Things I imagined that turned out to be true


Sometimes, when you immerse yourself in a particular time period or a group of real people, you invent things that turn out to be true.After writing draft 2 of The Devil's Wall and its sequel, I dove into research to fact-check everything, more targeted than the general reading about the period that I'd been enjoying for years. I was surprised to learn that some things I'd invented for my story were actually real -- or close enough to it.I can think of two examples -- first, I wrote the character of Admiral Alexander Kolchak into my story. All I knew about him was that he became head of a provisional White (tsarist) government during the Civil War, existing in parallel to Lenin's and Trotsky's rule in Moscow. I based his personality off of, hem hem, a certain former boss of mine, who long worked as a federal prosecutor. He has this terrifyingly intense gaze, like he's studying you and detecting all of your secrets. That penetrating gaze became Kolchak's signature tic.During research later on, I read this about Admiral Kolchak: "Physically, he was most remarkable for his deep-set eyes, and there were many of his subordinates who were disconcerted by the unwavering intensity of his gaze."Weird, right?Second, I knew that Anastasia was famous among her family and friends for being incredibly mischievous. So I wrote, in her words, that "Mother and Father always chided me for running around like 'their wild monkey.'"As it turns out, in real life, her parents and sisters unanimously referred to her, both in person and letters, as shvibzik, or "wild imp" -- a little more devilish than monkey, but along the same lines! They called her shvibzik in their letters and diaries, too, whereas all the other girls and Alexei were always called by their names. So it was a particularly special nickname for Anastasia.I don't have a source for that latter point -- it's common knowledge among Romanov fans; google the word shvibzik and all you'll get is Anastasia. The info on Kolchak I found in the very excellent book The White Generals: An account of the White Movement and the Russian Civil War, Richard Luckett, Viking Press, 1971.By the way, in case you're wondering, I will certainly be changing "monkey" to "imp" for historical accuracy. She may not look it in the above photograph, but Anastasia was a great one for mischief. :-) As for Admiral Kolchak, I'll be writing him out altogether -- he played the role of a villain in the sequel, and I feel it would unfairly malign a real (and much-admired) historical figure. If I ever do get around to revising the sequel, I'll replace him with a made-up military leader.