Longtime readers of this blog know that I'm a serious fan of Robert K. Massie. Especially his Romanov books. So when he came to Nashville recently to accept the Nashville Public Library Literary Award, I made sure to attend his talk at the University School of Nashville.
As someone who has already read Catherine the Great (and talked with Massie about it), most of what he said wasn't really news to me. Except for one thing: Catherine the Great will be adapted for a TV miniseries on ABC.
Massie said he was pleased with the choices made for the adaptation so far, especially the selection of a mature female producer (Debra Martin Chase, known for The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants). "I care a great deal about how my books appear," he said, especially because of the importance of historical accuracy. "As Voltaire would say, by that I mean they agree with me," he quipped.
Much of Massie's talk focused on his admiration for Catherine and her intelligence, curiosity and ambition—qualities that are not always appreciated in women, even today. He told the story of meeting a German official at a party in New York who thanked him for reminding the world that Catherine the Great was, in fact, German—and revealed that Angela Merkel, the world's most powerful female leader, keeps a portrait of Catherine on her desk. In his interview with me, he mentioned that one of his reasons for wanting to write about Catherine was to share the story of a woman who wasn't afraid to be smart and powerful with today's women, including his four daughters. Portraying this legendary leader will be quite a responsibility—let's hope they choose wisely.