In 2002 I interviewed my parents about their experiences during WWII. Theyâ€™d been kids, then youths in the post-war era, had met and fallen in love. But thatâ€™s not what I want to talk about here, I want to tell you about the first time I realized I loved writing.
After that three-week task of recordings, I went back to the U.S., and little by little wrote down my parentsâ€™ memories in longhand. I decided to make a little story out of the horse slaughter, my father had suffered through with his friend, Helmut, as a fifteen-year old. It was a Saturday morning and I was typing on a laptop, finishing the draft, when I took a break. In that moment I noticed how good it felt to write and express myself or rather express what I imagined my characters doing and feeling. This mustâ€™ve been sometime in 2004 or 2005. Little by little I added to the stories, studied books about writing, attended classes and conferences.
A First Manuscript
In 2009, I finished the first manuscript of that WWII story, which would later become “Surviving the Fatherland.” But I was nowhere near ready. Of course, I didnâ€™t know it. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. In few industries does it become as obvious as in publishing. With self-publishing there are no longer barriers, just little hurdles of formatting and understanding software. Having mastered that, it takes just minutes and not a cent to publish a book. Any book.
Quality Historical Fiction Takes Time
But that was never my goal. I always wanted to create quality stories. And to do that meant to â€˜pay my duesâ€™ and spent an easy 10,000 hours and hundreds of thousands of pagesâ€”in actuality a lot moreâ€”writing fiction. Which meant many drafts, craft studies, book research, workshops, conferences, pitching, and my wonderful writing groups. It also meant paying professional editors and cover designers.
As Artists we create art because we must – not because we get rich or famous.
Bottom line is that despite the publication of ten plus books with the exception of the year 2017 I earn very littleâ€”certainly not enough to make a living. In the end it doesnâ€™t matter. Nothing is more fulfilling than to complete another great novel or to hear from my readers how my book, my story has made a difference. Thatâ€™s what counts, my friends.
And so I continue researching and writing. For my English language readers I have not yet decided which story to pursue. In the running are
- the post-WWII biographical novel of my grandfather Willi who spent eight plus years in a Russian gulag
- the true story about a nun who single-handedly kept the French Army from destroying her beloved cloister (Kloster SÃ¤ben in Northern Italy)
- and one or two ideas too fresh to share
For German Readers
My second WWII story, “When They Made Us Leave,” will be published in German in April 2020. “Erzwungene Wege: Historischer Roman” tells the complicated love story of two teens who are send to separate youth camps (Kinderlandverschickung) and must overcome horrendous obstacles to find each other again. This story is based on dozens of eyewitness accounts of participants. The German version ebook can be preordered now.