1) What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
The hardest thing was just having the discipline to stick to deadlines and meet my writing goals each day. There's always something you could do around the house, or an errand you need to run. You have to tell yourself that you aren't going anywhere or doing anything until you get your writing done. I've heard you can tell much a writer is procrastinating by how clean his/her house is.
2) If you could meet any one of your characters who would it be and why?
I would definitely like to meet Simon. He reminds me a little bit of one of my friends, and I would like to tell him in a very nice way that he's a little too stuck in the past. It's wonderful to have cherished memories from childhood, but there are also good things ahead for him in the future. I'd like to tell him that he'll miss out if he's always looking backward.
3) How did you come up with the idea for this book series?
I was inspired by two things—Russian folklore and Fabergé eggs. I remember looking at a picture of a red-and-gold Fabergé egg and thinking that it looked like it was actually magic. And that became the basis for the 'clear fire' that appears in the books. And I'd always loved Russian folktales—they feature a lot of strong, beautiful heroines who go on dangerous quests. I wanted to bring that same sense of magic and adventure to the Pure series.
4) What's your next writing project?
I'm actually working on two things at the moment. I'm working on the next book in the Pure series, which is titled Ghost Girl, and I'm also working on a series of four supernatural short stories based on the seasons. Once the short stories are done, I'm going to post them for free on my website, http://catherinemesick.blogspot.com/.
5) What is the best way for readers to talk to you and stuff?
The best way to contact me is through Twitter (@CatherineMesick), or through my website, http://catherinemesick.blogspot.com/. I'm on both of those every day, and I love to meet new people ☺.
From Chapter 1:
I went on more quietly. "Why won't you answer any of my questions?"
"I did answer one—about your mother," GM replied, averting her eyes.
I wasn't going to let her get away so easily. "No, you told me something I already knew—my mother died of a fever. You didn't tell me why anyone would believe she'd been murdered. That is what Galina was saying wasn't it? That a man from your old village had killed her? And why wouldn't you allow Galina to say his name?"
GM looked at me, and I could see a distant flicker of pain in her eyes.
She held out her hand. "If you will go upstairs with me, I will tell you a story. It will help to explain."
I hesitated. Too often, GM had distracted me when I had asked questions like these—she had diverted my attention from the past and sidestepped my questions without ever refusing to answer them outright. I feared she would talk around me again.
My questions would evaporate the way they always did.
"Please, Katie, come with me," GM said, her voice low and pleading. "You know the past is difficult for me."
I resigned myself and took GM's hand.
We went up to my room.
GM switched on the light. The lamp by my bed had a faded shade with yellow sunbursts on it. I'd kept it for years, refusing a new one when GM had wanted to redecorate. My mother and I had painted the shade together one summer long ago.
GM smoothed back the quilt on my bed. "Let me tuck you in." She sounded sad and tired.
After I had settled under the covers, GM sat down beside me.
"I will tell you something I have never told you before, Katie. The night your mother died—"
GM's voice quavered, and she stopped.
She composed herself, and then went on.
"The night your mother died was the worst of all—for the fever, I mean. It had raged through her body, and she had reached a point at which she could no longer find comfort of any kind. She couldn't eat or drink; she couldn't sleep. She couldn't even close her eyes for more than a few moments to rest—she said closing them made the burning behind them worse. On that last night, she kept calling for your father, and of course, your poor father was already gone—dead in that terrible accident. She was crying out for him to protect you. Even in her delirium, she knew she wouldn't last long."
GM paused again. Her chin had begun to tremble.
She composed herself once more and went on in a low voice. "When I could make her understand who I was—when I could make her understand that I was her mother—she begged me to protect you. She said, 'Swear to me that you will always protect Katie.' She need hardly have asked for that—the desire to protect you had been in my heart since the day you were born. But I swore it to her then, and I swear it to you now. On my life, I will always protect you."
GM stared at me steadily as she said the words, and I felt tears stinging my eyes. Soon they began to fall.
"After I made my promise," GM said, "Nadya seemed to grow calmer. She asked to see you. I brought you in, and she kissed you on the forehead. You were sleeping and didn't wake. Then she sang her favorite piece of music—no words, just a hum. Do you remember it?"
I nodded. When I was a child, my mother had often sung the same melody to me. It was from a piece of music by Mussorgsky.
GM went on. "Not long after she finished singing, Nadya was gone. I swore to her that I would protect you, and I have. And I will. That's why I moved you out of the old village. That's why I moved you out of Russia right after your mother died. I had to get you as far away as I could from people like Galina. She is a good woman, but her thinking is trapped in the Dark Ages. She would warp your mind as she warped your mother's. She has nothing for you but superstition and shadows."
GM rose. "I love you, Katie. Believe me when I say there is nothing out there. There is nothing in the dark."
She pressed a kiss to my forehead, as she'd said my mother had once done, and then left the room, closing the door behind her. And I was left feeling less comforted, rather than more so.
I was grateful to hear a story about my mother, even though it was painful—I could feel her love reaching out to me across the years. But as I had feared, GM hadn't actually answered any of my questions—instead she'd left me with more.
Why had she said there was nothing in the dark?
What was she was afraid of?
From Chapter 4:
I felt a flash of panic. The strange man I kept seeing in mirrors was actually standing in front of me now. He was staring at me steadily—and I could see anger—even hatred—burning in his eyes.
And yet, he was strangely beautiful. There was something perfect about the shape of his face and the long, lean lines of his body.
Behind me, the water kept running in the sink. For a long moment there was no other sound in the room.
"Who are you?" the man asked at last. His voice was harsh, and he had an accent I couldn't quite place.
"Are you real?" I asked.
The man moved closer to me in one swift movement and leaned in. His face was only inches from mine.
I began to feel light-headed. Was I hallucinating all of this?
"Who are you?" he demanded.
I could feel the warmth from his body, and I reached out a hand to touch his shoulder.
"You feel solid enough," I said. He did indeed feel solid, and I found I was reluctant to move my hand.
I also realized I wasn't hallucinating—somehow an image in a mirror had become real.
"How did you get out?" I asked.
Puzzlement flickered in his eyes. "How did I get out of what?"
"Out of the mirror," I said. "That's where I first saw you."
The man's anger returned. "How do you know that woman Galina Golovnin?"
"Galina Golovnin?" I said. "Is that the woman who came to my house on Sunday? I never heard her last name."
There was more confusion in the man's eyes, but he pressed on, leaning even closer.
"What do you know of Gleb Mstislav?"
I caught at the name. "Mstislav. Galina mentioned a Mstislav mansion. She said the lights were on—she seemed to think there was some kind of danger. Does Gleb Mstislav have something to do with that?"
The man's eyes ranged over my face. "You really don't know, do you?"
"Know what?" I said.
The man stared at me for a moment without saying anything. Then he turned to go.
"Wait!" I said. "Are you a student here? How will I find you again?"
The man turned back.
"I'm sorry if I scared you," he said. "You should forget you saw me."
He turned away again.
"Wait!" I said, feeling panic rising in me. "If you know something about Galina and this Gleb Mstislav, then I need to talk to you."
"No," he said sharply.
"I need to talk to you."
"It's better if you don't."
"But what if I genuinely have to?" I said in a rush. "What if the danger that Galina hinted at actually happens? What if I need to talk to you then?"
Something flickered in the man's eyes that I couldn't quite read.
"What is your name?" he asked.
"Katie Wickliff," I replied.
"Finally you answer a question," the man said, a small smile quirking at one corner of his mouth. "If you need to talk to me say 'Katie Wickliff summons you.' If you do that, I will find you."
Katie's Russian Tea Cakes
I've never been much of a baker, but my protagonist, Katie Wickliff, is actually a very good one—when she gets the opportunity. Her grandmother largely disapproves of sweets ☺. But when Katie's hanging out with her friend Charisse, they often end up baking a few sweet treats. This recipe for Russian Tea Cakes is one of Katie's favorites.
Katie's Russian Tea Cakes
1 cup butter, softened (not melted)
½ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans
¼ teaspoon salt
Additional powdered sugar for rolling
1) Preheat oven to 350 F.
2) In a large bowl, cream butter, ½ cup powdered sugar, and vanilla. Add the flour, pecans, and salt, and stir until just blended.
3) Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place about 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
4) Bake 10-12 minutes (don't allow cookies to get brown). Remove cookies from sheet and allow them to cool. Then roll cookies in powdered sugar. Once all cookies are coated, roll in sugar a second time.