Today I have another interview with the amazing author of Prisoner of Night and Fog, Anne Blankman. I absolutely loved reading Prisoner of Night and Fog. It’s one of the most well researched historical fiction books I’ve ever read and the depth of detail in this book completely transported me into the world. It’s also told from a really unique perspective: Hitler’s niece. That’s right. Hitler’s niece. Of course it’s fiction, but it’s still incredibly interesting.
Now, Anne Blankman has released the sequel, A Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke. While I haven’t yet read it, I am so excited to do so as soon as I can get my hands on the book. Here’s the beautiful cover and blurb.
The girl known as Gretchen Whitestone has a secret: She used to be part of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle. More than a year after she made an enemy of her old family friend and fled Munich, she lives with a kindly English family, posing as an ordinary German immigrant, and is preparing to graduate from high school. Her love, Daniel Cohen, is a reporter in town. For the first time in her life, Gretchen is content.
But then, Daniel gets a telegram that sends him back to Germany, and Gretchen’s world turns upside-down. And when she receives word that Daniel is wanted for murder, she has to face the danger she thought she’d escaped-and return to her homeland.
Gretchen must do everything she can to avoid capture and recognition, even though saving Daniel will mean consorting with her former friends, the Nazi elite. And as they work to clear Daniel’s name, Gretchen and Daniel discover a deadly conspiracy stretching from the slums of Berlin to the Reichstag itself. Can they dig up the explosive truth and get out in time-or will Hitler discover them first?
Anne is such a nice author, and so encouraging to her readers. I love how she took time to give me some words of encouragement with my writing and blogging, and it shows that she really cares for her fans. Anyways, here’s the interview! Enjoy!
When did you become interested in writing historical fiction?
This is going to sound so goofy, but I think I initially fell in love with history because of the American Girl dolls! Do you know the ones I’m talking about? When I was a kid, I had Samantha, and I was crazy about her. I used to devour the books about her and the other American Girls, and discovered that I really enjoyed learning about time periods.
How do you think historical fiction (and particularly World War historical fiction) impacts readers?
Oooh, this is a great question! Part of the reason why I adore historical fiction is because I love learning about how people used to live—not just what they wore or what they ate, but their beliefs. What was important to them? We modern readers can learn so much about contemporary society by finding out where we come from.
As for WWII, I think that era will always resonate with us, regardless of how many years pass. It’s one of the few examples in modern history of absolute evil.
Gretchen lived in a completely different time period, but she is still relatable for modern readers. How do you craft characters whom modern readers can relate to?
First of all, thank you! I’m glad you connected with Gretchen.
It’s so tempting to dress characters in historically accurate clothes and drop them into another era, modern sensibilities and all. So I spend a lot of time thinking about what’s important to my protagonist. Is it figuring out where her next meal is coming from? Getting away from an oppressive father’s control? How do her needs and desires figure into her overall time period? The answers to those questions are my starting point.
Your sequel, Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke, is coming out soon. How is a sequel different from writing the first book and what was it like to write the second book even though the first had already come out?
Other writers had warned me that sequels are harder to write than the first book, and for me, that was definitely true! Every seed you planted in the first book you want to flower in the sequel and, if it’s the final book, you want to make sure that you leave your characters exactly where they need to be. Not to mention, now you have deadlines!
Because of the way multi-book deals are scheduled, I’d already written Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke by the time Prisoner of Night and Fog was released. By that point, I think I was just waiting on the copy edits!
What is your research process like? Have you visited any historical places or talked to any people concerning your research?
For me, research is intense. In college, I wrote my thesis on Hitler, so I started off with a broad foundation of knowledge, but I needed to learn a lot about his early life and his Munich years in particular. I read anything I can get my hands on—social histories, biographies, memoirs, psychological profiles, you name it. To prepare for Prisoner of Night and Fog, I watched old newsreels of Hitler and listened to his speeches, studying the way he walked and used his hands, the inflection of his voice.
Traveling for research is one of my favorite parts of writing historical fiction! Just this past summer I spent a few weeks in England, where is where my third book takes place. I used to live in northern England, and it was amazing to be back.
For all of my books, I’ve consulted with experts in their field. A couple were my college professors, but some of them were folks I emailed out of the blue. I’ve been overwhelmed by their willingness to answer my questions, direct me toward resources, and, in some cases, read my manuscript to verify its accuracy. All the experts I’ve dealt with are passionate about their work, and I feel fortunate that I got to pick their brains.
And finally, what is your favorite writing beverage: hot chocolate, coffee, or tea?
Unless it’s raining, I always drink water. On drizzly days, I might have a cup of tea. J
Thanks so much for having me, Ana, and best of luck for continued success with your blog!
Thank you for agreeing to this interview, Anne!
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.
Have you read Prisoner of Night and Fog or Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke yet? What’s the most detailed historical fiction book you’ve read? What book can you think of that has a really unique perspective?