Keira: For those needing a refresher would you share some highlights of Romanov history.
Dora Levy Mossanen: The untimely death of Tsar Alexander II leads to the coronation of his inexperienced twenty-six-year-old son, Nicholas II in 1894. Nicholas marries Alix of Hesse, granddaughter of Queen Victoria of Britain, a German princess Russians complain has “come to us behind a coffin.” Bloody Sunday in 1905 that earned the Tsar the nickname of Bloody Nicholas, hastening his fall from grace. Then, to the great joy of the imperial family and their people, after four girls, the birth of a boy in 1904. But, to the grief of his stunned parents, the six-month-old Alexei Nikolaevich, the much-anticipated heir to the throne, bleeds from his navel and is diagnosed with hemophilia. The fateful introduction of Gregory Rasputin to the Imperial court and his growing influence on the Tsar and Tsarina. Mistakes committed in World War I and the Russo- Japanese war. I could go on and on. This period in history is so rife with high and lowlights that a paragraph or two would not do it justice.
Keira: What intrigued you most about Imperial Russia and the Romanovs?
D.L.M.: Love, superstition, denial, a weakened and unstable nation left at the mercy of a superstitious Tsarina and a wandering monk. The love affair between Nicholas II and Alexandra that blinded the Tsar to his wife’s superstitious nature and to her inability to advise him in political matters. An Imperial family, who kept the truth from their people—the heir to the three-hundred-year Romanov dynasty was afflicted with hemophilia. And the missing remains of two Romanov children, after the discovery of the shattered, burned, and acid-drenched bones of the last Romanovs. For nearly a decade, the fate of the last Romanovs continues to intrigue us. What else does a writer want?
Keira: In The Last Romanov how could an orphan be responsible for the execution of the Czar and his family?
D.L.M. : So as not to reveal too much and spoil the element of surprise, I’d say that “responsibility” can take many forms. Many different events came together to lead to the execution of the Romanov Family. And it’s not always the person who wields the weapon of destruction who bears the responsibility.
Keira: Is the heir Darya looks for Anastasia or Alexis?
D.L.M.: Darya is the Tiotya Dasha of Alexis, loves him as if he were her own. She refuses to accept that her beloved Alexis was murdered at the cellar in the House of Special Purpose. It is Alexis or Alexei, she vows to find.
Keira: Why is the romance between Darya and Avram considered unexpected or forbidden?
D.L.M.: Avram is a Jewish artist. The Romanovs were anti-Semites and would not have tolerated a love affair between their beloved Darya and a despised Jewish artist. But Darya is a bold and determined woman and not even fear of banishment will hold her back.
Keira: If you could be an Empress of Russia at any point in history when would you want to be one and why?
D.L.M.: If I absolutely had to, I mean a gun was pointed straight at my heart, I’d choose to be Catherine the Great. In all three of my historical novels, Harem Courtesan, and The Last Romanov, I write about strong, adventurous, even impudent women who manage to break free of the cultural and religious barriers of their times. Catherine the Great did just that in the eighteenth century. She planned a bloodless coup d’état against her buffoon of a husband, became Empress, and ruled for thirty-four-years. Under her reign the arts flourished and Russia became a super power. It doesn’t hurt either that she was known to be sexually virile! And, I can assure you that the story of “the horse” was pure rumor; so there you go!
Keira: What’s next for you?
D.L.M.: My next historical novel will take me back to Iran, to 1941 and World War II. In this tumultuous atmosphere, Dr Yaran, a Jewish Dentist is summoned to the estate of the Director General of Import and Export Affairs, second in power only to the Shah. A relationship of hatred and necessity develops between the General, who is addicted to opium, and the doctor, who has introduced Novocaine and a numbing ointment of his discovery to Iran. Where will my characters lead me? Mutiny inside the high walls of the estate? A murder? A betrayal? An impossible alliance between a Moslem woman and a Jewish doctor? All will be revealed in my next book.