Annette Oppenlander writes historical fiction for young adults and anyone who loves stories set in the past. When she isn’t in front of her computer, she loves indulging her dog, Mocha, and traveling around the U.S. and Europe to discover amazing histories.
“Nearly every place holds some kind of secret, something that makes history come alive. When we scrutinize people and places closely, history is no longer a number, it turns into a story.”
Thank you for joining us today, Annette. Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself?
I grew up in Solingen, Germany, a city known for its cutlery and sharp kitchen knives. After completing a business degree at the University of Cologne I moved to the U.S. for a one-year work assignment. Instead, I met my future husband at a Super Bowl party and got married a year later. That was in 1987. I’ve been living in different parts of the U.S. ever since.
I’ve been married for 28 years and have fraternal twins (24) and a son (27). My roommate is an old mutt, Mocha, a pooch we adopted from the Humane Society 11 years ago.
When did you first get bit by the writing bug?
Becoming a writer/author was a process that took several years. In the beginning–the late 90s–I wrote children’s stories for early readers. I didn’t know anything about writing for children, the market nor the submission process, so this went nowhere. In 2002 I interviewed my parents about their lives during WW2 in Germany which led to a number of short stories. I didn’t really imagine writing a novel, let alone several, I merely wanted to preserve the memories for my family.
But I became aware how much I enjoy the writing process. How I felt while I did it. I worked for a PR agency and did lots of business related writing. I’d go home at night and write some more, spent my weekends writing fiction. I grew more and more invested, took classes, read books on craft, attended conferences and joined a critique group. In 2009 I attended a short story class at Indiana University and that’s when the light bulb turned on fully. I’ve known ever since that writing is my passion and I must do it even if publication is light years away. I finished the first manuscript in 2010. The first book was published in 2015.
Why did you decide to write stories for the YA market?
Maybe I never quite grew up. I have vivid memories of my teenage years and I raised three kids through the rough and tumble teen years. It’s an age so full of wonder and turmoil, but also of tough times. I think it’s one of the most interesting periods in a human’s life.
What is your favorite part of writing for this group? What is the greatest challenge?
I love the quirkiness, the surprise moves my characters make. Sometimes, Max, my main character just throws me for a loop. He’s unpredictable and rash, but he also has a good heart and means to do well. It just doesn’t always work out that way. At the same time I love taking my readers on an exciting journey. I want them to ‘feel’ the action, be there with the characters, bring history alive.
The challenge is getting into the heads of the teen characters and understanding that their approach to things is quite different from adult logic.
Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?
In “The Kid,” book two in the “Escape from the Past” trilogy, time-traveling gamer, Max, intends to return to his friends in medieval Germany, but mistakenly lands in the Wild West of 1881 New Mexico.
Struggling to get his bearings and coming to terms with Dr. Stuler’s evil computer game misleading him, Max runs into Billy the Kid. To his amazement Billy isn’t at all the ruthless killer history made him out to be. Trouble brews when a dying Warm Springs Apache gives Max a huge gold nugget to help his sister, Ela, escape from Fort Sumner. Shopping for supplies Max attracts the attention of ruthless bandits. Before Max can ask the Kid’s help, he and Ela are forced to embark on a journey to find his imaginary goldmine. This is book 2 in the Escape from the Past trilogy.
What inspired you to write it?
Growing up in Germany, I’ve always been fascinated with the Wild West. I remember watching westerns with my father and reading books about pioneers, American Indians and the gold rush. After I moved to the U.S. I continued reading historical fiction set in the eighteen and nineteen hundreds.
I chose Billy the Kid because I see him as a tragic character who encountered a string of bad luck and was basically set up to fail. He isn’t much older than Max and can easily see how any young man could’ve had Billy’s fate. The second important character is Chief Nana, A Warm Springs Apache warrior, who in the summer of 1881 rode a 3,000 mile vengeance war against the U.S. Army. He was never caught nor were his fifteen or so warriors. The amazing thing about him was his age. He was around eighty years old then and had a bad leg.
Where can readers purchase a copy?
“Escape from the Past: The Kid” is available at any bookstore and online. Here are a few links:
What is up next for you?
I just finished the third book in the trilogy, “Escape from the Past: At Witches’ End” which takes Max back to the Middle Ages. The manuscript is currently in editing at the publisher. My current writing project is a story about two teens growing up during WW2 in Germany. It’s a love story based on my family, but it is ultimately a story of forgiveness.
Do you have anything else to add?
I always love hearing from readers and invite you to leave a comment or note here on the blog or on my website, Goodreads or Facebook author page https://www.facebook.com/annetteoppenlanderauthor/
Thank you very much for having me!
Annette Oppenlander will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.