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Author Interview: Annette Oppenlander

As a historical novelist, Annette Oppenlander loves weaving people, settings and interesting past events into a rich and adventurous tapestry. When she isn’t in front of her computer, she shares her knowledge through writing workshops and indulges her old mutt, Mocha. In her spare time she travels around the U.S. and Europe to discover amazing histories. The mother of three ‘former’ teens, Annette lives with her husband in Bloomington, Ind.

  • : 'Surviving the Fatherland' took me 15 years to write. Growing up I always felt there were a lot of stories hidden in my family. I’d hear bits and pieces, quick references or watch my parents nod at each other in silent understanding. As my interest in history grew, my curiosity grew with it. So in 2002 I asked my parents to share their stories. I spent several weeks visiting them in Germany and recording their memories. I remember one afternoon we were in the basement while my mother ironed. I’d ask questions and she’d tell me about the way her mother treated her. I still have those tapes though it’s hard for me to hear my mother’s voice. She passed away in 2004. My mother always insisted that my father was the better storyteller. And while I agree that his activities were quite adventurous, my mother’s quieter side offered a lot of depth. And so I think the two characters balance each other out nicely. Initially, I had planned to write short stories so my children could remember their grandparents. But then I realized there were few if any stories about Germany’s war children and the civilian side of WWII. Of course, we have excellent and moving stories about the Holocaust and the soldier’s war. There is no shortage of battle scenes. Yet, many battles were fought at home. They weren’t drawing as much attention, but they were just as heroic. I wanted to add complexity to the stereotypical portrayal of Germany in the Third Reich.
  • : I have a couple of manuscripts in the works. One is set during the American Civil War and tells the story of a farm boy and his best friend, a slave. Best friends, they get torn apart by a horrible accident and must each find their way through the war and eventually back to together. The second manuscript is set during prohibition and has a female protagonist, Sam, short for Samantha. She is your regular tomboy and lives in a tenement in Cincinnati with her mother. I've got about 20% of the first draft done. So it's going to be a while.
  • : Of course, I read a lot and widely. I also love walking my dog, hanging out with friends and my husband, by best friend of 30 years. I enjoy traveling to various places in Europe and around the U.S. because I always find new interesting historical tidbits that could potentially turn into a story.
  • : I typically write in the mornings at my desk in my office. No music, no distractions. In the afternoons I edit and do marketing.
  • : I'd say don't skimp on the cover and get a professional designer. Nothing is worse than a 'homemade' cover. It'll turn readers off.
  • : I'm a pantser. I typically have an idea who my protagonist is. In fact, I do a detailed bio on him or her and try to get to know him/her well before I start. S/he always surprises me along the way, though. I also know the setting. As a historical novelist I study the era in great detail before setting out with the story. The story itself is written without outline and sort of flows wherever my brain takes it.
  • : I love the creative freedom, the way my characters come to live. I also enjoy how writing/creating makes me feel and when people tell me how much they enjoy my stories and that they were 'right there.'
  • : You can find me on all major retail sites and these websites: https://www.twitter/aoppenlander
  • : Thank you for reading my stories! I so appreciate it and hope I can enrich your life in some way.
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