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Why do you write in your genre? What draws you to it?
I write YA historical fiction. First of all you’ve got to love writing for teens and be able to get into their heads. Because of the history element research is a must. I have always enjoyed researching, but didn’t discover my love of history until a fateful interview I did with my parents. In 2002 I asked them about their experiences as children in WW2. What they told me changed my life and my outlook on history. I was hooked.
In high school I thought history was the most boring subject. We had to study endless battles and years of political treaties. Who cares? I think the only way to bring history alive is to dig deep into detail and make the characters come alive with emotion and adventure wrapped into a solid story.
What research is required?
For “Escape from the Past: The Duke’s Wrath” I had to learn all I could about living in medieval times as well as everything about Castle Hanstein, Lord Werner von Hanstein and the Duke von Schwarzburg. Luckily one of the Hanstein descendants had written a family history, a thick tome with a few pages about Werner, family trees and original notations from city annals.
Since peasants didn’t have any means to preserve their stories, I drew inspiration from the many descriptions of life in the Middle Ages. If you write stories based on history you’ve got to really like researching detail. What does a peasant eat, how does he live? What does his home look like? What does their world look like? So, while I do world-building in a sense, that world has to be based on facts or at least what we know about the past.
Name one thing you learned from your hero/heroine.
That would be Max ‘Nerds,’ a slightly hapless gamer who lives in a foreign country, whose parents are divorced and who isn’t quite sure where he belongs inside and out. Max lands in medieval Germany and is now faced with insurmountable problems. Yet, he rises above, his inner convictions leading him on the right path, albeit a few detours, while he makes some terrific friends.
I learned that if you set aside your fears and inhibitions you can go far. Max often harbors doubt, but in the end he overcomes his worries and fears to become a stronger person.
Do you have any odd or interesting writing quirks, habits or superstitions?
I wish I could say I write in the shower or use an old-fashioned typewriter. The only strange thing I sometimes do when looking for a particular word or phrase is that it comes to me in German – the language I spoke for the first 27 years – and I look up the translation in English. I sort of draw from two vocabularies and actually think this enriches my writing.
Are you a plotter or pantser?
I’m a pantser so I don’t outline. I have a general idea about my main character(s) and a broad idea of a plot. That’s it. I do, however, develop a detailed bio with external and internal characteristics for all main characters. I love this sense of freedom because my stories often develop in directions I haven’t foreseen. New people emerge, new situations develop. I feel outlining would restrict me.
Look to your right – what’s sitting there?
Well, I’m sitting on my couch in the living room and to my right is the window. Outside I see my front yard with a couple of bare trees, forgotten brown leaves quivering in the wind. The house roofs of my neighbors across the street are coated white which tells me that we had frost. It’s quiet this early on Sunday morning as a weak sun attempts to brighten the street. I’m happy to be inside, warm and snug under a wool blanket.
Anything new coming up from you? What?
I just finished the third book in the Escape from the Past trilogy, called Escape from the Past: At Witches’ End. I’m expecting a release date in the fall of 2016. Next week I’m starting a new project about a couple of teens growing up during WW2 in Germany. This story is based on true events so I’ll continue to do research along the way.
On the trivial but still important side I’ve just moved into my new home office. Well, it’s a former bedroom with lots of bookshelves, a desk and plenty of calendars. I do have a roommate, though, my mutt, Mocha, who insisted on having her bed in there.
Do you have a question for our readers?
I’d love to know what readers love about reading YA and/or historical fiction. I’m also curious about how readers pick their books, i.e. via a friend’s recommendation, from the table in the bookstore, e-mails from online services, etc.
Thank you for having me!
Now Max is trapped in medieval Germany, unprepared and clueless. It is 1471 and he quickly learns that being an outcast may cost him his head. Especially after rescuing a beautiful peasant girl from a deadly infection and thus provoking sinister wannabe duke Ott. Overnight he is dragged into a hornet’s nest of feuding lords who will stop at nothing to bring down the conjuring stranger in their midst.
Enjoy an excerpt:
“Mutter, I brought someone.” Bero slumped on the bench, scanning the table. I stood unmoving. Two tallow lamps flickered in earthen pots, barely making a dent into the gloom. The thick mixture of smoke, dust and body odor was worse. Disgusted, I rubbed my nose. It didn’t do any good.
The left side of the ceiling hung so low that I easily touched it with my hand. The other half was hidden by dense smoke. A scrawny fire smoldered in a stone hearth along the back wall. In front of it stood a woman of indefinable age, stirring a cast-iron pot.
“You’re late,” she said without turning. “Next time we eat without you.”
“I told you she’s mad,” said the girl who’d been shelling beans earlier.
“Hush, Adela,” the mother shot back. I looked back and forth between them, struggling to follow the weird speech while identifying the smell emanating from the pot. Nothing came to mind. Despite the terrible stench in the house, my stomach gurgled in anticipation.
“Nay, I was late because of this lad,” Bero said. “He needs shelter for tonight.”
At last, the mother turned around. Even in the gloom I could tell that she was shocked, maybe scared, her eyes blackish pools in the haggard face. She carefully placed the ladle on a stone plate and stepped closer—her eyes now squinting, scrutinizing. I wanted to bolt. A disgusting odor enveloped me. While Bero smelled of earth and pigs, the woman reeked of sweat and something sour. I tried breathing shallow breaths, thinking I should just leave and sleep outside. But then I thought of the rustling in the woods, the evil riders wielding their swords— worse, how clueless I felt.
About the Author:
“Nearly every place holds some kind of secret, something that makes history come alive. When we scrutinize people and places closely, history is no longer a number, it turns into a story.”
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