Today I’m handing the blog over to Lori Sjoberg. She’s going to talk about what stuck with her after researching Dmitri’s background story. There’s also a giveaway for $20 Amazon giftcard, so scroll down for that!
Researching Dmitri’s background story
Dmitri Stavitsky is my kind of reaper: tall, dark, dangerous and alpha. He’s a former KGB spy who became a reaper after losing his life, only to discover his mortal enemy became a reaper as well. Now they get to spend the rest of their days harvesting souls while avoiding each other like the plague. But when Fate forces them to work together, they must set aside their differences in order to catch a rogue reaper. Stranger things have been known to happen, and maybe, just maybe, if they can learn to like each other, they might just fall in love.
One of the things I enjoyed most about writing GRAVE VENGEANCE was creating the background story for Dmitri. He’s unapologetically Russian, and I wanted his background to reflect that attitude. And while researching the Soviet Union and Russian culture, I became fascinated by the many things I didn’t know. So what stuck with me the most?
- My 10th grade World History class didn’t teach me diddly about the Soviet Union’s role in World War II – Which I guess makes sense to a certain extent. I’m American, so the class focused more on the United States’ role in WWII. Plus, I went to high school during the 80s, while the Cold War was in full swing. I was absolutely floored at the losses the Soviets suffered. Entire cities were wiped off the map, and over twenty-five million Soviets died, both military and civilian. A quarter of the people were either wounded or killed, and those who survived faced absolutely brutal living conditions. Dmitri grew up in the Stalingrad during those years, and it made a profound impact on the man he became.
- Who would have thought Russia has its own version of Spam? – Sure enough, they do. It’s called tushonka. While it’s not the same recipe as Spam, it served the same purpose during WWII and is still sold in stores today.
- The Russian language is absolutely beautiful. – When I studied the language, I found it to be both complex and intensely lyrical. No wonder some of the world’s greatest poets are from Russia! In GRAVE VENGEANCE, there are a few scenes where Dmitri speaks in his native language. Thankfully, I had a Russian copy editor who made sure I didn’t mess it up.
I hope you enjoy reading GRAVE VENGEANCE as much as I enjoyed writing it! It’s the third book in the Grave series, but can easily be read as a standalone. Thanks so much for having me here today!
Lori, sounds like researching was a blast! Great post 🙂
Check out Lori’s latest:
The past doesn’t like to play dead…
Handsome and haunted, he’s a reaper who prefers to work alone. But Fate has other plans for him and the sassy secret agent who shot him in another life—if their pasts don’t catch up with them first.
Dmitri Stavitsky has never played well with others—a Soviet KGB spy in life turned reaper after death, his work of bringing souls to the other side is best done alone. But orders from the top soon place him alongside fellow reaper Gwen Peterson, the American counterintelligence agent who took his life so many years ago. Now, as a ghost from Gwen’s past resurfaces with the power to steal reapers’ souls, the two have no choice but to set aside their differences and apprehend the rogue together. But their cross-country mission soon ignites feelings Dmitri thought he was no longer capable of—for the woman who helped destroy him.
With an ancient force and a small army against them, he’ll have to let go of old grudges or risk his future with Gwen…as Fate hangs dangerously in the balance.
Some men were nice to look at. Others, you couldn’t look away from. And then there was Dmitri Stavitsky.
He was taller than her, around six foot four, and had the powerful build of a gymnast. The shirt he wore did nothing to conceal his thick, corded arms or the broad expanse of his chest. His thighs strained against the confines of his jeans. He carried himself with an air of confidence that most men found intimidating and most women found irresistible. And even though Gwen despised him as much as he despised her, she had to admit he wore it well.
Gwen could feel his eyes moving over her while she drove, and she resisted the urge to squirm in her seat. “What?”
The passing streetlights played over the planes of his face. He hadn’t shaved in a day or two, and his jaw was shadowed with stubble. It made him look almost as dangerous as he was.
Back in the day, he’d been one of the KGB’s top agents. For nearly a decade, he worked within the borders of the United States, stealing some of the country’s most valuable secrets. What he couldn’t steal he usually destroyed with calculated and ruthless efficiency. He killed defectors before they could spill their secrets as well as killing anyone else deemed an enemy of the Soviet Union. The full extent of his treachery was never determined; he’d taken those secrets to the grave.
“You cut your hair.” During the Cold War, he spoke with a flawless American accent to mask his true identity. The habit died when the Iron Curtain fell, and now his rich, deep voice contained a blend of both Russian and American, with the former growing more pronounced whenever he got pissed off.
“So nice of you to notice.”
One corner of his mouth twitched. “It makes you look like a boy.”
Bastard. Her grip tightened around the steering wheel. “Like I give a damn what you think.”
He laughed under his breath. “I think you do.” The smirk on his face vanished when she ground the gears. Careful! It took me two days to rebuild the transmission.
“Sorry.” Not really. She totally meant to do that. “Third’s a little sticky.” She held back a smile as she hooked a right onto Alafaya Boulevard.
Dmitri raked his hands through his short, dark hair. He was a few weeks past the time for a cut, and the ends curled around the nape of his neck. “Why are you here, Gwen?” Her name sounded like poison on his tongue.
Good question. Her current base of operations was on the opposite side of the country, along the American side of the border with Mexico. Samuel had been vague on the details when he contacted her late last night with orders to fly to Orlando for a special assignment. She hated the idea of working with Dmitri, but knew better than to refuse an order. After all, the Big Kahuna wasn’t known for his gentle demeanor. The quicker they got the job finished, the quicker they could return to their normal routines and forget the other existed.
“Samuel sent me,” she replied with a shrug, knowing he’d understand the way the boss operated.
He nodded, his expression grim. “And why did you steal my car?”
“Because I could.” And because she knew it would piss him off. It was the way things had always worked between them. They’d lost their humanity and become reapers together, and had been at each other’s throats ever since. Two Cold War relics, passing through the modern age. “You really need to install a better anti-theft system. Anybody with a screwdriver can hot-wire this thing in less than five minutes.” She’d done it in three.
She could have sworn he growled.
An uneasy silence fell between them. She darted a quick glance in his direction and saw the unwashed hostility darkening the blues of his eyes. The muscles along his jaw clenched and unclenched, his full lips pressed into a thin white line.
The light ahead switched from green to yellow. After checking for cops, she punched the gas to make it through the intersection before the yellow turned to red. “You know, I’m not happy about this either. The sooner we do whatever Samuel wants, the sooner we can go our separate ways.”
With a huff of annoyance, Dmitri rolled down the passenger side window and propped his arm on the sill. “Doesn’t mean I have to like it.”
For once, they were in perfect agreement.