Oh Guys, I’m so super excited to have Allison Pataki here on the Blog today. She’s a fantastic author of Historical Fiction / Romance and when I heard about her newest book ” The Accidental Empress” I was so so excited! See, she wrote a book about one of the most beloved German/Hungarian Empress of all time: Sissi. Every romantic knows the story about the young girl that cough the kings heart and who fell heads over heels about her.
Today I got the chance to chat with Allison about Sissi and her new book and I hope you are going to be as excited as I am!
Interview with Allison Pataki
Allison, thank you so much for chatting with me today about your newest release The Accidental Empress.
- My pleasure, thank you for having me!
Since I am from Germany, I admit that I am especially excited about this story since it features one of the most alluring German empresses. I think everyone on Germany knows about Sisi, especially from the famous movie of the 50s. So I get the “German Obsession” with Sisi – but what made you so interested in Sisi and her story?
You are absolutely correct in stating that Sisi is a figure of international renown and fascination, and yet those of us in the American audience know so little about her. I hope that The Accidental Empress will change that! J
I came across the history of Sisi, in fact, by exploring my own personal history. I am Hungarian by descent, Pataki is a Hungarian name. Years ago I was on a family trip to Hungary to visit our relatives and the place from where the Patakis had emigrated. On that trip we also visited Austria and the Czech Republic – these are all of the lands of the former Habsburg Empire, Empress Sisi’s one-time kingdom. Well, as we made this trip, I kept seeing these striking images of the same beautiful young woman. She had this quizzical smile, this rich chestnut hair curled in these elaborate hairdos. I saw her face at every gift shop, museum, even in restaurants and hotels.
I asked someone who she was and the response was that she was “Sisi,” the most beloved Habsburg Empress, who ruled over the former Austro-Hungarian Empire alongside her husband, Emperor Franz Joseph. I heard just a bit about Sisi’s epic and tragic life—about the legends that she grew her hair to the floor; that she was considered the most beautiful woman in the world; that every other foreign ruler at the time was in love with her. I sensed that she was a combination of Princess Diana meets Marie Antoinette meets Catherine the Great and so much more.
I read about how Sisi didn’t mean to seduce her sister’s fiancé the emperor, but did, at the age of 15. Just enough to whet my appetite! I went home and dug in, reading everything I could about Sisi’s story; what I found astounded me. Hers is a story of love triangles, love, lust, betrayal, and so much more. It’s an incredibly human story, told against the glittering backdrop of the Habsburg Court. In Sisi’s case, history is even juicier than any fiction I could have dreamed up. I was hooked—and I hope readers will be, as well.
In this time period it’s not very common to choose your bride, so one aspect that I found especially wonderful is that Franz fell in love with her and wanted to marry her against his mother’s wishes. Is this romantic aspect something your readers can look forward to in The Accidental Empress? Is it a theme you explore a little more in your vision of the story?
It absolutely is. There is romance, and intrigue, and drama in abundance in The Accidental Empress!
You are right in that Emperor Franz Joseph fell absolutely head-over-heels in love with Sisi at first sight. The world’s most eligible bachelor was smitten; he would have no one but Sisi. But, in choosing to marry Sisi, the emperor had to jilt his intended fiancée, who happened to be Sisi’s older sister! So, the whole thing begins with a very dramatic love triangle. Throw in the powerful mother’s disapproval, and it only escalates from there.
I also take up the theme or the concept of the more one-dimensional, more traditional “fairytale romance” that begins with love at first sight—much like this one—and explore how that compares to the more realistic and complicated eventualities that occur when two really complex and powerful (and flawed) individuals fall in love with one another. This isn’t your typical fairytale.
And another theme throughout The Accidental Empress comes from exploring the question: what happens when all your dreams come true? The prince and princess get their “happily ever after.” What then?
There are so many fun and rich questions pertaining to the heart and the mind in the saga of Sisi and Franz Joseph.
What do you think makes Sisi as a woman so intriguing?
What makes Sisi such an intriguing woman is that she was elevated onto this pedestal of imperial power and wealth and fame and almost otherworldly beauty, and yet, she was so aware of her own humanity. She is so relatable as a protagonist and a heroine. We really root for her.
There are the historical facts that make the story so intriguing: Empress Elisabeth, or Sisi, was and continues to be a fascinating, complex, modern, beautiful, and tragic leading lady. She was Europe’s last great Empress, as it was her family that declared war and began World War I. Readers entering Sisi’s story will be transported to the beautiful and romantic world of the imperial Habsburg Court, filled with Walt Disney-esque castles and grand ballrooms and violin waltzes. Sisi was known as the “most beautiful woman in the world,” but it was her wit and intelligence and charisma that made her a legend in her own time.
And then there’s the human side. I want people to read the story of Sisi so that they can empathize with the great things she did and tried to do. So that they can be drawn into the love triangle in which she found herself. So that they can empathize with the incredibly moving and relevant difficulties Sisi weathered, not only as a Habsburg empress, but as a wife, a mother, and an individual seeking her own purpose in a treacherous court and a shifting world. So that they can be inspired in their own lives to learn more about history in a fun, entertaining and accessible way.
I could imagine that writing historical fiction with protagonists that actually existed is even more difficult. How much freedom did you take in developing your version of Sisi’s story?
I decided early on that I would be crazy not to rely heavily on the historical record for plot and character development in The Accidental Empress. The raw material—a love triangle! An empire divided! An incredibly overbearing mother-in-law! Infidelity! Waltzes!—it was all so good and intriguing. I believed that the history of Sisi’s life and time period provided all of the fixings to create a really compelling novel.
But as this is a novel and not a biography, I had the creative space to pull not only from the proven facts, but from the mythology and reports as well. Sisi was a figure of legendary fascination even in her own lifetime. The centuries that have passed since her death have only served to make her even larger in the collective imagination.
For me, the joy is in infusing the imagination and the humanity into the historical record and the historical figures. When writing a novel, the story must flow and unfold in a manner completely different than that of a textbook or a straight biography. I am not looking to list an infinite number of facts. I have to choose what I need to tell my fictionalized version of this story, and I can get a bit creative. It makes it so fun to write. And, hopefully, fun to read as well!
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Only that I want readers to finish The Accidental Empress feeling like they’ve been immersed into the world of Habsburg Vienna and Budapest. I want readers to be inspired to learn more about Sisi—whether that means traveling to her locales, reading more about her, or studying the history of the time period.
I also want readers to see that, even though Sisi was an empress who lived in a glittering kingdom with an emperor for a husband, that this is not your typical fairy tale. Sisi’s struggles and emotions and joys and defeats were incredibly relatable. No, we don’t all live in grand palaces, but we are all human, and Sisi was not afraid to show her humanness—even though more-than-humanness was expected of her. People thought Sisi ruled by “divine right,” that she was “God’s chosen vessel,” and yet, we know from her story that she was just a young woman involved in a tumultuous marriage with personal struggles of her own. She is a leading lady we can all root for and empathize with.
Oh, and, one final thing: I think that The Accidental Empress would make a great film. Any ideas for actors and actresses?
Thank you so much for chatting with me today!
For me, Romy Schneider will always and forever be Sissi! Look how beautiful she is. I’m a little sad that these movies are only originally work in German, because this movie completely moved a generation.
The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki
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.”
About Allison Pataki
Allison Pataki is the author of the New York Times bestselling historical novel, The Traitor’s Wife. She graduated Cum Laude from Yale University with a major in English and spent several years writing for TV and online news outlets. The daughter of former New York State Governor George E. Pataki, Allison was inspired to write her second novel, The Accidental Empress, by her family’s deep roots in the former Habsburg empire of Austria-Hungary. Allison is the co-founder of the nonprofit organization, ReConnect Hungary. Allison is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and 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.
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
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.
Do you love Historical Fiction too? Is there one Emperess in history you really are fascinated with?