{Guest Post} "Russian Rusalki" by DREAMING ANASTASIA Author Joy Preble

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Joy Preble previously stopped by with a fun guest post about her latest novel, THE A-WORD, which features angels and the afterlife!

Joy Preble is the author of the popular and highly acclaimed Dreaming Anastasia series as well as THE SWEET DEAD LIFE, the prequel to THE A-WORD. A former English teacher, Joy grew up in Chicago and is a graduate of Northwestern University. She is now a full-time writer and lives with her family in Texas, where she has learned to say "y'all" without any hint of irony.
Check out Joy's website and visit her on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr

 "Russian Rusalki" 
by Joy Preble


When I first drafted out my ideas for the DREAMING ANASTASIA series, I focused on the Romanovs and on the ‘what if’ Anastasia wasn’t dead and how that would connect to Anne and Ethan and to Viktor’s motivation of eternal life and power. And in fact, that version of the story garnered me an agent, so clearly I was on the right track. But the more I thought about it, and the more my agent thought about, there was a missing layer. And that missing layer was Russian folklore, fairy tales and even folk art. So the larger story evolved and in came Baba Yaga the witch and a malevolent Slavic mermaid called a rusalka and even Koschei the Deathless, who figures into the final book of the trilogy, an immortal guy, who like Rowling’s Voldemort has achieved eternal life by hiding his soul in a rather convoluted manner. And like Marissa Meyer does in her CINDER series (The Lunar Chronicles), each fairy tale character continues to stick around in the subsequent books once they’re introduced.
I’ve been very fortunate to have a continually growing readership for this series. Some love it for the epic Anne/Ethan romance. Some love it for the Romanov connection. But I also have a sizeable number of readers who are fascinated by the fairy tale retelling.

It’s Baba Yaga who drives much of the supernatural pieces of the plot, but it’s Lily the rusalka who I’d like to talk about today.

Rusalki are definitely not like Disney’s Ariel and not exactly like a selkie, either. As legend goes, they live in rivers, haunting near the place where their human selves died in some violent manner, typically by the hands of men. They are long-haired and seductive and spend their time luring men to the water to drown them. Yeah, I know. Not exactly fun times, right? Like the duality of Baba Yaga the witch, who could be good or evil in unpredictable changes of heart, a rusalka who died well before her time is said to sometimes gift her unused fertility onto fields and crops. They can be released from their evil misery only by the death of the one who murdered them.

In the Dreaming Anastasia series, Anne is being haunted by a somewhat familiar looking rusalka in book two, HAUNTED. And typical to form, the first thing the rusalka does is attempt to drown Anne’s new, very normal lifeguard boyfriend Ben, with whom she’s taken up while Ethan has traipsed around Europe finding himself for the past six months since book one. Anne wants to forget everything that happened to her once Ethan revealed her destiny as the one who could save Anastasia from the hut of Baba Yaga—a mission which did not take into account Anastasia’s own thoughts on the matter or the tricky machinations of bad guy Viktor. But Lily the rusalka’s actions set the plot in motion and make it clear to everyone that the story is far from over.

In deference to those who haven’t read the series (and you really should!), I will say only that Lily’s identity proves her as someone very closely connected to Anne and in the end, she is not only released from her years as a rusalka but also plays a pivotal role in how everything turns out for Anne and Ethan. Let’s just say that what goes around comes around, both positively and negatively!

I loved working with this character, loved working with the water symbolism and feminist underpinnings of both the rusalka and the witch/crone. If anyone is interested in reading scholarly essays on both of these, I’d recommend Women Who Run With Wolves by Clarissa Estes. It was a valued resource for me as I wrote the Dreaming Anastasia series. I thought so much about society’s varying views of women while writing this series: about how women are perceived in all stages of life. And I very much enjoyed the underlying subversiveness of Anne being in many ways much stronger than Ethan and of connecting her to so many other strong females, both real and folkloric. I was also honored and delighted that Sur La Lune, a wonderful collective of folklore and fairy tales of all sorts, has chosen to include the Dreaming Anastasia series as recommended reading!  

Lily’s story in the series is both sad and brave and hopeful. She is trapped by circumstance and legend and in working to free her, Anne risks a great deal.

For more information on this series and others I’ve done, you can go to www.joypreble.com!

O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Joy Preble
Release Date: Sept. 1, 2009
Publisher: Sourcebooks

 What really happened to Anastasia Romanov?

Anastasia Romanov thought she would never feel more alone than when the gunfire started and her family began to fall around her. Surely the bullets would come for her next. But they didn't. Instead, two gnarled old hands reached for her. When she wakes up she discovers that she is in the ancient hut of the witch Baba Yaga, and that some things are worse than being dead.

In modern-day Chicago, Anne doesn't know much about Russian history. She is more concerned about getting into a good college...until the dreams start. She is somewhere else. She is someone else. And she is sharing a small room with a very old woman. The vivid dreams startle her, but not until a handsome stranger offers to explain them does she realize her life is going to change forever. She is the only one who can save Anastasia. But, Anastasia is having her own dreams…