The Bookseller called Sisters of the Sky an evocative tale of friendship, love and betrayal. I’m thrilled to see the book featured as editor’s choice for December. Sisters of the Sky is already available in ebook and will be coming to bookstores in three months.
I’m thrilled to share UK and US covers for Sisters of the Sky, out in ebook in August and paperback a couple of months later.
This book is about brave women pilots flying combat missions for the Soviet Union during World War II. As soon as I began my research into Marina Raskova’s female aviation regiments, I knew I had to write this book. This story has captured my imagination and I can’t wait to share it with the readers.
October 1941: As war rages in the Soviet Union, Nina is devastated as she watches her younger brother being sent off to the front. She has witnessed so many soldiers go to war and never return, and with her father already on the battlefield, her brother is her only family left.
Sick of feeling helpless and determined to fight for her motherland, Nina and her best friend Katya decide to volunteer for the first female-only aviation regiment, led by the legendary pilot Marina Raskova.
But fighting a war is nothing like they expected, and soon the battle lines are no longer restricted to the front – a forbidden love begins to blossom, and Nina is faced with the ultimate betrayal. Will Nina and her loved ones make it out alive?
On my publisher’s website, I talk about the true story behind my new book, the Countess of the Revolution, our family connection to the revolution and my wonderful grandfather, who was my best friend and always supported my writing.
I was always close to my grandfather. Growing up, he was like a father to me. When I was older, he became my best friend. Although our hobbies couldn’t be more different, we were always supportive of one another. As a retired engineer, grandfather loved computers, programming and technology. Even when he was in his late eighties, his house was equipped with a network to rival the Pentagon’s and his drawers were filled with the latest devices he would assemble and disassemble for hours. I was always passionate about writing and my grandfather was the only person I shared my poems and short stories with. We had one thing in common, however – our fascination with history.
When I moved to Australia as a teenager, my grandfather and I didn’t let the distance affect our relationship. We emailed each other five times a day and spent a fortune on long distance phone calls, until one day he said, ‘Have you heard of this fantastic new thing called Skype?’ Nor did he let the language barrier stop him from reading everything I wrote. With the enthusiasm he approached everything technology-related with, he pasted all my university essays into online translator. The result was a mumbo-jumbo of words in broken Russian that barely made sense but every time he would tell me how proud he was of me. He even started learning English so he could read my writing.
My grandfather and I were fascinated with the revolution. He loved talking about his great-grandfather, Count Olgert Korsak, a visionary and a revolutionary, who took an active part in the Polish uprising of 1863 against Russia. Shackled and starved, with no hope for the future, he was sent from Warsaw to a labour camp in Sakhalin by the Tsarist government. Having grown up in luxury with everything done for him, Olgert spent ten years in the camp toiling from dawn to dusk until he could barely move. When he was finally released, he wasn’t allowed to return home and was forced to settle in Siberia. In a small town called Minusinsk, not far from Krasnoyarsk, he met my grandfather’s great-grandmother and fell in love. They built a new life together and had three children.
Although Olgert’s life did not turn out the way he had hoped, he didn’t let that break him and found his own way. He didn’t become bitter or resentful but made the most of the cards he was dealt. He rose from the ashes of his broken life and made himself into a different man.
Having grown up hearing about the revolution and my grandfather’s great-grandparents, I always knew I wanted to write a book about it. Just like Olgert, the main character in the Countess of the Revolution loses everything in March 1917. Not just material possessions but her way of life and her very identity are gone forever. She no longer belongs because there is no place for people like her in the new Russia. And just like Olgert, she doesn’t let her fear and confusion stop her, building a new life on the ruins of her old one.
Researching and writing about the revolution was a very emotional experience for me. It broke my heart to read about the upheaval, the devastation and millions of lives lost. And it warmed my heart to learn more about my family history and be able to talk about it in my book.
My grandfather is an inspiration behind everything I write but especially behind this book. With all my heart I wish he could read The Countess of the Revolution. I hope he would enjoy it as much as he once enjoyed my university essays on Napoleon’s fatal march to Moscow or the unification of Germany. He would have the biggest smile on his face as he pasted the book into his online translator and the mumbo-jumbo of barely readable Russian words came out. He would get himself a cup of tea, sit back in his armchair, a birthday present from us for his 80th, and read. Then he would call me over Skype and tell me how proud he was.
On my agent Mark Gottlieb’s website, I answer some questions about the inspiration behind my new book, my writing process and what it was like to see my book in bookstores for the first time, and talk about my journey to publication. Thank you for featuring me on your website Mark!
It was 2014, the year I finished my first novel. I was in London, attending Historical Novel Society’s annual conference. HNS conferences are heaven for aspiring authors of historical fiction. Over the course of two days, you can meet and exchange tips with other writers, hear industry professionals talk on a variety of topics, ask any questions you might have and pitch your novel to not just one but two literary agents. There are book signings, writing workshops and seminars, as well as all-you-can-eat sandwiches and cakes. I should have been over the moon but I wasn’t. At the time, I didn’t feel like I belonged there at all. My confidence as a writer was at an all-time low and I was questioning whether anyone would ever read my novel. In the weeks leading up to the conference, when yet another heart-breaking rejection letter from a literary agent landed in my inbox, I decided to give up. No, I wasn’t going to stop writing—I loved it too much. But I was going to stop trying to get my novel traditionally published. It seemed like an impossible dream and I didn’t think it would ever happen for me.
The conference started with an incredible keynote speech from Conn Iggulden, one of the authors I love and respect the most. Conn spoke of his own publication journey and I couldn’t believe it! I wasn’t the only one struggling to get my book noticed. Here was one of the most successful historical fiction authors of our time, and he had faced rejection when he was starting out too, just like me. Despite it all he made it to the top—because he never gave up. As he concluded his speech, Conn said something that stayed with me, to this day. All it takes is one yes, he said to a group of aspiring authors who were hanging on his every word. One yes and all the rejection letters of the past will no longer matter. His words changed everything for me. Right there, in the loud auditorium, as the speeches finished and everyone got up to leave, I made a promise to myself. I was going to do everything I could to get my book published, no matter how long it took. I believed in my book and I was going to find someone who believed in it as much as I did.
I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer. As a child, I enjoyed two things the most—reading and telling stories. I would devour every book I could get my hands on. Dumas, Verne, London and Tolstoy were my number one favorites. Then I would retell the stories I had just read to my friends and family. And sometimes I would make up my own stories. I loved rainy days as a child because I could stay indoors and read the books I loved. When I was studying IT at Wollongong University, I wrote poems and short stories in Russian. Having grown up in a small Siberian town, I didn’t speak much English until I moved to Australia as a teenager and wasn’t confident enough to write in English. When I returned to university to study history a few years later, my favorite lecturer told me I had a nice writing style. I decided I had nothing to lose and the next day wrote a short story in English. One of the first stories I have ever written was about a couple in love in occupied Kiev, trapped on opposite sides of the most brutal conflict the world had ever known—World War II. After the story was published in Alt Hist magazine, a few people reached out to me, asking questions about the occupation and what life was like for the local population. I realized there was more to the story than I first thought and a couple of years later it became my debut novel, Sisters of War.
Four years after the HNS conference, when once again I was losing hope to ever get my book published, I decided to give it one last shot. I heard that the publisher of my dreams, HarperCollins, had a brand new imprint, HQ Digital. They were building their list and accepted un-agented submissions. As I attached my manuscript to an email and hit send, I didn’t think I would ever hear anything back. The reply came two weeks later. An editor from HarperCollins said she wanted to speak to me on the phone. As I waited for the phone to ring, I didn’t let myself get too excited. What if it was another (nicer) rejection? But it wasn’t—HQ loved my book and wanted to publish it!
Since then, I’ve had four books out with HarperCollins (three historical novels and one psychological thriller under the pen name of Lana Newton). Every time it’s been a magical experience to see the journey from a vague idea inside my head to a paperback I could hold in my hands. I have also signed with my literary agent Mark Gottlieb, another dream come true. And I will never forget seeing my book in a bookstore for the first time. It was in Dymocks in Sydney, the store where I have spent hours in the past, looking at all the beautiful books and imagining that my novel would be among them one day. And now it was! It was an amazing feeling and sometimes I still have to pinch myself to make sure it’s not a dream. To all the aspiring authors out there, don’t give up! It might take years and, like most authors, you will probably face rejection along the way but you can do this. Remember, all it takes is one yes!
I’m so in love with this stunning cover for my new book and thrilled to finally be able to share it with you! The Countess of the Revolution is going to be published in ebook in September, with paperback edition coming to bookstores in December.
I’ve been fascinated with the Russian Revolution since I was a child. Growing up hearing about my great-grandparents and their lives during the revolution, I always knew I wanted to write this book. The Countess of the Revolution is a very personal story with a lot of family history. This book means the world to me and I can’t wait to see it out there.
Thank you HarperCollins for my beautiful cover.
Petrograd is on the eve of revolution. For Countess Sophia Orlova, the city of her childhood – the only home she has ever known – has become her deadly enemy. The mob are ready to get rid of anyone connected to the old regime, including Sophia.
When rebels threaten to shoot Sophia and her husband, they are saved by Nikolai, a fervent supporter of the revolution. Determined to help Nikolai’s cause, Sophia sets up a hospital wing in the house, nursing injured victims by his side.
Her kindness has captured Nikolai’s heart, but their burgeoning romance is forbidden. With battle lines drawn between the new and the old, both their lives are in danger…
Will their love be strong enough to overcome the horrors of war?
From the bestselling author of Sisters of War comes a heart-wrenching novel of lovers trapped on the opposite sides of a terrifying political conflict, loss, and sacrifice.
I have two more books coming out with HQ and I’m absolutely delighted. It’s a dream come true to be working with HarperCollins and Trident on my next projects. Brothers of the Revolution will be published in June 2022 and another World War II novel the following year. Thank you Mark Gottlieb and Belinda Toor for making it all happen!
Daughters of the Resistance made the USA Today bestseller list a couple of weeks ago and I am completely over the moon! This book means so much to me and I’m so excited for more readers to discover it. Like many Russians, I grew up hearing about the war from my grandparents. These stories are in our blood, they are part of our national identity, part of who we are. When I was a child, my grandmother often talked about her father and sister who joined a partisan battalion at the start of the war and what it was like for them. In Daughters of the Resistance, I tried to capture these memories and show the hardships people like my grandparents faced at the time, and that’s what makes this book so personal for me. Thank you to everyone who has bought a copy. I hope you enjoy it!
On my publisher’s blog this week, I talk about my passion for historical fiction and share a few insights into how I write my books.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with historical fiction. As a child, I always had my nose in a book, even when I was supposed to be doing something else, like homework. The Count of Monte Cristo was my number one favourite, with its dark themes of revenge and ultimate forgiveness. The Three Musketeers was a close second, with its astonishing friendship and swashbuckling adventures. Dumas has an incredible ability to transport you back in time and capture your imagination and I couldn’t get enough. When I was a little older, I discovered one of his lesser known novels, The Companions of Jehu, and it led to an obsession with Napoleonic history that lasted a lifetime, and a university degree. At university, I realised there was only one thing better than reading historical fiction, and that’s writing it.
Every writer is different and what works for one person might not work for others, but here are five tips that always help me when I’m writing.
I am absolutely thrilled to share the cover for my new book, Daughters of the Resistance, coming to Kindle in April and bookstores in September. Huge thanks to the fantastic team at HarperCollins UK for this beautiful and atmospheric cover, I think it captures what the novel is all about perfectly.
Out of all the books I’ve written, Daughters of the Resistance is definitely my favourite. It’s a story of war and partisan battalions, of love, difficult choices and sacrifice, inspired by my grandmother’s memories. For those who have read Sisters of War, this story is told from the point of view of the other sister, Lisa. Can’t wait to see the book out there soon!
On a train from Ukraine to Germany, Lisa Smirnova is terrified for her life. The train is under Nazi command, heading for one of Hitler’s rumoured labour camps. As she is taken away from everything she holds dear, Lisa wonders if she will ever see her family again.
In Nazi-occupied Kiev, Irina Antonova knows she could be arrested at any moment. Trapped in a job registering the endless deaths of the people of Kiev, she risks her life every day by secretly helping her neighbours, while her husband has joined the Soviet partisans, who are carrying out life-threatening work to frustrate the German efforts.
When Lisa’s train is intercepted by the partisans, Irina’s husband among them, these women’s lives will take an unimaginable turn. As Irina fights to protect her family and Lisa is forced to confront the horrors of war, together they must make an impossible decision: what would they be willing to lose to save the people they love?
Sisters of War is on the USA Today bestseller list and I’m still pinching myself because it feels like a dream. Thank you HarperCollins UK and all the readers out there who bought the book. I can’t wait to see Sisters of War in bookstores around the English-speaking world later this year.
It was my childhood dream to see my books in bookstores but I never thought it would happen. When I moved to Australia as a teenager, I didn’t speak much English. And when I was brave enough to write in English and finished my first book, like most authors I received rejection after rejection from agents and publishers. There were times when I promised myself I would never write again but I continued because I loved it. After years of writing and trying to get my book published, to finally hold my copy in my hands was an incredible feeling!