I’d like to thank Faye Rogers and Sophie Law for inviting me on to this blog tour.
When Fabergé specialist Assia Wynfield learns of the discovery of a long-lost Fabergé egg made for the Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, daughter of the last Tsar of Russia, she appears to be the only person with misgivings. On travelling to St. Petersburg to see the egg, Assia moves among Russia’s new rich but finds herself pulled back into a family past she would rather forget. With news that a friend is missing, Assia starts to dig deeper. But does she really want the answers to the questions she is asking? Set in today’s glamorous world of Russian art with glimpses into the lives of the last Romanovs as their empire crumbled in the wake of the Russian Revolution, Olga’s Egg is an enthralling tale of love, family secrets and the artistic treasures that conceal them.
From Draft to Finished Copy; How Olga’s Egg became a book
Olga’s Egg first began on Grafton Street in Mayfair in 2014. I had gone to Wartski, the renowned jewellers, to view the newly-discovered Third Imperial Fabergé Egg from 1887 which its new owner had generously allowed to be displayed before going into his private collection (reportedly he paid a sum over £20 million for it). As I waited in the queue to get into the small boutique gallery which was surrounded by burly security guards, I remember my heart beating faster and faster and because I was pregnant at the time, I felt quite faint. I was so excited about seeing this tiny treasure which had been bought by a scrap metal dealer in mid-West America. He had had no idea what he had acquired until he started doing some internet research on Fabergé eggs.
I was dumbstruck on seeing the egg in the gallery – it was like a revelation to me, a perfect piece of history cast in gold. One moment it was one of the eight missing Fabergé eggs, and the next it was there in front of me in Mayfair. That evening, on getting back home, I began plotting Olga’s Egg. I started to imagine a story in which Fabergé made an Easter egg for the Grand Duchess Olga, daughter of the last Tsar of Russia.
The birth of my daughter in 2014 rather put paid to the writing project and I had to roll up the huge ‘map’ which I had made and put it in the cupboard. I was very proud of my book map – on it I had plotted every chapter and narrative development and I found it was a good way of organising my thoughts and fitting in additions. But I put it away and re-visited it a year later when I went back to work part-time and my daughter started at nursery. Having some time away from the book had been very helpful and I re-worked some of the map and began writing the novel on the train to and from London.
For me, the train was like a mobile office. Knowing I had a limited amount of time in which to write was very effective at easing writer’s block and this, combined with the fact that the momentum of the train seemed to pull words out of me, meant that I was able to write a huge amount on these journeys. On the days when I didn’t feel like writing, I persisted and slowly, but surely, the book grew in length. It was immensely satisfying to watch the word count rise – I imagine it is akin to how a sculptor feels as he carves and chips away at a massive piece of marble and sees his creation taking shape.
A writer friend gave me a very good piece of advice. He said, whatever you do, don’t start editing until you have finished the book. His reasoning was that editing can feel like a very destructive process and that you need to have a fully-grown work in order for the book to withstand it. I found this to be very true when I began the process on my 110,000 word book. I was quite a ruthless editor and removed a number of characters and plotlines which were not aiding the narrative and I recall feeling terribly sad about this, particularly about my newspaper editor, Fergus, whom I had really enjoyed writing. But he had to go – and to make the process easier, I opened a document which I named (rather amusingly) ‘The Cutting Floor’ and put in it all the passages and people who hadn’t made the cut, just in case I wanted to revisit them.
After this initial edit, I then gave the book to my mother and my husband to read. My mother, Julia Hamilton, is a successful writer who has written six novels and she was the best editor I could have asked for. She read the book forensically and made all sorts of helpful suggestions, telling me what she liked as well as what she didn’t. Having another writer read your work is really invaluable because they have an eye for what works and how to achieve it, rather as a tailor can assess the cut of a dress. My husband also made some very good points and eventually, many edits later, Olga’s Eggwas ready to send out a year and a half after I began writing.
I was so thrilled to learn that Fabergé wanted to publish the book. The collaboration with the company could not be more fitting for a book about the world’s most beautiful eggs –Fabergé makes them and I have celebrated them with the written word. To crown this brilliant partnership, the art work for the book cover was inspired by the design of one of Fabergé’s best-selling egg pendants.
The most rewarding part of the process of writing a book and getting it published was showing my daughter that I had dedicated the book to her. She was so happy to see her name in the book and it reminded me of how proud I felt when I saw that my mother had dedicated one of her books to me.
All About Sophie
Sophie Law was born in London in 1981 and studied at Oxford University and the School of Slavonic and East European Studies. She began her career as a Russian art expert at Bonhams in 2006. After a number of years heading the Russian department and as a UK Board Director at Bonhams, she now acts as a consultant specialist. She lives with her husband and daughter in Oxford.
Where To Find Sophie