Nikki from Fiction Freak put together this little tour celebrating four of the YA Valentines with books debuting this spring! These authors include Kristi Helvig (Burn Out), Bethany Crandell (Summer on the Short Bus), and Amy Rolland (Of Breakable Things). I am honoured to host the fourth author on the tour, the wonderful Anne Blankman, whose debut Prisoner of Night and Fog came out late April (and which I absolutely loved -- my review)!
I had the pleasure of getting to ask each of the wonderful authors on the tour one question:
Which of your characters did you enjoy writing the most and why?
Amy Rolland: I enjoyed writing Jonas the most. Maybe because he is so totally flawed and selfish. Maybe because I understand him. We all want the best for ourselves, and we all chase after things we can’t have. He’s so mean, and it was fun to put myself inside of his head.
Anne Blankman: I actually try not to have favorite characters. It's so easy to fall too much in love with your characters, to the point where you're tempted not to let them make mistakes or have to sacrifice something important. I want to write about characters who aren't perfect and have to struggle because that's what is most interesting to me.
Bethany Crandell: Claire. It was very liberating to write such a simplistically honest character.
Since Anne is the author I'm hosting, I got to go a little more in depth for her stop on this fun tour, so she's here today to answer more questions. Welcome, Anne!
Jess: It's clear that you put a lot of research into this novel, especially into the people in Hitler's inner circle. What made you want to feature them so prominently in the story and how did you work to make them feel so true to life on paper?
Anne: I got the idea for PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG after I read Ronald Hayman's non-fiction book about Hitler's beloved half niece, Geli Raubal. Long after I'd finished it, I couldn't stop thinking about her. What must her life have been like, spending four years growing up within Hitler's inner circle? I was hooked. I knew I HAD to write a story about living among the Nazi elite--and if it would have been possible to break from it--but I needed the freedom of a fictional main character, so Gretchen Muller was born.
Then came the research. Months and months of research. I read everything I could get my hands on--memoirs, biographies, social histories, psychological profiles, you name it. I watched old Nazi propaganda films, like "Triumph of the Will," and read Hitler's autobiography, Mein Kampf.
J: Were there any elements of the book (scenes, characters, etc.) that you found especially difficult to write?
Writing Hitler's character was, hands down, the hardest part. I felt a huge responsibility to portray him as accurately as possible, not only because he was a real person, but out of respect for his millions of victims. It would have been easy to reduce him to a caricature--the ranting, red-faced, enraged dictator that we usually picture when we think of Hitler. The more I research I did, however, the more I realized that he was an incredibly complex person. There's no question that he was evil, but he was also charismatic and intelligent.
J: What drew you to making Eva Braun Gretchen's best friend? Will we see more of her in the next book?
A: Making Gretchen and Eva best friends felt like a natural decision to make. In 1931, they were both teenagers and they would have had a lot in common--they love books and movies, and they have career goals. Although Eva Braun is usually dismissed as an empty headed bimbo, she was actually quite clever and was fiercely loyal to her friends. In fact, I based Gretchen and Eva's friendship on Eva's relationship with her own real-life best friend, Herta Schneider.
Eva does appear in the sequel. I can't say more or I'll reveal some spoilers, but I can say this--Eva plays a small, but pivotal role. And she's undergone some major changes...
J: How did you come up with the idea to make Gretchen so drastically different from her brother?
A: Many readers might assume that Gretchen and Reinhard are meant to be reflections of Adolf Hitler and his own siblings. Although there are correlations between the Muller family dynamics and the Hitlers, that isn't the reason I originally decided to make my main character and her older brother so different from each other. My inspiration was personal.
I grew up a few blocks from the Unabomber's brother. My parents knew him and his wife slightly--my father even worked with her--and I've heard nothing but nice things about them. When the FBI arrested the Unabomber and it came out that our neighbor was his brother, we were in shock. For years afterward, I wondered how two men who'd grown up in the same family could turn out to be so completely different--and how big a role mental illness had played in Ted Kaczynski's murderous activities. When I started working on PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG, my childhood memories of my kindly neighbors came back to me, and I decided to use them as a starting point.
J: Did you read any fiction in preparation/research for writing PRISONER, or was it all non-fiction? If you did read some fiction works, which ones?
A: I deliberately didn't read any fiction at all. Part of me was afraid of being influenced by another writer's fictional portrayal of my characters. I stuck exclusively to non-fiction--some of the most helpful books I read were biographies of Hitler by Ian Kershaw, John Toland, Alan Bullock, and Joachim Fest. A series of interviews of high-ranking Nazis' children by the husband-and-son journalist team Stephen and Norbert Lebert was also illuminating.
Thank you, Anne, for stopping by and for your fantastic answers!
More about her book:
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.
Spring Fling Tour Schedule:
May 12--Stacee @ Adventures of a Book Junkie: Bethany Crandell
May 13--Jessica @ Read My Breath Away: Anne Blankman
May 14--Cheryl Rainfield @ Cheryl Rainfield: Kristi Helvig
May 15--Octavia @ Read. Sleep.Repeat.: Amy Rolland
Spring Fling Twitter Party Info from Nikki:
The twitter party will be held on May 15 with the hashtag #YASpringFling. 8:30 PM EST to 9:30 PM EST. There will be prizes donated by the spotlighted YA Valentines and the four Spring Formal authors will also be attending! We'll also be handing out virtual cookies, of course!
We hope you'll attend and have some fun with us!