Sarah, tell us a little about this book.
Munich, 1938—Evelyn Brand is an American foreign correspondent determined to expose the tyranny in Nazi Germany. After brutality hits close, American graduate student Peter Lang uses his connections in the Nazi Party to feed information to Evelyn, pulling them deeper into danger as the world marches toward war.
Your titles are always so intriguing, drawing us into the lives of people impacted by WW2. What inspired you to write this particular book in your collection?
When we visited Ellis Island several years ago, I fed family names into their computer. I found a record of my grandfather’s trip from Hamburg back to New York after his junior year abroad in Munich. In 1936. I knew he’d studied in Germany—he was a professor of German—but it had never occurred to me that he’d studied in Nazi Germany. My novelist brain got to spinning. What was it like for Americans living in Hitler’s Germany? And—of course—what sort of trouble could I get my characters in?
Spoken like a true author! What surprises did you find during the research for this book?
This grandfather passed away before I was born. Since the hero of the story has a career arc similar to my grandfather’s, I Googled Grandfather’s name. I found all sorts of interesting things, including a history of the Junior Year in Munich program, which he’d been instrumental in reinstating after World War II. It was a joy to read how beloved and respected he was by the students. I also found an academic article he’d written—and I was thrilled to see how well-written it was, with touches of humor you rarely see in academic writing. It made me feel closer to him.
What a rare blessing to find such connection between your family and your fiction. Did this feed into any challenges in writing this book?
The research for this story was often quite dark. The year of 1938 was pivotal in hurtling the world toward war—and toward the Holocaust. Reading about the oppression and the cruel antisemitic laws was very difficult. Also, I kept seeing parallels to the division and extremism in today’s society, which was sobering.
Indeed, historical parallels are troubling, yet they may serve as lights in the dark for those reading your book.
What is one thing about writing that you wish non-writers knew?
Writers look like we’re staring into space, but we’re actually living in another world. Please don’t disturb us. Your life could be in danger.
Well said! When not living in that other world, are there ministries in which you are involved?
I teach fourth- and fifth-grade Sunday school—and teaching via video is killing me! I miss the kids so much. I also teach women’s Bible study. Via Zoom. These are not easy times for those of us who love teaching!
This year I also became co-director of the West Coast Christian Writers Conference. We’re meeting online this year, of course, but it’s exciting to combine my love of teaching, my love of helping emerging writers, and my spreadsheet skills.
Do you have pets, and do they inspire you in your writing or those spreadsheet skills?
In September we adopted a rescue dog who had been found living with his pack in the California desert, poor baby. He’s a Jindo, a Korean breed, and he’s gorgeous—yes, I’m biased. He’s sweet and shy and so well behaved.
As for my writing—that was the question, wasn’t it?—he helps. First, he’s low-maintenance and naps when I’m writing. Second, he’s also high energy and loves long, speedy walks. So he gets me out of my office, inhaling fresh air, and moving my muscles—all of which stimulates my creativity. He’s my buddy.
What a perfect canine companion for an author.
What about libraries? Have they played a role in your life?
I was blessed to grow up in a town with a wonderful library and an outstanding children’s librarian. My sister and I adored her, and she introduced to so many favorite authors. I can still smell the children’s section of the library—ahhhh!
Do you have hobbies or activities you enjoy outside of writing?
Walking the dog is a highlight of my day. On the weekends my husband and I take him for longer hikes, which we love. Pre-pandemic I enjoyed going to the gym, especially the barre class. Since I took ballet as a girl, barre makes my inner ballerina happy.
So with all this writerly inspiration, what can we look forward to next?
I just turned in my 2022 release, which follows two Americans living in Nazi-occupied Paris in 1941. She’s a bookstore owner who aids the resistance, and he’s a businessman who sells to the Germans—but there’s more to him than meets the eye. As the United States and Germany careen toward war, the danger increases. Can they work together for the higher good? Or will it cost them everything they love?
Thank you, Sarah, for this warm glance into your writer’s life.
May all that you read be uplifting.