’t know if these are actual mantras, but writing the last third of the first draft involves redirecting my mind back to that first glowing moment of inspiration and all of the positive feelings I had at the beginning of the process.
YABC: What is your favorite hobby when you’re not writing?
JL: When I want to actually move, I love to line dance! It’s strange because I never thought I liked country music, but I really like the steps for these dances and the focus required to master them. When the combinations are complicated, I feel as though I’m flying. And as it turns out, I do sort of like country music now. Other than that, I enjoy binge watching Netflix and endlessly plotting a return to Los Angeles because Los Angeles is awesome and they have movie stars there.
YABC: Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
JL: The character who gave me the most trouble is also the character I enjoyed writing the most: Platon Zubov, Catherine the Great’s final and much younger lover. I loved writing his dialogue because I gave him the brattiest, snarkiest lines. I tried to imagine the worst possible thing someone could say to someone else at that moment in time and run with it. But then the challenge became making him more than just a clever foil for my hero, Prince Potemkin. I wanted to make sure he was also a sympathetic and relatable human being. Ultimately, I think I succeeded because I miss Platon! If I ever had the opportunity to rewrite the story from another character’s view, it would be his.
YABC: Do you enjoy writing to music? If so, do you have a go‐to playlist?
JL: I love writing to gut wrenching emo and bombastic classical music or film scores. While writing The Tsarina’s Legacy, my playlist leaned heavily toward semi‐obscure Snow Patrol: The Lightning Strike (What If This Storm Ends?), Run, Set the Fire to the Third Bar, and Make This Go On Forever, as well as the Gladiator soundtrack (the character of Prince Potemkin is a gladiator...of a sort), Tchaikovsky, and Dance of the Knights from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. I wrote several scenes in my first novel while listening to The National, particularly the album High Violet. When I’m in the mood to dabble in sci‐fi, I listen to the Battlestar Galactica soundtrack and lately, when I need a kick in the pants to motivate myself to start writing, I lean on Hamilton.
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
JL: The SPCA and the Humane Society. I have a rescue cat from the Sacramento SPCA and someday I want to afford a house large enough for two dogs, more cats, and space to provide foster care for mothers and kittens too young to be placed for adoption.
YABC: Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
JL: The initial adrenaline rush of a first draft is fun, but I prefer revising. When I feel down because a rough draft feels—well—rough, I try to imagine the manuscript as a painting. I’ve started with the basic outline in black and white, and I have faith that definition, color, and depth will follow. The true joy, for me, comes from the subtle changes that occur through the revising process as I grow to understand and love my characters and their journeys. Even though I never know in advance how many revisions a novel will need, there is always a point in time when I feel I have gotten it “right” and done justice to my initial inspiration. I’m not suggesting I have ever made my writing perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination. I doubt perfect is even possible; a writer could work on the same scene forever. I mean the feeling that I have made my work as “right” as I possibly can at this moment in time. That is the most rewarding part of my process.
YABC: What is your superpower?
JL: I wish I was Magneto, but my superpower is more mundane and perhaps a little sad. I have the ability to endlessly shame myself and indulge in a constant stream of negative thinking. Whatever it is that motivational speakers say, my brain tells me the exact opposite. I often feel as though I’m locked in this epic battle with voices inside my head constantly trying to sabotage my life. The superpower comes from rising above that. It is managing to tune out those voices and get on with pursuing my dreams and trying to shape my life in the way I best see fit. It is the power to keep going.
Meet The Tsarina's Legacy!
Then...Grigory "Grisha" Potemkin has had a successful long association with the powerful Empress Catherine of Russia. But Catherine and Grisha are older now and face new threats, both from powers outside of Russia and from those close to them. Haunted by the horrors of his campaign against the Muslim Turks, Grisha hopes to construct a mosque in the heart of the empire. Unfortunately, Catherine's much younger new lover, the ambitious Platon Zubov, stands in his way. Grisha determines that to preserve Catherine's legacy he must save her from Zubov's dangerous influence and win back her heart.
Now...When she learns she is the lost heiress to the Romanov throne, Veronica Herrera's life turns upside down. Dmitry Potemkin, one of Grisha's descendants, invites Veronica to Russia to accept a ceremonial position as Russia's new tsarina. Seeking purpose, Veronica agrees to act as an advocate to free a Russian artist sentenced to prison for displaying paintings critical of the church and government. Veronica is both celebrated and chastised. As her political role comes under fire, Veronica is forced to decide between the glamorous perks of European royalty and staying true to herself.In Jennifer Laam's The Tsarina's Legacy, unexpected connections between Grisha and Veronica are revealed as they struggle to make peace with the ghosts of their past and help secure a better future for themselves and the country they both love.
More about Jennifer Laam!
The Tsarina's Legacy
By: Jennifer Laam
Release Date: April 5, 2015
One winner will receive one copy each of The Secret Daughter of the Tsar and The Tsarina's Legacy (US and Canada only).
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