#14Debuts Day 12 Part 1: Anne Blankman and Prisoner of Night and Fog

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Welcome to #14Debuts! Today I’m featuring:

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Publication Date: April 22nd, 2014
Publisher: Baltzer + Bray
4.14.14. prisoner of night and fog
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?

From debut author Anne Blankman comes this harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she’s ever believed . . . and to trust her own heart instead.

yessss anne blankman featureOn it’s release day, my friend went to B&N and texted me a picture of her copy of PRISONER. You can imagine my reaction to that. O_O It’s been so long since I’ve read a good historical fiction, and PRISONER sounds like just the thing to bring me out of my historical lit slump.

Interview with Anne Blankman, Author of Prisoner of Night and Fog

Your debut, PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG, is about a girl named Gretchen set in 1930’s Munich who grew up under the wing of the National Socialist Party and her “uncle” Dolf, who is Adolf Hitler. She has been shielded from the rest of the world and adores Uncle Dolf, following his every command. That is, until she meets a young Jewish reporter. What inspired this story for you?
I’ve been fascinated by World War Two ever since I read Anne Frank’s diary in seventh grade. A couple of years ago, I picked up a non-fiction book by Ronald Hayman about Hitler and his beloved half-niece, Geli Raubal. Long after I’d finished it, I couldn’t get Geli out of her head. What had her life really been like, sharing her uncle’s luxurious Munich apartment while he campaigned for the presidency? Was she lonely, living so far from her mother and two siblings? How did Hitler treat her? As there’s so little we know about her today, the answers to my questions were lost long ago.But the lure about writing a girl within the inner circle of the Nazi elite was irresistible. I wanted the freedom of having a fictional main character, though, so Gretchen Müller was born. She’s a seventeen-year-old student: smart, tough, sensitive. And, at the story’s onset, a Nazi. Although she calls Hitler “Uncle Dolf,” he’s actually a close family friend whom she’s known since she was little. But how, I wondered, could I make Gretchen realize what her “Uncle” really stands for? How can she break free from the hold he has on her? Once I figured out my answers, I started writing.

Have you always liked history? 
Feel free to laugh, but I think my interest in history started with my American Girl doll when I was a kid! But it wasn’t until I discovered Anne Frank’s diary that I really fell in love with history. As I read her book, I felt so close to her–as though she were a real friend. When I got to the last page and learned what had happened to her, I was devastated. I can still remember sitting in my bedroom, too shocked and saddened to cry. Later that week, my dad took me to the public library to show me the section on World War Two. I checked out a couple of books on the French and Dutch resistance, and I’ve been hooked on history ever since.
Do you see parts of yourself in your characters? 
I think both Gretchen and I are stronger than we usually give ourselves credit for. This will probably come as a surprise to my dad, but he inspired parts of Daniel, the mysterious Jewish reporter who knows shocking information about Gretchen’s father. My dad used to be a reporter, like Daniel, and they’re both self-confident and see things clearly.
There must have been a lot of research that went into this book! What did you like or dislike most about that process? What was the hardest part? 
The research was intense, but I loved it. I read everything I could get my hands on: biographies, memoirs, psychological profiles, essays, you name it. Primary sources, such as old maps and photographs, helped me envision the setting. I watched Nazi propaganda films, like “Triumph of the Will.” I studied Hitler’s autobiography, Mein Kampf, and his early speeches. I felt a tremendous responsibility to portray Hitler as accurately as possible, not just because he was a real person but out of respect for his millions of victims. It would have been really easy to reduce him to a caricature–a villain rubbing his hands with glee, but he wasn’t like that at all.
Any secrets you can reveal about PRISONER or the books to come after it?
I have to be careful how I answer this! Prisoner of Night and Fog has lots of twists, and I don’t want to give too much away. What I can tell you is this–pay close attention to everything Hitler says to Gretchen. His advice just might save her life in the sequel.
If you could meet any author from any time, place or setting, who would it be? 
Ooo, this is a hard question! If I can only pick one author, I think I’ll go with Jane Austen. I adore her books.
Do you plan to continue on in historical fiction and about famous figures? Will we ever get to see Gretchen and Daniel again? 
The sequel to Prisoner of Night and Fog is scheduled to come out from Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins in April, 2015! I’m not allowed to say much yet, but I can promise that Gretchen and Daniel are the main characters again…and the mystery they’re investigating is even more dangerous than in the first book.I’m hard at work on my third book, which is slated to be released in April, 2016 from the same publisher. I’m not supposed to reveal too many details yet, but it’s set during a different historical period with all new characters. I’m really excited about it, and keeping my lips sealed hasn’t been easy.

Connect with Anne: 
Find Prisoner of Night and Fog:
Ξ B&N Ξ AmazonΞ Goodreads Ξ Indiebound Ξ
anne blankman author
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.After earning a master’s degree in information science, Anne began working as a youth services librarian. Currently, she lives in southeastern Virginia with her family. When she’s not writing young adult fiction, she’s playing with her daughter, training for races with her husband, working at her amazing library branch, learning to knit (badly), and reading.

Anne Blankman is the author of PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG, the first in a three-book deal slated for publication in spring 2014 from Balzer + Bray | HarperCollins. She is represented by Tracey Adams of Adams Literary.

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