I am delighted to welcome award winning author, Annette Oppenlander on the blog today to celebrate her award winning novel, Surviving the Fatherland.
Huge congratulations on winning your Chill Award, Annette! You must be so happy that your work has been recognised in this way. Now, before we carry on, would you please introduce yourself to my readers, just in case they don’t know you already …
I’m delighted to be here, Emma. Thank you! I’m Annette Oppenlander, German-American historical novelist. Born in Germany, I moved to the U.S. 30 years ago and recently returned to my hometown, Solingen, in Germany with my American husband. I’ve been a writer since the 1990s, but got serious about being a novelist nine years ago.
So, your book has been awarded with a Chill with a Book Readers’ Award, what inspired you to write this story?
Even at a young age I knew my parents grew up as war children in WWII Germany. In 2002, I decided to record their memories for my family. As I listened to their stories, I realized that their experiences were incredibly emotional and exciting. And that there were a number of family secrets and ugly parts, I’d never known. Though their memories were quite different from the soldier/battle stories or the books about the Holocaust, I felt that what they had lived through was also important. Because their experience was just one example of millions of war children—back then and now. In the insanity of WWII, their voices were snuffed out and after the war, nobody wanted to talk about what had happened.
In 2009, after a few attempts at short stories, I finished a first draft of a manuscript and hired an editor. Mind you, it was my first novel and for many reasons, it never made it out of the drawer. Meanwhile, I’d discovered my love of writing and historical fiction. So, I wrote other novels. In-between, I rewrote the German story again. Then came a publishing contract for a time-travel trilogy. Still, the Germany story was not done. Over the years, I rewrote it dozens of times and finally, in 2016, hired an editor to cast an impartial eye. After that things went quickly. Surviving the Fatherland was published in March 2017. It had taken 15 years.
What does the award mean to you?
I’m thrilled to be the recipient of the Chill with a Book Readers’ Award. What better confirmation of a story than to hear from readers how they enjoyed it. I’m very grateful, not only to have excited readers, but to be able to share my parents’ plight and draw attention to the civilian side of war.
What other titles have you published? Tell us a little about them …
I published A Different Truth, a historical mystery set at a military boarding school in the late 1960s in 2015. Loosely based on my husband’s experience as a military cadet, it tells about a boy’s struggle to solve the murder of his best friend and is set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and peace movement.
After visiting a medieval castle in Thuringia, Germany, I wrote the Escape from the Past trilogy about a gamer who time-travels into the past through an evil computer game. While the time-travel is obviously invented, the actual histories within each story are based on real people and events. Books one and three take place in medieval Germany. Book two takes readers to Billy the Kid’s Wild West. The trilogy was published through Lodestone Books in the UK.
Are you working on a new book? Tell me about that …
Yes, in fact, I’ve got a new novel scheduled for publication in February 2018. Everything We Lose: A Civil War Story of Hope, Courage and Redemption is about a farm boy’s choice to protect his 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, this novel examines the power of hope and friendship, and the endurance of the human spirit to find a way home.
When not writing, what can you be found doing?
I love taking my old dog, Mocha, on hikes in our native woods. I enjoy bicycling and love to travel to get inspired.
Which three authors have most influenced your journey to becoming an author?
In no particular order, I think J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings left quite an impression on me. James Alexander Thom, a historical novelist, also wrote some amazing books. Lastly, Stephen King is a favourite. Not so much because of his novels—I’m not a huge fan of horror—but because of his approach to writing and his down-to-earth advice in “On Writing.” There are many other authors who have had some influence on me. Even as a kid, I loved to read. I remember returning from the local library with stacks of books.
Why did you choose the genre you write in?
For one, I love historical fiction because it gives us a glimpse of another time, how people thought, worked, lived, what they believed in and how that was different from today. I always hope my readers learn something new and fascinating about that era through my stories. Secondly, creating that historical world in a convincing way is quite challenging and requires a lot of research. I enjoy that aspect of digging through old material to bring my protagonists to life. The best praise I get is when readers say ‘they were right there.’
Which other genre would you chose if you had to change?
I might try my hand on an early reader children’s story. I envision gnomes and animals and fantastical elements. Maybe I’ll look into it when I get tired of writing novel-length stories.
Quick fire questions …
Twitter or Facebook? Facebook
Tea or coffee? Love both!
Marmite – yes or no? No
Marvel or DC? Marvel
Early riser or sleep in? Sleep in
Pj’s or ‘normal’ clothes when writing? Normal but comfortable
Planner or pantster? Definitely Pantser
Book or kindle? Both – Books at home, Kindle while traveling
Pineapple on pizza – yes or no? Yes
And finally, … What is your favourite book of all time?
I already mentioned J.R.R. Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings is my favourite though there are many close seconds.
Thank you for joining me today and many congratulations again on your Chill with A Book Award!
Thank you for having me, Emma.
You can keep up with all of Annette’s news by following her on the following social media sites:
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Annette-Oppenlander/e/B00W8QRTJ4/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1513152250&sr=8-1
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Annette-Oppenlander/e/B00W8QRTJ4/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1513152291&sr=8-1
Here’s the blurb of her Chill With A Book Award winning book, Surviving the Fatherland: A True Coming-of-age Love Story …
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.