Time traveling to 1916 St. Petersburg to Research the Lilac Girls Prequel was Sheer Joy.


One of the best parts of writing Lilac Girls was doing the research. Once I went to Poland and Germany whole scenes came alive. The same was true of my recent trip to St. Petersburg. I had hoped to find the same kind of inspiration for the prequel to Lilac Girls, which not only features life in New York City during WWI, but Russian peasant and aristocratic characters as well.

The Winter Palace, mahjong tiles  at the Card Playing Museum, Poseidon fountain at Peterhof, Faberge egg detail, art at the General Staff Building of the Hermitage


Learning about amber at Catherine Palace workshop

I came back stuffed to the gills with a wonderful feeling for Russian life in 1916, incredible story ideas and character inspirations (not to mention borscht and other Russian food of all kinds.)

Soldier’s trunk from WWI Museum, Russian village model, peasants making linen and izba interior from The Russian Museum of Ethnography, original kitchen of Yusupov Palace


Bear dumplings. Delish! What doesn’t taste good with sour cream?

It was great fun to plumb the depths of Tsarist Russia, getting a deeper understanding of that time of excess and also dig into the opposite side of Russian life in the villages. It made the characters come alive and can’t wait to share them!

5 thoughts on “Time traveling to 1916 St. Petersburg to Research the Lilac Girls Prequel was Sheer Joy.”

  1. Hi Martha, This is interesting material. My grandfather grew up in pre-Revolutionary Russia, including St. Petersburg and visits to Yasnaya Polyana, Count Tolstoy’s home. I hope to meet you this Saturday at the Ferriday House. — Helen C.

  2. Hi Martha, I am an 80yr. old woman who is blessed with good health & genes which allow me to still work as a Realtor. When I am not working I love to read. I found the Lilac Girls to be a spellbinding book which should be read by the younger generation. They find sit so hard to relate to another world which we lived in. This book would help them to live it. Can’t wait for the pre quel. When will it be in the stores?? Again, thanking you for writing this story of women & their struggles to survive. Sincerely, Josephine S.

    1. So glad you enjoyed Lilac Girls, Josephine. The prequel will be out Early 2019. So excited to share it!

  3. We adopted three girls from Russia in 2002 and 03. We got to see some of the country while we were there, and by far our favorite city was St. Petersburg. Can’t wait for the new book!

    1. I agree—St. Petersburg was our favorite too. Can’t wait to share the new book!

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