First, a bit about the book:
Prisoner of Night and Fog #1.
To be published: April 22, 2014
by: Balzer + Bray.
In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her "uncle" Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf's, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.
Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler.
And Gretchen follows his every command.
Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can't stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can't help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she's been taught to believe about Jews.
As Gretchen investigates the very people she's always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?
From debut author Anne Blankman comes this harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she's ever believed . . . and to trust her own heart instead.
J: Welcome, Anne! To start us off, if you were to describe PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG as a mash-up of any two things, what would they be?
A: Can I name three? :) PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG doesn't fit neatly into one genre--that is, it isn't only a mystery or only a coming-of-age story. The best description is probably romantic historical thriller.
J: Come on, how irresistible does that sound? I love it already! What draws you to historical fiction from a writing perspective? Do you see yourself writing more of it in the future?
A: I want to sweep my readers into a world that's completely new to them. Sure, fantasy novels are a great way to take readers on foreign experiences, but for me, there's nothing more alluring than discovering an era that's real but feels strange and distant because so many years have passed. Plus, I like the challenge. You can't dress your characters in the appropriate clothes, drop them into another time, and expect them to act like modern people. You need to understand the mindsets of those who lived during your book's setting. What did they believe? What were they afraid of? What did they cherish? Why?
And, yes, I definitely see myself writing more historical fiction--and not just because I have two more on contract, one being the forthcoming sequel to PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG! I want to write other genres, too, but right now, nothing gets me more inspired than reading about other time periods.
J: I'm so, so glad to hear you say that! It's my favourite genre and I always love finding more! How much research did you have to do for the novel?
A: The research for this book was intense. I felt a tremendous responsibility to portray Hitler accurately, not just because he was a real person, but out of respect for his millions of victims. I read everything I could find: biographies, memoirs, social histories, psychological profiles, essays, textbooks, you name it. I studied Hitler's autobiography, Mein Kampf, and his early speeches. I had to be careful not to look too much at his later speeches because he changed quite a bit during the final years of his life, and I wanted to present him as he was in 1931, when he was still an emerging politician and had a tight grip on his self-control.
Primary sources, such as maps and photographs, helped me envision the setting and trace my characters' routes throughout Munich. I watched lots of old videos, too, including the Nazi propaganda film "Triumph of the Will." I found a lot of footage of Hitler on YouTube, as well, and it was incredibly helpful to study the way he walked or used his hands during speeches.
J: If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
A: Oooo, what a fun question! I'd want my main character, Gretchen, to meet Mattie, the protagonist in Jennifer Donnelly's A NORTHERN LIGHT. They're both smart, sensitive girls from rough backgrounds, struggling to figure out what they believe and what kind of lives they want. I think Gretchen would find it comforting to meet someone experiencing similar feelings.
J: Was there a specific book that inspired you to start writing?
A: I've been fascinated by World War Two, and I wrote my honors thesis in college on Hitler, so over the years I've read lots of books on this era. But the one book I couldn't get out of my head was Hitler & Geli by Ronald Hayman. It's about Hitler's beloved half-niece. After I finished it, I couldn't stop thinking about her and what it must have been like to have grown up adored by the man whose name has become synonymous with evil. Wondering about her, and if it would have been possible to break free if you'd been raised on Nazi propaganda, led me to create my main character and the horrifying secret she uncovers.
J: I will definitely have to get my hands on that one. That's completely a story waiting to be told. I'm so glad you're telling it! Can you share a favourite quote from PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG?
A: I can't share my favorite without giving away a major plot spoiler! So I'll share my second favorite, which occurs when Gretchen and Daniel, the off-limits mysterious Jewish reporter, have their first kiss:
“...Then he cradled her face gently, touching her so tenderly she could scarcely breathe, and brought his face to hers until their lips met in a kiss that burned her mouth.”
J: Oooooh what a tease! I want more of them for sure! Can you share a secret about PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG?
A: I have to be careful how I answer this so I don't give away any surprises--and PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG has lots of twists! What I can tell you is this: Pay close attention to everything Hitler says to Gretchen. His advice becomes vitally important in the forthcoming sequel (which comes out in April, 2015 from Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins).
Thanks so much for having me on the blog, Jess!
J: Thank you, Anne! It's plain to see that I am impatiently anticipating Prisoner of Night and Fog and hopefully others are too, especially after hearing your fantastic answers!
About the author:
Anne Blankman may have been meant to be a writer because her parents named her for Anne of Green Gables. She grew up in an old house with gables (gray, unfortunately) in upstate New York. When she wasn't writing or reading, she was rowing on the crew team, taking ballet lessons, fencing and swimming. She graduated from Union College with degrees in English and history, which comes in handy when she writes historical fiction.
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