A handful of historical authors brave the wilds of unusual settings and times to create distinctive, exciting novels just outside of the mainstream. Join us as we chronicle the trials and rewards of our quest--from research and writing to publication and establishing lasting careers.
Author Interview & Book Giveaway: ROSE SEILER SCOTT on THREATEN TO UNDO US
This week, we're pleased to welcome our first guest in 2016, author ROSE SEILER SCOTTwith her latest release, THREATEN TO UNDOUS, set during the Nazi period in Europe. One lucky visitor will get a free copy of Threaten to Undo Us - this giveaway is restricted to North American residents only. Be sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's author interview for a chance to win. Winner(s) are contacted privately by email. Here's the blurb.
As Hitler’s Third Reich crumbles and Stalin’s army advances, German civilians in the Eastern territories are forced to flee for their lives.
Leaving her dying mother, Liesel and her four young children hope they can make it from their home in Poland across the Oder River to safety. But all that awaits them is terror and uncertainty in a brutal new regime that threatens to tear Liesel’s family apart. With her husband a prisoner of war in Russia and her children enslaved, Liesel’s desire for hearth and home is thwarted by opposing political forces, leaving her to wonder if they will ever be a family again.
Based on a true story, Threaten to Undo Us offers a unique perspective on the Second World War, exposing historical events that took place in its enormous shadow.
**Q & A with Rose Seiler Scott**
There are lots of books on World War Two. What makes Threaten to Undo Us different and unusual?
The shelves at the library are filled with stories and memoirs from the Second World War. Most focus on the Holocaust or stories of Allied soldiers. Few books in English are written from the perspective of German protagonists and even less have been written on one of the largest expulsions in history that took place after the Second World War.
Where did you get the idea?
War stories, such as the Diary of Anne Frank, The Hiding Place and Unbroken, have always captivated me with tales of people surviving under the most trying circumstances. Over the years, I heard a number of anecdotes from my Dad’s side of the family and realized the story they told was nothing short of incredible. No-one else seemed to be curating their experiences, so when the family gathered and started talking about those days, I grabbed a scrap of paper and took notes.
What were some of the challenges you faced in research and what did you discover?
It was confusing to piece together the family narrative, because it didn’t seem to fit history and the framework of World War Two as I understood it. My Dad’s family is German, but they lived in Poland. Most of them were children at the time, but one of the things they repeatedly said, was they were in concentration camps. I wondered why. They weren’t Jewish. Family friends mentioned similar trials, but initially I could find no mention in any historical sources about this. Eventually I was led to a few crucial books about what happened after the war in communist Poland and East Germany. One of these books, John Sacks, An Eye for an Eye was all but blacklisted for the shocking expose’ that it was.
The rise of internet sources has been a boon for research and allowed me to find similar accounts and brief mentions of “labour” camps after the war. The history in a nutshell is this: Before the war, culturally German people lived all over Europe; in Poland, Ukraine, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic), Hungary, Romania, etc. In the final days of the war, as Russian forces moved west into German occupied territory, Hitler took a defiant last stand which prevented the German army from retreating in enough time to get their civilians out in a safe, organized manner. Women, children and the elderly had to flee for their lives and many didn’t make it to safety. In the worst cases, there were massacres of ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia and East Prussia. Those who survived and returned to their homes, were soon forced out and many were taken for interrogation and imprisonment in former concentration and prisoner of war camps, even if they had nothing to do with Nazi atrocities.
As a response to the devastation in Europe and as retribution to the Germans for their part in the war, Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt determined at the conferences of Yalta and Potsdam to “repatriate” all Germans to Germany, even if they had never lived there. Given the mess Germany was in, it was ill-prepared to receive large numbers of refugees. As the communists took power, it became an opportunity for revenge, terror and slave labour in several East European countries.
A few years ago, I had reached a point in the writing the book where I felt it was necessary to go to Poland and Germany in order to write knowledgeably. I made the trip with my parents in 2009. Even though so much has changed since the war, I felt it really helped to actually be there. Certain scenes would not have come to life in the same way had I not gone.
How long did it take to write the book?
12 years, give or take. I was raising a family, volunteering at my children’s school and regularly suffering with migraine headaches. I was frustrated by the lack of information, set it aside for a while a few times.
How much of the story actually happened and how much is fiction?
Though the book is based on the true story, the decision to go with fiction made it more representative of a whole group of people and created an even more compelling narrative. Events have been imagined, re-imagined and embellished, but for the most part the plot is what really happened. I won’t say too much more, but the more unbelievable an event in the book sounds, the more likely it is to be true! Truth really is stranger than fiction, but fiction plays a role in telling the truth.
Sounds like a really heavy read. Is it a depressing book?
Yes and no. Yes. The book is about a family’s struggles under two totalitarian regimes. Bad things happen. Grown men have told me they were moved to tears.
No. I prefer avoiding graphic depictions of evil, violence and bad language. I also believe there is hope, even in the darkest of times and faith is organically woven as a theme into the story in a way that I think appeals to a broad audience.
What are you working on now?
I was seriously considering a story based on my English grandmother who also had a very interesting life, but people are asking for a sequel to Threaten to Undo Us. Hopefully it won’t take me 12 years this time!