I come from a long line of unhappy but strong women. My maternal grandmother, Lena, immigrated from somewhere near Belarus to America when she was still a teenager. She came to America alone, in love with a man she—for reasons I’m not sure of—did not marry. Instead, she married my grandfather, a man I don’t think she ever loved. Eventually, he ran off, leaving her with four children. Some time after that, he took his own life at his sister’s house in Atlanta. My mother and her twin sister were the youngest of Lena’s children. It was a later–in-life pregnancy; my aunt Sylvia was twelve years older, my uncle older than that. The story goes that Lena was so depressed about having not only another child but twins, that she let the nurses at the hospital name them. My mother came out first, red-cheeked and crying. They named her Rose. Her twin was quieter and born second. They named her Lily. It was not an easy childhood. Or beyond that. My grandmother self-medicated with whiskey and a variety of other things. She lived, unhappily, until she was 97.
There’s more I could write about this, but I’ll leave it here. I’ve just finished the final book of the Dreaming Anastasia trilogy, Anastasia Forever, which will be out from Sourcebooks in August of this year. As I look back on the series, I know that my grandmother’s life influenced these characters, who like my Grandma Lena, have Russian lines of descent, even the fairy tale ones. I see her in Anne’s mother Laura. In the rusalka, Lily, who I did name after my aunt. I see her mostly in Baba Yaga, whose story gets a final unfolding in book 3. Baba Yaga who wants to mother, but can’t because of choices and destiny.
Russian fairy tales do not end like Disney-ized ones. The narrator often says something like, “And they lived as happily as they could.”
I wanted Anne, the hero of the DA series, to be strong enough to break that mold. And when you get to the end—and I am so darn excited for the last book to come out so you can see how it all turns out!!—I think you’ll see that Anne has decided that destiny is only part of what molds a life.
I think now that maybe I was trying to rewrite Lena’s unhappy history. Give her the Happily Ever After that everyone deserves.