April 4, 2022

Kelli Stuart Talks About The Master Craftsman

                                Kelli Stuart

In 1999, I was a senior at Baylor University majoring in English Professional Writing. At that time, I assumed I’d become a copywriter, or perhaps an editor at a publishing house. I never really considered that I’d be a novelist because that felt too lofty—it felt like a pipe dream meant only for the brooding artist types who wore funky hats, lived in big cities, and smoked really thin cigarettes.

But then I took a class called Writing for the Popular Market in which our only assignment for the year was to write a novel. I decided to fictionalize the story of a woman I’d met when studying abroad in Kiev, Ukraine who had survived a Nazi slave labor camp in WWII.

That novel writing experience completely shifted my thoughts on my career path. I found that telling stories brought me a deep joy, and I knew I wanted to see my name on the cover of a book I had written. So, I started looking for funky hats and got to work.

Just kidding. I don’t wear hats very often.

I did end up publishing that WWII novel based on the true stories of over 100 veterans I met and interviewed from in the former Soviet Union. It would ultimately take sixteen years, but persistence and tenacity are key in this industry, and that debut book of mine, Like a River From Its Course, went on to win the ACFW Carol award for Best Historical fiction and was a double nominee for the Christy Award in 2017.

I’d tasted the Kool-Aid of the novel world, I found that I loved it, so I started again. I was a Russian minor at Baylor and had spent quite a bit of time in Russia and Ukraine over the years, so many of my story ideas came from the pages of Soviet history. There is no shortage of stories to be told and mining out those stories has kept me busy these last few years.

My newest release, titled The Master Craftsman, releases in April 2022 with Revell Publishing. This book marries my love of Russian history with a modern-day treasure hunt that was so delightful and challenging and fun to write. Following is a brief summary:

In 1917, Alma Pihl, a master craftsman in The House of Faberge, was charged to protect one of the greatest secrets in Russian history—an unknown Faberge Egg that Peter Karl Faberge secretly created to honor his divided allegiance to both the people of Russia and the Imperial Czar’s family. When Alma and her husband escaped Russia for their native Finland in 1921, she took the secret with her, guarding her past connection to the Romanov family.

Three generations later, world-renowned treasure hunter Nick Laine is sick and fears the secret of the missing egg will die with him. With time running out, he entrusts the mission of retrieving the egg to his estranged daughter, Ava, who has little idea of the dangers she is about to face. As the stakes are raised, Ava is forced to declare her own allegiance—and the consequences are greater than she could have imagined.


Stories come to authors in a variety of ways. Each one of my books has been sparked by something small—a line in a book, a magazine article, an experience at a museum. You never really know what’s going to be the next idea that sticks so as an author I try to always stay ready.

The idea for The Master Craftsman came to me one afternoon when I randomly clicked on a news headline about a Russian Imperial crown that had been recently discovered. In that article, I read the story of a Midwest American man who had purchased what he thought was an interesting little trinket at an auction for $14,000. He planned to melt it down and sell the gold, but as he was cleaning it up decided to do a quick search on the name engraved in the golden egg.

It turned out he had purchased the missing Moscow Kremlin Egg, designed by The House of Faberge for the Russian Imperial family. Even more, this impulse purchase was worth an estimated $33 million dollars.

This short article set my imagination spinning, and my research brain was already three steps ahead. I found that Peter Karl Faberge and his team of Master Craftsmen had designed fifty-two Imperial Easter Eggs for the Romanov family, but after the Russian Revolution in 1917, the collection had gone missing. To date, only forty-one of the eggs have been recovered.

So, where are the other eleven eggs? That is the question that treasure hunters around the world are asking, and it’s the launching point for The Master Craftsman.

Books and stories are a powerful tool for transporting us to different places and times. I adored being transported back into those tumultuous days in pre-revolutionary Russia where tensions ran high between the people and their leader. And while I had heard of Faberge Eggs and seen pictures of them before, I’d never studied them quite so closely. It was enamoring to consider the talent, imagination, and skill that went into crafting those pieces, and to know that two of the most revered eggs in the entire Imperial collection, The Winter Egg and The Mosaic Egg, had been designed by a woman was even more intriguing.

The Master Craftsman is the story of Peter Karl Faberge—a visionary with a torn allegiance, with ahead-of-his-time business practices and creativity, and with a secret too great to reveal. This real-life history is coupled with my own imagination to bring you a story of intrigue and mystery. Ultimately, you’ll be left asking a single question: What if it’s true?

Kelli Stuart is the award-winning author of the novels Like a River From Its Course, A Silver Willow by the Shore, The Fabulous Freaks of Monsieur Beaumont, and the soon-to-be-released The Master Craftsman. Kelli was also part of a collection of Christmas novellas inspired by classic holiday films titled It’s a Wonderful Christmas: Classics Reimagined. Kelli lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband and five children.

 Learn more at


  1. The Master Craftsman sounds like an intriguing story. Congratulations on the new release!

  2. So excited for your release, Kelli. Love the premise of The Master Craftsman.

  3. Congrats Kelli. I am excited about your new book. Looking forward to reading it.