Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Off to Siberia!



HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Do you have two personalities? The fabulous Elisabeth Elo says she does, and more on that in a moment, But first—oh. I am so excited. It’s such an absolute joy when a dear pal has a wild success. I am trying to remember where I met Elisabeth Elo—Elisabeth, do you remember? But it seems as if we have always been friends.

            Elisabeth hit a home run with her first thriller, NORTH OF BOSTON.  It made all the “best of”  lists and she was on the way. Now, her journey to certain stardom continues—with FINDING KATARINA M. And in all the books in all the world, you have nee read anything like this.

            Spies, Russia, reindeer, an amazing heroine, non-stop adventure, disaster, radioactive waste, diamonds, ballerinas, prisons,  blizzards, a trek over an icy river, murder, betrayal love and family. And vodka.    
           How do you like it so far?
           And, as I said, the wonderful Elisabeth insists she has two personalities. Do you?

WHERE IN THE WORLD


Sometimes I do things as a writer I would never do in real life. For example, the Real Me would never fly halfway around the world to trek to a small village in northeastern Siberia so I could just hang out for a while and soak up the atmosphere. Nope, that sort of thing does not appeal to the Real Me at all. I’m your basic latte-and-chocolate kind of girl.  I like to sit in my cozy house with my fluffy pooch curled up at my feet. 

The Writer Me is an entirely different creature. She routinely dreams up wacky, off-the-wall ideas and immediately, thoughtlessly, blurts out YES! THAT WILL DEFINITELY WORK! 

Plus, while the Real Me is not any more motivated than the next person, the Writer Me fervently believes in the transcendent value of ART and will go far, far out of her way for the sake of a story. 

That was how I ended up boarding a plane a few years ago to go off on a solo adventure to Siberia. Looking back, I’m sort of amazed I did it, but I’m not at all sorry, because that trip gave me my just-published novel, Finding Katarina M. I couldn’t possibly have written it without first-hand experience of the people and the place. So there you go. The Writer Me wasn’t so crazy after all. She was just doing her work. 

What I came to understand from my experience is that there are usually two sides to a place. There’s the place as it exists in your imagination; then there’s the real place. 

These two places can be, and usually are, quite different. The Siberia of my imagination was a cold, dark, dangerous place where millions of people had died in the gulag and many more had been exiled.  I am sorry to say that I saw the whole region as a sort of dreadful prison.

The real Siberia, of course, is nothing like that. It’s a vital, evolving society full of diverse peoples who are doing amazing things. When I was in Yakutsk, the city was booming; construction cranes were everywhere. Cultural life includes opera, ballet, and a yearly film festival. Yakutsk is Russian city, obviously, but it feels very much like its own place, with its own identity and pride.

So my western imagination got a good dose of reality, and somehow, from the merging of these two things, came a novel about an American woman who travels to Siberia to find a grandmother she mistakenly believed had perished in the gulag. Natalie (that’s the main character) faces down a lot of bad stuff and experiences some good stuff along the way, none of which she could possibly have predicted when she lived in her cozy world of lattes and chocolate (sound familiar?). 

Which brings me to a question I love to think about, and you might enjoy as well. We all have certain places that live vividly in our imaginations, either for good, bad, or mixed reasons.

 If you could set a novel anywhere in world, where would you go and what kind of novel would you write? A foggy London mystery? A sensual love story set in the south of France? An African adventure? Where would your character stay? For how long? Why is she there, and what does she hope to discover? Let your imagination run wild—why not?  It’s fun, and it’s only a story, right? 

HANK:  Oooooh. Let me think. And we have to go there, right?  So...not Siberia. How about you, Reds and readers? (Have you ever been there?)  And a copy of FINDING KATARINA M. to one very lucky commenter!



 Elisabeth Elo is the author of the suspense novels Finding Katarina M. andNorth of Boston, chosen by Booklist as a Best Crime Novel Debut. She grew up in Boston, attended Brown University, and earned a PhD in English from Brandeis. She worked as a children's magazine editor, a high-tech  product manager, and a halfway house counselor before starting to write fiction. To learn more, visit www.elisabethelo.com  




FINDING KATARINA M
American doctor travels to Russia to find her estranged grandmother, only to uncover dark family secrets and a dangerous international plot 

Natalie March is a successful doctor enjoying a busy life in Washington DC. She always thought that her maternal grandparents perished in the gulag, Stalin’s notorious network of labor camps. But when a young Russian dancer comes to Natalie’s office claiming to be her cousin, Natalie must face a surprising truth: her grandmother, Katarina Melnikova, is still very much alive. Natalie eagerly travels to Siberia to meet her, only to be drawn into a web of mystery, intrigue, and danger that will push her to the limits of her endurance. 

How far will Natalie go to find Katarina M.? How much will she risk to protect her Russian family and her own country from a deadly threat? FINDING KATARINA M. takes the reader on an extraordinary journey across Siberia—to reindeer herding camps, Sakha villages, and parties with endless vodka toasts—while it explores what it means to be loyal to your family, your country, and yourself. 







115 comments:

  1. Sounds like Writer You gives Stay at Home You an excuse to go out and do things you'd love to do.

    Me? I'm dying to go to Australia. I guess I need to come up with a book to write set there.

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    1. Yes, so agree! Very wise of Elisabeth to have two personalities . And Australia sounds perfect… For us, at least, it is so exotic…

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    2. Yes, definitely. Part of the joy of being a writer is that you get to escape to different places. Readers do too. That's the fun of the whole thing. And Australia is perfect! You have the outback and kangaroos and some pretty cool characters, not to mention the accents. Remember The Thorn Birds? What an amazing book. It defined Australia for me, and still does! I remember my mother reading it years and years ago. She was engrossed!

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  2. Congratulations on your new book, Elisabeth. I’m looking forward to reading it . . . .

    Where in the world would I set a novel? A mystery, of course, set in Norway during the summer when the sun never sets . . . .

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    1. Oh, wonderful idea! Yes, wouldn’t that be so strange? And it is a perfect setting. So interesting to write!

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    2. The midnight sun is such a strange and wonderful thing. It's a "thing" of course (not really) but it's also just the idea that something so fundamental--our sense of night and day--can be completely wrong. That opens up all kinds of possibilities. And Norway is utterly beautiful. I was there on my honeymoon and I still vividly remember the fjords. I honestly have never seen a more beautiful landscape in my life.

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  3. You (or Writer You, anyway) are obviously braver than me, Elisabeth! If I had to choose somewhere to travel for research, it would be Ireland. It looks so lovely. The perfect place for a murder!

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    2. And it would be wonderful even if you didn’t have a murder , don’t you think?

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    3. Especially wonderful without a murder!

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    4. For sure. Those stone castles on the cliffs? Definitely made for a murder mystery. Or a ghost story or love story... Or all three! Did you ever see Ryan's Daughter? That movie blew me away when I fist saw it so long ago. The incredible beauty of the landscape compared to the harshness and austerity of people's lives. It was heartbreaking. And I'm not even talking about the plot, which will break your heart even more.

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    5. I'm not familiar with Ryan's Daughter. I will have to check it out!

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    6. Have to share this pleasant little factoid about the making of RYAN'S DAUGHTER, which I just copied off Wikipedia. Apparently Director David Lean offered the role of the priest to Robert Mitchum, and this is what happened:

      Reportedly, Mitchum initially was reluctant to take the role. While he admired the script, he was undergoing a personal crisis at the time and when pressed by Lean as to why he wouldn't be available for filming, told him "I was actually planning on committing suicide." Upon hearing of this, scriptwriter Bolt told him, "Well, if you just finish working on this wretched little film and then do yourself in, I'd be happy to stand the expenses of your burial."[citation needed]

      Don't you just love Hollywood?

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    7. A reasonable request! I wonder what would have happened if the director hadn't oh-so-sensitively urged him to take the role.

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  4. I'm so excited to have this on my kindle - and plane flights scheduled for Friday and Monday. Funny story: when I was growing up deep into the Cold War, I was sure everything in Russia was gray and awful. Imagine my surprise in a seventh grade class when the teacher showed us pictures of sunshine and flowers - in Russia! I had no idea.

    My series are all set in the US - in Indiana, on Cape Cod, and on the NH border where I live but in the nineteenth century. What I love to do with short stories is plop them in different places where I've lived: Burkina Faso and Japan, to mention two most recent ones. I have yet to write ones set in Brazil, Mali, or France - but I will! And brave you to head to Siberia alone. Did you make any arrangements before you went, or did you just show up and follow your nose?

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    1. Great question! Elisabeth , do tell !

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    2. It's awesome that you lived in all those great places, Edith! You have to write about them, if only so that people like me can experience the country a little bit. When you think of it, travel guides do nothing to tell you about daily life and the people. We need novelists to do that. So get cracking on that, would you?

      About Russia. It is sad that we Americans almost can't help but have misperceptions. We don't have much to go on but what we see on TV (and these days that's pretty awful) and what we learn about in school (also awful). But that doesn't tell us anything about the people themselves, who are just like people everywhere. I was surprised by the kinds of questions some people asked me--mostly about how people are cared for in this country (social security, unemployment insurance, health care, etc.). They have their misconceptions of us, too, and there was a sense on both sides, I think, of dispelling stereotypes.

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    3. So great you could do that, learning AND dispelling.

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  5. Oh, I do like the sound of this new book, Elisabeth! I'm drawn to really cold places for some reason. I certainly don't live in a cold place, but I love mountains and beautiful photographs of the coldest places on earth. I think Siberia qualifies. Ha! If I had to pick a place to visit (and this would be virtually), it would be Antarctica. I'm always fascinated with stories set there. And, no, I don't want to actually go there. I do have a friend who took a tour to that region and her stories were amazing (and a little horrifying as well). Congratulations on this new book! I'll be on the lookout for it.

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    1. Trying to get to Antarctica would be story enough, right? I’m cold just thinking about it…

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    2. I'm drawn to cold places, too! My paternal grandparents were from northern Finland, and I've always wondered what it would be like to live in that region of the world, how so much cold and dark would affect people's general character. But then there's also the long, long, bright summer days and the beautiful landscapes. And a LOT of lakes. So I suppose it wouldn't be that hard to get used to.

      Antarctica. Wow. Definitely an intriguing setting. Not just man against nature times ten, but also man against man (or woman) living in those close quarters for months on end. I see this as a murder mystery for sure. And the body would freeze pretty fast, so that's a good (?) thing. But you'd have to cut through permafrost to bury it, so that's a bad (?) thing. I'm obviously coming at this from the murderer's perspective, which no doubt says something about me. But, really, if we're being honest, don't we all identify with the bad guy just a little bit?

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  6. Elizabeth, congratulations on the new book. It does sound endlessly intriguing.

    As for me, if I was going to set a book in some far flung locale I'd like to think I would do some kind of mystery/thriller set in Ireland. I mean, in my deluded fantasies where I'll ever write a book I'm usually just interested in setting it in a regular domestic city. But since your question gave me license, Ireland is where I'd choose.

    Not in a cozy type mystery though, I don't think I'd have the ability to quench the literary bloodlust to stop at one body.

    As for where my character would say, I've always wanted to stay in a kind of place that reminded me of The Quiet Man film. Not sure if it would make much sense in terms of having more than one body to drop but that rural setting would seem ripe to explore.

    Of course, I'm not quite sure what they would be doing there or why there were there at all, but Ireland seems like a great place to be. And research trips would be outstanding I'm sure.

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    1. Jay, that's exactly why your small village, rural setting would work--it immediately sets up the suspense because it's such an unlikely place for anything dark to happen.

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    2. Besides, I'm sure there are still enough sectarian sentiments buried in Ireland to give you the fodder for a good massacre. Write it!

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    3. Flora and Gigi,

      Well that story idea is IF I wanted to write about somewhere far off.

      The story that I would more than likely end up writing wouldn't be so "exotic". Of course, given that I only have the name of my character I have a long way to go before any story can be dreamt of seeing me type "The End".

      So don't fear JRW writers, I won't be reaching out to request a blurb from y'all any time soon.

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    4. Jay, it's so funny to hear you say that one murder wouldn't be enough! Maybe if you couldn't fit all the murders you want into one book, you could write a series of, say, ten books with a murder in each. Maybe that's why people write series---?? Any series writers out there? In any case, I think we can say without any doubt that the taste (yuck, wrong word!) for murder is insatiable among humans. And thank god for that, or many of us would be out of a job.

      As for Ireland. Yes to everything already said. One of my favorite photos in the world is a black-and-white of Seamus Heaney standing on a peat bed (or something). His dying words are forever in my head : Noli Timere. Don't be afraid.

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    5. One of the best mystery novels I have read set (partially) in Ireland is Peter Grainger's "In This Bright Future." The central character returns to Belfast for some unfinished business relating to his time in the military during the time of the "troubles." Not a cosy, for sure, but not steeped in blood/gore/sex/bad language either. Traditional, police procedural, I'd say. Sort of. And by "read" in this case, I mean "listened to the audiobook."
      -Melanie

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  7. Congratulations on your new release!

    Agreed, Ireland is a great place to set a crime novel. Though Venice is one of my favorite places, Donna Leon has perfected the setting in her books. Maybe Lindisfarne, in northeast England, which can only be accessed by a causeway during low tide.

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    1. Oh, I love that! Settings with difficult transportation are always perfect…

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    2. I've never read Donna Leon and I can't wait to try her. She has a new book just out, and it's set in Venice, right? Or Italy? Venice makes me think of nighttime, with torch flames glowing across the water, and the quiet lapping of the water against the pilings (would they be pilings? docks? concrete embankments? you can tell I've never been there) and...wait for it...MURDER! With a cape.

      Oh, gosh, that's much too stereotyped, so I suppose I'd have to go there and see for myself. Be educated, so to speak, about the real Venice. I'd probably have to stay at least a month, probably in a flat with a balcony overlooking the canals, facing the west so the setting sun would stream in, and flowers everywhere, gondolas drifting by. Yes, I think that would be a perfect WORKING RESEARCH trip. And it's a tax write-off!

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    3. Donna Leon’s new book UNTO US A SON IS GIVEN arrived at my house yesterday. She’s new to me as well.

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    4. Yes, I want to read that one, too. I keep hearing such great things about her.

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  8. You certainly are a brave one! Congratulations on the book! I've been thinking a lot about Norway lately or maybe Iceland. Not sure I would be able to carry it off though. True story: my mother worked at a school and she told me about one of the teachers who was going to Iceland for his honeymoon. My mother coudn't wait to see his pictures. But while he and his new wife were hiking up a mountain a large boulder above them came loose, rolled down and killed his wife! The pictures of the scenery however were beautiful.

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    1. What??? That is— either breathtakingly horrible or incredibly suspicious.

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    2. Exactly what I have always thought. Especially as nothing stopped him from showing his pictures.

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    4. Yes, Judi, very very… Unsettling.

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    5. Sometimes I think I must have heard everything already, but I've never heard that before. I have no idea what to do with it, other than feel very sorry for the new husband and feel very glad that nothing that random and horrible has happened to someone I know.

      But it would be Iceland, right? It has all those strange geologic formations, and extensive hot springs, and volcanos (I think?) and caves and mudflats--- Putting aside your mother's teacher's terrible experience, Iceland would be a fantastic setting for a novel. It's so different from our temperate and even-terrained world, and anytime you go someplace different, unexpected things can happen. And that's what we want in a novel, right? Our usual expectations turned upside down or at least sideways...

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  9. What an interesting blog and a great question! Yes, my mental picture of Siberia was the same as yours - a vast, icy prison - and what you learned was just fascinating. As to the question, my mind immediately went to Greece and then I realized it was not the intensely troubled Greece of today - a topic excellently covered in fiction by a fellow Poisoned Pen writer, Jeff Siger - but the Greece of ...hmm, probably ,my imagination. I think I want to write some of the Mary Stewart books I read in my impressionable youth! :-) Or. If I can ever get out of mysterious Brooklyn? Somewhere in former USSR locations, where all my grandparents came from.And I didn't know I'd like to write that until this minute.

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    1. Isn't that one of the coolest things about talking about stuff like this? Just being kind of playful with it all? And then something comes up that you didn't expect, and a minute later you realize that it was always part of you, just buried a bit? You have to step off the usual neural pathways a bit to fund what's hiding in the woods, waiting to be discovered.

      But, oh dear, now you have THIS idea--Eastern Europe or former Soviet state or whatever. And your grandparents came from there, so there's an emotional connection. Hmmm... Have you ever read WHEN THE DOVES DISAPPEARED by Sofi Oksanen? Set in Estonia during two occupations. Absolutely searing. The kind of book you won't ever forget.

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    2. Thanks for the book recommendation.It was actually the Russian Empire when they immigrated. Then it was the USSR and Romania ( a really scary place then) and now it is several small states. Very confusing part of the world.With lots of potential for stories.

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    3. Do you follow CrimeReads? I've got a blog post that just came out there featuring five novels set in Eastern Europe. You might find them interesting. The political confusion is definitely palpable. Some countries with three successive occupations. What a nightmare. I don't think I could have stood it. I have enough trouble swimming through this country's political tides.

      https://crimereads.com/the-eastern-european-thriller-divided-cities-divided-loyalties/

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  10. Finding Katarina M. is a FANTASTIC novel. I read it and adored it. Howevah... it did NOT make me want to hop a plane and visit Siberia. It did make me want to go back and reread Elisabeth's first novel, NORTH OF BOSTON.

    Congratulations on all the great reviews (which agree with my assessment), Elisabeth! I set my last book (YOU'LL NEVER KNOW, DEAR) in Beaufort, SC, which was so NOT a hardship to visit. HAD to eat all those shrimp and grits.

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    1. Thank you for the kind words, Hallie. You know that your opinion means a LOT to me.

      I will let you in on a little secret: I have NO desire to go back to Russia. Zero. I got that bug out of my system and now I'm hoping my next inspiration will take me to the south of France, maybe a villa in the Virgin Islands. Someplace warm and sunny with lots of guest bedrooms for visitors.

      About the shrimp and grits. You definitely have to sample the local fare wherever you go. You need that to write realistically about a setting. And since our characters no doubt eat a lot of different kinds of food, an author must absolutely do the same. Bravo on a job well done.

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  11. Maybe I watched Bullitt too many times, but I think San Francisco is a lovely place to set a thriller. You have the closely confined geography, the colorfully diverse neighborhoods, the dangerous waters all around, plus the modern influx of the very rich, pushing the very poor out and trampling all over the history of the place. And, oh yeah, earthquakes. Could be big fun.

    Your book sounds terrific, Elizabeth. Here's hoping for bestsellerdom, and a fat movie deal!

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    1. It's certainly a lovely place to visit, whether or not you are writing anything. I still long for the days when we lived there.

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    2. I think you hit on something there with the modern American city, and class wars, the potentially threatening natural environment. You wouldn't even need the earthquake itself or the tsunami, just the preparations for one, some conversation about it, to create suspense and foreboding. And what about so-called American diversity? Not possible when you need to be a multi-millionaire to buy a house. This setting is rich indeed!

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  12. I, too, always imagined Siberia as a vast expanse of frozen nothingness.

    Anywhere? I've always wanted to visit the Australian outback. The scenery looks breathtaking and all the wonderful, and deadly, wildlife.

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    1. One word. Dingos. I don't know about you, but I'm already feeling very uneasy. Grab your babies! Don't leave them napping in the tent! (There was a true story about that, wasn't there?) And I would love to read a novel about the aboriginal people. There's so much to learn/experience in this world--if we couldn't read novels, where would we be?

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  13. Elizabeth, I can see how actually visiting a place can change your whole story around. Congratulations on your latest adventure.

    I'm thinking Spain, particularly the Camino do Santiago. Murder and intrigue amongst a group of people on a spiritual quest along a pre prescribed thoroughfare, often camping out or sleeping in hostels. Does the spiritual nature of the journey have an affect on the antagonist? Does it change him? Does he go through with his murder anyway?

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    1. Is that sort of… The Canterbury tales in Spain? I think that has legs!

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    2. Watch the Emilio Estevez/Martin Sheen movie, "The Way" then think murder and espionage. However, the Camino de Santiago is so sacred to so many that you'd have to change it to something imaginary or you'd experience the daniel brown effect, the outrage of those who consider it a travesty to wrap fiction around a place of such spiritual significance.

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    3. My son just walked the Camino last fall. He loved it and did meet an interesting array of characters along the way. The way he described them, they did sound sort of like a modern Canterbury Tales. I saw THE WAY also. Great performances.

      I do think you'd probably have to fictionalize that location so as not to upset people. But I wonder, factually speaking--have there been any murders on the Camino? There would have to be, right? And your idea of the perpetrator being spiritually affected by the journey as he's plotting the murder... That's awesome!

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  14. Your book sounds fascinating.
    Scotland, because of the scenery (think of The Queen) and of course Outlander (think of Jamie is his kilt!) and Edinburgh because I love history.
    Windsor because we all saw so much of the Royal Mile during the wedding.

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    1. I am such a huge outlander fan! But I am not sure I would like to go there… Especially not season one :-)

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    2. Some countries are so entwined with myth and fable in my mind, and Scotland is definitely one of them. Kate Atkinson writes novels set in Edinburgh and I always love it when she describes the big castle on the hill and the narrow cobbled streets. Ancient, modern, or even imaginary--it seems like you could go any which way here and be right at home.

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  15. Presently I'm reading a book set in Provence. While I'm not likely to write one, it is probably my venue of choice. I've been there often enough that I can see the villages mentioned and pretend I'm sitting on a terrace with a glass of rose, looking out over the Luberon Valley to Gordes and Rousillon and fields of lavender.

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    1. Oh, so lovely! We want to come, too!

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    2. That sounds absolutely delightful. Next time I'm trying to meditate and the person in charge (the Meditator Chief) says soothingly, "Now imagine a beautiful scene...and yourself in it...and feel yourself start to relax..." Provence as you just described it is what I'll be thinking of!

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  16. It is the first time I read something positive about Siberia and your book seems fascinating Elisabeth.
    Everything I read taking place in Australia enticed me to visit it. Now that I went there ,I will certainly pick it as a setting in a near future.

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    1. I'm curious about your trip too! Was it different than what you expected? What was most surprising? Whatever it was, it would probably make a good scene in a novel.

      I'll be happy if my book helps people reconsider Siberia a bit. It feels good to sweep out old ideas and let in new ones. Like spring cleaning.

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    2. Sorry to answer so late. My trip was all I was wishing for. It was both like here and very different. I had the joy to visit and sleep at a Sheep station. Visiting Great Coral Reef and Rain Forests was unforgettable.
      And the accent, I could hear speaking Australian for hours

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  17. Congratulations on this captivating and intriguing novel. What a fascinating setting. This story resonates with me greatly. A mystery set in Argentina would be unique.

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    1. Oh, yes, that's a good idea! And you'd have to visit, so critical for the research!

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    2. Argentina is one of the many places I know very little about. I'm thinking horses--is that right? It's crazy where my (lack of) ideas comes from. Natalie, the main character of my book, says something along those lines when she's sitting in Domodedovo Airport in Moscow, waiting to board a flight to Yakutsk. She thinks back on what she "knows" about Russia and realizes it's mostly a mish-mash of cliches and headlines. Zhivago, Matryoshka dolls, the Cold War, vodka, lots of forests, secret Soviet cities, unsmiling faces... And she should know better, having Russian immigrant parents. So, basically, I'm all in with an Argentinian mystery. I need more information than just "something about horses"!

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  18. Congratulations on the new novel, Elisabeth. Finding Katarina M. sounds fascinating. We once went looking for my wife’s long lost relative in Amalfi. We went from shop to shop with a 30-year-old picture of the woman asking with our limited Italian if anyone recognized her. It took all day but we found her. I’m glad to say there was no murder involved. I’ve written about Amalfi before but maybe it’s time to set a mystery there.

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    1. Oh, what a wonderful adventure. ANd of course, in your fiction, you could make it more...sinister. xoxo

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    2. It's so terrific that you actually found your wife's relative. I wouldn't have guessed that. But I live in a neighborhood where we barely know our neighbors and everyone's always moving anyway, so not much effort is put forth. Amalfi sounds amazing in comparison. Sad, isn't it, when we have to resort to reading about close communities because such places are ever rarer in our world. I'm trying to imagine what that reunion was like. I hope it was joyful!

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  19. I'm fascinated by all things Russian and think that St. Petersburg would be a wonderful setting with it's rich history. In my story, the Winter Palace has been partially turned into a boutique hotel (I know, pretty far-fetched) where my character is residing and writing a book about the Romanov's - specifically Tsar Nicholas II's family. There will be a secret passage with surprising information and treasures that were meant to be kept secret - uh oh ~

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    1. THAT SOUNDS GREAT. Oops, capslock. But--it's worthy of caps lock!

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    2. There are seven things in that brief description that have me completely hooked:
      1. The Winter Palace
      2. living (or, better yet, residing) in the Winter Palace, because I've always wanted to live in a lavish hotel room by myself, not to be anti-social, just to not have to talk to people about inane things, and to get room service whenever I wanted, and to get someone else to clean it, and to not have a lot of stuff around that I purchased at some point but really, secretly, don't want anymore. And, and, and... And, of course, a hotel in the Winter Palace would easily top the list.
      3. Writing a book
      4. The Romanovs
      5. A secret passageway
      6. Treasures
      7. Surprising information
      It's a good thing you didn't write any more because I'd probably be counting all afternoon! So when's the book coming out?

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  20. Your novel is an enthralling story. What a great locale. A setting suited for a mystery which is special is Britain during World War 11.

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    1. Britain in WWII. What is more inspiring than Churchill and the British people and what they did to defend their island nation and eventually win the war. There are plenty of stories left to be told. One thing I think of every now and again (and I'm not kidding) is something I read once about an old guy pulled out of a bombed building, still alive but dying fast, who says to his rescuer, "Tell the missus I won't be home for tea." Those damn understated Brits. If that doesn't make you weep, I don't know what will.

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  21. Elizabeth, you had me at "reindeer" and "blizzards." I love books set in pre-Revolutionary Russia, where it's all ballerinas and frozen rivers and glorious music. It sounds like Russia has returned to a place where we can have novels with beauty! Art! and dark, lurking danger (from the FSB instead of from the Okhrana this time around.)

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    1. Oops! I'm guilty of Z bias. That should have been Elisabeth. Sorry.

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    2. I'm a sucker for a reindeer. I actually ate reindeer when I was there, but that's not exactly where we want to be going right now, is it? No Rudolph-on-the-spit images for me today, thank you very much! (Although it's a pretty common regional dish, and not bad at all.)

      You mention art and beauty. I think what is most terrifying about Soviet Siberia was the lack of these things, and the denial that they are important. I think world of no art and no beauty would kill my spirit faster than anything. But the old Russian of onion domes and ballerinas and gorgeous wintry landscapes--yes, yes, yes!

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  22. Elizabeth, I've researched inTuscany, in Nice, and of course in England but I don't think I'd be brave enough to go to Siberia!

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    1. I know, right? My mother used to threaten to send us there if we misbehaved.

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    2. But the minute you land you realize you're just in another place and all those negative images are just your imagination. Even the cold, I assume (I was there in summer), is different than we imagine it. The women all wear the most gorgeous full-length fur coats (from Turkey, of all places) and while we decry cruelty to animals here, it makes a lot of sense there, especially as the coats are kept for a lifetime. Siberians just don't see the cold the way we do. They go to work; they go to school. It's just another day.

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  23. I am really looking forward to reading FINDING KATARINA M, and what a fascinating place to visit. I'd love to set a novel someplace I knew nothing about, and to be brave enough to visit and discover everything I could about it. I was an exchange student in Turkey in the eighties and it would be amazing to return there and see that country through eyes that are decidedly older than than the fifteen year old who visited over thirty years ago!

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    1. What a great idea! And do it in two time lines!

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    2. That must have been an amazing and possibly scary trip for a fifteen year old! Did you speak the language? Did you make enough friends to keep you engaged or did you miss home? I would love to go to Turkey someday. But maybe not now...

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  24. Elisabeth, I loved reading this today and had already bought your book! I have a friend, Sharon Hudgins, who has both taught in and written about Siberia. Her book is called The Other Side of Russia; A Slice of Life in Siberia and the Russian Far East. It's fascinating reading and is available on Amazon in all formats.

    I've traveled and researched alone in many parts of the UK, but not sure I'd have the nerve to go trekking off to Siberia on my own! I'm happy to be an armchair reader, though.

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    1. You and me, sister. But Elisabeth has so many great stories! Many of which involved being cold. And scared. Yay, fun!

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    2. OMG, Deborah. I have Sharon Hudgins' book! It was TRULY AMAZING. She is a gifted storyteller and a keen observer. Her descriptions of life in the Russian Far East shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union (have I got that right? I think so...) were so full of intelligence and wit. I still remember her describing a guy with a pet rat on a ferry boat they were on together crossing Lake Baikal. Wonderful.

      There's a page on my website called "Books about Russia and Siberia" and her book is listed there! Say hi to her for me and thank her for me or send me her email and I'll do it myself!

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    3. How fun is that? What a terrific coincidence!She lives in the same town as me! We've been to many of her wonderful parties where she'd cooked Russian dishes! I'll get your email from Hank and forward you Sharon's.

      Can't wait to read your book! Do you know Ellen Crosby? She lived in Russia, and just recently re-published her first novel, Moscow Nights, which I loved. It had such a strong sense of place and time.

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    4. Yes, please do send her email. You can actually reach me directly through my website contact form. Go to www.elisabethelo.com. It's so funny...I actually wanted to contact her, but it's just one of those things that slips through your fingers.

      I'll definitely check out Moscow Nights. Love the title.

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  25. I’m in the middle of this wonderful novel right now. As I read it, I kept asking myself: Did Elisabeth really go to Siberia? Would I go to Siberia to write a novel?
    I figured you must have gone, because the setting is so well-drawn. I don’t always go to places where I set my books, but I find it very helpful when I do.
    I often go to a wonderful place and then I just have to put it in a book. Which is why odds are I would never set a book in Siberia. But bravo to you, Elisabeth, for doing so. It’s a spectacular book!

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    1. Thank you for being so supportive of the book, Paula. I do consider it a very valuable endorsement because I loved your BORROWING OF BONES. Now there's a novel with a sense of place. I recognized so much of the New England I know and love in it. Somehow in well-written novels the setting comes alive in ways that are actually better and more vivid and memorable than what I experience when I'm just driving through or even hiking in the woods. Brava!

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    2. Aw, you two...xoxooo Let's make dinner plans!

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  26. I would start off in the British Isles and check everything out. Then move across the Channel and do my own Grand Tour, looking for the perfect setting. All over western Europe, then to Turkey, Greece, and central Europe. Then dip across to Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco, looking for that perfect place. At some point I would have to admit I have no intention of writing a book. I just want to see all these fabulous places!

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    1. It would be fun to travel without having to "do" anything with the experience--i.e. NOT turning it into fiction or scribbling notes or wondering what fictional characters might be doing there. Just letting the experiences wash over you. And your itinerary is a dream journey, for sure.

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    2. Oh, great plan! I love the "no writing" part...xoo

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  27. Shalom Reds and fans. Your book is now in my Amazon Kindle library. My only knowledge of Siberia is of the Gulag and the movie Transsiberian with Ben Kingsley. I am not a writer. Yet. I am also not a world traveler. Excepting Canada, I have only been to Israel for about five months when I was in my 30s. I would think that the biggest obstacle would be the problem of foreign languages. When I was younger I read Leon Uris’ Exodus and James Michener’s The Source. Both of those were written in English by English speakers. They were both such good storytellers that I didn’t notice a problem. Since then, I have learned some Hebrew and I would be afraid not to write Hebrew speaking characters either speaking in Hebrew or speaking in broken English. Then, of course, is the problem of Hebrew being written from right to left. While visiting there, my favorite triumph was when at the dinner table one night when I had lapsed into English, my then teenage second cousin once removed frustrated by not understanding, scolded me saying in Hebrew “Speak Hebrew! Your Hebrew is fine.”

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    1. A movie called Trans-Siberian with Ben Kingsley? How did I possibly miss that? I'm going to be queuing that up, for sure.

      Although, on second thought, I may wait to watch it. I am saturated with this book and everything in it and the psychologically healthy thing for me right now is probably to turn my attention to lighter, sunnier subjects.

      The way around the language problem is to write about an American traveling abroad or wherever. That keeps you honest, too, because whatever biases you have, and you can't help but have them, will be true to the character as well and hopefully not offensive to the nationals who clearly see how hopelessly western you are (but you can't be anything else, right?). In my case, I had Natalie speaking Russian at home with her immigrant parents, so she naturally spoke Russian when she went there, but her accent was pronounced.

      BTW, Leon Uris's EXODUS made a HUGE impression on me when I read it. I was about fifteen or sixteen years old and I immediately fell in love with the heroes of that story (Ben Gurion--? Have I got that right?) Yikes. A perfect example of the huge impact fiction can have in the world. I would never have read Israeli history--I had no interest in any history, frankly. But I devoured that novel and it colored my impression of Israel ever after.

      Your second cousin is a keeper!

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    2. Such a great story.... I was remembering the wrong movie- and had visions of Snowpiercer. Did you see that? If not, lucky you. xoxoo

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  28. Elisabeth, I'm so happy to see you here at Jungle Reds, and I'm thrilled that you have a new book out. I first learned of you here on this blog, and I loved North of Boston. I am excited to have Finding Katarina M. to look forward to reading. The Siberia setting is fascinating to me. I have to admit that I had the gulag, prison type of place in mind before reading your up-to-date description. Congratulations on your new book, Elisabeth!

    The setting I'd probably most love to immerse myself in and write a novel about is either Devon, England or the Outer Hebrides in Scotland.

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    1. Thank you for the warm welcome, Kathy! I hope you enjoy Katarina. It's different from North of Boston--a bit (well, more than a bit) darker and the plot veers all over the place while hopefully staying in a straight line. If you can follow that description without blinking, you're my kind of reader!

      England, Scotland... That's where our language comes from, right? You know what I love most about Shakespeare and Dickens, the two uber-geniuses of the English language--? They make up words! Yup, if there isn't a word tailor-made for the situation at hand, they just create a new one! I wish we modern writers could frolic like that, but the editors and copyeditors would never allow it. They're sticklers, that's for sure. Grrr.

      So go for it, and have fun If you ever do decide to immerse yourself in a novel. Shakespeare and Dickens would want you to enjoy yourself.

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    2. Making words up--I must say I try it all the time. My copy editor says--what??? NSW.

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    3. She let me get . away with craggly, once.

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  29. Congratulations on your new release, Elisabeth. It sounds like a fascinating read. I have never been to Siberia and I can't say it's on my places to visit. I've always been fascinated with Mount Everest and would like to go to Nepal to see it up close, not to climb it. I would also like to visit Iceland and Nova Scotia.

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    1. I don't know where you live, Dianne, but Nova Scotia is very doable from the Boston area. There's a ferry that goes directly there. Nepal, now that's obviously a different story. I would love to visit there too. But I would skip Everest, too--all the dead "summiters" littering the path to the top would take the fun right out of that journey for me. Not that I could climb it anyway. But the younger me would have been dumb--I mean, adventurous--enough to try. There are definite perks to being past your prime. :)

      About Siberia: let me have done it for you.

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    2. My dad went to Nepal...and said it was exotic and amazing. I once asked him--a world traveler--what his favorite restaurant in the world was, and he said: The Yak and Yeti in Katmandu."

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  31. Congratulations, Elisabeth! I loved North of Boston and can't wait to read your new book! Location is so important - to me, it's another character in the book. I'd love to immerse myself in Kenya. I've developed a real fascination for Africa over the past two years.

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    1. Yes, brilliant idea. ANd you could do it!

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    2. Jenn, me, too, since I was a teenager! We must talk about this!

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  32. Long day today, tired but now I have a new book to look for .... I so love traveling through books. Where would I like to travel to? Oh, that's not a fair question. I have always wanted to go to England and Scotland. And then I wanted to go to the south of France. My best friend growing up is first generation Dutch American and she has been to Holland numerous times with her mom and I'd love to go to Holland as long as I can stay in the country where it's not crowded. I'd have to take Diana since I don't speak Dutch. I think I would really like to go to Norway. My grandpa Dez is first generation Norwegian American. He didn't speak English until he went to school and then he stopped speaking Norwegian, though on his 90th birthday I asked him to say grace, before breakfast, in Norwegian, one more time. That was about all that was left. Maybe I could put Scotland and Norway together, I think I read something about Scotland and seals and Vikings on one of my Celtic CDs. The story would have to be set a long time ago. Being set along time ago I would mean I have more literary license if I didn't get my facts exactly right, right? Vikings, long boats, kilts? Maybe kilts, maybe not. Seals - something about seals saving or was it capturing..... Oh, well.

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  33. You're on the case, Deana! All great ideas!

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  34. Thank you so much for a fabulous day, Elisabeth--and all you wonderful commenters!

    AND THE WINNER IS: Triss! Send me you address to h ryan at whdh dot com) and I will send you FINDING KATARINA M!

    Yay! See you all tomorrow!

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  35. I'd love to visit Iceland some day. Perhaps some sort of personal journey type story could be set there.

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