Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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Just an ordinary Munich girl

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What led me to write a book about Hitler’s mistress (and eventual wife), Eva Braun?

It reminds me of what so many asked after the war, after her death, when the role she had played finally came to light:

“Why her, just an ordinary Munich girl?”

I had a chance to ponder these questions again during this summer’s conference of the International Women’s Writing Guild at Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania.  The IWWG is a wonderful network that fosters the personal and professional empowerment of women through writing. MunichGirlWebAd

An extra treat there this year (and there were many) was hearing CBS Sunday Morning contributor Nancy Giles as keynote speaker. Her blend of insight and humor lingers and encourages me, still. It was right in line with IWWG’s focus on the development of our  “inner ability to perceive the subtle interconnections between people, events, and emotions”. If you’re a woman and a writer, check out: http://www.iwwg.org.

In a wonderful memoir workshop led by author Maureen Murdock, I had a chance to ponder some of those “subtle interconnections” as I reflected again on that Eva Braun question. In one workshop activity, I wrote: “What a paradox that she often spoke very directly to — even scolded — her tyrant of a lover, yet also ceded her entire life to him. crop Adolf-Hitler-und-Eva-Braun

“Who knows which of her unnamed roles was really the more significant, in her time? The buffer she sometimes provided for others around him? The diffuser of tension she so often was, or the soother of circumstances that others undoubtedly came to rely on during the self-will-run-riot mania of a self-appointed despot?

“She seems such an emblem of what so many women do, have done, throughout the ages. Not able to enact their own potential in a direct and visible way, they must resort to doing so from the invisible sidelines and background.”

In Eva Braun’s case, that invisibility lasted the entire 16 years she spent with Hitler.

f942aa87bc9784474cbe5fa1c5b1915aIronically, because she was considered so insignificant, she was allowed to film the visual evidence that proved — though he publicly protested to the contrary — that the Führer did, indeed, have a private life.

One he never would have had without her.

A question that still lingers for me is, did she?

Find more about The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War here:

http://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast/dp/0996546987/

 


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Goodreads Giveaway for The Munich Girl

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With fellow author, Kelly DuMar at the annual summer conference of the International Women’s Writing Guild.

Enter to win —  Goodreads Giveaway:

About the book: The Munich Girl

 

Runs August 22 through September 14.


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Thank you, Let Them Read Books blog

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Blogger (and gifted cover designer) Jenny Q. kindly included a guest post of mine at her Let Them Read Books historical-fiction blog last week.

The post’s theme came back to the same focus I find so much response about The Munich Girl does:

“The question people asked me at the outset is the same one they still ask: ‘Why Eva Braun?’

“The story’s goal has never been to try to exonerate or ‘redeem’ her, or how she is perceived.

She simply makes a fine motif for examining how people, especially women, suppress our own lives, and what forces and factors lead us to do that. 42590298_5_l

“She also offers a way to look at the reality that human beings are complex. She clearly had a conscience, and acted on it, and, like most of us, tried to make good choices — choices to serve good — when she could.

04_The-Munich-Girl_Blog-Tour-Banner_FINAL“She also made ones that served neither herself nor others very well. Do we negate or devalue the contributions that someone makes because they also do things that are misguided, ill-advised, or even personally destructive? Do we not all share this same complexity in experience? These are themes I wanted to explore.

12342460_10208150312625888_7743673090992892225_nMy thanks to Jenny, and to commenter Eric, who has read The Munich Girl and describes it as a story  “about the human spirit, survival, friendship, love, betrayal, discovery and denial.”

You can find my guest post at the Let Them Read Books Blog:

http://letthemreadbooks.blogspot.com/2016/08/blog-tour-guest-post-munich-girl-by.html#comment-form

More about The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies that Outlast War:

https://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast-ebook/dp/B01AC4FHI8/


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Meeting The Munich Girl

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Eva Braun in the late 1930s.

I’m meeting some awfully nice book bloggers this month as a result of my participation in a blog tour.

First up was Dianne Ascroft, an author originally from Canada, now in the UK. Her novel, Hitler and Mars Bars, the story of a German boy’s journey to manhood in war-torn Germany and post war Ireland, is now in my reading pile as eagerly anticipated reading.

Dianne hosted my novel in an interview, Meeting the Munich Girl, in which she asks creative questions. Here are a few that deal very directly with the experience of writing historical fiction:

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How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?

PER: As closely as possible when it came to information from the WWII era and the years that preceded it in Germany. As my husband says, if the characters ride a train on a certain line at a certain time of day, there had to really be one. There’s a lot of factual information in The Munich Girl and I’ve heard from readers that it can be hard to know where the factual leaves off and the fiction begins. It’s easy to know where: in the emotional lives of the characters, including those people that history remembers. That’s where my own attempt to read between the lines of daily life watched for the signs of interior life I could recognize and convey as the story revealed itself. 10846002_10203363939206472_3788798479688539486_n

In an historical novel you must vividly re-create a place and people in a bygone era. How did you bring the place and people you are writing about to life?

PER: This was one of the most delightful parts, for me, as I spent extended spans of time in various locales in Germany that are a part of the story. Also, in the time I spent poring over Eva Braun’s photographs and films, I got to know both the interiors and exteriors of the settings as they appeared during the 1930s and ‘40s. A fun element of research was what has become, for me, a growing collection of vintage postcards that show scenes from that era in many of the settings of the story.

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Eva Braun and friend’s at Hitler’s Berghof. Image courtesy of ThirdReichinRuins.com.

There often seems to be more scope in historical novels for male characters rather than female characters. Do you prefer to write one sex or the other. And, if so, why?

PER: I love stories where there’s a balance that hints at what a world with equality might look and feel like. This novel has a lot more scope for female characters. At its heart is a friendship between two women, one of whom was a megalomaniac’s mistress, and the effect their emotional intimacy had in each of their lives, and in the lives of those who came along in a next generation.

You can f ind the rest of Dianne’s interview here:

Meeting The Munich Girl


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First Impressions – gratefully received

424A blog tour for The Munich Girl kicked off at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours this week.

A big gift right at the outset was the review left for the book at Goodreads by Whitney of First Impressions Reviews:

goodreads_icon_100x100-4a7d81b31d932cfc0be621ee15a14e70“Historical fiction novels that are told in past and present tense can be tricky. If not done right they can be jerky and painful to read.

“This was not the case in The Munich Girl. Peggy’s diary entries were applied seamlessly blending past with the present. I yearned to enter the streets of 1940s Germany and discover the meaning behind a simple portrait and view the forging of an unlikely friendship. Phyllis Edgerly Ring has written a superbly researched novel of a historical figure whose’ story is impeccably told.”

 

munichgirl_card_backFind Whitney’s review here:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1712583125?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1

 

Find more about the book at:

https://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast-ebook/dp/B01AC4FHI8/

 


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Finding our place in the family of things

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Photo: Image from Star Island, Lesley Fowler

In the experience of writing fiction, I become captivated by place.

Sometimes, it is among the very first of the story’s “characters” to appear.

In the process of writing The Munich Girl, I’ve accumulated four journals and three photo-album-style scrapbooks. I’ve done this last, I suspect, because the best-known of the novel’s characters, Eva Braun, was a passionate photographer.

Yet so many of the images and passages recorded in those journals and albums are about the essence of places.

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Alte Rathaus, Wertheim, Germany

I imagine that I’m drawn to the spirit of places, which I have been since my earliest memories (they go back as far as age 3, possibly a little earlier)  because, as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote about what the Sahara Desert taught him:

“Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary.”

Place is an essential element of the story, of course.

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Hexen Haus, Wertheim, Germany

As some have said, often in a book’s story, place is also character, or a facet of the story that reveals aspects of character.

An Aboriginal proverb observes:

“We are all visitors to this time, this place.

We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love … and then we return home. “

Along the way, the places that we pass through have a lot to reveal to us.

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Photo: Berchtesgaden, Germany, David Campbell.

Carl Jung lived nearly half of his life in a home he built in the village of Bolligen located along the northern shore of Lake Zurich, Switzerland. In this place, to which he felt particularly drawn, Jung wrote about his many sensory experiences published in his memoir, Memories, Dreams, Reflections:

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Photo: Kehlstein Haus, David Campbell.

“At Bolligen I am in the midst of my true life, I am most deeply myself …

At times I feel as if I am spread out over the landscape and inside things, and am myself living in every tree, in the splashing of the waves, in the clouds and the animals that come and go, in the procession of the seasons …

In Bolligen, silence surrounds me almost audibly, and I live ‘in modest harmony’ with nature.”

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Page from Eva Braun photo album.

In “The Power of Place,” writer Linda Sechrist has written: “Since we personally interpret the qualities, values, and spaces that make a place special in the context of other places, childhood experiences of where we are born and grow up, as well as the places where we spent our childhood summers, are the well of memories from which we most frequently draw.

“This relationship is one that Eudora Alice Welty suggests we, in the words of Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner, carry within ourselves as ‘postage stamps of native soil.’

“Welty wrote, ‘It is the memory of this place that nurtures us with identity and special strength and it is to this place that each of us goes to find the clearest, deepest identity of ourselves.’ ” DCGanse996728_10151804325191802_146979027_n

In her poem, “Wild Geese,” poet Mary Oliver sums this up eloquently:

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

  ~ from Dream Work by Mary Oliver

Find more about The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War at:

https://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast/dp/0996546987/


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What an “ordinary” Munich girl reveals

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When book blogger Melissa Lee invited me to share a guest post at her blog this week, it was a chance to reflect on the writing and research for The Munich Girl, and some of the things that these uncovered for me.

“While Eva Braun is famous because of someone infamous, this Munich girl came from what would be perceived both then and now as an extremely ‘ordinary’ life. …

Eva_mk_R1B-1“Lots of assumptions and judgments about her have masked key information that her life could provide about Hitler. Paradoxically, although much of what has been conveyed about her was based on presumed understanding about him, it’s a more complete picture of her that can provide the most accurate view of Hitler.

“She loved him, I have no doubt. Yet, in many ways, she gave up both her sense of self and of self-determination to ‘prove’ that love, show her loyalty. (Loyalty was very important to Hitler, who trusted so poorly, if at all. But he trusted her.)

crop Adolf-Hitler-und-Eva-Braun“I think the distorted self-denial she showed is still cultivated in collective culture today in ways designed to keep inequality in place. Many, especially women, give up the freedom of their own wholeness for the sake of proving love, and loyalty. I think the false value this behavior is given is a big part of what allows oppression and repression to continue, along with the imbalance of power that always accompanies them. 558ccddc1102ad790981f75a493bcd25

“I suppose it’s natural that people might assume this novel aims to exonerate or redeem Eva Braun, but that’s never been its goal. She came to represent, for me, the many things that we can form conclusions about without ever delving deep enough to uncover the whole story, in order to genuinely find truth. If the story aims to convey any sort of message, it’s that no human being is all good or all bad, and human circumstances are always more complex than they appear. If we’re not willing to accept and understand this, we’re unlikely to learn from history. …”

You can find the entire guest post about The Munich Girl at Melissa Lee’s Many Reads Blog:

http://mlsmanyreads.blogspot.com/2016/07/guest-post-phyllis-edgerly-ring-author.html?spref=fb

 

 

 

 

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