|Young Catherine the Great soon after her arrival in Russia|
However, reading The Winter Palace once again sparked my desire to learn more about Catherine. This fascination is further fueled by the fact that my grandmother's parents were Germans from Russia. Their ancestors originally lived in Germany, but when Catherine the Great sent out an invitation for Europeans to come and settle Russian lands, my ancestors decided to make the trek to this foreign land.
My cousin has done extensive genealogy of our Germans from Russia ancestors, and my grandmother even has the exact date that my relatives arrived in Russia: June 15, 1765. They went to the Volga River region of Russia and stayed there for generations until they came to America in the early 1900s.
I went to the library today and snagged the most recent biography of Catherine available. Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie is a heavy, thick book, but I'm looking forward to diving into its pages. Catherine also wrote her memoirs and thankfully, they've been translated from the original French so that I can read them, as well.
I tend to place my love of history into two distinct periods: the Eighteenth Century and World War II. I've studied the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars (which, granted, went into the early nineteenth century and include the Regency period, which I also love.) I used to be quite a historian of the American Civil War in junior high and high school, but now I find I can't muster much enthusiasm for it anymore. I have dabbled in other historical time periods - the Russian Revolution, World War I, and the late nineteenth century. In fact, I didn't really start having an interest in World War II until my mid-20s. It gained further traction when I went to graduate school, and after studying it for quite a few years now, I can safely say it's the number one time period I enjoy researching and reading about.
However, every few months I long to dive into the Eighteenth Century. I have ideas for novels that take place during the American Revolution and Eighteenth Century England that I'd like to explore one day. I have a few half-written novels about the French Revolution, too, that sadly will never see the light of day.
But now, thanks to the transportive nature of historical fiction and my own family history, I have an idea budding for a novel set in Catherine the Great's Russia. The main character will, of course, be a German who makes the trek from his native country to try his luck in Russia, and ends up in the court of Catherine the Great.
Ahh, how my mind whirls and skips and dances with delight when I think of writing his tale!
But here I face a conundrum. There are only so many hours in the day (and most of them are eaten up by the day job) and taking on a story of that time period would require a lot of research. I tend to devote most of my research time to World War II since the novels I'm writing now take place during this war.
I am of the mind, however, that certain novels call to us at certain times of our lives. I have abandoned fully-formed ideas in the past because I knew that it simply wasn't time for me to write them yet. Whether that means I didn't have the experience or the wisdom, I don't know. I only know that I must bow to the inner voice and let these projects wait until I am ready.
So it will be for this new story idea. I will let it simmer, jot down notes when needed, and do research when I feel the urge. At some point, if the idea is meant to become a fully-fledged novel, I will be seized with the undeniable longing to write it.
I eagerly await that day.