Retracing Sisi’s Footsteps: My Research for THE ACCIDENTAL EMPRESS
One of the greatest joys of reading Historical Fiction is, in my opinion, learning about another time and place. If done right, a great Historical Fiction novel will transport you to a new world. You have the opportunity to see this new and vivid world along with the compelling cast of characters who inhabit it.
It follows, then, that one of the most fun parts of writing Historical Fiction is that same thing—getting so deeply into another world that it becomes real and gripping and alive. And that all begins with the research.
As this is a novel set in the Habsburg Imperial Court, the drama and action unfolded primarily in Austria and Hungary. I really couldn’t learn about Sisi and her world without seeing it through my own eyes. I felt very strongly that, in order to bring Sisi to life, both in my imagination and on paper, I needed to first immerse myself into her world. I needed to visit her palaces, soak up her setting, and walk in her footsteps. This was all an integral part of the research process, and I was thrilled that that meant I would get to do some traveling. That’s not a bad part of the job, is it?!
It was in Vienna, years ago, that I first stumbled across the image of Sisi, so that was the first place I revisited. Vienna today still feels so grand and imperial. You can still feel Sisi and Franz Joseph and the stamp of imperial majesty on almost every boulevard of their capital. Their former homes, the Schönbrunn and Hofburg Palaces, are fantastic resources in which to learn about not only Sisi, but all of the Habsburgs. There, I spent time studying every detail of Sisi’s daily life. I studied the plates off of which she ate, the clothes in which she dressed, and the furniture on which she sat. I peeked at her journal entries to see her elegant cursive handwriting. I looked out over her grounds and gardens, staring through the same windows through which she took her own views of her land and her capital city. I walked down the same cathedral aisle by which she processed, as a girl of sixteen, on her way to marry Emperor Franz Joseph. In all of those places, Sisi came to life in my mind.
Next, it was off to Sisi’s other capital, the Hungarian city of Budapest. This is a place that, to me, feels more whimsical and unruly than grand and imperial Vienna. Walking around the Castle Hill and looking out over the Danube and the Chain Bridge, I could imagine why the romantic Sisi loved it there so much. I traveled the flat plains on which she loved to take off on horseback. I sat in her imperial box in Budapest’s cathedral. I visited the nearby imperial retreat, the country home to which she fled to when the pressures of public life overwhelmed her.
All of these places were hugely important locales in Sisi’s story, so I loved visiting them to learn about Sisi and, hopefully, to be able to recreate this world through my words.
Once I’d physically retraced her footsteps, it came time to take in as much information as possible. This involved reading…lots and lots of reading. And then some note-taking, and then some more reading. The names of the biographies and books I relied on are listed in the Acknowledgments Section at the back of my novel. I read not only about the characters but also about the world they inhabited and what their daily lives might have looked and felt like. I read about what food they would have eaten, what shows they might have seen at the Opera. I read about the weather and the clothing and the architecture. I hope that, in including these rich and evocative historical details, readers of The Accidental Empress will feel like Sisi and her world come to life. That is, after all, the true magic of reading—being transported to another world. And if I’ve done my job right, readers will feel not only like they’ve been to SIsi’s world, but that she’s become a dear friend in the process.
New York Times bestselling author Allison Pataki follows up on her critically-acclaimed debut novel, The Traitor’s Wife, with the little-known and tumultuous love story of “Sisi,” the Austro-Hungarian Empress and captivating wife of Emperor Franz Joseph.
The year is 1853, and the Habsburgs are Europe’s most powerful ruling family. With his empire stretching from Austria to Russia, from Germany to Italy, Emperor Franz Joseph is young, rich, and ready to marry.
Fifteen-year-old Elisabeth, “Sisi,” Duchess of Bavaria, travels to the Habsburg court with her older sister, who is betrothed to the young emperor. But shortly after her arrival at court, Sisi finds herself in an unexpected dilemma: she has inadvertently fallen for and won the heart of her sister’s groom. Intrigued by Sisi’s guileless charm and energetic spirit, not to mention her unrivaled beauty, Franz Joseph reneges on his earlier proposal and declares his intention to marry Sisi instead.
Plucked from obscurity and thrust onto the throne of Europe’s most treacherous imperial court, Sisi has no idea what struggles and dangers—and temptations—await her. Sisi upsets political and familial loyalties in her quest to win, and keep, the love of her emperor, her people, and of the world.
With Pataki’s rich period detail and cast of complex, compelling characters, The Accidental Empress offers a captivating glimpse into the bedrooms and staterooms of one of history’s most intriguing royal families, shedding new light on the glittering Habsburg Empire and its most mesmerizing, most beloved “Fairy Queen.”
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FoxNews.com, as well as a member of The Historical Novel Society. Allison lives in Chicago with her husband. To learn more and connect with Allison visit www.AllisonPataki.com or on Twitter.
Thanks to Allison Pataki and Simon & Schuster, one lucky winner will receive a $120 gift card to the ebook retailer of their choice (Amazon/B&N/iTunes)! Please enter via the Rafflecopter form. Giveaway is open internationally.
Monday, February 9th - Reader Girls - Guest Post
Tuesday, February 10th - Sassy Book Lovers - Excerpt
Wednesday, February 11th - Fine Lines - Author Interview
Thursday, February 12th - Reading Reality - Guest Post
Friday, February 13th - Fiktshun - Author Interview
Monday, February 16th - The Maiden's Court - Guest Post
Tuesday, February 17th - Bewitched Bookworms - Author Interview
Wednesday, February 18th - Fire and Ice - Guest Post
Thursday, February 19th - Bookish - Author Interview
Friday, February 20th - Curling Up With A Good Book - Author Interview
Monday, February 23rd - Books and Things - Guest Post
Tuesday, February 24th - Books Glorious Books - Excerpt
Wednesday, February 25th - Sara In Bookland - Author Interview
Thursday, February 26th - Historical Fiction Obsession - Guest Post
Friday, February 27th - Library of a Book Witch - Author Interview
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