Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 1 month ago

WB-S2E20 Unsung Heroines in Historical Fiction

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

WRITERS' BLOCK Ron Block and Patti Callahan talk with Aimie Runyan and Kelli Stuart about taking little known stories from history and crafting powerful historical fiction novels surrounding these stories.

This show is brought to you by our presenting sponsor, Charleston Coffee Roasters. Charleston coffee roasters painstakingly searches the world over for the highest quality coffee beans. They bring them home to Charleston, South Carolina, where slow roasting coaxes out their unique flavor. Along with their promise of great coffee, Charleston Coffee Roasters also pledges to help our planet and local communities. Globally, they support sustainable farming practices. Locally, they partner with the South Carolina seed Turtle Rescue Program Visit Their website, Charleston Coffee Roasterscom, and use the code coffee with friends, all lowercase, all one word, to get twenty percent off on all bagged coffees. This was my pandemic book. I started this book during lockdown, you know, and it's kind of the books that we see coming out right now. Those are lockdown books. So I didn't have the option to go to Germany. I was all a lot of borrowing books through the library, kind of online, because you couldn't even go into libraries at the time. I had books. I literally just returned books for a previous project that I'd had for two years because it was from the CEO Bowlder Library. I them out the day I met the man that I recently married. Lecture is kind of funny, you know. I had those books as long as I've had my husband. Kind of looking for that next idea and I randomly clicked on this article about one of the British royals who had recently gotten married and wore a crown that had been one of the Russian tsars crowns and buried in the middle of that article was this paragraph about this man in the Midwest. He was a scrap metal dealer who, for fourteen thousand dollars, bought what he thought was just like this hunk of gold or whatever and he was going to melt it down and sell it. And as he was cleaning it up and preparing to melt it down, realized he had something much more valuable and it was one of the missing imperial fabraghe Easter eggs, and he handed up selling it to a museum for thirty three million dollars. Welcome to the friends and Fiction Writers Block podcast For New York Times Best Selling Authors, one rock star Librarian and endless stories. Joined Mary K Andrews Kristen Harmel, Christy Woodson Harvey and Patty Callahan Henry, along with Ron Block, as novelists. We are for longtime friends, with seventy books between us, and I am run block. Please join us for fascinating author interviews and inside or talk about publishing and writing. If you love books and are curious about the writing world, you are in the right place. Welcome to another fascinating episode of the friends and Fiction Writers Block podcast. Today we are talking to two highly accomplished novelists of historical fiction who have a talent for bringing little known stories to light, creating vibrant, important and revealing looks at the past through their compelling protagonists. I am Ron Block and I am Patty Callahan Henry. Our guests today are Amy Runyan and Kelly Stuart. Both of these authors have brought stories and mysteries from the past alive in their fiction. Our first guest is Amy Runyan. Amy Rights Fiction, both historical and now contemporary, that celebrates the spirit of strong women. In addition to her writing, she is active as a speaker and educator in the writing community. Her newest book, the School for German brides, was released on four hundred and twenty six from William Morrow. It...

...has received many rate reviews, including from Rachel McMillan, author of the Mozart Code, who said a bravely examined and deeply important book destined to elevate the discourse central to historical fiction. Some wise words and very accurate. We love our Rachel McMillan, don't we? Oh don't we? Oh my my gonna says, not a good literary citizen. Yes, well, welcome amy. I am so happy to talk to you about this book. Oh well, thank you so much for having me. High Patty Hirai. Before we take a deeper dive, can you tell us a little bit about the overview of your book, what it's about? What it is essential that we know before we take a deeper dive? Okay, so it is was inspired by doing research. It is about the schools that were constructed for young women in the era right before World War Two and continuing through the the entire war, to teach women how to be proper German housewives. So basically it was homemach on steroids with a big dose of Nazi propaganda, and that was the inspiration for the whole thing and that's basically the central colonel for the Horse Whole Story. But it expands far beyond that simple program to examine the role of women in Nazi Germany. Yes, and very successfully, I might add. So, a Mey, we love to talk about where the ideas come from and you talked about what the book is about, but what was the original spark that grabbed you, that made this a book? You had to you had to give us. Well, when I was researching for across the Winding River, which was my previous book, I came across because it also is kind of a deep dive into the life in Germany during the war, which tends to be something that's overviewed. We like looking at like the resistance in France, is hugely popular, the blitz in London, but Germany, because they're the bad guys, and rightfully so. That kind of their story gets overlooked and I kind of like understanding the thought process behind the bad guys, to understand how things happened. And that when I came was doing research for across a Wan your river, I came across an article because there was a character getting married and I came across as an article about these bright schools that were invented to train women how to be effective German housewives, efficient German housewives, and they have these schools, the most famous of which is, what the one that is featured in the school for German Brians on Lake on schoon vender island in on Lake Vincy, very near Berlin, and the building still exists today and it is, it was a center for the most prestigious brides of the most the higher ranking SS officers. And I saw this article about what how, what they were taught and what their beliefs were and I was horrified and the image that popped into my heads was a Stepford wives. Yes, so I thought I, you know, I want to write a book that kind of merges something like the nightingale or you know, the you know those kind of heroic stories, but with an element of the STEPFORD wives and without kind of making it into a savior story, because that's not accurate either. So that's kind of what the the whole genesis of the school for German brides was. There was one see that won't give it away, but there's a scene where I just like in my head of it Stepford wives. It's amazing where and I'm thinking about it a lot because I'm deciding what to do next. And it's amazing to look at where these little seeds come from. And you were reasearch and it happens all the time as authors were researching something else and we see something and it's like a little seed that we don't even know is getting planted and then later we're like, wait a minute, why was there...

...a school for wives? Right like there's this this kind of pain we get, and I'm really interested always in hello historical writers, research methods, because I know how important it is that want you to talk to us about your research for this book, for approaching and gathering the information and incorporating it into the writing without overloading it with the writing. So you know, I know my last book was more boots on the ground, but the one before that was more reading. So I'm curious what your research was for this one. Well, this was my pandemic book. I started this book during lockdown, you know, and it's kind of the books that we see coming out right now. Those are lockdown books, and I was so I didn't have the option to go to Germany. I was all a lot of borrowing books through the library, kind of online because, yeah, you couldn't even go into libraries at the time. I had books. I literally just returned books for a previous project that I'd had for two years because it was from the SEEU bowlder library. I checked them out the day I met the man that the I have recently married last year. Is kind of funny. You know, I had those books as long as I've had my husband. I hope the library was kind to you about that. Oh yeah, no, I re check them out. You know, it's a research library, so they're used to people keeping books out for a long time, but this was a real chumping and try to burn him. No, no, Oh, no, no, no, I actually bought a copy one of the books for good luck because I'd had them so long. So yeah, it was it was a challenging book to research because I couldn't do the boots on the ground aspect. I couldn't go to Germany, I couldn't get into the archives. I did write the archives trying to find information, because the cool thing that I found was that this was information that was uncovered about the Highsiu to Scoota. They uncovered this information. I want to see it was in two thousand and thirteen. They found that that the German government released this information. So I was able to get some information through that about you know, I want to know what they covered and you know, what the the curriculum looked like and what the philosophy was. But in general, because, and I have to disclose that a lot of the book does not play place in the bride school. Hanna, the main characters, training begins the day she walks over her aunt Charlotte's threshold, because she to give a little bit of the back story her. She's an order her mother's passed away and her father doesn't want to go through the trouble of raising, you know, the last year of raising a seventeen year old daughter alone. He sends her off to Berlin to be with her aunt and uncle and he's hoping that, you know, that she'll get a good education in Berlin and, you know, make a good match there. And so, you know, a lot of the book doesn't take place in the bride school and I think that that, you know, as an expectation I want to manage with readers. But the whole philosophy about food, the philosophy about clothing, the philosophy about the role that women were supposed to take in society. There is so much information from, you know, doctoral the dissertations and books and everything, and I married a historian, so he actually was a huge help in finding me some really cool source work about the food in particular. That was really cool. So it was, you know, just a lot of online research, trying to get into archives and whatever books I could get my hands on while we're in the dead deepest part of lockdown. But it's also a very emotional book and that you don't need necessarily the research for, you know, getting into the hearts and minds of people. That was really the goal of the book and so that was went kind of beyond the book and of course, you know, ordering lots of you know secondary and primary source material from Amazon Market Place, trying to find those old use books. You know, that was key. You know,...

I just think it's always fascinating that when we're doing the research and and it sounds like it happened to you, you butt up against something that now you have to do more research. Right, you hit kind of so first were interested like I can't believe, and it sounds like this book and I'm so glad you brought it to the forefront. We love these lost time pieces of history and you know they don't come to the forefront and and now we bring them there. But you're bringing it not just the facts, but along with the emotional impact. Instead of the facts of outlook, they found this German, you know, school for Brides and teaching them to be perfect Nazi wives, you are bringing in which is what historical fiction does, that the actual emotional ride of a very rich you bring them to life and I need to know. I need to know how did you weave those stories of Hannah, Carla and tilty together in that way? What I guess what I'm asking is, did you know that they would blend together that way? Or did you? Did you watch it happen? I watched it happen. So Hannah was the origin character, for sure. I when I submitted the book. Yeah, and there's I won't be necessarily get into how the sausages made as far as how the book deal came around, but it was. I knew Hannah really well, like the back of my hand, and her first chapters, yeah, I was writing them on a road trip while camping with the man I recently married and you know we were I was, you know, writing long hand and I knew Hannah. But when then, when I submitted the early chapters to my editor for going forward, she's like, we need a Jewish main character to we need to show the other side of the coin. And you know, so I got some ideas about how I wanted to do that. And at first, you know, she had a loving, you know, entirely Jewish family. Then I'm like no, you know, I want to have it high stakes. I'm going to Rinka. So she has a father who is Arryan a mother who's Jewish, who basically has to live in hiding, and she looks airy and enough to pass in the early days before they really started cracking down on Jewish rights and lack thereof, and she was able to slide by for a while and that's what made it ramped up the tension. But Clara really just popped in out of nowhere and I realized that's how I'm going to link the two. And Clara went from being, you know, this kind of welcoming hey, why did you join the BEDM? It'll be fun. And the BEDM, for those who don't know, that's a Bundesstacher my Idel, which is the l basically the Hitler youth for Girls. And, yeah, the Hitler youth for Girls, and it was the precursor to going to the bride schools. And of course they had a women's group at a women's auxiliary group that you would graduate into as well, but it was huge. Like that was the old the youth group. The only youth groups that were allowed for kids. Like you couldn't join scouts, you could I don't think you could even have like, I don't know, the equivalent of a Bowlili or whatever you know, or everything was Hitler youth or the BDM. Those are the two groups that were allowed on a national level and I needed somebody to kind of be Hannah's lifeline in Berlin, because she wasn't pleased about, you know, the moving from the beautiful countryside and her lovely idyllic life where she ran around the countryside with her mother, who was a doctor who had it was not allowed to practice medicine because Hitler forbade women from practicing medicine other than midwifery, starting in one thousand nine hundred and thirty six, and so her mother was basically practicing medicine on the sly and that becomes a whole thing throughout the book. But she has this wonderful Idyllic Childhood and of free spirited mother and she ends up going to this very conventional household with family members who are very high up in the Nazi hierarchy, and Clara is a person that kind of like reaches out to be her friend and...

...is her lifeline. But try, I'll show trying to usher her into the upper echelons of Nazi culture. So it's you know it. She becomes a very complex character and I really enjoyed writing Clara, even though she doesn't get her own Pov. I just think some of my favorite characters have showed up unannounced and it sounds like claar the same way. And Yep, we can outline, and I believe in outlining, especially with historical fiction. I didn't used to do it as much with my contemporary fiction, but I do with historical and I can get wrapped up amy. I don't know about you, I can really get wrapped up and thinking I need to have it all figured out before I start writing because it is complex. But we but that's not true, because look this this character that tied them all together. Clara ends up being someone who just shows up and ties the three of them in this really beautiful braid. So thanks for telling that story. I like that along. Yeah, and I outline to I like to think of it more as a road map, though, and if I want to make a diversion off the you know, off the beaten path, so be it, and it happens more often than not. I kind of imagine this road map I've made and I'm traveling along and then somebody standing that with their thumb out, hitch and a ride like the exactly Manta, jump on it. Tell me what you got to say. Maybe you get to be part of this. So I'm happy here. Someone else goes through the same thing. Yes, yes, yes, absolutely. One of the things I would like to point out, or at least acknowledge, is that you have a gift of and I'll just give an example. One character has a dress made it a certain color and in the next section this color dress is brought up in another way so that we know exactly who you're talking about, rather than having to get beat over the head say, Oh, this one under the room. But it just kind of tied it all together and just kind of gave it an extra layer that I just really really appreciate it as a reader. Thanks. Yeah, I color is important in this one. I try I use color very deliberately throughout most of this book. I can see that and it's beautiful, beautiful. Oh, thank you so much. So I also want to know. So so some of these stories, like and we don't know. We don't know a lot of the stories from the bad guy, quote unquotes side of this, but we kind of get this whole glimpse of it in here and it's stories I think that we need to hear. So why do you think it's important to tell these stories through historical fiction? Well, I think it's important to understand why things happened, and World War Two in particular. It has been a conflict that has been almost glamorized in a way that I don't think is particularly healthy for a for the world. Psyche you think I mean? Whenever I think of it, I think of, you know, this is sweeping Pearl Harbor movie with Ben Affleck and how beautiful they made this conflict look. And it wasn't. It really wasn't an understanding how people could come become complicit because, you know, we say, Oh, if I'd been in World War Two, I'd have been hiding Jewish people in my basement and I'd had Gypsies living in my attic and I would be, you know, out fighting the lions of injustice. Know you wouldn't. I'm sorry, most of us were just trying to get through our day to day. You're worried about your own family, you're worried about your own kids, you're worried about putting food on the table, and that's just the reality of it. You know, we see it. You know, even our own times we see injustices and we don't have the energy in the means to fight them all. And so I want, I wanted to explore how and why certain people became complicit, Hannah being chief among them, because she's young. She's seventeen when the book starts, she's around eighteen or nineteen when the book ends, and so, yeah, she's old enough to be responsible for her actions and she is one hundred percent complicit. She's a young adult, but all the same time you can see how she got wrapped up in it and you know the end result is not her becoming a savior or the good, the quote good German, and that's this trope I wanted to avoid. She tries to...

...be the least awful version of herself that she can be, and that's that's enough sometimes, and that's what I was trying to explore with this book very successfully, because it came across very authentically as a real person, you know, not somebody who's like suddenly the hero of the story, but more kind of understanding what real life would be like for them. It's speaking of real life. Reading the book, I was really struck at different times by the threads of connection to the world we're living in now. Did you have that same feeling while you were writing it, and what do you think that says about Oh for sure, I mean especially writing about Tilda's mother live, basically living in there, the honey little apartment, without the freedom to go out, not even being able to go down to her own store and mingle with customers and feeling like for her own safety she couldn't even go outside, while we're in the middle of a lockdown, and you know I got two tiny kids at home homeschooling, you know, just being terrified side about even you know, we did. I didn't go into a grocery sho I still haven't been inside a restaurant in two years. And Yeah, and it's just, you know, that level of you know, and it's not the same. I mean it's you know, I know that it was different. Risking, you know, risking the health of my family's not the same as risking your very life going outside. But there there was enough to draw a parallel. There there was enough to be able to imagine what it was like and try to empathize. And of course, you know the World War Two and the parallels between the oppression and things going on now. It was very, very deliberate, very deliberate, and with everything happening in Russian Ukraine, that could be taken to another level now too. But but of course that this book was long since put to bed. been wouldn't before that all happened. But it's, you know, it's easy to draw the parallels between what was happening and it was very deliberate. It was very deliberate for sure. Well, and it's always it's always interesting to see when we finished a book, how it how it might echo something going on today. And it I always say that sometimes authors have their ear to the ground and can almost hear what's coming, even though we don't understand why we're writing about it so exactly. Yeah, I think that it's a yeah, I think that the some of the best historical authors are the ones that really do paid close attention to the news and who are deeply invested in the big stories of the day, because it's tomorrow's history and we see the patterns. You know the old saying that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it and those who do are doomed to watch everybody else repeat it, because we see those patterns happening and and there's I think, in a way, those of us who are writing historical fiction, it is a way to feel a little bit less helpless. Yeah, because we are one voice among many and it give gives us a feeling of agency to be able to say, yes, has happened before, it'll probably happen again, but these are the options we have, these are the you know, there are other paths that we can take as a society. We can be light in the car. Yeah, we do try to provide that light in the dark, certainly, and it's sometimes it's really, really hard. It's hard to see the things that are happening in Ukraine. It's hard to see the things that are happening here in the United States, dealing with people from Russia who are here, and you see parallels with what happened to the German people living here in World War One. And you know the people who had, may be left years and years before the conflict and who are being held responsible for the actions of people they have no real connection with any more. And it's heartbreaking. It's hardbreaking and and and you know my novel that's coming out and not until next year, but you know, I researched the refugees and the children who are evacuated during World War II and I'm looking at it in black and white and now I'm looking at it in color. And you know Ukrainian and it's a great way to put that.

He said, let's heartbreaking work. It truly is a me. It is so fascinating talking to you. I know our listeners love to stay in touch, so tell us where they can find you and information on your next book and this book on the socials in the Internet. Well, I'm all over there social media. I'm at. On facebook, you can find me at at a MEK running, aim Ie, K are you, N Y A N and that's my handle on twitter and and facebook. On instagram, I'm at Bookish, a me, bookish aim ie, because, yeah, long story there. But new instagram account. Yeah, no more that. Yeah, and let's say, a website at is www doak runningcom. And plenty of information there. Bright new, shiny new website. And you know the school for German brights. That came out on April twenty six. Next year I have three books coming out. Wow, a hey, yeah, yeah, so next year I'm will taken nap by I know, I know. Yeah, literally, I finished the first draft of the my first book coming out. Well, the there's an anthology that I'm doing with our dear friends Rachel McMillan and Janelsa Salsky that's coming out in spring of next year and it's really cool. It's called cat the castle keepers, and it is, yes, and it's it takes place in three general rations over, you know, the the boar just after the board war, World War One and World War II. All takes place in the same castle with members of the same family and their stories intertwine. And it's going to be all kinds of great fun. There's a poison garden. It's awesome. Oh my God, carried it. Yeah, it's going to be great, great fun. And then my own history. My first historical novel that I'm writing for next year is called a bakery in Paris and it's a triple timeline dealing with the Paris commune, which is like eighteen seventy to eighteen seventy, one big uprising in Paris and then post World War II and then a like close to modern day, like s timeline, and it all takes place in one bakery and three women from the same family and their stories intertwining, lots of love and loss. But think of it as lames meets Chokola and it was great fun to write and I fin it, literally finish the the first draft of that on Thursday and began writing the next book on Friday, which is my first ever contemporary women's fiction and we're working on a title. But it takes place in Provence and it's got a lot of kitchen whitchery. Is kind of like under the Tuscan Sun meets practical magic and it's going to be regular fun, Fun Yeah, so fun to write and not as much research. So I'm looking forward to just exploring myself as a writer and, you know, just having some fun with that one. And Yeah, it's going to be great. So next year's going to be really busy and I hope to talk to you all again about one of more of those feats. were all of these projects. That's yes, so much gosh. Yeah, yeah, it's also going to be a busier it's going to be a busy year, but yeah, and so grateful to have this opportunity working with William Morrow and Harper Muse and it's just been so, so incredible to have the opportunity to to be able to work on so many projects. I'm just so grateful. I'm proud of you. That's cool. Yeah, thanks. It's so great to talk to you all. Yeah, well, we can't thank you enough for joining us. I think you know, having heard you and know thing the plot of the school for German brides, are going to be running to grab this book. It's so good. It's so good. It's a it's a historical fiction lover sweet spot at certainly it's a great read for anybody, even outside the genre. So best of luck and we can't wait for next year with all you have coming, I know, no kidding. Thank you so very much and it was an honor to come on board and I'd love to talk to you again sometime. Okay. Her first novel, like a river from its course,...

...was a finalist for the Christie Award. Her second book was coauthored with Wendy speak, titled Life, Creative Inspiration for today's renaissance mom. It is a nonfiction book written to encourage and inspire creative mothers and all their God given gifts. Today we'll be talking about her newest book, the mastercraft welcome, Kelly. Thank you so much. I'm so happy to be here with you all. We are so excited to talk about your newest the Mastercraftsman, what I call and the Internet and you call a modern day treasure hunt. I love it. So I keep thinking that the guy who needs to star in this movie is who is in the one about stealing the constitution, Nicholas case page. Yeah, I'm like, oh, man's the master craftsman. To him, national treasure three. That there you go. Now, before we take a deep dive, can you tell us what the book is not only about, but what it's really about. Yes, so this book is a dual timeline story. So we're following Peter Carl Fabrije and the creation of the imperial fabrije Easter eggs and the past storyline, and then the modern day storyline. We're following a young treasure hunter who's famous treasure hunter father is dying and he has one last mission to find a missing secret imperial Easter egg that was created by Peter Carl Fabraje in the early nineteen hundred is disappeared during the revolution and able lane, this young treasure hunter is tasked with finding this missing fabrije Easter eggs. So it's got lots of twists and turns, a little Russian mafia thrown in for a good measure, and was just a really fun book to research and to write. And you know, part of it is historical fiction, pot part of it is modern treasure huntings. Just a lot of fun. It's awesome. Well, you had me at Fabrishe just yes, it's such a fascinating history. We've always kind of known about these things, but what a nice deep dive into it. What was the original spark to bring the fabrishe egg to your story. Yeah, so, like you mentioned, I was a Russian minor in college and I studied in Ukraine, I studied in Russia, and so I've always just had a fascination with the history of the former Soviet Union and so all of my books tend to have stories from that area and I had just finished a book and I was kind of looking for that next idea and I randomly clicked on this article about one of the British royals who had recently gotten married and wore a crown that had been one of the Russian tsars crowns and buried. In the middle of that article was this paragraph about this man in the Midwest. He was a scrap metal dealer who, for fourteen thousand dollars, bought what he thought was just like this hunk of gold or whatever and he was going to melt it down and sell it and as he was cleaning it up and preparing to melt it down, realized he had something much more valuable and it was one of the missing imperial fabrijhe Easter eggs and he ended up selling it to a museum for thirty three million dollars and I was just like wow, that's so crazy. And so I started doing research and I realized that there are still several imperial fabrije eggs that are miss saying, that have not been recovered since the Russian revolution, and so that you know there's that was a little spark of like, oh well, where are they and who wants to find one? I love we just talked to amy about this, when you think you're doing research about one thing and this little nugget jumps out and now this is about something else. MMM, higherly. And who doesn't dream of buying something at a flea market or an antique shop or going up in the attic and thinking it's junk and...

...finding out it's worth well, thirty three man some day at work? Way they add it. But there are so many amazing twist and turns and as a writer, and we do talk once in a while, you know about our plots and such, but I'm so curious if you preplanned an outline or if you just followed the stories. Mus On this one, I did follow it a little bit. I knew what I want the ending to be. I knew I knew at the sort of twist ending was going to be. But getting there was this is definitely the most challenging story I've ever written. I would think so. Yeah, it was just I didn't feel clever enough for it. So I was all I was very intimidated by the story and I kept like, I kept writing stuff and being like this is stupid, this is so stupid, and you know that. I like to send it to my agent and some of it was stupid and we cut those parts out. But so I was she was like no, no, all this works. So a lot of it I just I followed the Muse and just to make sure that I got to that ending that I knew I wanted to get to. When I am writing something that needs to twister turners complicated, sometimes I think I know the ending but after I get there it has shifted. But your ending stayed the same the whole time. Mostly there were a few things that that took me by surprise, a few things that I didn't necessarily plan on that organically sort of happened, but the actual like what I wanted to that sort of red herring like at the end that I was able to main that you were able to keep. I also find when I'm doing that and need to come up with twist and turns along the way. I am my own worst sniper, like I'm sitting up up in some high castle and an idea bubbles up and I shoot it down before it even has a chance. Like to you know that's too outlandish, but when I read it in another book I'm totally fine with it. So I think we can shoot down our own ideas before they're even able to see what they can become. Yes, and and now. Actually, I did think a lot of the movie national treasure when I was writing it, because I thought everything that they were doing that movie is like super implausible. But like when you're watching it you're like, wow, what if that's true? What if there is invisible ink on the back of the Declaration of infendence? You know? So, I knew it. I I can't find the secret jour in the president's yeah, right. And all you have to do is, like, you have to make it just plausible enough for people to be like, but what if? And so you just have to have a confidence to do it, which I had to really work through. Well, now you have it. Yeah, now you have it. Now you have how much did this story change from the first draft to the last draft? I'm always curious about that because when you're writing with red herrings and twist and turns, sometimes you can look back, or this happens to me. I look back and I say, oh my gosh, this character has been waiting all along to be part of this, but I didn't even see I'd planted it. So how much did your first draft change to your last draft as far as like the core elements of the story? Not Too much. But character development, particularly in the modern day storyline, I tend to struggle to make characters likable. I give them like this sort of like straight on personality. So I had to do a lot of work. I mean the historical story line was a little easier because I'm writing about real people in history, so I can sort of like maneuver who they were. But but the the the modern day story line, I had to really work on crafting and creating those characters in a way that, you know, the editor didn't keep sending me a message like I really don't like her. Oh Man, this is like a therapy session for the June, you know, because I feel like she's a lot like me. But...

...well, you're likable, so that's not true, right. So the book is set in one thousand nine hundred and seventeen Russia and I know that you've been very honest on social media about you how you felt conflicted about talking about this book with the war going on right now. But it is such an important and fascinating piece of history. Can you talk about the conflict and also, I want to know more about your research process? Yeah, so, you know, it's I mean I finished this book two years ago, right, so I signed the contract with a publisher two years ago and but it just so happens that the book released one month after Russia and you've invaded Ukraine and and some of it was I wanted to celebrate the the Russian culture. My first novel was set in Ukraine and Soviet Ukraine. But I there are lots of things I love about the Russian culture and one of the things that I love the most is they have such a high value of art and appreciation of Art, which is why Peter Carl faberget was able to do what he did, because the Russian culture just values art so much. But as this was all unfolding, I just felt this like real heaviness in my heart because when I studied overseas. I lived in Ukraine. I still have friends in Ukraine who are running for their lives and I just felt really heartbroken and the same token, I have really dear, dear Russian friends here in the states who are just devil is stated and heartbroken. And so I just had all this like conflict, like how do I celebrate the Russian culture when what's happening right now is so horrifying? But at the same time I don't want to deny the beautiful parts of the Russian culture. So I think the important thing is that this book can give some historical context, because it does lead right up to the Russian revolution, and Peter Carl Fabrije was even a little bit conflicted about his position with the imperial family, because part of what led to the Russian Revolution was the imperial family lived in this like gross excess wealth while the people were living an abject poverty, and Peter Carl Fabrije was part of that gross abject wealth, you know, and so he but he was very conflicted about what he saw in the streets versus his position with the imperial family. So it gives some historical context even to what is happening today. In Russia. Not much has changed since the early nineteen hundreds, and that's what's really sad and really hard to watch is Russia itself has not really ever broken out of that bondage. Yes, Oh man, can you talk a little bit about doing the research? I mean, I know you lived there, but can you talk a bit about researching the fabrige, researching Russia when all before the saw happened? But was it more reading? Was it visiting? Was it what was your research process? Could because, like right now, you could not go visit either one of those know well, you know it's interesting. I was supposed to go to Russia in October of two thousand and twenty. I was going to go to St Petersburg. I was going to go to the Fabrisje bag museum. Obviously, covid halted that and so I didn't get to do that. And but in two thousand and nineteen I had just started this novel and I went to London with a friend and we were just visiting like literary sites around London and we went to this old book shop and in the middle of the bookshop I found this book about Fabrije, like it was literally called Fabrijee eggs and it was the whole history and I had just started like doing some reading on this and that book like completely changed because it just told me all the number one, it's only all about Peter Carl Fabrisje and his background, but it told all about the eggs and when they...

...were created, why they were created, the idea behind them, and so that became sort of a basis for a lot of my research. And then I ordered this like big beautiful book that cost me a small fortune, but it had all these beautiful pictures and descriptions of the eggs, and so that gave me sort of like this up close like I could study the eggs and see the detail, and so those were really my two books that I used the most for research. Hopefully the book didn't cost thirty three million dollars. Now, Kelly, I know you've also written a book about creativity, which is one of my favorite subjects. You know, when people ask me what did you first do when you decided you wanted to write a novel, I always point them to Julia Cameron and the Artists Way. So the subject of creativity and resistance and how we fit that into our lives fascinates me and as a mom, you wrote a book two MOMS. So tell me a little bit about that book. Yeah, so I co authored that with Wendy speak and years ago. I mean she has three children and at the time I only had three children, but only I know how many do have? A million? I five, but it feels like a hundred, I know. But we would do these creative retreats together where we would get together for three or five days and we would just write and then we'd share what we wrote and and we started talking about how like this is when our kids were all small, like it feels so hard to fit in the work. But we were creators before we were moms and somehow I feel like when you become a mom, you feel you think you have to like push that aside and and there is a season, particularly when your kids are very small, in the book, in the book we called it the Dark Ages. But there is a season where you do have to insulate, but you can still fit your creativity in and an interesting ways. You can get up early in the morning, you do you can be creative with your children and then there comes a time where they they get bigger, they go off to school, you have a maybe have a little more freedom. And listen, I homeschooled the bunch of bum fro. So this is like my first year in eighteen years where I'm not even homeschooling someone. But you you find ways to fit the art into the cracks and crevices because you have to do that because you were created as a creator and so you shouldn't deny that that part of you, because you're a better mom when you're when you're fostering these parts of you. So so we just wanted to write to mom's to say it's okay if you feel overwhelmed, but you were a creator before you were a mom. So how can you fit that back in to your everyday life and how to fit that back in without gilts? You know my council film. Yeah, so I only had three kids and they're they're now grown and one of them has their own kids. But I remember, you know, feeling guilty and sometimes, know all the time I would get up my first novel, I wrote mostly from thirty to six thirty in the morning so that I wouldn't interfere with their lives. And I look back and maybe it would have been better if they had seen me instead of hiding like, Oh, this is my secret life. And of course, as they get older they saw me doing it all the time. And I mean I dragged them on book tour, but it to fit it in without guilt, I think isn't is another really important part and I know that's in the book. So yeah, yeah, yeah, the big thing we just wanted to encourage mom's is to embrace the way that you were created. You were created is as a creative person. So embrace it and run with it. Right. The main thing today has been about bringing pieces of history to light. Why do you think that's so important?...

I mean, history gives us context for today and again, like I think one of the benefits of this book releasing now is it does give some historical even though it's sort of a it's a fun treasure hunt, it does give some historical context and if we understand what happened in history, we can make better choices and better decisions for today. And that's that's one of the big problems in Russia right now is their history has been muted and covered and hidden and propaganda has rewritten their history. And so they don't they always say never again. But they're doing it again, they're they're repeating history because they haven't learned it properly, because the history they've been fed is is wrong. And then I think, I think read. I mean personally, I know like my husband, he hates reading fiction. He's like he toils through my books because he loves me. But for me, I think I learned so much about history through a good story. Like I think just the easiest way is to pick up a good story and glean that history that you didn't know before it. It makes you better. And also, we were talking with amy right before you and you do it here, is that we can get locked down in these ideas of what a certain culture is like, Russia, bad, German, bad, this good right, and to bring someone to life within imperial Russia and show their humanity and their creativeness and their artistic you know, it takes away the shades of black and white right, only good, only bad, and brings to life very real people who were trying in that moment in history to do the right thing or do create their art or live their lives with integrity. So, yeah, you know what I was researching my first novel, which is set in World War II Soviet Ukraine and it was based on true stories of these former Red Army Soviet veterans, and I toured all around Ukraine just speaking to veterans, and I'll never forget one man. I was actually speaking to a school and he was a custodian in the school and he heard me and he stopped me afterwards and asked if he could tell me his story. And the first thing he said to me, I mean we sat down here, immediately started weeping and he said, I just want you to tell people that we were more than just soldiers, that we were poets and singers, that we were men with a future, and I mean he went on to tell me how he had a squadron of six hundred people and at the end of the war they're only eleven of them left and and but he just kept saying, please tell people we were more than just soldiers. And so I do like what you're saying. I think we need to humanize the rest of the world in these different cultures and their histories so that we can humanize these people today. Yes, fascinating, beautiful, beautiful, Kelly. So I know our listeners would love to find out more about the book find a way to stay in touch with you. Can you tell everyone where to find you on the socials and the Internet and the book and the mastercraftsman? Yes, well, the mastercraftsman you can buy anywhere. We're books are sold right now. You visit me on my website. There's a bunch of links there. It's Kelly Stewartcom and then I'm I'm I, yes, Kelly with an eye, stewart with a UA, so confusing. And then I'm also on Instagram, Kelly Stewart, author, and I you know, I post regularly. They're so constantly sharing what I can there. You have a great instagram account. I was to say I love how one. I love watching it. Yet well, thank you so much for joining us today, Kelly, and talking about Fabris A and history and creativity. We could do this forever, but I think we have given everybody a nice sampling of what the book is about, what you're about, and I think people are going to be all over this book. Yeah. Well, thank you so much. It's been such a joy to talk to you guys, to thank you all for joining us to hear about these two fascinating writers in their...

...latest work. As always, on behalf of Mary K, Patty, Kristen and Christie. We appreciate your support and you're tuning in each and every Friday. Please be sure to share with friends. We'll see you next time. Thank you to our presenting sponsor, Charleston Coffee Roasters, for their generous support. Show our sponsors some love by following them on facebook and instagram and subscribing to their email newsletter. Remember to use the code coffee with friends for twenty percent off bagged coffees in Charleston coffee roasters. Thank you for tuning in to the friends and fiction writers block podcast. Please be sure to subscribe, rate and review on your favorite podcast platform. Tune in every Friday for another episode, and you can also join us every week on facebook for Youtube, where our live friends and fiction show airs at seven PM Eastern Standard Time. We are so glad you're here.

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