Thursday, July 27, 2017

Blog Tour: Surviving the Fatherland by @aoppenlander #interview #giveaway

Historical Fiction
Date Published: March 15, 2017

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***An IWIC Hall of Fame Novel*** 

***Winner 2017 National Indie Excellence Award***

"This book needs to join the ranks of the classic survivor stories of WWII such as "Diary of Anne Frank" and "Man's Search for Meaning". It is truly that amazing!" InD'taleMagazine

"This family saga is wonderfully written and, aside from the emotional ramifications, very easy to read. I stayed up too late a couple of nights reading it...I highly recommend this book!" Long and Short Reviews

Spanning thirteen years from 1940 to 1953 and set against the epic panorama of WWII, author Annette Oppenlander's SURVIVING THE FATHERLAND is a sweeping saga of family, love, and betrayal that illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the children's war.

SURVIVING THE FATHERLAND tells the true and heart-wrenching stories of Lilly and Günter struggling with the terror-filled reality of life in the Third Reich, each embarking on their own dangerous path toward survival, freedom, and ultimately each other. Based on the author's own family and anchored in historical facts, this story celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the strength of war children. 

When her father goes off to war, seven-year-old Lilly is left with an unkind mother who favors her brother and chooses to ignore the lecherous pedophile next door. A few blocks away, twelve-year-old Günter also looses his father to the draft and quickly takes charge of supplementing his family's ever-dwindling rations by any means necessary.

As the war escalates and bombs begin to rain, Lilly and Günter's lives spiral out of control. Every day is a fight for survival. On a quest for firewood, Lilly encounters a dying soldier and steals her father's last suit to help the man escape. Barely sixteen, Günter ignores his draft call and embarks as a fugitive on a harrowing 47-day ordeal--always just one step away from execution.

When at last the war ends, Günter grapples with his brother's severe PTSD and the fact that none of his classmates survived. Welcoming denazification, Lilly takes a desperate step to rid herself once and for all of her disgusting neighbor's grip. When Lilly and Günter meet in 1949, their love affair is like any other. Or so it seems. But old wounds and secrets have a way of rising to the surface once more.


Is There a Message in Your Novel That You Want Readers to Grasp?
I want people to understand what life was like for ordinary people and especially children during that time. That generation of war children just took the abuse and after the war ended, everyone was in a hurry to move on. Nobody gave those kids a second thought. And so they sucked it in, grew up and created lives as best they could. In later years they were still accused of being Nazis because they happened to live at that time. In addition to the war theme, Lilly’s personal struggle with the betrayal of her father and boyfriend show us how complicated love and family relationships can be. Nothing is cut and dry, black or white.

I hope I can shed additional light on this horrific time in human history. I want to make it clear that not all Germans living during the Third Reich were Nazis. Not every person was evil. I also want readers to see some parallels to today’s history in the U.S. This is not a political statement, but humans should be able and willing to learn from mistakes made in the past. Right now I’m not so sure this is happening. I also want people to know more about the way life was lived in civilian Germany during and after the war. You can read on Wikipedia that after the war ended, the Allied Forces provided rations amounting to 1,200-1,500 daily calories per person per day. And that was supposedly a low amount to prevent an uprising. That is completely false. Germany’s infrastructure was so broken, there was hardly anything. Sure, they received ration cards with words like flour, sugar, meat and bread printed on them. But the stores remained empty another three years until the currency reform in June 1948.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

How many books have you written and which is your favorite?
Surviving the Fatherland is my fifth published novel. It was also my first full-length manuscript, but it took 15 years to complete. The ‘Escape from the Past’ trilogy is a time-travel action/adventure set in medieval Germany and the Wild West. All three books are based on actual characters and events. The fourth novel, A Different Truth, is a historical mystery set during the height of the Vietnam War. It examines the theme of war versus peace movement in the world of a boys’ military boarding school.
Surviving the Fatherland is probably my favorite because it took so much energy and emotion and it’s based on my family. I think it’s an important book with a timeless message.

If You had the chance to cast your main character from Hollywood today, who would you pick and why?
I’m having a hard time with this question mainly because I don’t know who many of the upcoming young actors/actresses are. For ‘Surviving the Fatherland’ you’d have to use child actors, then maybe teens and a twenty-something couple. A lot would depend on the screenplay and what is left out of the story. Screenplays are typically a 100 pages, one page per minute. My novel is 360 pages, so there’d be a lot of cutting.
There, I circumvented your question and made it into something else.

When did you begin writing?
I started writing children’s stories in the 90s. We lived in the woods and I came up with a hedgehog going on adventures in the forest. Of course, I didn’t know anything about writing or publishing and so these first projects went nowhere. In 2002, I interviewed my parents about their experience in WWII as German war children and from it sprouted the first short stories. I began writing a lot, attended conferences, classes and critique groups. I read and read. Still, it took until 2015 to have quality publishable work.

How long did it take to complete your first book?
‘Surviving the Fatherland’ is my first full-length book and took 15 years to complete. In the meantime I wrote four other novels, but I always returned to Fatherland because it wouldn’t leave me alone. It kept nagging and demanding to be finished. Even as late as last year, I didn’t think I’d get it done. I must have gone through dozens of rewrites, restructures, changes of timelines, POV and tense changes. I also changed the title many times.

Did you have an author who inspired you to become a writer?
 Not really. I was always an avid reader, even as a child. And I remember thinking when I was younger that I’d never be able to write a book with all these characters, plots, arcs etc. Well, at the time I wasn’t able to. But when I started with a children’s book in the 1990s, I noticed how much I loved the creative process, developing characters and making them come alive on the page. It took a lot longer, studying craft, workshops and seminars, writers groups and lots of “butt in chair” time to get good at it.

What is your favorite part of the writing process?
After a first draft I go back to see what I created. Reading that first draft and seeing how my characters have become ‘real’ people is extremely satisfying. Of course, that’s also when the serious work of revision begins. But it’s a great feeling to see a completed manuscript. The second time this happens is when the manuscript is ready for publication and a beautiful new story is born.

Describe your latest book in 4 words.
How children survived WWII

Can you share a little bit about your current work or what is in the future for your writing?
I’m currently researching WWII from the German soldiers’ perspective because I want to write a story about my grandfather, Wilhelm. I’m getting in touch with the German military government to see if any records exist of my grandfather. This way I could place him exactly in the right unit. If I find what I’m looking for, I’ll write a novel about Wilhelm in the war and his nine years as a POW in Russia.
I recently finished ‘Broken Journey, a story set during the American Civil War. It is about a boy’s choice to protect his best friend, a slave, from a brutal attack which forces both on separate journeys: one escapes into war, the other is sold into slavery. Told from alternating viewpoints, one black and one white, the story examines the power of hope and friendship, and the endurance of the human spirit to find a way home. I’m hoping to get ‘Broken Journey’ published later this year.

About the Author

Annette Oppenlander is an award-winning writer, literary coach and educator. As a bestselling historical novelist, Oppenlander is known for her authentic characters and stories based on true events, coming alive in well-researched settings. Having lived in Germany the first half of her life and the second half in various parts in the U.S., Oppenlander inspires readers by illuminating story questions as relevant today as they were in the past. Oppenlander’s bestselling true WWII story, Surviving the Fatherland, was elected to IWIC’s Hall of Fame and won the 2017 National Indie Excellence Award. Her historical time-travel trilogy, Escape from the Past, takes readers to the German Middle Ages and the Wild West. Uniquely, Oppenlander weaves actual historical figures and events into her plots, giving readers a flavor of true history while enjoying a good story. Oppenlander shares her knowledge through writing workshops at colleges, libraries and schools. She also offers vivid presentations and author visits. The mother of fraternal twins and a son, she lives with her husband and old mutt, Mocha, in Bloomington, Ind.

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1 comment:

Em said...

Thank you for posting

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