Wednesday, June 17, 2015

BLOG TOUR: Hotel Moscow by Talia Carner

Welcome to the Official Blog Tour for Hotel Moscow by Talia Carner! Follow the tour, HERE!

Adult Fiction
Mystery Thriller
Publish Date:
June 2, 2015
William Morrow & Company

From the author of Jerusalem Maiden comes a mesmerizing, thought-provoking novel that tells the riveting story of an American woman--the daughter of Holocaust survivors--who travels to Russia shortly after the fall of communism, and finds herself embroiled in a perilous mafia conspiracy that could irrevocably destroy her life.

Brooke Fielding, a thirty-eight year old New York investment manager and daughter of Jewish Holocaust survivors, finds her life suddenly upended in late September 1993 when her job is unexpectedly put in jeopardy. Brooke accepts an invitation to join a friend on a mission to Moscow to teach entrepreneurial skills to Russian business women, which will also give her a chance to gain expertise in the new, vast emerging Russian market. Though excited by the opportunity to save her job and be one of the first Americans to visit Russia after the fall of communism, she also wonders what awaits her in the country that persecuted her mother just a generation ago.

Inspired by the women she meets, Brooke becomes committed to helping them investigate the crime that threatens their businesses. But as the uprising of the Russian parliament against President Boris Yeltsin turns Moscow  into a volatile war zone, Brooke will find that her involvement comes at a high cost. For in a city where "capitalism" is still a dirty word, where neighbors spy on neighbors and the new economy is in the hands of a few dangerous men, nothing Brooke does goes unnoticed--and a mistake in her past may now compromise her future.

A moving, poignant, and rich novel, Hotel Moscow is an eye-opening portrait of post-communist Russia and a profound exploration of faith, family, and heritage.


PART 1: Thursday, September 30, 1993


The plane had emptied by the time Brooke Fielding strode down the ramp tube of the Moscow airport, her Burberry raincoat and overnight case strapped with an elastic cord to a wheeled carrier. In the narrow, windowless Jetway, the two last passengers followed right behind her, men lugging clear plastic bags that sported the Duty Free Shop logo and were stuffed with cigarettes, whiskey, perfumes, and a variety of cheese and sausages.
The significance of the moment billowed in Brooke’s chest: she, an American, was arriving in Russia a mere twenty-one months after the collapse of Communism. Like a pioneer, she’d get a taste of the sights, sounds and flavors of a country few Americans had visited since the days of the Czars. Even though she’d had a sense of “there” through her parents’ Eastern European upbringing, she expected the experience awaiting her in Moscow would be unlike anything she’d ever had before. On Monday, when her company’s new management had ordered her to take her unused vacation days, she’d called her friend Amanda Cheng to let her know that she had become available to join Amanda’s women’s mission. She would use her business skills to help Russian women vault over decades of stagnation.
At the sound of swooshing behind her, Brooke glanced back to see that the far end of the skyway had detached from the airplane and was closing with a soft whine. Brooke hurried along, pushed to a faster pace by the two men at her heels, when a small, triumphant voice inside her burst out. Russia, I’m returning on behalf of all my millions of nameless fellow Jews lost on your soil. You didn’t destroy us, after all. She lifted her head. I’m here.
This was a new Russia, Brooke reminded herself, different from the Russia that had experimented with its people’s lives and minds. This new Russia was fighting for liberty, placing the individual’s right for happiness over the collective’s good, and as it struggled to free itself from bigotry, so should she. The negative, judgmental attitudes merely reflected her mother’s prejudices.
Brooke was nearing the door separating the Jetway from the main terminal when a guard approached it from inside. His eyes hooded with boredom, a machine gun dangling from the strap across his chest, he unfastened a door stopper and swung the door shut, locking it, then turned to leave.
“Hey!” Brooke waved, rushing forward. “Wait!”
But the guard just tossed her a blank look through the glass, and walked away.
“I’m still here!” she called to his retreating back. She banged on the door.
“They have orders.” The younger of the two men at her heels spoke in heavily accented English. He wore a rumpled blue suit with a wrinkled open-collar shirt. The older man shook his head of dandelion-fuzz hair and rested his shopping bags on the floor.
From outside rose the hum of a forklift and the thuds of luggage falling onto a conveyor belt. “Welcome to Russia,” Brooke muttered. She adjusted her watch for the time zone. Seven o’clock in the morning was midnight yesterday in New York. She banged again on the glass door, but could see the empty corridor beyond. Amanda and the other ten women executives recruited for this “Citizen Diplomats” mission must have reached passport control. They would be worried.
The hair falling on Brooke’s cheeks smelled of microwaved airplane food and re-circulated air. She tucked a strand behind her ear and took a deep breath. Eventually, someone would let her out; no one got stuck at an airport terminal forever. She glanced at her companions. The two Russian men stood motionless, as if forbidden to even lean against the wall for support.
Brooke hated losing control, which had been happening all week. Last Friday afternoon she was called to an unscheduled staff meeting at which her investment firm’s CEO cheerfully reported that they had been taken over. His faux optimism only made Brooke wonder how big a golden parachute the new owners must have opened for him. He was no doubt making a soft landing into a pile of several million dollars. She left the meeting in a daze and ran off to the synagogue for the start of Yom Kippur. In observance of the day her parents had never honored, she absented herself from her colleagues’ frantic phone calls until Sunday night.
The uncertainties she and her colleagues pondered on Sunday were sealed Monday when The Wall Street Journal speculated that the takeover would probably result in a bloodbath for the current employees. That afternoon, Brooke and other executives were told to take off two full weeks, a gambit to flush out fraud by keeping the staff away from their accounts so they could be examined unhampered.
Not even allowed to visit the office, Brooke would be absent when she most needed to impress the new management, when her clients would be introduced to new teams she had never met, leaving her out of the loop. Never before had she experienced the insecurity of a job suddenly in jeopardy. Her CEO, her mentor, had betrayed her.
But adding expertise on Russia’s new economy would help her keep her hard-won executive position. Not only did Brooke have the opportunity to help Russian women on this trip, but she could poke her nose into business ventures of this nation untangling itself from a seventy-year time warp. She would return to New York brimming with new ideas and investment opportunities. She might even refresh the Russian language that must be lying dormant in her grey cells; she had heard it often enough in her childhood when her mother and her mother’s friends still spoke it among themselves.
This trip would be a win-win situation, she had decided that Monday night.
On Tuesday, the mission’s Russian host had arranged for Brooke’s visa while she splurged for gifts the group could provide the women they would be counseling. On Wednesday she had boarded the flight, and now, Thursday morning, here she was, stuck in Moscow airport.

The foregoing is excerpted from HOTEL MOSCOW by Talia Carner. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 195 Broadway New York, NY 10007


Q&A with Author Talia Carner
1. The publication of HOTEL MOSCOW is your fourth novel. Tell us, does it get any easier to write? How has your writing processed changed since your first novel?

Writing a novel is always an exhilarating process as I embark on the journey with the protagonist. Since I do not map out the plot, I encounter the hurdles, agonize over the events, and discover the social issues along with my protagonist. I cry and laugh with her, literally. Whenever the reader is surprised by a twist in the plot, it is also a point where I, the author, was taken by surprise. What has become easier, though, is that in my early novels the protagonist could lead me into side scenes irrelevant to the story line. I am no longer easily led into such blind alleys. Even though the protagonist is her own person, she is reined in to the immediate development of events. The result is that I do less complete restructuring of the entire novel even as I go through numerous revisions and rewrites.

2. HOTEL MOSCOW is technically fiction, though inspired by events in your life. Could you give readers some background on how the idea for the novel came about?

Of all my novels, I must say that HOTEL MOSCOW is the one based most closely upon my own personal experiences. While in my previous three novels I brought to each story an emotional resonance, I had not lived through any of the fictional situations.
In 1993 I was running my New-York-based marketing consulting firm whose clients were Fortune 500 companies. I was also a volunteer counselor for the Small Business Administration. That’s why I was tapped to travel to Russia to teach women the entrepreneurial skills they so desperately needed soon after the fall of communism. On my second trip, in October 1993, I was caught in the uprising of the Russian parliament against then-president Boris Yeltsin. I was on the run from the militia after being threatened with jail (in a bizarre scene similar to the one in which Brooke Fielding plays Scrabble on the ninth floor of the hotel.) Luckily, the following evening the uprising was quelled, and our embassy put me in a safe hotel until whisking me out of the country on the first morning flight. My 23-page report to the US Information Agency that had sent me gave me the impetus three weeks later to try to make sense of the experience through fictional narration. I launched my writing career in a novel celebrating the valiant Russian women I had met.
I did extensive research and conducted numerous interviews both with political experts and Russian immigrants to get the texture and feel of post-Soviet life. That manuscript got some initial traction, but my agent retired six weeks after taking it on, and since I was already wrapped up in my next book, I just put it aside. Twenty years later, I was penning a novel starring the daughter of Holocaust survivors who was searching for her Jewish identity free of her parents’ horrors. I wanted to juxtaposed Brooke's modern-day views against anti-Semitism and suddenly it occurred to me that such information was buried in the bowels of my computer. All I needed do was send Brooke to Russia and see what would happen….

3. There are so many strong female characters in this book. Could you tell us which of the characters you identify with most, and why?

As Talia, the person, I am still yet to appear in any of my books. I am forever an observer—or even an involved instigator—but I do not write about myself as one of the characters that populate my stories. In this case, the Russian women I met in Moscow and St. Petersburg reminded me of the valiant women of my own family, and I felt an incredible bond with them across the language barrier. Their food was familiar to me, and in my youth I danced the hora to their songs because they had been translated to Hebrew(!) When we couldn’t speak, we hugged.
I feel that I possess some of Olga’s courage to fight for justice. I admire her willingness to take risks in order to make her country a better place for her granddaughter—and for other women. I also identify with Brooke's vulnerability: she seems like someone who has it all: a privileged, successful New York executive, pretty and poised. But she carries the burden of her sad childhood and walks as if surrounded by the bubble of air of her parents’ tragedies. Many of my friends are like her, which was the reason I wanted to show the pain that accompanies many of them even as their exteriors belie such inner turmoil. Also, Brooke is forgiving toward Svetlana, instinctively rather than intentionally, because her Jewish values seep through. I love her for it.

4. An extensive amount of research went into writing HOTEL MOSCOW, in particular the descriptions of the time period, setting, and women within that area. What was your research process like and how did you go about it?

To understand the Russian politics of the time I attended lectures by academicians and interviewed U.S. Cold War-era security personnel. I conducted many interviews with recent Russian emigrants both in the United States and Israel as they had fresh impressions of the trials and tribulations of living at the bottom of the food chain in a corrupt society. Personally, while visiting Russia twice in 1993 I watched women—probably the most educated group I had ever met—suffer the indignation that came from deprivation: in the famous food lines that led to empty stores. Basic consumer products had never even been manufactured there. Soviet Russia had been a superpower that cynically manipulated its people, toyed with their sense of worth, and deprived them of everything they needed. The women were reduced to being gatherers and hunters almost like the African women I had counseled earlier.
Russia then—and probably still now merely 20 years later—is a society of women heads of household with men gone MIA due to heavy drinking. When the entire legal system was obliterated upon the fall of communism in 1991, women lost their one-third minimum quota of representation in parliament. I was asked to help them establish a new women’s party that would regain the social services women had lost—medical care and school lunches for children. I felt as powerless about this request as I did watching along with my fellow Americans the blatant sexual harassment Russian women suffered: Officials and men of authority assaulted the women we counseled. In fact, a few times we, too, were pounced upon, literally, by passing strangers. Ads for secretaries required “long legs, no inhibitions.” I felt the urge to capture this intolerable reality in my novel.
In Moscow and St. Petersburg I had visited small apartments, similar to the one described in HOTEL MOSCOW as Olga's. But upon escaping from Moscow in October 1993, at the Frankfurt airport, I met two American architects who had been hired by newly rich Russians to renovate old mansions that had been turned into ant-hills of rooms barely suitable for humans. I saw pictures of families—sometimes even three generations: an aging parent, a young couple, and a baby—squeezed into a 10 by 14 foot space. I learned how common these communal apartments were through my interviews and my involvement with the Alliance of American and Russian Women (AARW), the organization with which I had visited Russia the first time and which built “a business incubator” in St. Petersburg. One of our recipients was a woman who grew mushrooms under a small table in her room; another had to remove her sleeping cot to make room for a sewing machine. AARW offered a facility for these ventures.
If there was little information in late 1993 when I first started my research, many articles were published in the next two years. I was in touch with the journalists who wrote them and even had a former KGB officer advising me.  

5. Did you have any difficulty between telling a fictional story and becoming sidetracked by research notes and information?

There is a great analogy authors use that compares fiction writing to leaving New York at night on a road trip to California. The writer knows the final destination but can only see as far as the headlights.
I know writers that become overwhelmed by research and are distracted by it. Their journey westward might meander to Alabama or North Dakota. I can see how it can happen since my novels are painted on large international canvases with myriad reasons for taking exciting side trips. However, this is not the case with me. I regard the large body of material the way a sculptor examines a huge slab of marble and then begins to chisel away at it until a distinct form emerges. My mind is wired to hold material horizontally across various disciplines—from political ideology and personal dynamics to the weather on any particular day. But new research revelations help push the story vertically, forward. Occasionally I map out a couple of chapters ahead to ensure that my goal is in sight.
The most satisfying moments in developing a novel occur when new research information throws the story out of orbit in a surprising way that is cohesive with whatever has passed before. At such times, I may stop to tell myself or a friend the entire story, and indeed, oral recounting often proves the need for adjustments in the sequence of events. Structuring and revising a novel is a long and tedious process, but I enjoy every minute of it.

6. With your extensive business background and your successful writing career—is it possible to compare the two? Was it hard moving from the corporate world into a creative mode?

When I first began to write fiction I regarded it as having a complete lobotomy—the separation of the two parts of my brain, the business from the creative. As it turned out, in both careers I was motivated by the same passion toward women’s issues and merged it with my profession. In my previous career as a consultant to Fortune 500 companies, I had actually packaged diverse professional women’s organizations into a large, viable market for advertisers and was successful in diverting corporate marketing funds toward these organizations’ educational programs. With a strong sense of mission, by 1993 I had raised more than $1,000,000 for such business women educational programs. When I began to write fiction, I again merged my passion with my profession. This time I used a different set of skills to tackle larger issues concerning women while expanding my reach to a much wider audience.

7. What can fans of HOTEL MOSCOW look forward to next?

I keep surprising myself. Until a new novel is ready to fully emerge out of its cocoon, I suggest that readers enjoy my previous three novels. There is no greater pleasure for an author than to share her work with appreciative audience, and I hope that fans will continue to be both entertained and inspired.


**About the Author**
Traveling around the world has brought Talia Carner, former publisher of Savvy Woman magazine, a business consultant to Fortune 500 companies, and a speaker at international women's economic forums, to find the stories right within herself. In her new novel, Hotel Moscow, she continues her mission to save and empower women.

Talia Carner hit the ground running with her first novel, Puppet Child (The Top 10 Favorite First Novels 2002,) followed by China Doll, (her platform for 2007 U.N. presentation against infanticide,) and Jerusalem Maiden (winner of Forward National Literature Award,) and now shares her passion for social justice and human rights domestically and globally. She explores the individdual's spirit as it clashes with the power of religion, social conformity, or political upheaval.

She lives in New York with her husband.

Stay connected with Talia Carner


***The Giveaway***

Blog Tour Organized by