Let me introduce you to my partner in crime Skadi Winter, who will be sharing a stand with me at the Kensington Christmas Book Fair this coming Saturday Dec 12th.
“Hexe” by Skadi Winter is the captivating and amazing story of a childhood lived in post-war Germany right after the war. Told from the heart breaking and naive perspective of a young girl the story tells mainly of the love between the narrator and her grandmother from 1945 onwards.
The grandmother is a wonderful and inspiring character that is nick-named a ‘Hexe’ (witch) by people in the village, mainly because of her interest in herbs, paganism and tarot, to name a few. Despite such un-worldly interests the woman is however very wise and feeds her granddaughter lots of very philosophical and logical advice. The young girl also has to come to terms with the hostility against her mother who is accused of farternising with the enemy, even as late as 1948 when there should be nothing but regret amongst the population about its terrible past.
The perspective of the naive and innocent child does wonders to hit home many of those obvious historical and cultural points. By way of side characters, such as an abducted Polish boy working for the Germans, and other secondary people Winter describes post-war Germany incredibly accurate and with excellent detail.
Winter writes about what many Germans would prefer not to be true: Many were misled by Hitler but many deeply shared his beliefs and those did not just stop believing in 1945. It is a tribute to the author to have captured this so accurately as a strong side plot without getting stuck in it.
Besides the splendid historical aspect of the story I found myself aazingly reminded of much of my own childhood in Germany decades later: The Grimm fairy tales, Muckefugg and idiosyncrasies I had forgotten about.
The grandmother is such a impressive character, written with so much love and detail that I almost felt related to her myself.
Hexe is a very impressive, insightful and warm novel that strongly affected me while reading it, written so real it felt like a memoir more than fiction this should appeal to a large group of people, historians and those who read with their heart.
Interview with the author:
Tell us a little about yourself as writer and a person.
I am 60 years old now, a mother of 4 sons, a grandmother of 8 grandchildren from mothers of 4 nations, cultural background and religion. I love my grandchildren. I had to put my dreams on shelves for a long time. I had to work to put bread on the table, build a house and be a partner to my Iranian husband, who indulged being at university and make a career.
What made you become a writer?
I had this story in my heart for a long time. It is part of my own history and the history of my German people.
I am a passionate reader. At the age of 5, I started to read Wilhelm Busch, an illustrated book, kneeling in front of our old sofa, trying to put letters into words. I go through books, sometimes 2 at a time, living with them, getting angry if they don’t satisfy me as a reader. My little house is clustered with books. They are my friends.
I have been inspired by other writers. The ones I thought worth reading. Those who shared my believes, my dreams, my longings. Hemingway, Günther Grass. Heinrich Heine. Goethe. Schiller. Kant, Hegel. Oh, the list is endless. Philipp Kerr (a great writer, noir). One unusual one, which I keep close to my heart: Susan Fletcher’s “Corrag”. The book of my soul.
Tell us a little about the history of “Hexe”. How long did it take you to write and publish?
It took me 8 months to write and publish “Hexe” – the book about my own family, German history and the way I see it. It is a book from my heart. Maybe not overly correct with the historical facts – I only was a child when I experienced Germany after WW2. But, to me it was important, and always is important as a writer, to find out about the human soul. What makes some people stand up against political deceit, to find bravery in themselves to endure being singled out and pointed at and even pushed to the limits of society with all the hardship. Heroes? No, one facette of our human soul. To make the decision what side we are on, whom we believe and support, whom we deny and fight.
What was the easiest about writing the book and what was the hardest?
The easiest to write my book was the writing. Words just spilled out, memories, findings. I enjoyed writing Hexe. I loved my grandmother and all the values she gave to me on my way to adulthood. A little, strong, proud woman. Different from the rest. Never a follower, never a believer in Ideologies. Never bending, no matter what. She was my hero.
Would you say there is a message in the book beyond the story? Do you find it is well received and picked up by the reviewers?
Every writer is sending a message out. Why else would we write? We want to be read. Understood. We want to communicate with our fellow humans. My message is, in everything I write:Think! Make up your own decision. Listen to your heart. Be part of this human society and understand you are a part of this human history. You have a responsibility for everything you do or not.
The reviews I have received so far, well, I am happy. There are people out there who pick up on things behind the words, between the lines. I still have to learn on how to get the message out there, but – hey, it is worth while. I am writing.
What do you like most about your characters? Which one is your favourite? Who would play the characters in a film?
My favourite character in my book is Frigg. The innocence of a child, the heart of a lion. Listening to her inner voices, experiencing with all senses. Being part of this universe. A twinkle of the eye in time. And, knowing it.
I could see my story made into a film. Why not? Dark, sinister times. Winds, forests, ancient heathen Gods. Universal questions put into animation. A young hero, historical background. Hurt, blood, killing and a soul searching for a place in this eternal web of mankind.
What are your next projects? Tell us about your other books.
I am writing on my second book. The Wolf Children of Eastern Prussia. Again, for me it not only is the accurate historical background. I did my research, though. For me it is important to pick out the one human soul dealing with atrocities, hurt, pain, inflicted by fellow humans. Political circumstances influencing on how we act or react. As individuals.
What is your life like? What do you do for pleasure and work when you are not writing?
When I am not writing, I sit in my garden, doing old, ancient rituals, walking up and down my garden path. Reflecting, breathing. Many of us have turned to old ancient Asian wisdoms for meditation. I am trying to return to our own old wisdoms, the ones before the Nazis had occupied them. I am not exactly a believer and I certainly am not a follower. I do what I feel in my heart. I try to find my roots.
Who are your literary influences? What are your favourite books/ films/ albums?
Literary influences? There are many. Grass. Hemingway. Roth. Even Shakespeare. Schiller, Goethe. Philip Kerr (love him). Susan Fletcher. Alan Wynzel and Christoph Fischer. The latest ones and I do love them. Stieg Larsson. Thomas Willmann. Crazy, how can I list all the ones I love?
Films? There are some, but I tend to be a reader, not a film watcher.
What would your friends tell us if we asked for your best and your oddest qualities?
My best and oddest qualities? My friends love me over 30 years without me remembering their birthdays. Does that say anything?
Odd? Yes. I am not the usual friend, I am not. But when I love, I love unconditionally. My heart finds a heart and sticks to it, no matter what. I am loyal, terribly loyal.
What are your favourite animal/ colour/ outdoor activity?
My favourite animals are dogs. I have three old, soppy Cocker Spaniels. They fascinate me with their pack loyalty and pack order. So easy, so unquestionable. So straight forward. So honest.
My favourite colour is blue, deep as the ocean.
What would you take to a remote island?
To a remote island I would take books. Really. Not a cliché. You never feel lonely with books.
Who would you like to invited for dinner and why?
Invite for dinner? I am a passionate cook. I even watch cooking programs on tv. I love to eat, I love to cook. It is an artist thing, is it not? Oh, I would love to invite writers, a whole bunch of them. Exchange thoughts with them. Eat, indulge, drink and talk. Smile, leaning back into a comfy chair, philosophy. Words. I am a writer.
What are you writing at the moment and where would we find out about your next projects?
I am writing on my second book. Don’t have a title yet. It is about the wolf children of Eastern Prussia. A story about a child’s heart. Lonely, innocent, fighting to survive. The dark forest of life. Spirits and gods of ancient tales. Are they still with us? Do we need them? What makes us follow ancient paths? What keeps our soul fed? How do we find the path we have to follow? How do we deal with collective guilt? Is there such thing? How do we carry the burden of being part of a people who did wrong?
What else would you like us to know about you and your books?
I write books. Yes I do. I don’t think I can compete with the good ones out there. I only use words, searching for them, to explain what is in my heart, soul and mind. Sure, I want to pass my words on. Am I not a witness of a time? Of a people? Of a family? Of a history? I think I am. Oh, sweet arrogance. I want to be read. I have to tell. I am writing. Always will be.
Find HEXE on your Amazon site: http://bookShow.me/1491801344
On December 12th Skadi, Elisabeth Marrion and DJ Kelly will be four of ten guest exhibitors at the Kensington Christmas Book Fair.
KENSINGTON CHRISTMAS BOOK FAIR
12TH DECEMBER 2015
Venue: Kensington Town Hall, Hornton Street, London W8 7NX , tel: 020 7361 2220
Hope to see you there!