Charlaine Harris is joining us today to talk about her novel, The Russian Cage. Here’s the publisher’s description:
#1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Charlaine Harris is at her best in this alternate history of the United States where magic is an acknowledged but despised power in this third installment of the Gunnie Rose series.
Picking up right where A Longer Fall left off, this thrilling third installment follows Lizbeth Rose as she takes on one of her most dangerous missions yet: rescuing her estranged partner, Prince Eli, from the Holy Russian Empire. Once in San Diego, Lizbeth is going to have to rely upon her sister Felicia, and her growing Grigori powers to navigate her way through this strange new world of royalty and deception in order to get Eli freed from jail where he’s being held for murder.
Russian Cage continues to ramp up the momentum with more of everything Harris’ readers adore her for with romance, intrigue, and a deep dive into the mysterious Holy Russian Empire.
What’s Charlaine’s favorite bit?
Down the Rabbit Hole of Research
When I began playing with a plot for my third Gunnie Rose book, I decided to take my protagonist (twenty-year-old Lizbeth Rose) from her familiar rural southwestern surroundings to the city of San Diego. I love a good fish-out-of-water story myself, so a young gunslinger trying to navigate her way through the civilized city of San Diego – in Lizbeth’s world, the capitol of the Holy Russian Empire – seemed like a good addition to the adventure of the book.
Let me just establish that I’m no research buff. I’ve known writers who spend literally years creating a world before a word of their story was written. I am not that kind of writer.
But I did want my version of San Diego to seem at least familiar to modern San Diegans reading the book. I decided the first thing I needed was a map.
My books are set in the late 1930s, after the Great Depression, the Spanish Flu, and the dust bowl have fractured America into different countries. The actual San Diego would have been a very different city then. I could hardly believe my luck when I tracked down an actual map of San Diego in the 1930s (Bekins Moving and Storage, thank you very much!).
Using the Internet and the map, I was able to chart Lizbeth’s movements through the city and what would have been there in the late thirties. Everythiing was verifiable except for one unsolved detail that drove me crazy – the exact location of the main city police station right before the new one opened in 1938. I was never able to pin that street address down, so I had to use the new one. Other than that glitch, I found it fairly easy and very interesting to get enough background to make my San Diego credible. I was able to figure out where Tsar Alexei I would have his headquarters, and what part of town would be suitable for the home of a minor Russian aristocrat.
After I felt comfortable with the city, I had to research interiors. Were refrigerators common in private homes? How many homes would have had an indoor bathroom? Did hotels have elevators? What did trains look like? What clothes were people were wearing? How mixed was the population of San Dieo? I didn’t get to use much of this material, but I had to know.
Most of my books are set in the here and the now, though often with supernatural creatures, so this was a lot of work for me. But I found it wasn’t onerous. The recreation of California and Oregon as the Holy Russian Empire was actually tremendous fun.
My curiosity led me down several byways, which is the time-eating factor of research. For example: the first prisoner to escape from the first jail in San Diego was Roy Bean, brother of the then-mayor, who went on to become Texas’ “Judge” Roy Bean.
Charlaine Harris is a New York Times bestselling author who has been writing for over thirty years. She was born and raised in the Mississippi River Delta area. She has written four series, and two stand-alone novels, in addition to numerous short stories, novellas, and graphic novels. Her Sookie Stackhouse series were the basis of the HBO series True Blood. Harris now lives in Texas, and when she is not writing her own books, she reads omnivorously. Her house is full of rescue dogs.