Linda Lafferty launches her new novel at Explore
If You Go ...
Who: Linda Lafferty, interviewed by Andy Stone
Where: Explore Booksellers
When: Tuesday, Sept. 20, 5:30 p.m.
How much: Free
Best-selling author Linda Lafferty might have gotten her big break through Amazon, but as she prepares to release a new novel, you’ll find her at a local bookstore.
Explore Booksellers, at 221 E. Main St. in Aspen, will host the launch of Lafferty’s latest book, “The Girl Who Fought Napoleon: A Novel of the Russian Empire,” with a discussion and reading at 5:30 p.m. today. The event will include an interview conducted by Lafferty’s husband, former Aspen Times Editor Andy Stone, who recently published a novel about the 1980s in Aspen. The pair are working on a collaborative novel about Baroque artist Caravaggio and a painting of dubious authenticity.
Lafferty, who lives in Missouri Heights, got her big break with “The Bloodletter’s Daughter” and has since sold more than 250,000 books.
“I was so glad to find out I really was a writer,” she said. “I will always be eternally grateful to the people who took a chance on me.”
Her success is a culmination of decades of writing behind the scenes as she taught English as a second language and bilingual subjects abroad and in both Aspen and Carbondale.
“I have been writing since I was a kid. I was writing when I had gym duty and after school,” she said. “I was always rejected, and at some point I made up my mind I’d just keep writing. It’s something that’s part of me.”
While she has a handful of unpublished works in a contemporary setting, she found both a market and personal satisfaction in historical fiction.
“I love learning, and I think that spark is what fuels my writing,” she said.
At the core of each story is usually a woman who has been overlooked by history.
“I’m very into strong women,” she said. “They have always existed, but you often don’t hear about what your great-grandmother was doing.”
“The Girl Who Fought Napoleon” tells the story of Nadezhda Durova, a young Russian woman who left her home, disguised herself as a man and joined the cavalry. Over the course of a decade, she fought in many of the fiercest battles as the Russians faced Napoleon’s invading army. Her story is intertwined with that of Czar Alexander I, who ultimately defeated Napoleon and pursued his army from Moscow all the way back to Paris.
A lifelong lover of horses and admirer of Russian storytelling, she went looking for a cavalrywoman to explore and found Durova.
“She is fascinating, and she had memories,” Lafferty said. “It gave me the skeleton of the story, which was such a relief.”
It still took plenty of research and imagination to put flesh on those bones.
“Every sentence you write has to be grounded in your time period. I really scrape for details so it feels like the reader is in that moment. If you can make people touch and taste things, I think that’s the trick,” she said. “We went to Russia specifically to research this book. It was a whole tour tailored around it.”
Dealing with real people also forces her to confront the reality of their characters rather than writing an ideal.
“Nobody’s black and white,” she said. “My two protagonists are both deeply flawed characters.”
They’re also beloved heroes to the Russians, and it remains to be seen what they’ll think of an American’s take on their history.
“I hope that it’s read in Russia and that they like it,” she said.
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