Today, the Fearless Fifteeners are lucky enough to be hosting Anne Blankman, whose gorgeous and heartbreaking debut PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG is now out!
Here’s the official summary:
In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her “uncle” Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf’s, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.
Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler.
And Gretchen follows his every command.
Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can’t stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can’t help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she’s been taught to believe about Jews.
As Gretchen investigates the very people she’s always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?
PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG isn’t always an easy book to read. At times, it’s dark and terrifying, as any book about Nazi Germany should be. But it’s definitely worth reading, especially by people who loved CODE NAME VERITY and THE BOOK THIEF. Its a read-all-in-one-go, heart-in-your-throat, terrified-for-the-characters, unable-to-stop kind of book, and it’s worth every second.
RT: Where did the initial idea for Prisoner of Night and Fog come from?
AB: The idea came to me after I learned about Geli Raubal, Hitler’s beloved half niece who shared his luxurious Munich apartment. I couldn’t stop wondering what it must have been like to be a young girl growing up within the Nazi elite’s inner circle–and if it would have been possible to break free from it. Although Geli is a character in Prisoner of Night and Fog, I knew I needed the freedom of a fictional protagonist, so Gretchen Müller was born. Once I figured out how I could open Gretchen’s eyes to what was really happening all around her, I started writing.
RT: What influenced you while writing Prisoner of Night and Fog? Were
there any songs, books, movies, paintings, or anything like that that colored the story you were writing?
AB: I always have to listen to music when I write. Prisoner of Night and Fog has an official playlist and you can listen to it for free here: http://www.epicreads.com/blog/reading-playlist-prisoner-of-night-and-fog/
RT: In order to write Prisoner of Night and Fog, you had to get inside the head of a character who at least initially believes that Hitler is a good person. Can you tell us a bit about the experience of that?
AB: It was very hard! At first, I was scared to write from the perspective of someone who initially cares for Hitler–I was concerned that people would think I was a Nazi. But I knew that if I wanted readers to go on this journey with Gretchen, they needed to understand where she’s coming from.
In order to write the beginning, before Gretchen starts questioning her Nazi beliefs, I absolutely could not let myself think about the Holocaust. I tried to keep my mind rooted in the events of 1931, so that I was concentrating only on the things my characters know about.
RT: What was the most difficult part of writing the book?
AB: Figuring out how to portray Hitler, no question. The more I researched him, the more I realized that the man I thought of as Hitler–the hate-spewing, shouting politician–was only a part of a very complicated man. This will sound almost obscene, but Hitler could be very charming. He fancied himself a bit of a ladies’ man, and loved giving courtly, old-fashioned compliments to women. He was smart. He loved opera and dogs, and he was a crack shot. When he was a soldier during WWI, he took tremendous risks with his own safety to deliver messages.
The more I investigated, however, the more convinced I became that Hitler was deliberately evil–I say deliberately because I think he knew what he was doing was wrong and he chose to do it anyway. So what I tried to do was fit together the different pieces of this fragmented man into one cohesive, realistic whole.
RT: You did a lot of research on 1930s Germany for Prisoner of Night and Fog. Did you stumble across anything particularly interesting that didn’t make it into the book?
AB: Hitler loved Walt Disney cartoons. Absolutely loved them. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was one of his favorites. And he used to go around whistling “Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf?”, the tune from the Three Little Pigs cartoon. (Incidentally, he liked to call himself Herr Wolf!)
RT: Was there anything about the story that surprised you as you were writing it? Any unexpected plot-twists, characters who weren’t what you thought they were?
AB: I didn’t surprise myself while I was writing Prisoner, but I was shocked by some of the historical details I uncovered. It’s too spoilery to reveal the one that upset me the most, but I’ll give you a hint–it’s two words, the first beginning with a “C,” the second with a “G,” and it has to do with Gretchen’s brother Reinhard. If you’ve already read the book, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Most readers, when they get to that part, will probably think I made it up, but I promise it really existed.
RT: Can you give us a hint about what you’re working on next?
AB: I’m working on revisions for Prisoner of Night and Fog #2. I’m not allowed to say much yet, not even the title (which I love!), but I can tell you that Gretchen and Daniel are the main characters again. There’s even more danger, romance, and murder this time around.
In between edits, I’m drafting the third book on my contract. It’s a standalone YA romantic historical mystery and features a new cast of characters and setting. I’m ridiculously excited about it!
Thanks so much for having me, Rhiannon!
RT: Thanks so much for joining us, Anne, and congratulations on your amazing debut!
A native New Yorker, Anne Blankman now lives in southeastern Virginia where the hot summers haven’t killed her yet. For several years, she has worked as a youth services librarian. Prisoner of Night and Fog is her first novel.
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|Rhiannon Thomas grew up in the north of England, but moved to the US in 2007 to study English Literature at Princeton University. She now lives in York, England, where she is attempting to master the art of making her own bubble tea. When she isn’t lost in YA fantasy, she writes about feminism in the media at her blog, FeministFiction.com. Her debut novel, A WICKED THING, will be released from HarperTeen in Winter 2015.