About the Book: Katarina’s Dark Shadow (Series: Russian Mennonite Chronicles.)
Katarina’s Dark Shadow is Book One of Russian Mennonite Chronicles. This coming-of-age series portrays the ethnic racism against the German colonists in southern Ukraine during the Russian civil war. It’s inspired by the true stories of a patriarchal and pacifist culture who fought with their faith instead of their hands.
The main character is the youngest in a well-to-do family of six siblings. Being the baby of the family, she expects to have a tranquil life. But her dreams of becoming a missionary school teacher and traveling the world come crashing down when she’s injured during a rebel attack on the family farm during her sister’s wedding.
In the middle of WW1, while Russia’s political conflict causes economic chaos, Katarina moves to her wealthy sister’s estate across the Dnieper River to continue her education. But she soon discovers it isn’t the haven she’d envisioned. When the fear of apocalyptic disaster encourages some to emigrate, Katarina yearns to join the travelers. Her sister Anna’s difficult pregnancy compromises her decision. If she flees now, she’ll never see her family again. But staying could mean death. The only certainty in war is uncertainty. Katarina must choose her destiny.
The backstory to Katarina’s life was birthed by my own history. Growing up with Mennonite grandparents who fled Russia’s civil war during the 1920s, I listened to harrowing refugee tales and learned of the desperate circumstances of relatives left behind. Redacted letters arrived in the mail containing tattered pictures and pleas for economic help. The sobering news out of Stalinist Russia reminded us of how fortunate we were to be living in the west.
In 2014, I traveled to Poland and Ukraine to visit my ancestral homeland. History came alive as I touched the ancient land. For the first time, I truly appreciated the emigration journey and my grandparents’ sacrifice. But the scars of communism, which are still evident in this poverty-stricken area of southern Ukraine, broke my heart.
During this trip, the new war with Russia exploded, restricting our travel and shifting our routes. As the only tourists among the news media at our hotel, we felt the palpable angst hanging over the cities and countryside. Fear etched faces, darting eyes and hunched shoulders wandered through the empty grocery stores, and military posts patrolled the sandbagged streets. This somber atmosphere triggered those buried childhood memories.
My subsequent decision to write this unique story of faith and fortitude pulled me into a tangled web of research. With the limitations of language differences compounded by inconsistent and sensitive documentation, I developed the narrative for the son, Peter during post-WW2. Coupled with the theme of intergenerational trauma, I wove the two time periods together.
The intent behind Russian Mennonite Chronicles is threefold: an introduction to the patriarchal religious culture, an education about the complex history, and an emphasis on the challenges of women in wartime.
This is not a series for the faint of heart. Although the saga is based on a people of faith, the content is dark and gritty; the mood dystopian and apocalyptic. I don’t disguise or minimize the awfulness of trauma. There’s little romance here. Therefore, as a discerning adult who can appreciate this context and content, the reader should be prepared to experience an emotional roller coaster.
There are five books in this series. The first, Katarina’s Dark Shadow, was published in 2021. Katarina’s Dark Journey is planned for 2022. The third (a slow-burn romance) will follow. Volumes four and five are in development. The epic saga ends with their new life before them in the displaced persons camp in Riga, Latvia. I’m hoping to visit this city before then.
As a Christian author, it’s always my intent to inspire and encourage my readers. As a sufferer of PTSD, I know how difficult it is to find hope during dark times. But faith has always given me the rope to hang onto when life falls apart. The miracles I’ve experienced and witnessed have proven to me that God is real and He cares about our daily trials. Even though one can’t walk through fire without getting burned, it’s our attitude to our injuries that helps us take the next step into healing. And faith helps us do that.
I began my writing path as a Christian non-fiction author. When I began publishing personal blogs, I quickly realized that my voice was faith-focused. For non-fiction, I published under Miranda J. Chivers. When I developed this fiction series, I realized I needed a pen name that authenticated my German-Russian Mennonite ancestry. My hyphenated name provides the connection to the past while also pointing to a merged future.
I’m excited to be a part of the Author’s Lounge. Writing is a lonely profession and connecting with other authors is an imperative to achieving success. It’s easy to become discouraged and quit when life gets in the way. As the saying goes, the boat sails faster when there are more oars in the water. The accolades from my like-minded peers are the wind behind my sails. They understand the dangers lurking in the deep ocean of self-doubt and procrastination, and they keep me from falling overboard. The readers who choose to journey with me are like a warm blanket on a cold winter’s day. Both are essential in bringing this series to a conclusion.
At this time, my books are only available on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and in paperback through Amazon or IngramSpark.
Check out my entire backlist on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/author/mirandajchivers
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