Issabelle's Posts

Know the Novel Part 1: Introduction (Featuring Don’t Let Me Go)

What’s up TWNers! Y’all I am SO excited to be participating in Christine Smith’s Know the Novel linkup this year! Its one of my favorite things from the blogosphere, and since I was unable to be apart of it last year, I’m so glad to be returning to it this year. This linkup is for authors to share about their National Novel Writing Month project, but if you’re not doing NaNoWriMo, you can still talk about whatever your current WIP is. I haven’t decided yet if I want to do NaNoWriMo (I know what you’re thinking… uh, Issabelle, November is in like a week), but I thought this would be the perfect time to talk about my debut novel releasing with Sky’s the Limit Press in early 2024 Don’t Let Me Go. Even though I’ve already written the first draft, I’m currently in the middle of the second draft and edits so it’s still my work-in-progress. 

1. What first sparked the idea for this novel?

The original idea for Don’t Let Me Go (DLMG) came around the end of the summer last year when I was wrapping up edits for something I’ve been referring to as Project: Defender. I had intended to write a prequel novel for that book, but there was something about one of the side characters who I kept coming back to. I realized his part of the story wasn’t over yet which got me to thinking about writing a sequel (a lot has changed since then 😅). Since Project: Defender was set in 1917-1918 during the Russian Revolution, I thought it would be cool to write about the civil war that followed immediately after. However, when I started doing my research I came across some information about the Gulag (more on that later), and a story started forming from there. I knew I had to write it! A lot has changed from that first spark, but that’s where it all began!

2. Share a blurb (or just an overall summary)!

Here’s the current blurb:

When truth is a crime…

Soviet Russia, 1929: Maksim Lenkov is tired of his past haunting him. An ex-Bolshevik and supporter of the revolution over ten years earlier that toppled the Romanov dynasty, Maksm has never forgotten his guilt over not saving the tsar and his family—especially a certain beautiful grand duchess. Tatiana Romanova had stolen his heart before the Bolsheviks took her life.

Maksim has spent the last ten years hunting down her killers to no avail and doing anything possible to resist Soviet rule. This is why when a young, spunky British girl appears out of nowhere, claiming she has the Soviet secret police on her heels and needs help escaping the country, Maksim is compelled to aid her. Especially since she says to have information that would ruin the USSR’s push for influence on Western Europe and, more importantly, information that connects to one Bolshevik whom Maksim knows well. A man who was there the night of Tatiana’s murder.

This could be his chance to finally avenge the Romanovs and find peace with his past. But is his new ally all she claims to be or could she be an informer for the secret police? When the OGPU draws closer, how far will Maksim go to serve justice? Inspired by true events, Don’t Let Me Go is a gripping, page-turning novel that explores the power of hope in the midst of darkness and the strength of love over evil.

okay i have mixed feelings over how this blurb turned out, but I can’t seem to fix it

3. Where does the story take place? What are some of your favorite aspects of the setting?

The story takes place in Russia in 1929 when it was part of the USSR. I never thought I would ever write a story set in the Soviet Union because my Russian history interest is usually with Tsarist Russia or the Russian Empire, whatever you want to call it. DLMG has changed all of that. I didn’t realize how interesting the history of the Soviet Union is nor how little people actually know about what life there was like. The setting is one of my favorite parts so I have a lot of favorite aspects! First, I just love anything set in Russia. The Slavic culture continues to fascinate me with how it’s a mix between both European and Asian customs. Trying to understand the Soviet culture and world of this time was a challenge as it’s something that’s rarely depicted in books and film so I felt like I was walking in blind, but I’ve enjoyed the challenge and the research that’s gone in this book beyond just historical facts. I also just love the atmosphere in DLMG, which has been one of the hardest parts to recreate. This is a point in time where everything’s changing for Russia, and Maksim is caught in the midst of it, trying to figure out how to navigate it all. There’s this strange mix of hope for a better future while also fear that where they’re headed is not a place they want to be. 

4. Tell us about your protagonist(s).

Ah, Maksim. The bane of my existence, as I’ve been referring to him. Honestly, though I’d never admit it to him, he’s actually been a fun character to write. This is the first “anti-hero” character I’ve written, and I’ve loved seeing his different perspective and reactions toward things. He’s a clever man who’s not afraid to voice his opinions, though he’s more of a man of action rather than words. He’s also VERY impulsive and rash which tends to lead him to not-super-awesome places. (That seriously, Maks, you could have avoided if you just STOP AND THOUGHT ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE DOING!) He’s got a gruff personality and very rough-around-the-edges, but deep down, he’s got a soft side. (Just don’t ever tell him I told you that!) Maks is a loner and a wandering soul, having traveled through most of Russia. At least everything on the western side of the Ural Mountains. He loves music, hot tea, sunsets, and traveling. 

5. Who (or what) is the antagonist?

DLMG has two antagonists. The biggest one is obviously Stalin’s Soviet government. Maks vehemently opposes the Soviet regime so he’s been a man on the run for the last several years, trying to hide from the secret police’s every-watching eyes. Especially from Petrov, a man who had helped kill the Romanovs and an old acquaintance of Maksim. He’s risen the ranks, however, and holds a prominent place of influence in the Joint State Political Directorate (OGPU).

6. What excites you the most about this novel?

Like everything. 😂 I love how different Maks is from any character I’ve ever written, and I love the Russian setting. The whole plot excites me because it feels like the best story I’ve ever told. The plot is tight, the themes fit perfectly, and the characters are so much fun to hang with! Also, I just love winter and most of this book is set either in winter or in very cold places so that’s been fun to write.

But I think what I’m most excited about is to tell a part of history that has been largely forgotten. This book concerns all sort of terrible things that happened to the ordinary Soviet citizen, but a big part of it talks about the Gulag which was a system of forced labor camps from 1918 to 1989 that it’s estimated over ten million people passed through (most of them being ordinary men and women falsely accused of “counter-revolutionary” activity rather than actual criminals) at some point and over a million people died inside. And yet before writing this book, I knew and heard very little about it and most people I talked to didn’t even know what I was talking about! How is it that something that happened not so long ago (1989 marks the year of the last gulag camp closing and that was only 34 years ago!) has already been forgotten? Stalin had adamantly suppressed any news about what was really going on inside these camps from the world at large. He never wanted anyone to know the truth and so far, he’s won. I think it’s time to change that, and I’m excited to bring a forgotten moment in history back. 

7. Is this going to be a series? standalone? something else?

DLMG is the first book in the Lost Empire series. As of right now, I’m only planning on writing three books (technically number two is already written, but you get the point), but I do have an idea of a fourth one so if there’s enough excitement for Maksim’s story and the rest of the series, I *might* choose to write it, but if not, I’m also okay to leave it as a three-book series.

8. Are you plotting? pantsing? plansting?

I plansted through the first draft so that’s one thing that makes the second draft easier because I already know most of what’s gonna happen, unless it’s something I changed.

9. Name a few unique elements in this story.

The most unique element is the setting as I can only list like maybe three books that have to do with this specific moment in time. But I also think the plot is very unique for a historical fiction novel. It’s a very fast-paced and thrilling book and a lot of historical novels I read tend to be more slower-paced and character-driven. I like how I’m testing a different way to write historical fiction with this book. (Not that fast-paced historical novels don’t exist, there just aren’t as many of them.)

10. Share some fun “extras” of the story (a song or full playlist, some aesthetics, a collage, a Pinterest board, a map you’ve made, a special theme you’re going to incorporate, ANYTHING you want to share!).

*rub hands together eagerly*

Okay so here’s the Pinterst board: 

and my playlist for the book is currently under construction so I’ll just share what I think of as the “theme song” for the novel. It’s called “War of Change” by Thousand Foot Krutch

And finally here’s the current teaser trailer for DLMG. 

So let’s keep the conversation going in the comments! Are you planning on doing NaNoWriMo? Does this sound like a book you’d want to read? Am I the only person who wastes writing time by scrolling on Pinterest? 

Issabelle Perry is a proud Jesus follower, an extroverted writer, and a homeschool graduate. When she's not writing, you can find her reading, jamming to Skillet, studying history, hunting for Narnia in wardrobes, or envisioning herself wielding a magnificent sword (but due to her clumsiness, let’s hope that never happens). This self-proclaimed exclamation mark enthusiast can be found hanging out at Teen Writers’ Nook, a community of teen authors Issabelle co-founded in 2020. She is the author of Don't Let Me Go (Sky's the Limit Press 2024), May We Make Them Proud (2023), and a co-editor for two anthologies. What she’s probably doing right now is fangirling about her favorite books to random people or scanning the pantries for chocolate.


  • Hannah

    This sounds so interesting, Issabelle! I can’t wait until it releases! The historical aspects of it sound so unlike anything I’ve ever read, and the characters… and I love the one quote on your Pinterest board: “Dying is easy, young man. Living is harder.” Ooooh, I’m so intrigued!

    I don’t plan to do the traditional NaNoWriMo 50K, but I do hope to make decent progress on my current WIP, hopefully to get it from 30 to 60K. 50K words in one month is too many for me!

    • Issabelle Perry

      Aw, thank you SO much, Hannah!!! I’m so glad that you’re excited for the book too!!! Yes, that’s what I’m hoping for! I love finding forgotten moments in history to write about so I can give something that’s fresh and new! Oooo yes when I saw that pin come through my Pinterest feed, I was like YES! That quote perfectly summed up Maks’ character!

      That’s totally okay! I think it’s awesome that you still have a goal and that you’re honest with yourself that 50K is a lot. (I wish I could admit that to myself more often. Then I wouldn’t fail so many NaNos. XD) Good luck with that 30K, girl! I’m cheering you on!!!!! *waves pom poms*

    • Issabelle Perry

      Eeeeek thank you SOOO MUCH, Saraina!!!! Aww, thank you!!! I knew wasting all those hours on Pinterest instead of writing would pay off!! XD Eeeeekkk I am soooo excited, too!!!!!! *bounces up and down*

  • Lillian Keith

    *cough* Me? Waste time on Pinterest? …Don’t know what you’re talking about, Issabelle *cough quickly closes Pinterest tab cough* XD.

    Okay, in all seriousness, though, I love that you’re aiming for a fast paced historical fiction novel! I’d totally read one of those!!!

    • Issabelle Perry

      Hahaha, hey, I’ll keep your Pinterest wasting time a secret if you keep mine a secret too. XD *also quickly closes Pinterest tab* *tries to act normal*

      Aww, thank you SOO much, Lily!!!! I was hoping people would be interest in a different style of historical fiction! <33333

  • Christine Smith

    Oooh, Issabelle, this sounds INCREDIBLE. I am alwaaaays here for anti-heroes. Maksim sounds like such a dynamic character! And I love how you’re exploring some things in history that aren’t talked about. I was not aware of the Gulag myself. That is wild it’s such an unknown thing, especially for how long it went on, my goodness. Good on you for making these stories known! This all just sounds spectacular all the way around! And I’m over here soaking up the pinterest board. *heart-eyes*

    Thank you so much for joining Know the Novel!! It always delights me to see your posts and hear about your epic projects!

    • Issabelle Perry

      Awww, thank you SO, SO much, Christine!!! That just makes my whole day! Yes, I absolutely loooove anti-hero characters too!!! Maksim is… definitely an interesting character. XD Now, if he’d just listen to me and stop changing my whole plotline, then everything would work out fine. 😅 Aw, thank you!!! I’m very passionate about sharing these forgotten moments in history! I know right, but you bring up a really good point. It did go on for so long, and it’s still very recent history. How have we already forgotten it?! D’awww, thanks so much!!!! Hehehe, I may be biased but that Pinterest board is one of my favorite too!

      You’re very welcome!! Thank you for hosting it!!! I’m always SO thrilled when I get to be apart of Know the Novel!!!! Thank you soooo much again!!! <333

  • Ellie

    This got me more excited for this book! I love the unique historical setting- I’m a bit of a nerd and love learning random facts. XD I don’t think I’m gonna do NaNo, even though I really want to. I need to figure out what I’m actually focusing on writing. I have so many WIPs and I’ve been chasing so many writing rabbits lately… my writing has turned chaotic. I can’t wait for Don’t Let Me Go!

    • Issabelle Perry

      Yaaay, Ellie! That makes me SO thrilled to hear that!!! D’aww, thank you soo much!!! Same here, sister!!! I love being able to learn something new and broaden my horizon so to speak! That’s totally okay, sister! Sometimes we just have to take that time to figure out what in the world we’re doing and what we want to do with our writing so I think it’s awesome that you’re wanting to spend time focusing in on one project!!!! I’m cheering you on, sister!!!! Eeeek THANK YOUUU!!!! I can’t wait either!!!!

  • Ava Coulter

    1. I LOVE the whole aesthetic


    3. I can see your heart and passion for this project… it’s so beautiful and inspiring

    4. I feel like this is the kind of book where I will cry the whole way through (in the best way, of course)

    5. The themes are SO powerful… wow

    Um… this looks incredible, Is! I can’t wait to read it!! Cheering you on, friend <3

    • Issabelle Perry

      1. Awww THANK YOUUUU!!!!

      2. Hahaha, hey, if you ever want to borrow them sometime to get them out of my head for a bit… I think Maksim needs to pay rent for how much he drives me crazy in my head. 😂😂😂

      3. Awwww, girl, thank you so much!!! I’m glad you found it inspiring because I literally told Kat before posting this that I was worried people would find me annoying cause I knew I was getting pretty passionate.

      4. Hehehe, I mean… I do like messing with my reader’s hearts. Not gonna say anything but… *cough* *sends tissues in advance* *cough*

      5. Awww, thank you SO much again, Ava!!! You’re so sweet and your whole comment has just made my entire day!!!! <333

      Eeeeeekkk I can't wait to be able to share it with everyone!!! Thank you sooooo much again!!!!!

  • Diamond

    Ahhh this sounds so good! I can’t wait to read it!
    Also, I’m not doing NaNo this year for two reasons, firstly is that November is usually always my busiest month of the year and this year is even busier, andddd I actually just finished my WIP! So I’m going to give myself a bit of a break before I start something new.

    • Issabelle Perry

      Eeeeekk thank you SOOOOOOOO much, Diamond!!!!!
      Girl, you the smart one. I wish I had just admitted to myself that November is the most hectic time of the year and it’s okay to take a writing break. I’ve written only one day this month. XD *GASPETH* Wut, girl that is AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can I ask what this WIP was about? If it’s a secret I understand, but you’ve got me sooo curious now!!!! Girl, you definitely deserve a break! I hope you had enjoyed your November!

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