Monday, August 31, 2015

Interview with Historical Fiction Author Bruce Judisch

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, 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 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.


Nancy Luebke said...

I think that was a very interesting time in history. Would love to read this. I enjoy a lot of historical fiction.

Sonja said...

My parents experienced this story. They were German refugees and fled from East Germany in 1953 after which I was born in a West German refugee camp. My mom was actually a refugee twice and in the camps Novy Kestrany and Strakovice in the Czech Rep. in 1945. My mom tells my often to write about about her experiences. So I know that I would love these books!

LAWonder said...

I love historical fiction and non-fiction. I learn so much from others research.I would love to add Bruce's books to my library collection.
Thank you both for the giveaway opportunity.

Diane Dean White said...

The tears of War~Some of us can sadly relate to family members being held
captive in concentration camps, wondering what happened to others, and
some never knowing was a horrible worry beyond anyone's control.
Bruce has captured emotions so beautifully in both Katia and For Maria.
I'd forgotten about Paul Simon's song; "Michigan seems like a dream to me now..."
Good artist. (Actually, I wondered why Saginaw and not Lansing! :))
When my copies of Bruce's book arrived my hubby got to them first! He was
glued to the pages, making it an enjoyable gift for men and women. We're looking
forward to another dramatic release from Bruce...soon? Love the book covers, too.
(Linda, nice interview. Please remove my name from the drawing since I
have these books.) :)

Nancy said...

I enjoyed this interview and am inspired to read both these books. I have always been drawn to this period of history, perhaps because I was born in 1939 and grew up in that period.

Mary L Ball said...

Wonderful interview Linda.
Bruce Judisch is an awesome author and a nice guy. :)
Anyone who likes to read will enjoy his books.
Many blessings Bruce.

Jeanineitsme said...

Time and again I have found new material from that dreadful human tragedy that teaches over and over that people are able to overcome horrific tragedy and witness to others a great love. Thanks for writing these!

Bruce Judsch said...

Hi, Nancy. I agree. The "Greatest Generation" era is my favorite of the 20th Century. And it's hard to find novels of movies of the Cold War that aren't spy thrillers. I loved writing both books. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Cheers! Bruce

Bruce Judisch said...

Wow, Sonja! I would love to write your family's story. What an incredible heritage. As I noted in the interview, I was blessed enough to befriend alumni of the Kindertransport. As someone with a Jewish last name, I often wonder what my forefathers went through. I tried to research them when I was living in Berlin (the family was from Spremburg), but I never made it to the town. Maybe some day...

Cheers! Bruce

Bruce Judisch said...

Hi, LA -

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Cheers! re

Bruce Judisch said...

Hey, Diane!

As always, wonderful to hear from you. Thanks for the ever-kind words. :-)

Cheers! Bruce

Bruce Judisch said...

Thanks, Nancy. I also love the period. Thanks for the comment.

Cheers! Bruce

Bruce Judisch said...

Mary! Thanks so much for the kind words. :-) Blessings to you as well.

Cheers! Bruce

Bruce Judisch said...

Hey, Jeanine -

Agree wholeheartedly with your sentiment. It was a wonderful, yet awful period. The light often shines so much brighter through tragedy. Thanks so much for your comment.

Cheers! Bruce

Anonymous said...

Hello, Bruce, I'm a Byler cousin...I haven't met you yet, but am hoping to read your books. I've enjoyed this period of history also, perhaps because it is not so far away. Do you feel there are parallels (as some are saying) in pre-WW2 Germany and present day
USA? Or is this too political a question? Susan

Caroline said...

LOVED the post! Sounds like your research was as fascinating as writing the novel. It's always interesting exciting getting a peek into another author's journey. Thanks!

Bruce Judisch said...

Hi, Susan! Jeannie was thrilled to hear you'd left a comment. As was I. :-)

You raise a great question. No, it's not too political, but it is pretty wide-ranging one. There are so many aspects to consider: political, sociological, economic, theological, etc. However, so as not to be accused of dodging the question, I believe there is one clear parallel; that is, the belief that a human being is only considered to be viable if s/he isn't inconvenient to the one in an ultimate position of control over him/her. I refer, of course, to the parallel between the Holocaust and abortion. Mass extermination of "undesirables" not only sanctioned by the State, but materially supported by it.

So, how is "that" for being political? :-) Seriously, apologies for any offense that might be taken, but not for the position itself

Thanks so much for commenting. We'd love to connect with you. There's a Contact link at the bottom of my website page. If you're of a mind, an email would be great. :-)

Cheers! Bruce

Bruce Judisch said...

Hi, Caroline. Thanks so much for the kind words. Research is a love of mine, which is why I'm drawn to reading and writing historicals. Blessings to you in your writing journey as well. :-)

Cheers! Bruce

bn100 said...

interesting characters

bn100candg at hotmail dot com

Justina Prima said...

I just spoke with Diane White and we spoke about you and your books. What better way to have an opportunity to read quality fiction than getting a referral from another respected author's opinion?

Good luck and God bless your work!

Bruce Judisch said...

Hi, Justina. Diane is top notch. Love her to death. :-)

Grateful, too, that she was kind about my writing. And I wholeheartedly agree that a trusted friend's recommendation is invaluable.

Thanks again.

Cheers! Bruce

Lisa And Randy said...

I love reading stories from this time period, and would love to read these two books. I think my interest in this time period comes from growing up listening to my Grandfather tell of his experiences in WWII. He served in the Pacific Theater. Thanks so much for this interview. It has been a pleasure getting to know more about this author.

Linda Weaver Clarke said...

Congratulations, Sonja! You are the winner of Bruce's books. I know you'll enjoy them, especially since you have something in common with these stories.

Sonja said...

Thank you Linda. I am so excited to read these. Sounds so good!

Barbie Chiu said...

Thanks for sharing your article and for giving us the chance to read it. It is very helpful and encouraging. Visit my site too.