Interview with Susana Aikin, author of We Shall See the Sky Sparkling

Hello, dear readers! Today on the blog I have a great interview with Susana Aikin, who is currently on blog tour for We Shall See the Sky Sparkling! We also have a chance for you to win a copy of this fabulous historical, so be sure to enter below.

Check back later for my review! Here's a sneak peek....I loved it :)

Hello Susana and welcome to Passages to the Past! Thanks so much for stopping by today to talk about We Shall See the Sky Sparkling!

To begin, can you please tell us a little about yourself and your writing?

Ever since I remember, I’ve wanted to write. The first pieces I recall writing down were poems (haha, religious)—I was five years old. I wrote them in a little notebook I found around the house and later felt very disappointed when my mother took it over and used it for her grocery lists. But I can’t blame her; she was a busy homemaker who ended up with six kids. She was Spanish and my father was English and we lived in Madrid, Spain. I grew up bilingual and at some point that created problems in terms of which language to chose for writing. Later on, I took to film as a more abstract language of expression. But the need for writing never went away— and it’s taken me many years to finally dedicate myself full time to it.

What inspired you to write We Shall See the Sky Sparkling?

There was an ancestress on my paternal grandmother’s side that had a shady legend in the family, and whom I grew up fascinated about. She had been the black sheep of the family. She wanted to be an actress, which her English respectable family thought was disgraceful, very typical of the time, the end of the 19th century. But she had followed her calling and left the family to work in the theater and ended up traveling all the way to Russia and across Siberia. We had some pictures of her and a few letters she had written to her brother. I couldn’t resist the idea of writing about a daring, Victorian female character that had belonged to my family. I also wanted to somehow restore her ‘reputation’— she wasn’t a bad girl and a fallen woman just because she had plunged into life and followed her heart. She was a pioneer of the modern woman that we so admire today.

I absolutely love the title, how did you come up with it?

The title comes from one of the end monologues of Anton Chekhov’s play, Uncle Vanya, in which two forlorn characters talk about the fact that at some point they will see the end of their present miseries. The full quote is: ‘We shall find peace. We shall hear angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.’

What research did you undertake when writing We Shall See the Sky Sparkling?

I did a lot of research for the book, first on the London theater scene at the end of the 19th century, and then on Russia before the revolution. The research on the Trans Siberian railway was quite complicated since it wasn’t completed at the time my character traveled through Siberia, and I had to keep checking on the towns it went through at the time, what the train compartments were like, what happened when it was taken over by the tsar’s government during the Russo-Japanese war, etc. There isn’t much material on Western travelers in Siberia at that time, and descriptions of the trip are not easy to come by. But I have to say I loved every minute of my research for the novel.

What would you like readers to take away from reading We Shall See the Sky Sparkling?

I think the idea I wanted to imprint in the novel is that following your heart and your creative drive, even if you make massive mistakes along the way, has tremendous value, because our individual destinies need to be fulfilled, and as hard as that may sometimes be, it is always better than holding back and hiding in safe, incomplete lives. So, if you have a passion, pursue it.

What was your favorite scene to write?

One of my favorite scenes to write was the moment Lily finds herself stuck with her baby and her nurse in a small town by lake Baikal in the middle of the Siberian winter and needs to make a desperate decision to travel through the frozen lake on dog sleds in order to reach St Petersburg.

What was the most difficult scene to write?

Maybe the most difficult scenes to write were those in which Lily is in a Russian sanatorium after she has come down with tuberculosis and is about to lose everything. They were difficult because I was already very attached to her as a character, and also because there were quite a number of deaths from tuberculosis in my English family during the Industrial Revolution, and it feels like a painful topic.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I think I wanted to write from a very young age, but wouldn’t allow myself to dream that one day I would be a writer. But my love for words, for books, for telling stories never went away, and nagged at me constantly. It’s just taken me a few decades to take the plunge.

What does your daily writing routine look like?

I get up in the morning— as early as I can— make tea, walk my dog, and settle down to writing. I write for three, four hours, and then go about my day. But if I’m really fired up by what I’m writing I try to come back to it later and write more in the afternoon.

What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? Have you been able to overcome it?

I grew up in a bilingual household, went to schools both in Spain and in England, and fell in love back and forth with both languages. But that didn’t help me deepen my grip on any of them, and so I couldn’t settle down to seriously write. I turned to film for a long time because its language didn’t compromised by bilingual, cleft brain. But I finally decided that I couldn’t let my life pass me by without fulfilling this need and I buckled down and decided that English was my deepest writing language and that I was going to give it my all.

Who are your writing inspirations?

Oh, I have soooo many and so diverse! The Russians to begin with, Tolstoy, Turgenev, Bulgakov, Dostoyevsky, and of course, Chekhov and so many others. American writers such as Faulkner, Hemingway, Willa Cather, Marilyn Robinson, Philip Roth, Alice Walker… Spanish and Latin American, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Borges, Garcia Lorca, Isabel Allende. And then English, Shakespeare, of course, Joseph Conrad, Emily Bronte, D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Wolf, Hillary Mantel, Zadie Smith— and the list goes on…

What was the first historical novel you read?

Heat and Dust, by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

What is the last historical novel you read?

Madeleine Miller’s The Song of Achilles

What are three things people may not know about you?

I’m crazy about meditation and yoga.
I have two sons, whom I adore, living in England.
I won an Emmy Award for one of my films, The Transformation, in 1996.

What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?

I love research into past historical times. I also think historical fiction allows us to reflect on the human condition outside of the context of modern times, which we face everyday and can be unnerving. There is something soothing about delving into the past—

What historical time period do you gravitate towards the most with your personal reading?

I like the 19th century and the first part of the 20th century, but then sometimes I can’t resist a good renaissance story.

What do you like to do when you aren't writing?

I like to trek in the mountains, or just walk for hours in the city with my dog. I love photography, so I take pictures all the time. I love the company of friends and family.

Lastly, what are you working on next?

I’m working on a novel about an American woman driver in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) who follows the Washington-Lincoln volunteer brigade in their fight against Fascism.

We Shall See the Sky Sparkling
by Susana Aikin

Publication Date: January 29, 2019
Kensington Publishing Corporation
Paperback & eBook; 416 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Set in London and Russia at the turn of the century, Susana Aikin's debut introduces a vibrant young woman determined to defy convention and shape an extraordinary future.

Like other well-bred young women in Edwardian England, Lily Throop is expected to think of little beyond marriage and motherhood. Passionate about the stage, Lily has very different ambitions. To her father's dismay, she secures an apprenticeship at London's famous Imperial Theatre. Soon, her talent and beauty bring coveted roles and devoted admirers. Yet to most of society, the line between actress and harlot is whisper-thin. With her reputation threatened by her mentor's vicious betrayal, Lily flees to St. Petersburg with an acting troupe--leaving her first love behind.

Life in Russia is as exhilarating as it is difficult. The streets rumble with talk of revolution, and Lily is drawn into an affair with Sergei, a Count with fervent revolutionary ideals. Following Sergei when he is banished to Vladivostok, Lily struggles to find her role in an increasingly dangerous world. And as Russian tensions with Japan erupt into war, only fortitude and single-mindedness can steer her to freedom and safety at last.

With its sweeping backdrop and evocative details, We Shall See the Sky Sparkling explores a fascinating period in history through the eyes of a strong-willed, singular heroine, in a moving story of love and resilience.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound


"Aikin’s novel is expertly plotted and rife with historical details in both its English and Russian settings, making for a rich story of the prejudices women faced at the turn of the 20th century and how the class disparity in Russia ignited the flame of revolution." - Publishers Weekly

"Beginning and ending with letters written to her family, this novel has the feel of a serial drama. Readers of Pam Jenoff and Eva Stachniak will appreciate the strong-willed and artistically driven female character who finds her own way through difficult times." - Library Journal

". . . vivid and compelling - an exceptional woman on an extraordinary journey . . ." ~ Livi Michael, Author of War of the Roses Trilogy

"Against the dramatic backdrops of a Russia on the brink of revolution and the colorful lives backstage of the London theatre circuit, Susana Aikin has created a feisty Edwardian protagonist whose trajectory still resonates with the predicament of women working in the arts today." ~ Sara Alexander, Under a Sardinian Sky and Four Hundred and Forty Steps to the Sea

"We Shall See the Sky Sparkling kept me up at night until blurry eyed, cheering Lily on through all her wild adventures, until she becomes one of those rare heroines, a mature independent woman to admire." ~ Melissa Burch, Author of My Journey Through War and Peace

"Susana Aikin's directorial eye is much in evidence in this sweeping saga. Her attention to period detail transports the reader on a filmic journey that is both astonishing and tragic. We Shall See the Sky Sparkling is a powerful meditation on the sacrifices women have made in pursuit of their dreams - sadly, as relevant in the early 21st century as a hundred years ago." ~ Helen Steadman, Best-selling Author of Widdershins and Sunwise

"We Shall See the Sky Sparkling is a vivid, thoroughly absorbing account of one woman's struggle to break from the rigid roles her social class and time period. Drawing from her family's history and a series of fascinating letters, Aikin crafts a marvelous tale of adventure, rebellion, and romance, on a captivating journey from the theaters of Edwardian London to tumultuous St. Petersburg and beyond. Lily shines as a heroine of uncommon strength--her struggle to protect and foster her independence , even as she navigates through great loves and treacherous times, is to be relished and remembered." ~ Suzanne Nelson, Author of Serendipity Footsteps

About the Author

Born in Spain of an English father and a Spanish mother, Susana Aikin is a writer and a filmmaker who has lived and worked in New York City since 1982. She was educated in both England and Spain; studied law at the University of Madrid, and later Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. In 1986 she started her own independent film production company, Starfish Productions, producing and directing documentary films that won her multiple awards, including an American Film Institute grant, a Rockefeller Fellowship, and an Emmy Award in 1997. She started writing fiction full time in 2010. She has two sons and now lives between Brooklyn and the mountains north of Madrid.

For more information, visit Susana Aikin's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Wednesday, February 6
Review & Interview at Passages to the Past

Thursday, February 7
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Friday, February 8
Feature at What Is That Book About

Saturday, February 9
Feature at Broken Teepee

Monday, February 11
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, February 12
Review & Guest Post at Clarissa Reads it All

Thursday, February 14
Feature at Queen of Random

Friday, February 15
Review at A Bookish Affair
Feature at Myths, Legends, Books, and Coffee Pots

Saturday, February 16
Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Monday, February 18
Review at Diana_bibliophile

Tuesday, February 19
Guest Post at Jathan & Heather

Wednesday, February 20
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Thursday, February 21
Feature at The Lit Bitch
Feature at View from the Birdhouse

Friday, February 22
Feature at Maiden of the Pages

Monday, February 25
Review at Comet Readings

Tuesday, February 26
Feature at Christine's Book Corner

Wednesday, February 27
Feature at CelticLady's Reviews

Thursday, February 28
Review at Oh, the Books She Will Read


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a paperback copy of We Shall See the Sky Sparkling! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on February 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

We Shall See the Sky Sparkling

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