We all have the historical era we find fascinating, and one of mine is the Russian Revolution. I have no family connection, I’m not Russian, and there were more guns than swords, which usually counts me out. Still, I can’t get enough whether it’s writers from that time (I’ll fight anyone who won’t let me include Mikhail Sholokov on that list) or just people chronicling it from afar. Enter Julia Underwood and Red Winter…
What’s your story?
My father was an Army Intelligence Officer stationed abroad, so I was sent to a boarding school in the English countryside at seven years old. I was the one who was always in trouble for telling stories after lights out. Those epic tales of children in dire peril kept other girls awake and gave them nightmares, and I’ve been at it ever since, on and off.
Life got in the way, of course. As a teenager I wanted to save the world and be a doctor. Unfortunately, equal opportunity was still a distant dream and, although I had the qualifications, I didn’t get a place in a teaching hospital, the preference being for young men with sporting credentials. I ended up in medical research – not at all the glamour I’d envisaged. When I gave that up, I did many jobs, working in advertising, as a statistician, and in marketing and publishing. I also ran a restaurant – talked into this by a friend. Never again, I said, but I later ran a pub with my husband. I have lived in Germany, Austria, Jamaica and France.
It wasn’t until my children had left home that I finally began to write full-time, joined a writing group and let fly with my imagination. I sold an article to The Lady very quickly, which gave me a false sense of competency, but I persisted. I have now published three full-length novels, three murder mystery novellas and many short stories. My latest novel is Red Winter, the story of a family caught up in the Russian revolution.
Now we’re talking. What’s Red Winter about?
An Englishman, Jonathan Cooke, is the third generation of Cookes to run the Russian arm of his family’s business from St Petersburg. Married to a Russian woman of aristocratic origins, they are wealthy and have five children. Their eldest daughter, Sophie, marries Anatoly Andropov (Tolya), an aspiring doctor. The story follows her and her family through the horrors of the First World War and on to the revolution and the brutality of the Cheka, the Bolshevik’s secret police. The family eventually flee to England with little more than what they stand up in, although Sophie remains in Russia with two small children, almost starving, not knowing if her husband is alive or dead.
What is it about that time period that fascinates you so much?
I was reading an autobiography by someone who recalled, in a short chapter, meeting a Russian émigré family who had lost everything in the revolution. I was struck by the horror of their plight at having to leave all they possessed in a country where misery and death had changed everything beyond recognition. I found the concept fascinating and, after a lot of research, I invented the Cooke family and set about writing their story with all its drama, sorrow and, ultimately, their happiness.
It was early 2016, just a year before the centenary of the revolution, so this seemed the perfect moment to write the story. It was published by my digital publisher – Endeavour Press – just in time, in October 2017.
Never underestimate the power of Serendipity. What’s your favorite scene in the book?
What is your favourite scene in the book?
This is a difficult one. There are so many scenes I am proud of, where the emotion of the action stirred me. Sophie’s marriage to Tolya; when her first baby is born in the field hospital at the Crimean Front; when the Cheka tear apart their home in St Petersburg; when Sophie faces the Bolsheviks in Moscow; when she arrives in London with her children after finally being allowed to leave Russia. I can’t say more without spoiling the story.
Where can people learn more about you and your books?
I have a Facebook Author Page here
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