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Is everything in your historical novel LA PLEVITSKAYA authentic?

No. Like the movie writers who put together a biographical movie, I have connected  known facts with scenes that I developed. These are based on the life of Russian music performers with whom I have been associated for deacdes. When you read a historical novel about a person from the 1600s ALL is developed by the author, because the records from those times would normally only mention that a person existed, no details. My Plevitskaya book has more factual content than you would expect from works about individuals in the 1600s or 1700s. The 2011 Amazon edition contains some facts which I was not aware of before.

Which scenes are historic facts and which ones did you develop?

I’d like to keep that for myself for the time being, but will reveal the ins and outs to a movie producer if I ever sell the rights. That is, if they want to know.

The research phase was great fun; don’t we all love to dig in treasure troves and find gems. The more I read, the more interesting it became because there was and still is a lot of contradictory information about Plevitskaya and Skoblin.

I would like to name one and a half here. I have read: ‘Plevitskaya was a bolshevik from way back and turned Skoblin’ (military books) and ‘Skoblin turned our beloved Plevitskaya’  (music books). So what would the truth be? You’ll find that in my book.

International expert Walter Laqueur writes that Skoblin was recruited in the early 1930s. No, there is evidence that secret service contact existed before 1926. In all likelihood Skoblin would have sold information to the Americans in Paris, as well, judging from one person’s memoirs. But I have left that well alone. Laqueur might have meant that Skoblin’s American contacts started in 1930. The files that Laqueur had access to would have been full of Skoblin tales about when his other schemes started.

I enjoyed the many inconsistancies immensely because they allowed me to develop scenes from my perspective, how artists of this genre live.

Are you related to Plevitskaya because your book reads as if you were?


Why did you self-publish?

The book industry has changed it seems, or maybe we just did not focus enough on this aspect as many authors, including Tolstoy, Mark Twain, and even Johann Sebastian Bach self-published. The catalogues are full of very young writers or authors who the audience knows through television. I was clearly outside their paramaters on all accounts so I did not bother to queue up. All agents broadcast on the net that they do not want to know about more authors.

Incidentally, my book is also outside their catalgue parameters because it is neither fiction nor a biography in the academic sense which only uses sourced facts. In Russia, what does not fit into the system has a proud tradition and is called ‘samizdat’. It means just self-publishing but has this touch of underground literature and non-conformism. Despite my long years in Australia, I have not shaken off my Berlin trait of non-conformism. We wanted to be different from the masses, while in Anglo culture this kind of individualism is frowned upon. For money I conform, but regarding my own time, I’d like to make the  decision if I want to conform or retain my individuality, different from the mainstream or not.

Apart from all that, I was also spooked by the many reports about people getting bad book deals but more importantly- if you get a book deal you have absolutely no influence on what happens next. Is the company spending enough on publicity to move the paper stock? Will their overseas partners in another English speaking country reject the book for their market? Are they putting in efforts for secondary rights, e.g. movie, TV, serialisation, condensed book – anything?

Once you have a publisher you  are no longer allowed to do anything yourself. Painting the worst case scenario: The publisher might sell 1,000 copies and you get two grand royalties, which is not so grand when they subsequently decide to take it out of focus promotion. That could even be all you ever get from your work until the rights fall back to you which would be years.

It is not that I think I know everything best, I just want to sleep easy that they (the team of publishers, promoters, agents etc.) make apprpriate efforts. My time in the recording industry taught me that you can get companies who sit back comfortably and let the artists do all the hard yards, including funding all promotional efforts. Many, many people must have the same idea as it is said that self-published books now far outnumber the trad. published ones.

In which category do we slot your Plevitskaya book in?

Creative non-fiction is what I like best, but unfortunately, this is (not yet?) an official category. In one instance I had to tick ‘wildcard’.

What is the age group and demographic for your Plevitskaya book?

From 12 to 82 years of age. The demographic is very wide, too. For instance, Plevitskaya’s time in pre-Revolutionary Russia was the time when 2 million Jews left for Palestine, the US, and elsewhere. Now their descendents have become curious what happened there and then. The number of ancestor hunters is huge. They can get an impression of the lifestyle, the music, and the power structures from my book. The other group of descendents interested is that now third or fourth generation of those who had to flee red Russia. Another pool is the lovers of classical music who are interested in where Stravinsky and Rakhmaninoff found their inspiration. The much loved repertoire of Russian Folk tunes is to a large part based on the Plevitskaya Repertoire, as her contemporaries called it. There are millions of lovers of Russian Folk and Gypsy music, Russian and non-Russian speaking.

How famous was Plevitskaya in her time?

Hugely. She was a household name. Some sources wrote ‘Plevitskomania swept over Russia’, others say ‘we sang the songs from ‘The Plevitskaya Repertoire’. Stravinsky was clearly inspired by Plevitskaya. His set designer Benois wrote that Plevitskaya captured them all with her beauty and artistry.

Why was Plevitskaya forgotten?

Because she was convicted for espionage. Nobody brags about having known or admired a person who is in jail. She also died in WWII and people had other things to think about than music. As long as Stalin was alive (until 1953) nobody could have written about her.Then the years passed and she was forgotten.

The Don Cossacks monopolized the Russian music market for a while and from 1967 a German opera singer called Ivan Rebroff (who I knew before he was famous) personified the Russian songs. He even perpetuated the maleness of this genre in the eyes and ears of the audiences. Where Plevitskaya is ruthless and selfish, that is loosely based on what I experienced with Rebroff. LA PLEVITSKAYA is the first and still the only one which describes her life in full.

How long did it take you to write the book?

I researched and wrote parallel over four years. If I could have done it full time, it might have been a lot quicker, but I had many other obligations at the time – just tried to fit it in when I could. At some stage I reserved the Thursdays to go to either one of the big libraries here in Adelaide, armed with catalogue numbers from the internet catalogues. That got me out of the noisy environment where I lived at the time. I could also sort my thoughts and notes. That was a productive time. What slowed me down was a new ‘duty’, i.e. learning to play the bass balalaika. But the upside of that was that I was now right back in the middle of my topic, Russian Music.

Did you experience writers’ block?

No. I even dispute it exists. In my view, you can have a block to write something specific that is required of you at that particular moment, but if you changed your topic, you would probably not feel stuck. I do not see it in any other way than cooking. You might love to cook special meals but will probably experience a day or two when the very thought of cooking puts you off completely.

There were days when I was not sure what the next chapter would be, how to tie it in with the historic facts and ambiente. Sometimes I just edited previous chapters; sometimes I left it for a couple of days and sorted it out in my head when doing dishes or some such like. The answer usually appears very early in the morning when being half awake.

I made tons of notes and photocopies but did not refer to them a lot, rather coming back to the technique that I had practiced in my time as a journalist. If it’s important, you will remember it. Put that on paper and consult your notes for accurancy only.

Sometimes when I had a little idea, I just jotted it on a piece of paper which I kept in a specific folder, in the probable order of insertion. From time to time I would go over these notes and discard or use them.

Why did you write this Plevitskaya book?

The idea had fascinated me about seven years before I could tackle it. I felt like an explorer discovering the white area on the map. For decades, I had also worked more in the background, a role that I had elected, but suddenly I felt the need to prove that I could do something on my own. I was only occasionally helped by the feedback in the writers group.

What software did you use?

I write in wordpad as I think it is the fastest so you don’t lose the flow of your thoughts. When I had to stop the writing or editing session, I put in a little marker like xxx to quickly find that part again next time. Where I wanted to check up on a fact I put in a different marker which enabled me to do a fact checking session, because the sifting through boxes with notes,photocopies, internet, and books means getting up all the time, so it is better to group these items.

From time to time I’d copy my texts into PageMaker and then do the typesetting stuff. I once used InDesign which has some nice features, but it makes gigantic pdfs which are unsuitable for upload to CreateSpace/Amazon. Not knowing this cost me a fair amount of time and headache because I had to put it all back into PageMaker. We don’t do Word in this household.

Are you working on another book?

Unfortunately not, or not yet. At this stage it is still more important to promote my Plevitskaya book  and maybe find time to translate it into my old language. I often have ideas and the urge to embark on another journey like the Plevitskaya one, but pull myself back to not lose focus.

M o v i e   p i t c h   f o r   s p e e d r e a d e r s

by Ally Hauptmann-Gurski

(First Draft, will be updated or deleted soon)

 Option for sale

Turn my Plevitskaya book into a bio-pic.

Why?   Topic has not been done before

Based on a true story

Longseller (historical phase and music do not date)

Some characters known by audiences. Heroine 15 in the beginning.

Places that people relate to? Yes

Colourful scenes

Dramatic scenes


Love? Scenes can be downplayed for G rating or up for M.

Audience demographic: Descendents of emigrés and escapees from the Tsarist and Bolshevik empires. Music lovers and scholars.  Berliners, Parisians, Ukrainians, Russians, Russian speakers. Everyone from 12 to 82 who enjoys a colourful movie with a beautiful singer and balalaika/guitar music thrown in. Australians due to author residing in Australia. Germans due to author originating in Berlin. In Bombay, Russian music was (is?) all the rage a few years ago. Peek behind the curtain.

What about that samizdat book La Plevitskaya? Can be withdrawn 24/7 and by the time the movie comes out, the tie-in edition will look fresh.

Plevitskaya was a very attractive woman. Look at the backcover of my book and let your inspiration wander. I do not intend to make any casting suggestions, but a new face that seeks a breakthrough project could be used for the lead.

Movie producers have their own script writing teams. I will not be involved (unless asked). Final script approval? Probably not.

I envisage interested companies to buy a book from


This offers a protective wall of anonymity. Purchase price will be deducted tenfold from initial option payment.

Big bucks option? No, Progress to Production Deal

Why offer on the net? Where I live, they specialize in budget movies and Australian stories. I have no Vitamin C (Connections) to the Sydney movie scene where the occasional international movie is made. My vision is of an international co-production for which I certainly lack Vitamin C, but that is obviously up to those who put up the capital.

The book mentions more songs than can be included in a movie. Song material is out of c or anon.

No battle scenes.

Agency inquiries welcome. As a former journalist I understand your need for confidentiality

If you have not read them already, please check out my other postings on this blog to ascertain if you think we can work together for a common goal.

Ally  Hauptmann-Gurski (artifex2ATbigpond.com)

Have a nice day! 



When pottering around the net I found a fraudulent offer of my book in pdf and for iPAD which breaches copyright.

I never released my novel in these formats. Blogymate are thieves and/or assist theft, i.e. copyright breach.

The text is clearly concocted by non-English speaking people, and the mention of the two newspapers does not tally with the truth.

I have not tested the offered download of my novel, because I was obviously fearful of malware and haven’t got an iPad either. Whether they offer my book for free or it costs something – it is fraud.

I wonder where they have stolen the files from?

Hopefully the law will read this and shut them down, apparently (UK?).

 BEWARE – BLOGYMATE are fraudsters. 

Over the next few days, I will ponder whether to involve the Australian authorities (Australian copyright), or the American ones (my book is on amazon.com), or the British authorities as blogymate appears to conduct their fraudulent activities from Britain.

Tease pages of my book on scribd are here http://www.scribd.com/doc/51691473/ISBN-978-1456553876

. Or watch my reading on www.youtube.com/hauptmannbalalaika

The Plevitskaya book is now available from Amazon.

N.B.: You might not want to take it for granted that the book is available on amazon forever. When a self-published author attracts the interest of literature users, the contract will normally stipulate that all other sales avenues be shut down. Offerings on the net will have to be deleted, and all stocks that the author may still have will need to be destroyed. My Plevitskaya novel is unlikely to be an exception. Nothing is forever they say, and my offer on amazon is there as long as I say so. 


I thought I’d load up my biography on the s9 site, and I did, actually, although one would never know if there is any point to it with those billions of websites these days. Is anyone looking, probably not. So it won’t matter then, I guess, that I have uploaded a rather full CV there, maybe a bit too detailed – but if noone’s looking, would not matter, would it.

Unless you know this URL, you won’t find my page on S9, and when you do, my info is there but the spaces for ads bring up error messages. So if you like to look at an ad free page with my CV  check this out


Wouldn’t matter then either, that I tell you what I am working on (besides my German translation), although this could be detrimental to my health. But I will delete the following soon: It is highly probable that the young lady who travelled around the world in 1991 and ‘convinced’ 146 bankers to refinance Murdoch’s loans was Rebekah (now) Brooks.

 . . . . . O F    A    B O O K    B A S E D    O N    A    T R U E    S T O R Y

My historical novel is probably my main achievement in life and my raison d’être. It is a major work of 515 (January 2010 ed.) pages and said to have Zhivagoesque qualities. Some readers have even asked me if I was related to the singer, because it reads as if I had been there. The answer is no, but I have been in the world of Russian music, which was Plevitskaya’s world decades before my experience.

It took over four years to research and write, but at the time I had lots of other things to do as well. It might have been a year’s work, had I been able to give it priority. But priority can only happen when you get a fistfull of Dollars, which was not flying my way.

I did not make a submission or book proposal to a publisher after I had studied what appeared in the market in those four years. Books are either by very young people with academic qualifications, people known from TV, or writers who have been a brand name for decades.

Reading the submission guidelines of the History Channel spooked me completely. I would have had to disclose everything I know and acknowledge they might have my topic in development already. Nothing could have prevented them (or a publisher who would have received my book proposal) from declining my offer, get their own researchers and writers on the topic and out the door I am. That would have been perfectly legal and maybe even legitimate, if they argued they preferred someone else’s approach to mine. I could not take that risk. If you can go through an agent, the risk is considerably lower, but there is no agent in this town, and even if I could get hold of one, they want young people with academic qualifications. I attended an event where an international agent explained why.

It was clear, that I had to work outside the system. SAMIZDAT it was called in Russia under Soviet rule when works were not submitted to censors and duplicated in secret. With no qualifications in novel writing, I asked myself if I could or should really do that. My confidence was boosted by an online IQ test that awarded me 149, near genius! Holy mackerel, I thought, what a con! Then I did a test for high end IT courses, where I came into the top bracket. They were as overwhelmed as I was, but told me apologetically that there is no job placement for me since I was over 45. As disappointing as it was that the cut-off for the job market was 45 their frankness saved me the substantial fee for the IT course.

After my first shock I picked myself up and said to myself that this is my cue to do what I want: Write the Plevitskaya story. After I had about two chapters I joined the Kensington & Norwood Writers Group to test the water. It struck a chord with them and I considered myself on the right track. I was still concerned that my topic could do the rounds and reach people or companies with oodles of resources. I had no idea how long detailed research and my writing would take, as I could not give it priority.

It was therefore no question that I should use aliases for the famous names who were part of the Plevitskaya life story. Plevitskaya got an alias, so did her friend Serguey Rakhmaninoff and her last husband General Nicolay Skoblin. When I heard, a son of one of the group’s members moved to Sydney to work in the movie industry, I felt confirmed in my caution. His father had been impressed with my writing and had I used the real names, he might have talked; the son might have taken the idea to Sydney before my book was ready. At the time it was in the papers that an iron ore mega magnate had kept his original discovery to himself for 18 years!

In the middle of my work my husband decided to make Russian music again,which we had done professionally for about 11 years. I had done the business side, but now I was to be part of the music, too. So I had to learn to play the bass balalaika. This is a very enjoyable activity, but when you are in the process of writing a book, it can get your mind in a spin. However, what we played was mainly the Plevitskaya repertoire, so it was hugely beneficial for my book which is now available from me (artifex2ATbigpond.com) and from



(I ceased translating and decided not to procede with my German version.)

 D I S C O V E R Y

I am often asked how I discovered this extraordinary life story. During my last visit to Germany I ordered a Rakhmaninoff biography to be delivered to my Australian home when we got back. I picked it from a catalogue page. It was a huge catalogue and I had no idea what I should choose. In a spur of the moment decision, I picked the book which had more pages. After all, if I have a book sent all the way from Germany to Australia, I want as much value as I can get.

Several months later, I read Rakhmaninoff’s story and was intrigued. I contained a picture and one paragraph about Gypsy singer Nadezhda Plevitskaya. I became curious why a singer of her standing, a singer who had been big enough to record with Serguey Rakhmaninoff, had been so completely forgotten that we had never heard of her. We had made Russian music professionally for eleven years, had accumulated quite an archive, but nobody had ever mentioned her name to us. A sentence about Plevitskaya’s and her husband’s secret service involvement pointed to a reason. We had met Russian emigrés (escapees in Russian terninology) or their Russian speaking offspring who we suspected of being involved. The Rakhmaninoff biography described his friendship with Plevitskaya and her husband as ‘dangerous company’ but nothing more.

Stories with big gaps get your mind going. You search for the missing links to understand it all. They never leave your mind until you know. That’s how it was with me and the Plevitskaya story. It took more than six years and two relocations until the opportunity to find out more arrived.

I thought of the Plevitskaya story as a spectacular movie (as in bio-pic spectacle). I still entertain that vision and hope, one day someone will option my book. I am realist enough, however, to avoid dreaming about those fantastic figures which you read on the net. I love a give-and- take-situation which is a two way street.

As soon as I get the opportunity, I will post a pitch for speedreaders.


I kickstarted my research phase and immediately hit a snag. I searched in the online library catalogues for that source which was mentioned in the bibliography of the Rakhmannoff book. It did not show up anywhere, although the entry looked like it was a groundbreaking work which should be there. After a few days of puzzlement I came to realize I had searched for the book’s authors in the spelling which was in that bibliography, the German spelling! Naturally, that could not be in an Australian library!

After I applied English spelling rules to their names their book popped up in the catalogue of our State Library of South Australia. My husband drove me there and we arranged to meet an hour later. After all this, I found the book was nowhere to be seen in the State Library. An attendant shrugged his shoulders; sometimes books went missing. There I was with an hour to kill. As I looked around though, I was delighted to find myself in such a treasure trove. Russian history, the Russian Revolution, and their Civil War must be the most documented phase in history (outside the holocaust)!

From then on I systemized my research. I armed myself with several catalogue numbers of books to check out, and went to the State Library on Thursdays. In between, when the bass-balalaika, the Croatian music, and the paperwork for my husband’s activities and the dreaded housework allowed me, I wrote, re-wrote, edited, formatted.


I had to be focussed in my time management department. If truth be told I remember looking at an invitation, calculating the hours and the expense for gifts. I ignored the RSVP and put the invitation right to the back where it would be forgotten. These people did not deserve that, but I felt it was now time that my goals came first. Socialising has its place, but for a writer it has to take second place in certain phases. That’s not a recipe for enduring friendships, but we live in an egoistic world. I had decided to be part of the world and pay that price. Surprisingly, friendships popped back into active mode after a while.

Like most other authors, I had waves of doubts. Could I really pull this off? Why was it worth doing if being part of mainstream publishing is out of reach and the movie industry in Australia glued to Australian stories, as opposed to a story that has the chance to resonate internationally? Why do this at all? Aren’t there enough books about the last days of the Tsarist empire and the Revolution? What about the Gypsy theme? What vibes may some readers and some movie audiences have about Gypsies?

In the beginning I told people I was writing a book but as it dragged out more and more, I stopped talking about it. One day, a friend asked on the phone ‘when is your book coming out?’ There are people who think that you can write a book and in due course it will appear on the shop shelves! They have been influenced by promotional material that makes it look easy but omits that only one in 1,000 books written in Australia can be taken on by a trad. publisher. The conclusion that all other 999 books must be ‘bad’ does not wash with me.

Last year I explained to that friend how the book business is structured, much like the recording companies with whom we had worked back in Europe. If the book company decides a moderate publicity budget is enough that’s the end of your line, because readers will simply not know you exist. You cannot iuitiate international releases, because the partners of your publisher in other countries are independent companies. In all likelihood they will choose the books they want to publish in theior territory from the list of famous names or events.

These business analyses did not discourage me from researching and writing in parallel. I had often worked in tandem with others; this novel was mine alone, and what would happen to the business side would evolve later – one way or the other.

With computers these days you can go back easily and change something if your later discovery suggests a change in an earlier chapter. The research part was the fun and inspiring bit, the writing felt like work, sometimes.

People talk of writer’s block but I am not sure that this really exists. There exists a block that you cannot write about one specific matter at that point in time but it is, so I believe, not a general writing block. If you took another topic to write about, the writer’s block would evaporate, so I believe.

There were certainly instances where I was not sure what the next paragraph should be. I then went back to the front, re-editing and re-writing. I had developed a group of markers for various categories of tasks. Usually, after you have done some of these things the inspiration to move forward returns. And yes, there was a loose leaf collection of thoughts and snippets that were destined to find a place in the book. It was not difficult to decide where they would go because I worked along the timeline. There were enough ‘foreign’ names and places for my Anglo readership without confusing them through going backwards and forwards. I do not appreciate movies and books which go back and forth, and in the absence of any other criteria, I had decided to write the novel how I would have wanted to read it.

There were a few instances where I had the feeling I was hitting a wall. Then I took a break (from writing), cleaned the house or did some other practical work while thinking about which direction to take. This is a fascinating strategy, because when you finally do find that key to unlock the scene which has been in your head in an amorphous shape, it gushes out into your manuscript as a satisfying result.

I was glad I was not commissioned because this way, there was no haste coming into the equation. In journalism or as a ghostwriter you can do things more quickly because you have got the facts to hook your writing on, but novel writing in this instance meant that I had to do story and character development while I was at it. Haste is not helpful there, and maybe this is the reason why so many movies and books have become predictable. In my sometimes cynical way, I believe that when the ghostwriters are getting behind in their schedule, they take out the rule books and end up with predictable twists and clichés. That’s my opinion of course, maybe someone proves me wrong one day.


My book progressed quite well but I was still only half way through when I picked up a pamphlet in the State Library. It stated, the building was going to be demolished and rebuilt. During that time everything would be closed and no books could be retrieved from storage.

Incredulously I stared at the pamphlet. The operation looked like demolishing my activities for more than a year. Increasingly, information became available on the internet, in English, German, and French which I can read, but also in Italian and Spanish which I can guess, or Turkish and Polish which I could not. I put the Turkish scribe through three online translation engines but the content remained a mystery. It is my humble hope, that those who are dealing with security issues will never use these computerized translations. Maybe someone did prior to 9/11?

These small bits of information in webpages, sometimes contradictory, could however, not replace research in books. Luckily, the Adelaide University has a library and an online catalogue so I could shift my Thursdays to their library. The first time I went, I was apprehensive they may not admit me, but luckily, South Australian society is still somewhat open.

We lived in a very noisy area at the time and my research days felt like a holiday that straightened out my brainwaves. I still miss these.

And so it happened – I one day I had done it. My book

L A   P L E V I T S K A Y A

A    G y p s y   S i n g e r    i n    T s a r i s t    R u s s i a    a n d    i n    E x i l e

was done!

I added a diagram how historic personalities, which appear in the book or are mentioned, related to each other. I had originally sbribbled that up for my own clarification.

It was impossible, not to mention how the aftershocks of the Russian Revolution affected my life. (They have since led to the death of my brother.) I understand why someone argued against it, but my guide was the old saying ‘he who pays the music calls the tune’. As long as my book is samizdat, it is me who decides what goes in there or not. Should the book move out of samizdat, we’ll all dance to another tune.

Even though my Plevitskaya book is finished, I potter around the internet or read books which I had not discovered before. It is still staggering how much contradictory information is out there. That is quite normal for all matters where espionage plays a role, but it is still surprising to read: A soldier’s memoir from the Civil War says ‘Plevitskaya turned our beloved Skoblin’ and a music book says ‘Skoblin turned our beloved Plevitskaya’ – they mean turning Red (bolsheviki). In my book I develop the situations in a way that the reader can reconcile these contradictions. I was tempted to correct websites but did not do it. Contradictions add to the mystery and interest.

I have used information from what I believe are the more credible sources, and then created scenes and characters according to my experience in Russian performing circles as well as from stories of people I knew who had been near the places and times. Have I got it all right? My scholarly friend V. Filatov thinks so. He went over it with a fine toothcomb and found nothing that could be claimed as wrong.

This is it for the time being. I will now proceed to develop a movie pitch posting for speedreaders and compile my readers’ comments for upload.


Please write to me if you enjoyed reading this (artifex2ATbigpond.com). I always love to hear from readers of my book. We do not mail out songs, lyrics, or autograph cards, only my Plevitskaya books, CDs, or our recent concert video (pre-payment required).

Anybody is most welcome to use my scribe in the media or on the web, provided a reference to me and my Plevitskaya novel is included. If it is not, it constitutes breach of copyright.

(N.B. the website which still shows up in search engines users.bigpond.com/artifex2…etc has been deleted by the ISP. They only sell domains now).

 The 2011 revision  ($ 18.95 US) with American spelling contains some updates as new research has come to light. I have also taken into account friendly advice about some parts towards the end of the book which some people thought showed room for improvement.