Chicago author Allison Pataki cannot be slowed down. Regarded as a “force in historical fiction,” this New York Times best-selling author published her first two novels within a year of each other, and has already begun to tackle her next, highly anticipated project, a sequel to “The Accidental Empress.”
Marrying history and fiction in an edifying manner, Pataki’s novels ignite the unexpected romantic in us all. Her most recent work, “The Accidental Empress,” follows the story of Austro-Hungarian Empress Sisi through her stormy love affair with Emperor Franz Joseph. Better yet, the intricately plotted novel includes a personal touch. Pataki herself has familial ties to the former Habsburg Empire of Austria-Hungary, the crux of Sisi’s captivating story.
Pataki gushed with Make It Better on all things historical fiction, life in Chicago, and her impressive philanthropic involvement.
Make It Better: Your two novels, “The Traitor’s Wife” and “The Accidental Empress,” are both stunning works of historical fiction. In that genre, where do you draw the line between fact and fiction?
Allison Pataki: As the writer, that is quite possibly the most difficult part of the process…take “The Accidental Empress.” 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!—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.
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.
Read more of Allison Pataki’s interview in Make it Better’s article. Pataki will be speaking at Bernie’s Book Bank’s 4th Annual Book Lovers’ Lunch on May 1st.