Bruce Judisch was born in Canton, Ohio. After serving over 21 years in the US Air Force, he settled with his family in San Antonio, Texas. He and his wife, Jeannie, are parents of three, and grandparents of fourteen. Bruce loves writing historical fiction, teaching, camping, and playing the 12-string guitar.
Welcome to my blog, Bruce. Please tell us about your two novels, Katia and For Maria.
First of all, thanks so much, Linda, for hosting me. I hope I’ll have something of value—and fun—to leave with your readers. Both books are hybrid contemporary/historical works, in that they have a modern-day storyline and a parallel mid-20th-century storyline.
Katia centers on post-WWII and the Cold War in East Berlin, Germany, and the sequel For Maria deals with the “Kindertransport,” 1934-1945, during which thousands of children were saved from concentration camps and fostered overseas to await reunion with their families. The contemporary storylines in both novels feature Madeline “Maddy” McAllister, an exchange student in Katia and young journalist in For Maria. She is the prime driver of the crux events in both stories.
I love historical fiction because I learn so much about history. Where did you get your inspiration for these books?
Katia was inspired by a scene I witnessed in Berlin, Germany, in 1989 at the fall of the Berlin Wall. For Maria follows the story of twin infant girls, briefly introduced in Katia, as they transit Europe in the Kindertransport.
What kind of research did you do?
Both the contemporary and historical settings for Katia were driven by the circumstances surrounding the Berlin Wall, which, of course, dictated their placement in Berlin. There was some academic research involved; however, I was eyewitness to many of the events in the story—which made it easier and a lot of fun to write.
The historical setting of For Maria is wide ranging, covering Poland, Austria, France, Spain, Portugal, and the United States. The contemporary setting takes place in Madeline’s hometown: Saginaw, Michigan, and my hometown, San Antonio, Texas. I have no idea why I chose Saginaw, other than it stuck with me after hearing it many years ago in the Paul Simon song, America. Deep, huh?
Research on For Maria was both time intensive and emotionally exhausting. The greatest joy was befriending some of the alumni of the Kindertransport I interviewed, now in their 80s. It’s largely their story I tell.
How long did it take to write the book, including preliminary work?
Amazingly, I wrote the first draft of Katia in 30 days (76.5K words). The story just flowed from the pen...er, the keyboard. Of course, editing it into something readable took a year, but that’s not too bad for a part-time author. The story was a joy to write and is still Jeannie’s favorite.
For Maria was a different story, literally. It took about a year and a half to complete a satisfactory first draft. The research time and emotional investment from the historical subject matter contributed to that sometimes heartbreaking journey. A few times I had to step away from the manuscript for a couple of weeks just to clear my mind.
It sounds like it was emotionally exhausting. Please tell us about the main character in this story and what you love about her.
I suppose Madeline would be the main-main character, as she is central in both books. She’s a spunky redhead who tends to stick her foot in her mouth more often than chocolate—which is saying something. I absolutely love her for both her foibles and her strengths; in short, her humanity. If Katia were to be made into a movie—a suggestion more than one reader has made to me—think of Amy Adams. I can think of no other.
The other main character in Katia is the title character. She’s a 60-year-old matron; stoic, formal, and very set in her ways. I love her for her heart, her faith, and her grit in the face of what life has dealt her. The change both she and Maddy undergo during their association is heartwarming and humorous, but not without its missteps. I’m less sure who would play Katia on the big screen (Meryl Streep, perhaps, or Vanessa Redgrave?).
I would be remiss to leave out the other main character in Katia, Oskar. A more lovable character you’ll never meet, if I may say so. Quiet, unassuming, and harboring a painful secret that threatens his whole existence—a secret the impetuous Maddy wrestles from him, and then has no idea what to do with. For Oskar’s part, think of Ernest Borgnine 30 years ago.
Awesome! You have definitely helped us imagine what your characters are like with your examples. Now it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.
Oh my. Compared to my characters, I’m quite forgettable. I do have fun with my writing though, being mostly a seat-of-the-pants writer. If the characters don’t chime in, the story doesn’t get written. I love the first (and last) lines from the movie Miss Potter, in which Rene Zellweger, as the title character Beatrix Potter utters, “There's something delicious about writing those first few words of a story. You can never quite tell where they will take you.” How true!
You can see more about me and my writing at www.brucejudisch.com and on my FaceBook author page. Thanks again, Linda, for the opportunity to reach out to your readers. It’s been fun!
Thank you, Bruce, for this wonderful interview. I have enjoyed getting to know about your books and you. I hope my readers will check out your books.