Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Timely Tweak

Wow! How time flies! I realize that it has been quite some time since my last post. Just to fill you in, I was in Berlin recovering from arthroscopic hip surgery. All went well. My surgeon is a fabulous doc and amazing friend who considers food and wine therapy to be almost as important as physical therapy.

Me in the hospital in Berlin
with my wonderful friend and surgeon, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Noack.

Anyway, I didn't have a chance to write, but here I am, now and I want to share what happened just before I left for Europe. On the morning of my departure I took a last look at the cover of my upcoming book, The Last Daughter of Prussia. On a strong whim of intuition, I sent it off to the expert on Trakehners, Erhard Schulte, who is also the author of Trakehnens Pferde, Cadmos Verlag. For those of you who have been following this blog you know that Trakehners are beautiful horses whose lineage stems from East Prussia. Two of the main characters in my novel, Aztec and Shambhala, belong to that fantastic breed.

A stallion in Trakehnen.
Stallions there were treated like royalty,
housed in their own beautiful barns like the one in this photo. 

Stallions in the meadow
Taken from the book —
Von Memel bis Trakehnen, Rautenberg Verlag

Although the horse on the cover (see below) was striking, I knew in my heart it wasn't a Trakehner. This bothered me. After all, The Last Daughter of Prussia is about Trakehners and their struggle for survival as they flee over the ice in the last winter of WW2 with the avenging Soviet Army right behind them.

This was the first cover.
Though I think it is beautiful it was not accurate.
The horse is a coldblooded horse.
You can see that in the heavier tufted legs
and the head that is not as defined and elegant as
a Trakehner's head would be.

So... not to have a real Trakehner didn't feel right, especially as this book has been a labor of love and intense research. All through my writing of it I took pride in searching out details and references to historical information. I consulted with experts on subjects ranging from concentration camps, Romanies, fauna and flora, to seafaring barges and shipyards. I talked with people who were on the trek and women who were raped along the way. I even visited East Prussia (now Poland) twice, traveled to Guja to find my grandparent's estate and spent time in the Stutthof—that ghastly prison where so many innocent people were murdered. I walked the beach along the Nehrung where amber cobbles drift up like honey-colored stars and stuck my Bahamian toes in the freezing Baltic Sea, stopped to look across the Frisches Haff - the lagoon that was the only escape rouyte in winter, finally making my way to the Wolf's Lair—Hitler's hidden headquarters where von Stauffenberg almost managed to assassinate him. I went on these journeys for the sheer purpose of discovery.

Hitler's Wolf'sschanze where Claus von Stauffenberg
attempted to assassinate him.
Hitler had trees planted on the buildings to disguise them from the air.
It was a creepy place and so weird to think
that he had walked the very same paths we were on.
Photo (C) James Sarles

Stutthof Concentration camp in winter
(Photo-Property Stutthof Museum)
I wrote an article about visiting this place in Wild River  Review
It is a feeling that has never left me, one that haunts my memory and my heart.

The road along the Nehrung spit - the only way to Danzig.
Millions fled on this icy road in winter to try and get to the west.
Photo (C) James Sarles

Before reaching the road above, the weary refugees
 had to cross this lagoon—the Frisches Haff.
It was frozen but pitted with large craters
made by falling bombs, so many fell to their icy deaths
Photo (C) James Sarles
Me sticking my Bahamian toes into the icy Baltic Sea.
Photos (C) James Saarles

After all this, how could I not have an accurate cover? And time was running out. The book was almost going to press. Besides my publisher had already signed off on the design. Five minutes before I left for the airport Erhard Schulte wrote back. He too felt the cover needed a real Trakehner. Oh my God, now what? Where would I find the right image in high resolution? Would my publisher agree? All these thoughts raced through my head as I flew over the Atlantic. They were still with me the next day when the sleep inducing needle was placed in my vein and I was wheeled into the operating room. When I woke up, my husband was standing by my bedside. The first thing I said was, "Jamie, we have to find the right horse!"

That's what happens when you're consumed by a book you have written.

So, right there he pulled out his computer and sat on my hospital bed. Although I was half asleep, we scoured the internet. The creative muses must have been with us because in a short time we found the perfect horse! Thankfully my publisher Wild River Books was wonderful. They could have easily said, "It's too late, live with it!" But they didn't. They are just as dedicated to detail as I am and they honored my input, pulling it all together in that very last minute. I love them. I thank my lucky stars too, for Erhard Schulte, because he spoke the truth and when he saw the new image he immediately wrote to say, "Now that is a noble and sensitive warmblooded Trakehner. One that suits your book!"


And so here it is... the timely tweak.

The new cover of The Last Daughter of Prussia.
Can you see the difference in the  horse?
This one is so full of expression, grace and power.
I'm pleased.
The book will be sold in the Bahamas starting in December .
It will be in the USA in the Spring catalogue,
for sale then in bigger outlets.
Cover Design Tim Ogline

'Til next time,

—Marina Gottlieb Sarles

(c) All content and photos are the private property of the Gottlieb family, unless otherwise stated or linked,  and may not be used without permission.
(c) Privatbesitz Gottlieb Familie

1 comment:

  1. Liebe Marina,

    ich höre zwar niemals etwas von Dir aber dennoch wünschen wir Dir hier aus Artlenburg, wo Du Pflaumenkuchen mit Sahne auf der Terrasse gegessen hast, alles Gute zum Geburtstag. Bleib gesund und immer kreativ.
    Meine Frau Christina wäre die perfekte Ergänzung für Dich, eine top Yoga Lehrerin, ihr könntet super zusammen arbeiten. Johanna, unsere Tochter hat jetzt ein gutes Abitur gemacht, wir sind fast frei und könnten endlich mal zu Euch kommen.
    Macht es gut und grüße Deinen Mann unbekannter weise von uns.

    Liebe Grüße aus Deutschland

    Michael und Christina