Welcome Christoph Fischer, Author of The Luck of the Weissensteiners. I’m thrilled to have you here and ask a few questions from this great read, one of my favorites of 2012.
Below is our interview, my review and some of his readers showing off the book. (Dog lovers don’t miss the photos of his girls)
Your book has a title that implies a lucky family. Why did you choose this in the setting of Nazi Germany?
It was during writing that the title came to me and that was when the theme of ‘luck’ as one of the main issues of the book emerged. In war and in persecution, naked survival is already undoubtedly luck, but it is more complicated than that – as the stories of some of my characters hopefully will show. Under extreme circumstances, such as the Nazi period in Germany, many succumb to their scars, whereas others are lucky enough to survive in their humanity. Only by living through their trials with my characters during the process of writing did these things come clear to me.
What were the seeds of inspiration for you to write this story?
The seed of inspiration was a family anecdote about my grandparents, whose story I initially meant to tell. I never met my grandfather and my grandmother died when I was young. My aunt and my father told me different stories about the family history as well, and so my imagination was free to run wild about their marriage and their lives. I am sorry I cannot say more but I don’t want to give away any of the later plot.
Do you have any personal history or connection with this time and autocrities that went into the story?
My grandparents lived in Czechoslovakia before and during the war as part of the minority group of Germans who gave Hitler the excuse to invade. I know nothing about their political affiliation during that time. My father had to join the Hitler Youth – as every boy had to do – and he only said how scared he was to be punished for mistaking left for right when they had to march. After the war, the family was expelled from the country and spent many months in refugee camps in occupied Germany before finally settling. They lost their homes but fared much better than others in that time.
You started it with a love story but then you took the love story to an interesting place. Without spoiling the story what were your thoughts behind how you presented this.
The story developed naturally in the way it did. When writing the chapters, I sat down without knowing ever exactly what would happen. My imagination of how everyone would react to the events in the book took my characters on their individual paths; they were naughty characters who would not do as I had sometimes intended. I often did not understand their actions and only during the next re-write did their motives become clearer to me. I think I let them develop freely to show that they fell victim to their circumstances and their feelings.
There are a lot of really interesting characters in your story, some courageous and some evil and cowardly. Who do you relate with the most and why?
That is very difficult to answer. Whilst writing, at some point I identified with almost all of them and many lines in their dialogue would come straight from my own mouth. I would like to be like Jonah, Greta’s lovely and witty father; have some qualities of the generous Countess, a patron of the arts; or the selfless Alma, the help in the weaving business. On the other hand, I can be as moody as the Dutch painter Visser and even as self-involved as the wicked but ambiguous farmer’s wife Johanna.
What was the most shocking thing you learned while researching your book? How did you incorporate that into your story?
Fortunately nothing new that I learnt during my research was as shocking as the horror stories we already know about the holocaust. That aside, I was surprised to find many details and individual stories of suffering on a different scale. I was lost for choice which ones to choose and to incorporate and so I let ‘luck’ choose for me. Army movements, local uprisings and the timing of political measures could change lives overnight. Just as I had ‘saved’ my characters in one chapter, the next page brought new challenges.
Is there a question about your book you would love to be asked? If so, what is it?
Yes, the question is: Why are you writing a story about Jews when you are a descendant of Sudeten Germans who have lost all their land and possessions after the war?
What’s the answer?
My heart certainly goes out to the poor innocent citizens who were drawn into Hitler’s vicious politics and had nothing to do with him; I grieve for their loss of home and sense of belonging, for the injustices that they had to suffer.
But the story of that War belongs to the victims: Jews, Communists, Gypsies, homosexuals and so on. I could not bring myself to take the main focus at least away from that group. They are there but in minor roles.
In Germany, there are still groups of descendants of these expelled Germans who lobby for retribution and a return of their former properties. My father publicly distanced himself from these people and taught me to look forward and not to try to waste my time trying to reverse history and reconstruct a past that is gone.
What would you like to say to your readers?
Thank you for taking the time to read this interview and the works of independent authors. Without the publicity of established Publishers, we rely on your support and appreciate it very much.
(From Paulette: Those were great answers and it helps to broaden the dept of all that you put into writing this very remarkable story. Thank you so much!)
My Review: 5*
Christoph Fischer’s The Luck of the Weissensteiners , was an epic and impressive read. The amount of research the author must have put into writing this story was evident by the well thought out and described times in time when geography was redirected by reigns of terror in Germany, in Russia, in the hearts of others that could watch nations of peoples, families torn apart and displaced. What starts out as a love story, a metaphor beginning in the spring of a young couple lives moves into the dark themes of our human shadow, where love turns to distrust and betrayal.
This is a story of intolerance at its worst, but is also a story of the strength of the human spirit to help and do good at great risk. While parts were too overly narrative for my taste the story and oppression of the time were never lost on the read, which kept me involved in this story, that by the time I was half way into the story I wanted to take time off to sit and finish it, to find out what happened to all the characters in their struggle to escape and survive. Sadly, like all of life there is much sorrow and loss, reality, but there is also survival and hope. I will not forget this read for a while to come.
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