Ruins of Castle Hanstein near Bornhagen, Germany

Visiting the ruins of Hanstein takes us back to medieval times - Castle Hanstein near Bornhagen, Germany in 2012 More »

Vietnam War protestors demonstrate - Wichita, KS, 1967.

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Solingen, Germany after the bombing, November 1944. - Stadtarchiv Solingen

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My grandmother Grete with her sisters in the early 1920s in Germany.

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B17 Bomber above German Airfield in WWII

U.S. Bomber flies above German airfield in WWII. More »

 

Category Archives: Middle Ages

After the “Lull”

escape from the past trilogy by annette oppenlanderSometimes after publishing a book, a certain inertia sets in, a kind of lull. Some authors don’t experience any pauses, others take months or even years until they return to writing. For me this ‘phase’ typically doesn’t last very long. Very soon, I’m antsy again and my brain searches for the next great story.

After publishing my seventh novel, and while I’m still researching my next project, I took advantage of the lull by deciding to repurchase the rights to my time-travel trilogy, Escape from the Past, from my U.K. publisher, Lodestone. Very soon I’ll share the new covers I’ve ordered. All three books will be republished as second editions.

Surviving the Fatherland Interview

Last month I had the honor of being interviewed about my award-winning true story, Surviving the Fatherland, on ManyBooks. Here is an excerpt from the interview:

a young couple standing in a field

Lilly and Günter, ca. 1949

What inspired you to write a coming-of-age love story set in WWII Germany?

Growing up, I always felt there were a lot of stories hidden in my family. I’d hear bits and pieces, brief references or watch my parents nod at each other in silent understanding. As my interest in history grew, my curiosity grew with it. So in 2002 I asked my parents to share their stories. I spent several weeks visiting them in Germany and recording their memories. I remember one afternoon we were in the basement while my mother ironed. I’d ask questions and she’d tell me about the way her mother treated her. I still have those tapes though it’s hard for me to hear my mother’s voice. She passed away in 2004.

My mother always insisted that my father was the better storyteller. And while I agree that his activities were quite adventurous, my mother’s quieter side offered a lot of depth. And so I think the two characters balance each other out nicely.

book cover of surviving the fatherland with awardsWe most often hear WWII stories from the allies’ side. Why did pick the “wrong side” of the war as the backdrop for your book?

Initially, I had planned to write short stories so my children could remember their grandparents. But then I realized there were few if any stories about Germany’s war children and the civilian side of WWII. Of course, we have excellent and moving stories about the Holocaust and the soldier’s war. There is no shortage of battle scenes. Yet, many battles were fought at home. They weren’t drawing as much attention, but they were just as heroic. I wanted to add complexity to the stereotypical portrayal of Germany during the Third Reich.

This photo shows my father, Guenter, around 1940.

Guenter ca. 1940

This book has received multiple awards. What has the experience been like?

Humbling. I’m super happy Surviving the Fatherland has been so well received. I just wish my mother could’ve been here to witness the wonderful response to her life story.

Read more on ManyBooks

 

Something New

audio book cover for civil war novel 'everything we lose'Recording of ‘Everything We Lose’ Audiobook Finished

Alan Taylor has completed narration of ‘Everything We Lose,’ my civil war adventure. Alan’s voice truly brings Adam’s and Tip’s adventurous plight to life and I can’t wait to share it with the world. Just a few more weeks until administration and distribution are complete. I’ll keep you posted and will soon share an exciting audio sample!

holsten gate in Lübeck

Holsten Gate, the only remaining city gate, completed in 1478

Visiting the Lübeck Dom

Lübeck, an ancient German trading town, located at the East Sea, is a beautiful place to visit. Its entire Altstadt (old city), an Unesco World Heritage site, is located on an island, surrounded by the river Trave and a canal. Many old buildings like the famous Holsten Gate still offer a medieval flavor of what life was like hundreds of years ago.

brick church in Lübeck

Lübeck Dom, started in 1173 by Henry the Lion

But that’s not why I visited. I actually went to the Lübeck Dom because it is said that Knight Werner von Hanstein, one of the heroes in the Escape from the Past trilogy is buried here. The Dom is giant and built entirely of red brick. Inside dozens of sarcophagi are part of the floor. I walked through the church searching for Knight Werner’s remains, but sadly was unable to because many of the stones have badly deteriorated. No wonder, if you imagine the number of people walking across them since the year 1485 (Werner von Hanstein’s burial year). I did track down the Dom’s administrator who is currently searching for a listing of all burial sites and promised to share his findings. I’m carrying his business card in a safe place.

First Draft of ‘The Italian’s Daughter’

I’m happy to report that a first draft of ‘The Italian’s Daughter’ will be completed very soon. However, a first draft is just the beginning of a lengthy process of rewriting. That is the price to pay when writing historical fiction. In order to bring a historical novel to life, in this case, the U.S. prohibition in the 1920s, every detail has to be researched. It is a slow process and to be honest, I sometimes wish I could enjoy writing a different and ‘faster’ genre. But then, I love immersing myself into a historic world, try to imagine what life was like. As always I’m interested in illuminating what it was like for the common folk because unlike the wealthy who had ways to maneuver the inhumane laws, average people were the ones suffering and dealing with a crazy world.