Sunday, February 17, 2013

Nassau Tribune Interview /Last Daughter

Hi Everyone,

I've been away for a bit but now I'm back as a bionic woman with a new titanium/ceramic hip which was implanted in Berlin four weeks ago. Just before I left I was interviewed by The Tribune in Nassau. I wanted to share some of these questions and answers that you might find interesting.

Question: Can you give us a brief on what " The Last Daughter of Prussia" book is about? 

The Last Daughter of Prussia is a historical novel based on a tragic moment in history that has not often been recounted. It is the story of the largest mass exodus ever recorded yet the one least discussed. This evacuation took place in East Prussia at the end of WW2 and claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. It is a love story between two unlikely young people, a bold and beautiful East Prussian woman and a gifted Romani Gypsy doctor. The backdrop is the bitter winter of 1944/45 as the Soviet Army, intent on retribution, is advancing on Germany systematically raping and killing women and children. In this chaos the lovers are torn apart—Joshi is captured by Nazis and taken to a concentration camp while Manya who knows she must flee the Russians or die at their hands embarks on the The Great Trek out of her homeland, riding her prized Trakehner stallion, Aztec. She travels along the only escape route open—a dangerous, frozen lagoon pitted with craters made by Russian bombers where many people fall to their icy deaths.  Will the lovers ever be reunited? Well...for that you must read the book. 

Question: Where did the inspiration for writing the book stem from?

 I wrote the The Last Daughter of Prussia because I wanted to shed light on an untold moment in history. Hundreds of thousands of civilians died on the Great Trek. Their deaths could have been avoided if Hitler had not forbidden them to leave under pain of death, calling them traitors if they did. When the people finally defied his orders it was too late. The Russians were on their doorstep. It is thought nearly 3 million women were raped by Soviet soldiers— many to death. In a land where the corpses of genocide were piled high and the atrocities Hitler committed could never be made good, these women kept their silence. Others who survived the trek were too ashamed to talk about their suffering and the loss of their home, East Prussia—a land which vanished after the war. 

My grandparents Edith and Walter von Sanden were part of this trek. The diaries they kept along this journey and the stories they passed down to me were the inspiration for this book. I wrote The Last Daughter for them. I wrote for the women, children and old people whose voices have remained hushed for the past 60 years. By making my hero, Joshi, a Romani Gypsy, I wrote for a people whose fate is a forgotten holocaust. Over half the Romani population in Nazi-occupied Europe was exterminated by the same methods employed for murdering the Jews, yet again this fact is rarely mentioned. I wanted their voices to be heard and not forgotten. Lastly, I wrote for the Trakehner Horses. Theirs is one of the most moving animal stories ever. For me their bravery and loyalty to their human families is as compelling as the love story between Joshi and Manya. They were the true heroes of the Trek. While the bullets and bombs fell, they saved thousands of people by hauling carts through giant snow drifts, across the frozen ice, and over rutted fields where automobiles could not travel. They didn’t care about race or cultural differences, only survival. They gave their lives for their human families. 

Question: Do you have a specific writing style? Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I don't know if I can say that I have a specific writiing style but my desire has always been to convey a sense of truth, honesty and emotion in what I put to paper. I want my audience to imagine the story they are reading—be in it, so to speak. I want them to be involved with the characters and the pull of the narrative as it draws them forward. I try to write in my own true voice.

parents, Dr Ejnar Gottlieb and Owanta Gottlieb von Sanden —both medical practitioners who immigrated to The Bahamas from Germany in the late 1940's— were fantastic storytellers. My interest in writing was piqued by them, by their humor, courage, sensitivity and stories about life and people and the war. My grandfather Walter von Sanden was a well-known writer in East Prussia, and my mother, Owanta, wrote her amazing life story in her autobiography called Angel Stand by Me. So, writing is in my blood.

Question: Is there a specific message in "The Last Daughter of Prussia" book that you want readers to grasp?

The Last Daughter of Prussia is a story of hope and faith and the indomitable will that humans beings bring forth in order to survive. For me the real message is one of compassion. You see I believe that everyone’s story must be told. Every side must be heard. Only when compassion is felt for all beings, for all slain tribes and for every unjustly slaughtered animal can true healing occur in the heart of humanity.

Question: Where is your book available for purchase?

Actually the publication date of The Last Daughter of Prussia in the USA is just coming up in April 2013. We did a pre-publication launch here in The Bahamas to start the buzz and let my community read it first. What this means is until April the book can be pre-ordered on amazon Here in The Bahamas, books can be purchased at The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas gift shop, Nassau. You can also purchase it at Unexso and Garden of The Groves gift shops in Freeport and Monkey's Uncle in Marsh Harbour, Abaco.

1 comment:

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