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Olesya Salnikova Gilmore Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Witch and the Tsar (2022)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Haunting of Moscow House (2024)Description / Buy at Amazon

Olesya Salnikova Gilmore
Olesya Salnikova Gilmore was born in Moscow, Russia, and raised in the United States. She graduated from Pepperdine University with her BA in English/political science, and from Northwestern School of Law with a JD. Olesya practiced litigation at a large law firm for many years before she pursued her dreams of becoming an author.

She’s the most happy penning historical fiction and fantasy inspired by Eastern European folklore.

It was after reading Madeline Miller’s “Circe”, that she had the idea to even tackle a retelling of a witch with such a major presence in her own life. She realized that she could retell not just a classic story about a classic character, but also the story of a supposed villainess.

Baba Yaga was a huge (and sometimes, very real) presence in Olesya’s childhood, which she spent in Moscow before moving to America. Her mom would often evoke her name every time Olesya misbehaved. Through the years, her fear of Yaga became a fascination that bordered on obsession. However she didn’t just want to write something about this fearsome old hag from the fairy tales, which was frequently shown as this figure of sexist contempt, ridicule, a caricature, and a joke. She was certain there was a lot more to Yaga. Turns out she was right.

A lot of scholars believe that the Baba Yaga we know about is actually based upon an earth and fertility goddess (or her descendant) which was worshipped by ancient pagan Slavs a long time ago. Olesya instantly became interested in the idea of how a goddess got turned into a witch, one that was ugly and old, and wanted to reframe the story about Baba Yaga, imagining what she could’ve been like if she was a human woman and goddess both, before the rumor just reduced her to nothing more than a silly crone. She found her story, to reinvent Baba Yaga into this living and breathing woman, extraordinary yet also relatable, multi-dimensional, and real. And Olesya would just call her Yaga.

When she started writing the novel during the autumn of 2018, she was not specifically writing to current events. Instead, she was more focused on the time period and her depiction of Ivan and his rule as she saw them. After all, Russian history is peppered with autocratic rulers that often oppressed their people, with this realpolitik way of ruling which some historians believe was a result of centuries of Mongol occupation.

With the Ukraine war, Ivan’s character and his rule took on a deeper meaning, and this new sort of relevancy. It’s more important than ever to tell these stories from the past and reveal sections of Russian history that the Western world might not know to illuminate the present, in order to help give context and understand the tragedy unfolding in the region today, even in some tiny way.

Other influences for Olesya are: Angela Carter, too, for her dream like language and delightful subversiveness, which is something Olesya attempts to emulate, along with the dark fairy tale storytelling tone of Catherynne M. Valente.

Another influence was Katherine Arden, who paved the way for Slavic medieval settings and folklore retellings.

Then there is Aleksander Pushkin, who wrote about these huts spinning on chicken legs in the woods. And Phillippa Gregory, who was the very first author that ever drew her into modern historical fiction that was centered on women and therefore, retellings in their own right.

Olesya is a plantser, writing a 3-4 page synopsis and character profiles, which is followed by a chapter-by-chapter outline that she then scraps about 100 pages in, rewrite, then go off whenever her characters want her to. Basically, all of her preparation materials are used just as a guide. She gives herself total permission to allow for her creativity to take over the story wherever it could be going.

“The Witch and the Tsar” is the first stand alone novel and was released in 2022. The immortal and maligned witch of legend that is known as Baba Yaga is going to risk everything in order to save her people and her country from Tsar Ivan the Terrible, and the dangerous gods that seek to drive the twisted hearts of men.

Yaga, as a half-goddess possessing magic, has gotten used to living on her own, with her prior entanglements with mortals having led to heartbreak. She mainly keeps to her hut out in the woods, where those in need of healing seek her out, even while they spread rumors of her wicked spells and supposed cruelty. However when her old friend Anastasia, who is now the tsar’s wife, and currently suffering from a mysterious illness, shows up in the forest desperate for her protection, she realizes that the fate of everybody in Russia is linked to Anastasia’s. Yaga has to step outta the shadows in order to protect the land she loves.

Yaga, while traveling off to Moscow, witnesses a sixteenth century Russia close to chaos. Tsar Ivan (becoming Ivan the Terrible) gets more tyrannical and volatile with each passing day, and Yaga believes that the tsarita is being poisoned by some unknown enemy. However what she cannot know is that Ivan is getting manipulated by powers much older and more fearsome than anybody can possibly imagine.

Gilmore weaves a rich tapestry of Russian history and mythology, reinventing and reclaiming the infamous Baba Yaga, and bringing to life this tumultuous and vibrant Russia, where new tyrants and old gods vie for power. This compelling and fierce novel draws from the timeless lore in order to craft a heroine for modern times, battling to save her country and those she loves from oppression as she also finds her true purpose as a witch, a goddess, and a woman.

This is fearless and fierce, with sharp insight and stunning prose, Olesya conjures a captivating battle fought by emperors, gods, and folkloric spirits, which is led by a powerful and prickly heroine who jumps off of the page and refuses to be ignored. This is Baba Yaga like you have never seen her before, and you’ll love her.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Olesya Salnikova Gilmore

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