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: time-travel

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


Castle – Burg Hanstein Revisited

brochure about reading from surviving the fatherland bookReading/presentation of ‘Surviving the Fatherland‘ at VHS Solingen on April 19, 2018 at 19:00. The story is based on my parents growing up during WWII in Solingen. I’ll be sharing selected passages from the book that relate to certain occurrences in the war in general and in Solingen in particular.

Please stay tuned for future readings as well as the German version of ‘Surviving the Fatherland.’

What: Reading/Presentation Surviving the Fatherland

When: April 19, 2018 at 7 pm

Where: VHS Solingen, Mummstr., Forum



medieval restaurant

Klausenhof Inn in Winter Sleep

When I visited Burg Hanstein the first time in 2012, I was so awed that it inspired me to write the time travel trilogy, Escape from the Past.

Last month we were nearby visiting friends and the former East-West German border and I had to make another stop. It was an icy and windy day with snowflakes drifting between the old stones. Living here in medieval times must have been so cold. And dark. But oh, it makes for a great story. Unfortunately, the Klausenhof Inn which plays an important role in the novels, was closed for winter break.

medieval castle ruins

Still Fused to the Rock: Wintry Castle Hanstein

The Hanstein descendants have been repairing parts of the outer wall of the keep and tower. It must cost a fortune to rebuild the 6 to 8-foot deep walls in reddish sandstone. By the way, I found another cellar off the large hall on the right where a few torture instruments, including a rack have been set up. I don’t believe Hanstein ever had a torture chamber, but it was a nice touch. Within the large hall on the main floor—from here you can access the only intact tower, courtesy of the East-German government—the history of Hanstein is presented along one wall.

medieval ruins

Kitchen at Castle Hanstein

Not much is told about the time, my nerdy protagonist, Max, arrives here in 1471. But Knight Werner is mentioned upstairs in one of the reconstructed rooms off the tower. That’s where I first read about him feuding with Duke Schwarzburg over a beautiful woman. In my story, that is Lady Clara.

If you love time-travel and the Middle Ages, check out the Escape from the Past trilogy. You won’t regret it. For me I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of visiting Hanstein.

medieval ruins

Pathway to the Inner Bailey