Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Skandal Blog Tour
Q&A with author Lindsay Smith + Giveaway

Blog tour is organized by Mac Teen Books
See below for the full schedule

Skandal is the thrilling sequel to Sekret. Instead of Cold War era Russa, the characters have moved to mid 1960s Washington D.C., and that change directs the events that unfold. 
(Click the titles above for my reviews of each book)

Today, I'm thrilled to have author Lindsay Smith visiting to answer some questions on her new release - Skandal comes out today! 

LAUREN: For the SEKRET blog tour, you did a post for me on the locations used in the story. I’d also like to play a little real/not real with some of the settings in SKANDAL. The first is the psychedelic lounge that the women had for their “office.” It seemed completely crazy to me, was it real? The second could possibly be a spoiler, but do those underground tunnels exist? And what about the hidden exit in the Oval Office? Any others you’d like to tell us about?

LINDSAY: Ooh, great questions! To my knowledge, there weren’t any actual lounges like the one I described at CIA Headquarters, but I designed their “office” to reflect the relaxed, anything-goes culture of the CIA in the 1960s. This was an era where, according to legend, CIA office workers might find LSD in their morning coffee as part of some experiment from the science wing, and a time when both the United States and the Soviet Union were infiltrating all kinds of counter-cultural groups to agitate for their respective causes. I really wanted to give the sense that because the psychic team got results, they were given a certain amount of liberty to do as they pleased, for better or worse.

The “underground tunnels” that allegedly run beneath Washington are a bit of DC apocrypha. There are definitely numerous abandoned tunnels cris-crossing the city, including a few to this day that are used as arts and dance spaces not far from the old Soviet embassy. No idea whether they actually connect to it, but it makes for a juicy possibility! It is true that the Soviets were forced to abandon their posh Dupont Circle embassy for farther flung digs following some sort of political scandal, and I like the tunnel story as much as any other reason I’ve heard.

When researching SKANDAL, I could only ever find confirmation that secret passageways existed in some form, and no reliable details on their locations—but quick passage from the Oval Office to the Situation Room bunker deep beneath the West Wing seems like an obvious choice. My other favorite location in SKANDAL is Bohemian Caverns, the smoky subterranean jazz club where Valentin performs, and I’m happy to say it’s still operating to this day, and I visit it regularly.

LAUREN: One thing that stood out to me in SKANDAL and really surprised me as being different from SEKRET, is how women were viewed in 1960s America vs. Russia. Although Soviet Russia appeared a much more oppressive place to live, it seemed like women were treated more equally to men. But when Yulia moved to 1960s America, she experienced a lot more sexism, on top of being distrusted because of where she was from. Was I too busy fearing for Yulia’s life in SEKRET to notice any of those things, or was this an intentional and accurate depiction of a difference in the two countries at the time? Did any (other) differences stand out in your research?

LINDSAY: This was an intentional choice. The Soviet Union’s founding principles placed a strong emphasis on equality in every form, and women had a lot more opportunities in academia—like Yulia’s mother—than they did in Western nations at the time. Women had played a major role in the revolution, as well, serving as factory organizers and impassioned pro-Soviet artists in cultural circles. I was always surprised on my student exchange and study abroad trips to learn that the elderly babushkas in my host family—the grandmothers who took care of the majority of the housework and grocery shopping for their children and grandchildren, whom they lived with—all had backgrounds in engineering, biology, economics, and the like! I really wanted to emphasize this disparity as Yulia struggled to adjust to American life, and I didn’t want the United States to be the obviously correct choice for her in every possible way. There were definitely trade-offs she had to weigh.

Unfortunately, the military and political portions of the Soviet Union remained boys’ clubs throughout; the only prominent female Soviet politician I can think of off the top of my head was Vladimir Lenin’s wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya. Outside of academia, sexism and misogyny remain a rampant problem in Russia today, and Russia has one of the highest rates of domestic violence against women in the world.

LAUREN: Music is a very important theme in both of your books. It’s way these characters shield their thoughts, and the song they choose tells something about them. But it is also very important to Valentin, as he gets ensconced in the Beatnik jazz scene of the time. In that sense we see how much of an equalizer good music can be. Did you make music such a big scene because you yourself are musical? What song would you choose to shield your thoughts?

LINDSAY: I’ve always grown up with music—my father’s a composer, and I studied piano, French horn, and viola at various points in my childhood (and still play the last). One of my favorite memories of orchestra was playing Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” on the field of my hometown’s AAA baseball stadium! I love modern(ish) music as well—from cheesy ‘80s goth rock to metal to darkwave electronica and more—but I have to have wordless music when I’m working or writing, so I’d probably choose a classical of jazz piece for my own musical shield. Maybe Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero,” for the subtle driving force, variations on a theme, and soothing repetition.

LAUREN: What will Yulia and Valentin miss most about Russia, what are their favorite and least favorite aspects of their new home?

LINDSAY: I think Valentin would miss the romanticism and sense of history in Moscow. America in its current state is such a baby country, and it’s hard for us to get the proper sense of scale that you get in Russia, where some of the towns are nearly 900 years old. For Yulia, what she’d miss—her family, their old life together, the people they once were—is the sort of home you can’t ever really return to. So I think she’s grateful for the iteration she’s been able to establish in America, while still refusing to accept the status quo. She and Valentin both enjoy being agents of change, and I don’t doubt they’ll spend the ‘70s and ‘80s fighting to make America a better place!

LAUREN: This isn't a question, but as someone who dislikes triangles, thank you for not adding one to SKANDAL. I enjoyed watching Yulia and Valentin supporting each other and working together.  

LINDSAY: Thank you! I do feel like any book that depicts romance places far too much emphasis on the “getting together” without nearly enough about what comes after. Perhaps it isn’t as exciting as the flush of new love, but I really enjoy seeing healthy couples tackle challenges as a team, and finding a way to make their life together work in the contexts of their individual lives.

LAUREN: Wow. Thank you! Your last comment completely made my day. I am always looking for books that do exactly what you've just described. Why are they so rare? I guess it's a discussion for another day. Thanks for visiting Love is not a triangle, Lindsay!

About the author

I’m Lindsay, author of the YA historical thriller, SEKRET (Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan Children’s, Winter 2014). I’m an ex-Oklahoman and an unapologetic Washingtonian. I have an unhealthy fascination with foreign affairs–Russia in particular–which fortunately pays for my voracious reading habit. When I’m not reading or writing, I can be found nerding out over food, board games, modern history, the Science channel, and all things cheesetacular. I write historicals and fantasies, sometimes in the same book.

Important links
  Learn more about the first book in the duology, Sekret.
  Join in on social media with #Skandal.

Visit Lindsay’s website, follow her on Twitter, and follow her on Tumblr.


Full Blog Tour Schedule
April 8-Icey Books
April 9-Exlibris Kate
April 12-Fly Leaf Review
April 15-The Bookrat

Giveaway is for US or Canada residents only (Sorry, other international readers!)
You must be at least 13 years old to enter
See my policies HERE


  1. I really like how the first book is set up in Russia, but then the characters are moved to America! And I thoroughly appreciate that there are no love triangles in this book!

  2. As a fan of music myself, it'll be nice to get lost with these characters. I'm glad that they love music and finds relief in it. Also, I'm not a fan of love triangles either, so thank you for asking about that!!

  3. Amazing interview Lauren :D And Lindsay too. <3 Thank you both so much for sharing. While I won't read this sequel, I am curious about it. And I do think the plot is exciting :D The interview is all kinds of awesome. <3

  4. What really stood out to me was the fact that women were treated more as equals in Russia instead of the US. That really surprised me.

  5. Great interview, Lauren! Love the insight about women in Russia vs. women in America... I don't think I had realized that before reading her book.
    Of course, the last question completely rocks! Let's hope more authors follow this path in the future. :)

  6. My favorite part of the interview was when you asked about Yulia and Valentin and what they'll miss. I can't wait to see how they'll work together in this book.


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