Q&A with Kerri Turner
In three words, describe to us your novel:
Layered, evocative, bittersweet.
In The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers, we meet Valentina Yershova and Luka Zhirkov, both of whom are dancers in the Romanov Imperial Ballet Company and finding their way not just in the ballet company but also in a Russia impacted by WWI and on the precipice of revolution. What was the inspiration for this story arc?
I grew up wanting and training to be a ballet dancer. Ballet has such a deep-rooted history in Russia, and the era of the Romanov’s Imperial Russian Ballet saw the creation of many of the classics which are still performed today. I was fascinated by this company responsible for evolving the art and how, despite its influence continuing to reach down through generations, it met with an abrupt and violent ending.
Your knowledge of ballet and the inner workings of ballet companies is impeccable. What research did you undertake for this aspect of the story?
I studied and trained in dance for fourteen years, and I’ve taught ballet for over seventeen years, so I like to say my life has been one long research process for this book. I did however add to my own experience by reading autobiographies and memoirs from professional dancers all over the world and speaking to them about their own experiences.
What do you think will most endear the book to your readers?
I think the characters are three-dimensional and flawed in their own unique ways, which makes them more real and relatable for readers. That, and being immersed in the rather romantic world of pre-revolutionary Russia and the ballet.
What makes Australian romance fiction unique?
Australian romance authors aren’t afraid to push the boundaries and take a few risks. Their storytelling is bold, brave, and has a focus on strong characters – women in particular.
What led you on the path of storytelling?
My parents fostered a love of reading from a very young age. I enjoyed English as a school subject and received encouragement from many teachers. By my teens was writing my own stories to see if I could make other people feel the way I felt when reading. From that age on I knew I would write a book, it just became a case of when.
Is there an author who you particularly admire and what aspect of their work/life/personality has inspired that admiration?
I admire Ken Follett for his ability to immerse the reader so fully in another time period, weaving facts and history throughout without the story ever coming to a stop. That can be such a balancing act and reading his books is like taking a masterclass in it.
The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers
Petrograd, 1914. A country on a knife edge. The story of two people caught in the middle – with everything to lose…
Valentina Yershova’s position in the Romanov’s Imperial Russian Ballet is the only thing that keeps her from the clutches of poverty. With implacable determination, she has clawed her way through the ranks to soloist, utilising not only her talent, but her alliances with influential rich men that grants them her body, but never her heart. When Luka Zhirkov – the gifted son of a factory worker – joins the company, her passion for ballet and love is rekindled, putting at risk everything that she has built.
For Luka, being accepted into the company fulfils a lifelong dream. But in the eyes of his proletariat father, it makes him a traitor. As war tightens its grip and the country starves, Luka is increasingly burdened with guilt about their lavish lifestyles.
While Luka and Valentina’s secret connection grows, the country rockets toward a revolution that will decide the fate of every dancer.
For the Imperial Russian Ballet has become the ultimate symbol of Romanov indulgence, and soon the lovers are forced to choose: their country, their art or each other…