Sunday, August 30, 2015

Aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina: Aftermath Lounge

Blurb:

 AFTERMATH LOUNGE is a compelling tribute to the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Resurrecting the place and its people alongside their heartaches and triumphs, Margaret McMullan creates a riveting mosaic that feeds our wish to understand what it means to be alive in this day and age.



Review:

The devastation and heartbreak caused by Hurricane Katrina are in the past, but the people affected by the tragic events are still living with the aftermath. The Zimmer's house was gutted by the storm. They were forced to move in with their daughter and her son, Teddy, in Chicago. The hurricane changed their lives, but being forced to live together changed them even more.

The Zimmers are only one of the families whose stories are told in this collection of short stories. However, their's is the thread that holds the collection together. It's a story of bravery, and growing, and giving in. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting this family.

The collection of stories captures the triumphs and tragedies that resulted from this terrible event. The author does an excellent job of making the people come alive. Although I'm not familiar with the Gulf Coast. I felt that I came to know the area and the people.

I usually prefer novels to short stories, but the combination of short stories with a continuing set of characters made the book very satisfying. I think the vignettes showing how lives were affected at various positions on the socio-economic spectrum was a very effective way to bring the story of what happened to people after Katrina to life.

I highly recommend this book. If you're a survivor of the hurricane, it's a must read. If you love well done glimpses of people's lives, you'll enjoy this book.

I reviewed this book for PR by the Book.


Author Q & A:



  1.Aftermath Lounge honors the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Can you tell us about your experience during those days when the storm hit?

Shortly after the storm hit, my husband and I drove down from Evansville, Indiana to Pass Christian, Mississippi. We saw aerial footage of the town and we could see that the roof on my parents’ house was mostly intact – that’s all we could see. We brought water and a lot of supplies to donate. There was a gas shortage then, and limited cell phone coverage. The closer we came to the town, the more it became like a war zone. The National Guard was there to keep people away, but we got through, thanks to a relative.

The night before we left, my mother told us to forget about everything else -- all she really wanted was the painting of her mother, which had been smuggled out of Vienna during WWII. We had house keys but there were no doors. When we got there, the house was gutted – the storm surge had essentially ripped through the house.

We put on rubber gloves and spent the day sifting through the debris, dragging out any salvageable pieces of furniture. The water had shoved through the closed shutters, plowed up under the foundation and tore open the back walls, bashing around the furniture, sinks, toilets, stoves, washers, driers.

We never did find the painting.

Elizabeth Bishop wrote a wonderful villanelle called “One Art.” She wrote about losing small items like keys and an hour badly spent, then she progresses to the greater losses -- her mother’s watch, a house, cities, rivers, a continent, and finally, a loved one. “The art of losing isn’t hard to master,” she starts. “So many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster.” I thought of that poem a lot.

2.Your family played a key role, helping Pass Christian rebuild. What were a few moments that influenced you during that time?

We saw so many people from all walks of life and they were suddenly homeless. My father organized financial donations. There were no fire trucks left after the storm, so he made sure Pass Christian got a fire truck. We were always big supporters of the library too. The Pass Christian Policemen had stayed during the storm to make sure everyone was safe. They had tried to stay safe in the library, but then when the water rose, they had to shoot out the windows to swim away to safety. I used that information in the title story of Aftermath Lounge. These men were real heroes.   


3.Did you know from the moment the storm hit that someday you would write a novel about it? Or did a later experience give you the idea? If so, what was it?

At first I just witnessed. I think that’s what writers do mostly. We witness. Then the material lets us know what it wants to become. I just took notes. Later stories started taking shape and they were all in different voices. It was the only way I could work at this material.

4.Part of your inspiration for the novel came from your family's beautiful mansion. How did your own experiences in that house shape each of the stories you wrote?

Well, it’s hardly a mansion, but I was surprised to discover just how much a house could mean. Everyone always says it’s just stuff, but there were so many collective memories there. When we stood and looked at everything so undone, it felt like our times spent there were gone too.

Katrina had such a huge impact on the coast, on my family, and on me. I am always telling my students to write what they most care about, to write what keeps them up at night. I had to write about Katrina. I had written about the Civil War, Reconstruction and WWII, so I saw Katrina as an historical event. I treated the hurricane more as setting. It’s in the background. The human drama is in the forefront. I’m always interested in what people do or don't do in the face of real catastrophe. I didn’t want to write from one point of view either. I wanted to give voice to a variety of people because Katrina affected everyone.


5.What was your writing process like for this novel? Did you know from the start it would be a novel in stories? Or did that become apparent only after you began writing?

There were so many news stories coming out at the time. I write nonfiction, but I couldn’t get my thoughts together. I couldn’t make sense of anything. Out of habit, I took a lot of notes. I could only deal with writing about all that was happening a little bit at a time. And my own personal story just wasn’t that interesting.

I personally witnessed and experienced the best in human nature. People and communities came together and helped one another in the most meaningful way. They endured with a great deal of kindness and grace. So I chipped away at the material. I wanted to tell a community’s story. 



About the Author:

Margaret McMullan is the author of seven award-winning novels including In My Mother's House, Aftermath Lounge, Sources of Light, When I Crossed No-Bob, and How I Found the Strong. She also edited the popular anthology Every Father's Daughter. Margaret writes for both adults and young adults, and she is especially interested in how historical events affect ordinary people. Her work has appeared in the The Huffington Post, the Chicago Tribune, Glamour, The Millions, Southern Accents, TriQuarterly, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Greensboro Review, Mississippi Magazine, Other Voices, Boulevard, Ploughshares, Teachers & Writers Magazine, and The Sun among others. 


Media Contact: Stephanie Ridge, stephanie@prbythebook.com

  

Thursday, August 27, 2015

MeetTracy Lawson and her Dystopian Novels

Review:

In Book 1 of the Resistance Trilogy, Tommy and Careen, college students, meet when a drug to help protect the population from terrorism is passed out. The drug is not what it seems and Tommy and Careen band together to fight the web of lies that is causing the population to become unable to do anything but what the government decrees.

In Book 2, Resist, Tommy and Careen are on the run. They've joined the resistance. Their goal is to rescue a group of dissenters that includes Tommy's parents. As they pursue this goal, they meet other people who think as they do and some who are deceptive. Their relationship is tested when they find they can't agree about everything, but they continue to work through their issues and help the other freedom fighters.

This is a fast paced dystopian thriller. The action begins in the first chapter and continues at a relentless pace throughout the book. Although Tommy and Careen are the main characters, other characters, including those behind the evil, have chapters written in their point of view. This provides a vehicle for giving information about what is happening in the enemy camp, things Tommy and Careen can't know.

I enjoyed the book. The characters are likable and the plot has numerous twists. If you enjoy dystopian novels, you may find this trilogy appealing.


I reviewed this book for PR by the Book. 


Author Q&A:

What was the inspiration behind The Resistance Series?

I was mentoring a friend of my daughter’s when the initial idea for Counteract came about. Chase is a pretty sharp guy and an excellent writer—and when he was in high school I had a lot of fun working with him and editing some of his short stories. We had finished working on a story about baseball, a broken nose, and a broken heart, and were ready to start something new, when he suggested we write scenes in response to the prompt: “What if everyone were on LSD and all thoughts were communal?” It was certainly thought provoking! Chase created the characters Tommy and Eduardo, I created Careen, and right away, we knew we were onto something. Obviously, the story morphed and changed a lot before it became the finished version of Counteract—but that was how it all began.


Did you always plan to write another book in the series?

I let my husband read the first draft of Counteract when I was about a third of the way through the original outline. He was enthusiastic and supportive and suggested developing a story line that could be carried forward if I chose to make Counteract the first in a series.

I liked the idea of doing more than one book about Tommy and Careen, and as I wrote the rest of the first draft, I pinpointed elements of the story I’d need to develop and expand to pave the way for a series.


 How do the characters of Tommy and Careen develop in Resist?
Tommy and Careen are law-abiding citizens until they accidentally discover that the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense lied about the terrorist attack and why it mandated the use of the Counteractive System of Defense drug. They go from being accepting and compliant to impulsively joining a rebel group that’s working to overthrow the oppressive government agency, without having a chance to think about what they’re doing and why.
They’ve only known each other for a week, and their relationship has progressed far too quickly—they became a team, then a couple, without really getting to know each other, and soon they realize they don’t have much in common.
Tommy’s all for the physical aspects of revolution, and is eager to learn about guns and explosives. Careen finds kindred spirits among the older leaders of the group, who are committed to sway the public’s allegiance away from the OCSD by waging a war of information. Her pacifistic approach clashes with his need to prove himself on the field of battle, and further complicates their partnership.

 Where we can find your book and more information about you?
My books are available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle, and on Barnes & Noble’s online store. If you live near Columbus, Ohio, you can buy signed copies of my books at three independent stores: The Book Loft of German Village, Mary B’s, and Urban Emporium.

You can get the behind-the-scenes scoop on all things Resistance Series, see book trailers, and check out my blog at http://counteractbook.com. You can also find me on Twitter @TracySLawson and on Instagram as TracyLawsonAuthor.



About the Author:


Tracy Lawson is an Award-winning author of two nonfiction books, and The Resistance Series is her first in the world of young adult novels. Tracy lives in Dallas with her husband, daughter and three spoiled cats.


Media Contact: Alessandra Wike, alesandra@prbythe book. com 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Love Letter to Independent Booksellers Presented in a Mystery


Blurb:


Thomas Shawver, author of The Dirty Book Murder and Left Turn at Paradise, returns to the surprisingly lethal world of rare books with a third enthralling novel featuring a most unlikely hero -- antiquarian bookseller Michael Bevan.


 A furious man from nearby Independence, Kansas demands that Michael Bevan return a rare first edition of the Book of Mormon, claiming that it was mistakenly sold by a disgruntled descendant of A.J. Stout. Contained on the frontispiece are a list of Ford names dating from 1845 to the present. Beside each name, save the last two, is a check mark - but what could the checks signify? With this discovery, Michael Bevan stumbles onto a trail of hatred and murder stretching back to 1844.




Review:

A Mormon Vendetta, A Rare Mormon Book, and Murder

A murder in 1844 is the basis for a vendetta. The Mormon Prophet, Joseph Smith, and several of his followers died at the hands of a mob in Carthage, Illinois. Several of the men who escaped the massacre vowed to kill everyone involved down to the last living descendant. 

Michael Bevan, a rare books dealer, has never heard of the Mormon vendetta, but Natalie Phelan, his friend and director of the Celtic Heritage Center, has fallen in love with Emery, one of the descents of the original Mormon vigilantes. He claims to love her and wants to marry her, but they need money. He has an original copy of one of the early Mormon books, which he gives to Michael to authenticate. For Bevan this is an opportunity to get a book good enough to allow him entry to the AABA, Antiquarian Book Association of America, but nothing is simple. 

This is a fun mystery with an interesting plot that revolves around an historical incident. It's a quick read. The characters are interesting. Michael Bevan is a mix of scholarship and physical ability. The small town he lives in is like having a vacation from the real world. The other characters Natalie, and particularly, Michael's lover Josie, and sympathetic and well drawn. 

If you enjoy mysteries with little violence and an interesting historical plot, you may enjoy this book. 


Interview:

How did you Get the idea for your hero?

I decided to write about a trade I know with a protagonist who somewhat resembles me.  Then I made stuff up.

Josie Majansik plays a small role in the present book.  However, she and Michael Bevan have now married.  Do you see this changing the series?

Good question.  I’m going to give Michael and Josie a rest for the time being while I write a different series featuring a Frenchman who solves crimes in a Missouri river town.  With them married it does present challenges.  Obviously, Mike can’t get away from flirting (or whatever you want to call it) with other women.  But Josie is an independent gal who might just take off on her own someday.  We’ll see.

Would you like to share anything else about the series?

The series is really a love letter to the independent book trade that is rapidly disappearing, to my wonderful neighborhood, and to the customers from whom I mined so many characteristics for my stories—except for the evil parts.


Author Bio:

Thomas Shawver is a former marine officer, lawyer, and journalist with American City Business Journals. An avid rugby player and international traveler, Shawver owned Bloomsday Books, an antiquarian bookstore in Kansas Cit
Goodreads: Goodreads







Friday, July 3, 2015

Discover a Great Mystery -- Fixed in Blood




Blurb:

Seattle Chief of Detectives Mort Grant is still reeling from losing his daughter -- again. Now, Mort investigates the gruesome murder of a beautiful young woman whose death was captured in a snuff film. When a second victim--and film--are discovered, Mort knows he's not dealing with an ordinary criminal. Mort hunts a twisted menace from a chain of sleazy loan shops to the dark underworld of the sex trade. But he's not the only one. Once again, The Fixer is on the hunt--and she's desperate to make things right.








Review:

Lydia and Mort Team Up to Solve the Murders of Young Prostitutes
Lydia, alias the Fixer, and Mort. Seattle's chief of detectives, have been estranged since, Allie, Mort's wayward daughter, left Lydia's care to go away with Vadim Tokarev, a Russian drug lord. Mort is living on a houseboat and continuing his work as chief of detectives. Lydia is a practicing psychologist. She misses Mort's friendship and feels that she was unfairly accused of letting Allie escape. 

In Mort's latest case, a young woman's body is found, and it's evident that she was tortured before being killed. Then another young woman is found also tortured before being killed. Both are prostitutes and were involved with an unscrupulous loan shark who charged exorbitant interest rates designed to lead the women into prostitution. When Lydia's patient, another young woman, disappears, Mort and Lydia decide it's time to work together again. 

This is another fast paced Fixer novel. The characters of Mort and Lydia are more developed than in the previous books. He's devastated by his daughter's actions. Lydia is trying to leave behind her life as the Fixer. This book gives us insight into their struggles and their need for each other's friendship. 

The plot is fast moving and the author does a good job of misdirection. It's hard to tell until the very end who is responsible. Although the idea of young women being tortured and killed is horrendous, the violence is handled tastefully with a minimum of gory details. 

I recommend this book if you're a fan of the Fixer series, or if you enjoy a good mystery. 


Author Interview:

How did you decide on the character of Lydia?
I’ve long been interested in the word “justice”. Is there any such thing, really? Can a wrong truly be atoned? Let’s take even the smallest infraction. Let’s say we’re at a dinner party, chatting. You say something incredibly funny to me and in my laughter I lean forward and clumsily spill my red wine on your beautiful white wool skirt. A minor sin, to be sure. But what could truly serve as justice for my crime? I could apologize. But there’s still that matter of that ugly red blotch on that soft white fabric. I could pay for dry-cleaning. But you might always have the perception of the skirt being “less than” whenever you took it out to wear. Perhaps you’d always be looking for a faint hint of stain the cleaners missed. I could even buy you a new skirt. But it wouldn’t be the one you fell in love with at Nordstrom’s, would it? It could never be the skirt you bought after a long search with your best friend on that fun Saturday afternoon when you stopped for coffee at that cute little place on Elm Street and those two good-looking men in running gear flirted you both.
Could I ever really make you whole again?
Take that same concept and apply it to major crimes…especially murder. Is there any way a murder can be truly and wholly avenged? I mean, even if you kill a killer, the person the killer killed is still dead, right? Those are the kinds of musings that led me to create a series dealing with the notion of justice. And once I decided to write the series I, of course, needed a main character. The Writing 101 tattoo is write what you know. I know how to be a psychologist. Bingo, my main character became a psychologist. My profession has given me entry to the lives of many who have been battered, abused, and abandoned. Presto, my psychologist main character is a woman who continues to struggle with her own history of abuse and abandonment. I’ve long been interested in the notion of justice. Voila, justice becomes the driving force of my abused and suffering clinical psychologist.
I write what I know.
Now, lest you think I am secretly a vigilante assassin with hands so bloody a gallon of Clorox wouldn’t dent the stain, well…you’ll just have to take my word for it that writing what you know can turn the corner and become the foundation for writing what you make up.
The series seems to be progressing from the violence of the first book toa much more psychological approach. What do you envision for the restof the series?
Oh, there’s gonna be a whole lot of violence coming. The next book in
the series, Fixed In Fear, comes out in October, 2015 and opens with a mass murder that is, as they say, not for the faint of heart. But you’re right, as the characters develop, we do get more of an insight into their motivations and musings. As relates to the rest of the series, I envision Lydia and Allie growing closer to an inevitable showdown. Will Mort have to choose between the two of them? And if so, where will his allegiance come down? Will he stand by his sociopathic daughter out of dedication to family? Or will he turn toward Lydia, the woman struggling so hard to live within the rules of society? As relates to Lydia’s destiny with the series, I see her continuing to wrestle the demons inside her. Most times she’ll be successful. But I’m sure there’ll be times when, despite how much she’s trying to keep her Fixer tendencies chained and bound, she’ll give in and apply her special brand of repair to those who have escaped justice.
We’ve still got plenty to learn about the other characters in the series as well. Will Jimmy ever be able to step away from the humor and cynical world-weary posture that has served to protect him from his grief? What’s with Micki? Why is a young, smart, successful, beautiful woman like her alone in life? And speaking of alone, what will happen as relates to Oliver Bane and Paul Bauer? What’s next for Larry?
There’s plenty of plot lines and character arcs knocking around in my head. I can’t wait to get them down in readable form…and I certainly can’t wait to hear what readers think.
Would you like to share anything else with my readers?
I’d like to share so much with them! Readers have made my long-standing dream of being a writer come true. I’d like to share more stories with them. And I’d like to hear theirs. I’d like to share how much I appreciate the support and kindness they’ve shown this series. And I’d like to give them more. I’d like to share a cup of coffee with them. Wouldn’t that be a hoot? To actually be able to have a leisurely conversation with someone I don’t know, but who has read my books? I’m sure most authors would love to stumble across someone reading their book, sit down next to them, and, without the reader knowing they’re speaking to the author, ask them what they think of what they’re reading. No filters. Just a straight-up, person-to-person report.
If any of your readers are interested in having a conversation with me, please contact me on Facebook (T.E.Woods) or on Twitter (@tewoodswrites) or on my website tewoodswrites.com. I’d love to hear from them.
Author Bio:
T.E. Woods is a clinical psychologist in
private practice in Madison, Wisconsin. Her scientific writings are well represented in peer-reviewed journals and academic texts. Her literary works earned her first place for Fiction at the University of Wisconsin Writers’ Institute. Dr. Woods enjoys kayaking, hiking, biking, and hanging around the house while her two dogs help her make sense of the world. Her habit of relaxing by conjuring up any manner of diabolical murder methods and plots often finds her friends urging her to take up knitting.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Special Bond Between Fathers and Daughters

What is it about the relationship between fathers and daughters that provokes so much exquisite tenderness, satisfying communion, longing for more, idealization from both ends, followed often if not inevitably by disappointment, hurt, and the need to understand and forgive, or to finger the guilt of not understanding and loving enough?” writes Phillip Lopate, in his introduction to Every Father's Daughter,a collection of 25 personal essays by women writers writing about their fathers. The editor, Margaret McMullan, is herself a distinguished novelist and educator. About half of these essays were written by invitation for this anthology; others were selected by Ms. McMullan and her associate, Philip Lopate, who provides an introduction. The contributors include many well-known writers—Alice Munro, Jayne Anne Phillips, Alexandra Styron, Ann Hood, Bobbie Ann Mason, Maxine Hong Kingston, among others—as well as writers less well-known but no less cogent, inventive, perceptive, lacerating, questioning, or loving of their fathers.

Review:

Fathers come in all types from successes to failures, from loving to abusive, and from companionable to distant. In Every Father's Daughter twenty-four women write about what their father meant to them. For me, the theme is expressed best by the author's introduction and the first essay in the book where Jane Smiley writes about her absent father. It shows the way two very different fathers were viewed by their daughters and how this view affected their lives.

The author had a very close relationship with her father even to taking care of him during the last days of his life. Smiley had a different experience. Her father disappeared from her life as a small child. He returned for only brief moments and that lack of a father is what she believes gave her the opportunity to grow into her own person.

The essays run from daughters growing up with famous fathers, like Lily Lopate with Alex Styron, to a father descending into alcoholism as described by Barbara Shoup. When most of these women were growing up, fathers were a glimpse of the world outside while many mothers stayed at home. This gave the fathers an exotic image, tall, handsome and charismatic.

This is a wonderful book for father's day, or any day when you think about your father. It made me laugh and cry, and most of all it reminded me about the things I loved about my own father.

I reviewed this book for PR by the Book.


Interview with the Author:



1.How did you decide which authors to reach out to for this collection?

In the last month of my father’s life, I read to him Alice Munro’s essay, “Working for a Living.” We had one of our last book discussions about that fox farm, the cold work, and the landscape of Canada. She was the first person I contacted. I wrote her a letter and a few months later she called and said yes, of course you can reprint my essay. I was just stunned. The other authors followed. I invited the authors my father loved or had met at some point in his life. He had dinner with Lee Smith once and she was so quick to respond. Lee led me to Jill McCorkle. I also included three former students. In the end, this collection of women writers became one big circle of friends.

2.How did your vision for this collection evolve from the start to end of this project?

At first I saw this as a collection of southern writers, men and women. But then I realized I just wanted to hear from women, daughters. I moved away from regionalizing it when I began thinking of my father’s literary tastes and what kind of man he was. He was southern but he was also very much shaped by Chicago and the Mid-West. Each time I read an essay, I would think, Would Dad like this?


3.What most surprised you about the creation of Every Father's Daughter?

I was surprised how difficult such a great collection was to get published. Jane Smiley had a Pulitzer, Maxine Hong Kingston won the National Book Award, and Alice Munro had just won a Nobel Prize. I felt this book was no-proof. Who wouldn’t want to read these writers on this particularly personal subject? And who wouldn’t want to read about fathers? I’ve always thought this collection was a sure thing, but it was much more difficult to find a publisher than I had imagined. Apparently, anthologies were no longer fashionable in the publishing industry. One editor, who declined the book, has since contacted me to tell me how she genuinely regrets not taking it.

In your introduction, you talk about how this book was a way for you to grieve. How did you come to realize this?

This particular work felt meaningful because all along I thought so much about my father. I started soon after my father died. The work – reaching out to other women, asking for their stories, and then reading them was therapeutic because it reminded me that there are other emotions besides grief. After a while, after I organized and put together the book, after I wrote my own essay, my grief transformed. It felt less like sadness and more like love.

I have encountered so many readers who have read the book and want to talk about an essay, and then, inevitably, these readers begin to tell me about their fathers. A conversation starts. This book has a power. We are remembering our fathers, and, in some cases, bringing them back to life.

4.Did you come to realize anything about your relationship with your father as you read through the essays in this collection?

I knew from the start that we were close, and that a good part of that closeness was how we stayed connected through literature. Now, I realize exactly how close we really were.



About the Author:


Margaret McMullan is the author of six award-winning novels including Aftermath Lounge, In My Mother’s House, Sources of Light, How I Found the Strong, and When I Crossed No-Bob. Her stories and essays have appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Ploughshares, Southern Accents, TriQuarterly, Michigan Quarterly Review, and The Sun, among several other journals and anthologies. She has received an NEA Fellowship in literature and a Fulbright award to teach at the University of Pécs in Pécs, Hungary. She currently holds the Melvin M. Peterson Endowed Chair in Literature and Writing at the University of Evansville in Evansville, Indiana.



Contact Information:  @margaretmcmulla @prbythebook 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Good Trend in Children's Books

I recently reviewed a book that I think is a good trend in picture books for children. Big Tractors is filled with information even adults will find useful, but the book doesn't talk down to children. The pictures are wonderful and most important it shows children what the big business of farming is like.


Review:

Farming is big business. Big tractors are required to do the planting and harvesting on large commercial farms. Big Tractors gives an overview of how these tractors look and what they do in language a child can understand.

The pictures are outstanding. They show off the tractors and implements to good advantage. In fact, the pictures are so good Daddy or Grandpa may be interested in looking through the book.

Another feature I liked is the timeline showing how tractors have changed to adapt to the new farming methods. I highly recommend this book if your child is interested in tractors. Even if you live on a small farm and your child is familiar with tractors, the pictures of monster tractors give another perspective on farming.

I reviewed this book for PR by the Book.
 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

et Barbara Stark-Nemon Author of Even in Darkness

About the Author:

Barbara Stark-Nemon (www.barbarastarknemon.com) grew up in Michigan, listening to her family’s stories of their former lives in Germany, which became the basis and inspiration for Even in Darkness, her first novel. Barbara holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Art History and a Masters in Speech-language Pathology from the University of Michigan. After a 30-year teaching and clinical career working with deaf and language-disabled children, Barbara became a full-time writer. She lives and works in Ann Arbor and Northport, Michigan.


Interview:

1. What inspired you to write Even in Darkness?
Even in Darkness is based on the life of my great aunt, who alone among her siblings did not
escape Germany during the Holocaust. Her story of survival—the courage and strength she had
to remake herself and her life in the face of unspeakable loss—has been an inspiration to me
throughout my adult life. Hers is a beautiful story and having come to know it in depth I wanted to
share it and create a legacy for her.


2. You researched the book thoroughly. Did you know from the beginning how extensive
your research would become?

Yes and no. I’ve known since one of the visits I made to my great aunt in Germany many years
ago, that I wanted to write her story, so I started interviewing her (she was already over 90 years
old) and the priest, who is the other main character in this story. I also interviewed my parents
and grandparents. I already knew a lot about my grandfather and great aunt’s family from Sunday
nights around the dinner table. Then my aunt died, and the priest sent me all her personal
papers, including over 50 letters that her son had written to her during and after the war from
Palestine, where he had been sent at the age of 12. Those letters deepened and changed what I
understood about all their lives in a way I couldn’t have predicted.


3. What was one of your favorite stories that your grandfather told you about his life in
Germany?

My favorite story is one that’s actually in Even in Darkness and describes how, when all hope
appeared to be lost for getting a visa to leave Germany, my grandfather chose to try one last time
at the bidding of my 12-year-old mother who pestered him that she wanted to go to the U.S. to
join her best friend who had already emigrated. My grandfather didn’t want to frighten my mother
by telling her that he’d tried repeatedly to see the American consul and been denied an
appointment. My mother begged him to go that day; it was her birthday. When he said he might
not be able to get in, she told him to tell the diplomat it was his daughter’s birthday. My
grandfather stayed all day in line at the consulate, and as he was about to be turned away yet
again, he pleaded that it was his daughter’s birthday and he just felt it was a lucky day. The
official let him in, and an hour later he had the necessary visa. That was in May of 1938, and they
were finally able to leave in October, just a few weeks before Kristallnacht.


4. Where did you begin your research and where did it lead you?

I traveled to Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic, and to Israel to trace all the histories and
see all the places I learned about in my grandfather’s stories and later, in the trove of personal
papers my great aunt left to me. I was able to interview even more people related to this story,
walk the streets, photograph the homes, take trains over the same routes to the concentration
camp, look out over the hills surrounding the kibbutz where all my characters lived out their lives.
In archives and museums I learned details of births, deaths, marriages, businesses, deportations,
displacements, escapes and emigrations. All this knowledge fed my imagination for the parts of
the story I didn’t and couldn’t know.


5. How did you feel reading letters written by your ancestors? What did you learn from these
letters?

This was one of the most thrilling and challenging aspects of writing Even in Darkness. To
translate these sixty-five-year-old letters and hear the voice of my mother’s cousin as a 19-yearold
pioneer in Palestine with his description of his escape from Germany and the early years of
his life half a world away was both fascinating and did more than anything else to make that time
and his character live for me. The exhaustion, desperation and heartache of his parents, having
just survived years of persecution under the Nazis, and then three years in a concentration camp
and displaced person camp, can be heard in his youthful assurances that one day it would be
safe for his mother to visit, brushing off the dangers he faced, and his exuberance for all that he
was training to accomplish on the kibbutz he and other young pioneers were starting.


6. What kinds of considerations were there in incorporating real letters into your novel?

The biggest challenge was to capture the voice, the history and the language of the letters and
still work within the story structure of the novel. It was the most poignant and concrete example of
the constant balance I had to maintain as I was writing Even in Darkness between what really
happened to the people on whom the book is based, and what worked for purposes of writing a
good novel.


7. What was the most surprising part about your research? Did you uncover any family
secrets?

There were some surprises. Through interviews with cousins in Europe I learned a different
perspective about other members of my grandfather’s family, whom I knew only though his
stories. I learned about my mother’s cousins who were hidden in a convent by nuns. I learned
about the personal decisions about faith and influence in the Catholic Church at that time that had
enormous impact on my family. I learned that another great aunt was a beautiful singer and
evaded arrest by singing for a German officer. And I learned that what people had to do to
maintain their safety and their sanity during the dangerous years of the 1930s in Germany
resulted in boundary crossing behaviors that were both courageous and painful.


Review:

Courage and Love in War-Torn Germany


In the days leading up to WWI, Klare, an eighteen-year-old German-Jewish girl, has a big decision to make. Jakob Kohler, a young Jewish attorney, wants to marry her before he goes off to fight. Klare likes him. He has good prospects, but she's unsure whether she loves him. In the pressure of a country going to war, Klare agrees to the wedding and soon finds herself a housewife and mother.

The novel follows Klare's story from her marriage before WWI through the horrors of WWII and beyond. The book is well researched and paints a realistic picture of the fate of German-Jews before, during and after the two world wars. The experiences of the author's family, which form the basis of the narrative, add realistic detail.

The book is worth reading to get the flavor of the life of an average person during the wars. However, the narrative moves very slowly. In some ways, Klare is a compelling character for the bravery with which she faces the privations and discrimination of war. However, she is a very average person. Circumstances drive her. She shows ingenuity in dealing with some of the worst problems of WWII, however, she does it in a quiet way. If you want excitement and fast-paced action, this is not a book you'll enjoy. If you're interested in life in Germany during and after the wars, the book is well done.


I reviewed this book for PR by the Book.


Press Contact:

Elena Meredith | PR by the Book