With all the interviews I’ve conducted this year—both written and podcast—I don’t often have a chance to talk about my own writing. At this moment, though, I’m juggling no fewer than three novels in various stages of completion, with a couple more roughly plotted stories waiting in the wings.
Nuts, I know. Just keeping the different sets of characters straight is a challenge, never mind remembering the details of all those plots. And there’s a constant tendency to think What about this? and go haring off in a direction that might better be left unexplored for a while. But with a bit of self-discipline and switching from one intense focus to another, it can be done. So, in brief, where do things stand?
Closest to publication is Song of the Sinner (Songs of Steppe & Forest 4), which explores Solomonida Sheremeteva’s attempts to balance her own yearning for love against her daughter’s needs. Anfim, the man Solomonida loves, doesn’t equal her noble status—a gap that today would seem minor but that loomed large in 1540s Europe. Meanwhile, her cousin Igor—whom some readers will remember from the previous book, Song of the Sisters—has come up with yet another scheme to reclaim the Sheremetev estate, and when it fails, his animosity becomes personal.
I’m working on final revisions now and expect to have a finished product by sometime in November, but since Christmas supply chains are particularly tight this year, I don’t expect the book to release before January 2022.
Once I get through that, Song of the Storyteller (Songs of Steppe & Forest 5) will be right behind. I wrote a complete rough draft over the summer, although that means only that my story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Since I can’t outline worth a darn despite years of trying, the only way I can tell whether a book will work is to write it out before I even begin sharing with my writers’ group. I’ve started on that second stage, but at just about one-fifth of the way through I still haven’t had time to enter their comments or respond to their suggestions. I have three weeks of writing vacation coming up before the end of the year, though, so I hope to make significant progress then.
It’s a fun book to write, because it’s centered around the first bride show held for Ivan the Terrible (in 1546–47), where both Lyuba and Anna are candidates who, each for her own reasons, desperately want not to be chosen. Becoming queen is, I know, the dream of many contemporary girls and young women, but really it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, especially if it meant marriage to Ivan the Terrible. He outdid even Henry VIII, wedding seven times—and although the first marriage lasted the longest (thirteen years) and is reputed to have been reasonably satisfying, his wife spent most of her time pregnant and may have died from sheer exhaustion as a result. Not a fate my heroines yearn for, especially when each of them has already lost her heart to a far more appealing young man.
The Merchants’ Tale, the historical mystery I’m co-writing with P.K. Adams, is the third current project. In brief, it’s essentially finished, but having two authors creates certain financial complications that can best be resolved by finding an outside publisher. With that goal in mind, we’re querying agents while beginning to explore the advantages and disadvantages of individual small presses. But each of us has other writing projects underway, so we plan to make a final decision on Merchants’ Tale in the spring. Around then, too, we will start work on its successor, The Privateers’ Tale.
The last of the lurking projects is Song of the Snow Maiden (Songs of Steppe & Forest 6), which ties off a long romantic thread begun in Song of the Sinner and opens the door to at least two more novels featuring even younger members of the cast. But all three of those are topics for another day.
Cover images © C. P. Lesley, based on paintings in the public domain; Ivan Aivazovsky, The Rainbow (1873), public domain via WikiArt.