Writing The Last Empress and Doing The Research

My newest work-in-progress is THE LAST EMPRESS, a steampunk historical fantasy that takes place during the Russian Revolution and is coming, one chapter at a time, to Wattpad.  Check there often for updates and new chapters.

The Last Empress
The Last Empress

This new story is an experiment for me.  It has the trappings of steampunk, a genre of science fiction and fantasy that covers the Victorian era. There are airships, of course, and a nod to one of the great classics of science fiction: The Island of Doctor Moreau by  H.G. Wells. There will be nods to other classics as well in future books of this new series.

There is a historical aspect to the story as well. The main character is Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov, an integral part of any story of the period.  Doing the research proved helpful in deciding the type of story I wanted to tell.

Anastasia Romanov, circa 1914 (Wikipedia)
Anastasia Romanov, circa 1914 (Wikipedia)

The real story of Anastasia is quite tragic. She was the youngest of four daughters of the powerful Romanov family, last of the Russian tsars. As Russia’s armies were thrown in retreat during the First World War, social revolution and an overthrow of the monarchy took hold. The Romanovs were forced out of power and into exile. Put under house arrest by the Bolsheviks, they were moved from Siberia to a house in the city of Yakaterinburg. In July 1918, not long after Ana’s seventeenth birthday, the Romanovs and their loyal servants were sent to a room in the basement and told to wait. Red Guards entered the room and executed all of them. They were buried in an unmarked grave and only recently were all of their remains possibly identified.

Ana’s story became legendary. The circumstances of the Romanovs and their deaths led to speculation that Anastasia and other children somehow escaped. A famous impostor surfaced in the 1920s, claiming to be Anastasia but was a Polish woman with suspected mental health issues.

Most people’s experience with Anastasia comes from two sources. There is the famous movie: Nicholas and Alexandra, which featured the courtship, marriage and final days of the last Tsar Nicholas II and his family in Russia.  The other is an animated musical by Don Bluth (creator of Fiefel the Mouse in An American Tail) called Anastasia.  The full-length Nicholas and Alexandra is the better and more historically accurate of the two. The animated movie rewrites history, badly, and completely glosses over the revolt of the Russian people, the incarceration and exile of the Romanovs and their execution.

The execution and the cloak of secrecy behind it led to stories of Ana’s possible escape. One of the interesting facts was that the Romanovs had jewels and other valuables sewn into their traveling clothes. The royal family thought they would be released and hid the treasures in their clothes to barter for transportation and other necessities. Shot at almost point-blank range, many guards testified they found some Romanovs were still alive (protected by the valuables in their clothes) and had to bayonet them to finish them off.

Another rumor to the deaths of the royal family comes from Great Britain. King George V, first cousin of Tsar Nicholas II, wanted to help the royal family. It was speculated that the head of Britain’s intelligence service was asked to develop a plan to rescue them. But the rise of socialism and hatred of monarchies was spreading to England, and the king’s advisers told the king to stay out of Russia’s problems.

These interesting side-notes helped forge the story line of The Last Empress.  I hope you discover how I integrated facts with fiction and follow along as new chapters are posted to Wattpad.





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