Award winning author Helen Rappaport’s last book The Romanov Sisters was selected by Goodreads members as the best non-fiction for 2014. The New York Times best-selling writer is one of the top researchers of the Russian history. We’ve got a great chance to make an interview with her around the holidays. Enjoy!


– What was the most touching moment around Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia that inspired you to write The Romanov Sisters?
– There wasn’t a single touching moment that inspired me, but I was very taken by the girls’ extraordinary composure and stoicism during their long months in captivity and the ways in which they tried to keep everyone’s spirits up. I wrote the book because I felt the girls had been neglected and because I felt we knew so little about their real personalities. I wanted to give them back their identities as four very different and fascinating young women.

– How much time took the research for the book?
– I had been thinking about the book since I researched and wrote Ekaterinburg in 2007-8. I continued to gather material on the girls for several years until I was able to start work in earnest on the book in March 2012. I did some final, intensive research during that year, when I was writing the book, but I already had most of the material by then.
– Did you have some dilemma around the main plot running, because of the different or opposite info from your sources?
– I’m not quite sure what you mean by this question. If you mean, did any of the things I discovered run counter to what I had thought about the girls – then no. The research confirmed all my instincts about them, about their different personalities and their individual strengths and weaknesses. I had no problems with finding any information that I did not like or which was unpleasant or unexpected.
– Do you think that part of the Russian royal history was forged or at least attempted to be written in favor of the Tsars and Emperors?
– There has of course been material written about the Romanovs that is uncritical of their track record as monarchs and which tries, especially with Nicholas II, to represent them as saintly when they had many faults. In terms of ‘forgeries’ – are you referring to then numerous false claimants? Such as Anna Anderson? I have no interest in any of these people, some of whom have written books and attempted to make money out of it. None of the Romanov family escaped the massacre at the Ipatiev House.
– Writing a non-fiction as by far tougher task compared to fiction. Would you give your Top 3 advices to non-fiction writers?
– 1. Research your story in primary, contemporaneous sources, in the first language of the country in which it is set. Do not rely on secondary or tertiary sources for any crucial evidence.
2. Always check and double check any new contentious information you discover in other sources and try to verify it elsewhere, before claiming to have ‘new evidence’.
3. Never accept the word of any autobiographer as being necessarily the absolute truth – people always misremember or elaborate on their own lives and experiences.
– What are your writing habits?
– I don’t have any particular habits, except that I work hard and often find it difficult to stop and unwind. I am disciplined and I sit at my desk until I have completed what I wanted to achieve that day. I don’t like working late into the night or very early.
– What kind of present you wished in your letter to Santa Claus?
– Just to have my family here with me.
– Your Bulgarian is pretty decent! How did you learn to write and have you been in Bulgaria?
– My Bulgarian is very rusty now. I still understand it quite well when I hear it spoken or read it but I’ve forgotten a lot of vocabulary. I studied Bulgarian during a 3 month exchange to Sofia University when I was doing my Russian degree.
– If you may ask yourself one question in the interview what it will be? (Don’t forget to answer)
– What is your next project? The book I am now writing on is called ‘Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd 1917’. It is a study of events in Petrograd for the 100th anniversary of the Revolution in 2017.

Photo: John Kerrison Photography

Follow Helen Rappaport on Twitter

Take a look at her books

Joseph Stalin: A Biographical Companion, 1999
An Encyclopedia of Women Social Reformers, 2001
Queen Victoria: A Biographical Companion, 2003
No Place for Ladies: The Untold Story of Women in the Crimean War, 2007
Ekaterinburg: The Last Days of the Romanovs
Conspirator: Lenin in Exile
Beautiful for Ever: Madame Rachel of Bond Street
Magnificent Obsession; Victoria, Albert and the Death that Changed the Monarchy
Capturing the Light: The Birth of Photography
The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra

About Ognian Georgiev

Ognian Georgiev is a sport journalist, who is working as an editor at the "Bulgaria Today" daily newspaper. He covered the Summer Olympics in Beijing 2008 and in London 2012. The author specializes in sports politics, investigations and coverage of Olympic sports events. Ognian Georgiev works as a TV broadcaster for Eurosport Bulgaria, Nova Broadcasting group, TV+, F+ and TV7. He is a commentator for fight sports events such as boxing/kickboxing and MMA. In May 2014 Ognian Georgiev released the English version of his book The White Prisoner: Galabin Boevski's secret story.

Posted on January 4, 2015, in Author, BESTSELLER, Books, Interview and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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