The Kindle version of THE LUCK OF THE WEISSENSTEINERS is now available at Amazon
- 1. What types of books I write
I write historical novels and also some contemporary fiction. I am fascinated by the last century and the way both World Wars have affected the creation of new nations: The changing of borders, forced or voluntary movement of people and the resulting conflicts of loyalty and sense of belonging of my heroes. To portray this I usually create a large cast of characters whose lives are affected by the chain reaction of political and personal changes.
My other, contemporary, fiction revolves around private dramas, such as mental and physical illnesses, mid-life crisis and choices we are forced to make in our lives.
- 2. The latest book I have written
“The Luck of the Weissensteiners” is a novel set in 1933 Bratislava of what was then the First Republic of Czechoslovakia. It focuses on the romance between a Jewish weaver’s daughter and a German bookseller. As fascist interest in the country increases and war comes to Europe the couple and their families have to face the challenges thrown at each of them. After the War there are more unexpected circumstances to deal with.
I have some family connections to the region and while researching the past of my ancestors I started to become particularly fascinated by the role that Slovakia played in World War II.
- 3. Part of a Series?
“The Luck of the Weissensteiners” is part of a trilogy, which deals with the issues I have outlined above: Political borders, forced or voluntary mass movement of people and conflicts of loyalty and sense of belonging. The Trilogy is loosely entitled “The Trilogy of Nations”. The next part in the series has the working title “Sebastian” and is set in Vienna before and after World War I.
- 4. When did I start writing
I first started writing at the age of 10 for my school’s student magazine, mainly comic pieces. In my late teens my desire to read got the upper hand and I abandoned my creativity in order to read more of what others had put together. I started again two years ago.
- 5. Why did I start writing
I began to write a student manual for a course I was planning to give and got distracted by the idea for a novel. Curious to see if I could do it I persevered, expecting to lose my momentum before long. Only as I reached the 100 page mark did I believe that this story could turn into a book. My reason for writing that particular and yet unpublished book was my desire to share my personal experiences with mentally ill people, to alert people to the problems, heighten their sensitivity and become more tolerant, change their perspective. I am writing books of the type that I prefer in the hope that they will entertain others in the same way as I have been entertained and educated by great writers in the genre.
- 6. My influences
In terms of other authors, I would have to say: Lionel Shriver, Simon Mawer, Christos Tsiolkas, Tom Perrotta and Patrick Gale – to name a few. Their honesty and bite when portraying their characters, their ability to create a love-hate relationship with their protagonists have fascinated me deeply and I am sure that some of their style has rubbed off on me.
Being German and having learned Latin at school I am told that my sentence structure is reminiscent of Thomas Mann and other German writers, many of whom I studied in my teens and twenties.
Other influences are of course my wonderful friends and editors.
- 7. The Future
“The Luck of the Weissensteiners” is out on Amazon Kindle and CreateSpace print on demand in December. The second part of the Trilogy, “Sebastian”, and a book about dementia, are currently in the later stages of editing. I hope to publish at least one of them in 2013.
A translation into German is currently also under way.
My blogs are:
Wilhelm with his good looks could have his pick of the girls and his eyes were clearly set on Greta, which secretly made Jonah a very proud father.
“Does he not mind you being Jewish, that German book boy?” Jonah asked her one evening over dinner.
“I am not sure he even knows yet,” Greta told him. “The way he talks about the Jews, it doesn’t seem to have any reference to me at all.”
“How does he talk about the Jews?” Jonah said with raised eyebrows.
“He just mentions them in passing, like… so and so is a Jew so we do not have his books in our shop. I don’t think he has an opinion about it himself,” Greta guessed.
“But the name Weissensteiner, that is a Jewish name! He must know,” insisted Jonah. “I often wished we could have changed that. It would make life easier, wouldn’t it?”
“It only sounds Jewish to you because you know that it is,” disagreed Greta. “It could pass as a German name to a naïve young man, which I think Wilhelm just might be.”
“In that case you should bring the matter up soon before this ‘book lending’ goes any further,” Jonah lectured.
“He seems very smitten with you my darling daughter. It wouldn’t hurt to get it out of the way before you waste any more of your time on him or any of his time on you, unless of course you were only in it for the books?”
“No I am not just in it for the books father,” she admitted. “I like him. I think I really like him. He is very interesting. He thinks a lot.”
“Oh he thinks a lot does he?” Jonah said with a little sarcasm in his voice. “Then it is important that he learns to do something as well, thinking alone will only give him a headache.”
“Do you like him father?” Greta asked, ignoring his previous statement.
“Does it matter if I like him? You must like the goy and make sure he does not mind your family,” her father warned. “I’ll like him enough if he makes you happy; even if he thinks all day until his head hurts. If a thinker you want, a thinker you shall have. You have the pick of the men, my beautiful. Trust me. Make sure you chose a good man and that you do really like him.”
“I do like him, father. He seems such a gentle man from what I can tell from our short meetings but I still need to get to know him better,” she admitted.
“You take as long as you like to make up your mind. I hope you realise that he has already made up his mind about you. It is written all over his face how enchanted he is. He could accuse you of playing with him if you let him visit this often and your decision is not the one he hopes for. You must not lead him on. Be careful, you know, because I don’t think we need to wait much longer for a proposal from this one.”
“I am not so sure. There are plenty of girls who make eyes at him, maybe he just loves talking about books. That could be all he wants from me,” Greta said more to herself than to her father.
“Yes, if you were a fifty year old librarian that probably would be all,” Jonah said with a roaring laugh. “Why is he not content talking about his Goethe with the old men in his book shop then? I tell you why, they are not his type. Always remember that men of his young age mainly think with their loins. Once they have satisfied such needs, they may not be interested in your views on books anymore and go back to the shop to discuss literature there. An attractive girl like yourself always needs to choose wisely.”
“I don’t think he is like that, he is so serious,” Greta defended.
“Yes he is serious, the Germans often are. Now let’s hope his seriousness is good for something and makes him worthy of you,” Jonah laughed.
The New Year ’s Eve party at the Manor House was once again the social event of the year. It was one of the few occasions where time seemed to have reverted to the ‘good old days of the Monarchy’ during which so many of the guests had enjoyed privileges they were no longer accustomed to in this new and independent Slovakia.
Many rich Hungarians had opted to stay here after the Great War hoping that it would be easier to keep their properties and money over here. They were concerned about the political instability of a republican Hungary where old enemies might seek retribution for the abuse of power and position but more so they feared a Bolshevik revolution.
In the Czechoslovak state they had seen a tumbling of their influence at first due to the dominance of the Czech aristocracy and now the German military leaders and emerging Slovak ‘puppet’ politicians.
The Hungarians were equally unpopular with the emerging Intelligentsia and players of the Slovak society who still had their reservations against their former Magyar oppressors. To some it seemed a high price to pay for evading the threat of Communism.
At the Manor House Ball all of these problems seemed forgotten or unimportant. The countess did not tolerate heated debate or disagreement in her house. As a charitable and generous woman she was a shining specimen of a respectable modern Hungarian and a role model to her countrymen.
The players in the current Slovak high society who had taken a shine to her also felt more positive to her countrymen. With her gift for diplomacy she calmed down any tension that might arise. Almost everyone in Bratislava wanted to be invited to her festivities.
She welcomed the German army officers and generals in the same way as Slovak Party leaders, nobility and her beloved artist friends. Having been wined and dined in separate groups by the Countess during the year they were all too obliged to her to dare stir up any trouble. Catholic party leaders spoke to their Lutheran rivals amicably about the goals they had in common, the army officials refrained from provoking the artists, whose appearance they so detested, and the ‘new aristocrats’ of society pretended to be best of friends with the established and former noble men.
To see such a convincing and unusual display of pretence and falsehood was in itself a sight no one wanted to miss. Jonah however would have loved to miss out on such a charade, had it not been for his dependency on the good will of his patron.
His new friend Visser took him under his wing and introduced him to a few more of the artists at the party. There was a Polish piano player, a Lithuanian tenor, an apparently well-known French author and an Austrian poet. It was amazing how the Countess managed to keep all of these bohemian looking and politically left leaning people near her without raising the suspicion or worse: the interference of the authorities.
A string quartet played music for the first part of the evening, but when the reception hall had filled up the Countess had the doors to the ballroom hall opened where a small orchestra started to play dance tunes and continued to do so well into the early morning hours.