Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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How our choices become our stories

It’s an extra special gift when I can be in Europe at all, and when a trip coincides with the history and story of my novel, The Munich Girl, it’s an added blessing.

An interview I had with the writers’ blog It’s Write Now helped me reflect and delve back into the atmosphere of the book and its story, as the scenes in which it unfolds are appearing around me once again in real life.

What originally inspired you to craft a story about a portrait that turns into a journey to uncover World War II secrets?

My original intent was (and remained) to explore more about the lives of everyday Germans during World War II. When life led me to information about Eva Braun, it opened up whole new questions, particularly because she came from a background of everyday Germans – not what many would expect to be Hitler’s choice at all. When the question: “What if you had known Eva Braun, but hadn’t known the role she played in his life?” arose, the story’s momentum became unstoppable for me. A number of people actually did have this experience with her, didn’t find out the truth of her situation until after her death, because she was required to remain an invisible secret in Hitler’s life. That way, he could sustain the adulation he received through the myth that “his bride was Germany”.

The whole fact of Eva Braun as a character naturally brings a range of response. That includes those who connect, even empathize with her, those who connect with the story but struggle with connecting with her, and those who absolutely don’t want to connect with her, who object to her being there at all. I’ve been astonished when readers who I might not expect to easily relate to her – those whose families experienced huge losses during the Holocaust, for example – actually have a lot of empathy for what she reveals as a character. One editor asked early in the book’s process, “How are you going to get people past the fact it’s her?” I knew I wasn’t. Readers are either willing to go that distance or they’re not. It’s never been my intent to redeem her in any way, but rather for her to act as a motif for the self-suppression and repression that are still rampant in many lives. For me, she also represents that we are a mixture of strengths and character deficiencies, and we make a meaningful life through the choices we make in relation to those.

The experiences of Germany through this period is really told through the characters that the readers meet during the book. How you breathe life into these characters?

The dynamic that each of the three women in the book experience, of never feeling that she can be fully herself – of having to choose between things, based on others’ views of her, is conditioning that overshadowed my own life for a long time. Today, I know that I experience my own power of choice more deeply as a result of the process of letting myself explore a potentially controversial or volatile subject like Hitler’s mistress in as neutral a way as possible, to see what sort of larger picture might emerge as this story unfolded for me.

You really are tackling a controversial or volatile subject in ‘The Munich Girl’. What did you want to give readers who were brave enough to explore this subject with you?

Initially, it was to give a glimpse into the experience of Germans during the war, and show how varied it was. Though they lived in a very dangerous place they could not necessarily escape, many Germans took risks to help and protect others, but many of these stories got lost once they were seen as part of the “losing enemy” country. Within the first year of writing, I also began to accept that the goal, to the best of my ability, was to convey themes that the story was suggesting. These include that any good we seek to do will always have an enduring effect, sometimes for successive generations. Another is that it is our willingness to build what is good, together, that is the legacy of love that always outlasts war, destruction, and violence.

What line do you feel best sums up ‘The Munich Girl’?

“Sometimes, we must outlast even what seems worse than we have imagined because we believe in the things that are good. So that there can be good things again.”

Find the whole interview at:

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Following the spiritual breadcrumbs

As I revisit themes from my novel, The Munich Girl, during my travels in Europe over these next weeks, I am mining, inwardly, for facets of my experience in writing that book that have been calling –and loudly — for quite some time now.

Doesn’t matter whether I’m awake or asleep, they mean business, and they’re not going away. What they want even appeared like a sign on a wall in a dream: memoir.

This is always the point at which I hear a voice in my head, with a mild British accent, asking, “Whatever bloody for?” It chimed in frequently over the nearly nine years that The Munich Girl came into being. The process of that book showed me that if I didn’t flinch or back away from that question but met it head-on, that voice frequently shifted to something like, “Oh, right, then,” and actually became a helpful ally.

As a writer, I have actively avoided the prospect of memoir for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is public embarrassment. (“Who cares?” is an effective deterrent, too.) Some might argue that I’ve already gotten the embarrassment part out of the way, perhaps more than once, and I wouldn’t disagree.

When I finally understood enough about the purpose of memoir as focusing in and reflecting about a specific stage or aspect of personal experience, I had a humbling recognition. The fact is, in much the way creative process, in all its mystery, delivered every part of the novel’s story when I was willing to let it lead, it offered up, at the same time, a cache of memoir material. It was like those dual-action machines gaining popularity in Europe that both wash and dry your clothes — it had practically outlined the next book for me.

If I had the heart, and will, to follow the trail again. “Spiritual breadcrumbs,” one friend calls this, adding boldly, “Are you going to be so ungrateful as to let them go to waste?”

I hadn’t planned to write a memoir any more than I had a novel that includes Hitler’s wife . But just as the environs of that story did, something is acting on me in a way I’ve given up trying to explain, but absolutely cannot deny.  As I have more conversations with readers of The Munich Girl, encounter the deep questions they ask and the observations they make after living in the book for a time, the following passage, which played a big part in the emotional themes of the novel, is right back in front of me for re-examination.

Without a doubt, I’ll let it lead again, whatever the outcome, because my heart knows it’s too big a piece of our current dilemmas in this world — too universal a one — not to heed, and honor.

We are all of us searching for love, for the intimacy, closeness, tenderness we may remember from when we were in our mother’s arms or may have glimpsed in a lover’s embrace.

Or we may know it just as a sense of something we always wanted, something missing from our life.

This love is at the core of our being, and yet we search for it everywhere, so often causing our self pain in the process, losing our way, becoming entangled in our desires and all our images of love.

Then, one day, something makes us turn away from the outer world to seek this truth within us.

~ Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee


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Writing’s invitation to wholeness

Eva Braun taking her love of animals to an extreme.

I’m very grateful to share a guest post at the creative blog of writer Nicola Auckland.

Nicola was one of the very first to read and review my novel, The Munich Girl, and offer insightful feedback about it.

Her Sometimes Stellar Storyteller blog features delightful Six Word Story challenges, and explores one of my favorite things — creative process.

As she hosts me this week, I’ve done my best to address some of my own experience with it:

“Nine years ago, I made a bid on an eBay item that would change my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined at the time.

“Something within me was strongly drawn to it, though I didn’t yet understand why. It was a portrait of Eva Braun drawn by an artist who never gained acclaim for his work — though his infamous name is branded on history forever. Eva Braun chose to die with him 72 years ago this spring.

“That portrait is at the heart of everything that became a part of my latest novel’s story, set largely in the Germany of World War II. The experience of writing The Munich Girl showed me that, rather than being something I ‘do,’ writing is a process that acts upon me, strengthening my sense of connection with my own wholeness.

“My responsibility, I feel, is to listen and watch, rather than impose ideas or plans of my own on what comes forth as a story.

“Albert Einstein described the intuitive mind as ‘a sacred gift’ and the rational mind as ‘a faithful servant.’ We have, he said, ‘created a society that honors the servant, and has forgotten the gift.’ ”

READ THE WHOLE POST AT:

Stellar Guest Post from Phyllis Ring

 

 


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“Things were almost always more complex than they appeared.”

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Publishing a book is a gateway to the unexpected in countless ways, as well as a nonstop curve of learning and discovery.

One delightful part of the experience is encountering the connection that readers make with a book, its world, and its story.

In her review at Goodreads, reader Mary Spires called The Munich Girl “a story of love, power and the meaning of family.” goodreads_icon_100x100-4a7d81b31d932cfc0be621ee15a14e70

She wrote:

“Readers see 1930s and ’40s Germany through the eyes of young women growing into adulthood. In the midst of increasing chaos, they fall in love, develop allegiances and make sacrifices. While family secrets unfold to the next generation, we see how their support for one another has allowed each to play out her role in a period of transition. These themes cross barriers of time, nationality and political persuasion.”

MunichGirlWebAdAs a lover of historical fiction, I have read from a variety of different perspectives of World War II,” writes reviewer Melissa Lee. “However this was the first time I had read about German citizens who lived ‘freely’ in the presence of the Third Reich. I use the word ‘freely’ loosely, as regular German citizens were far from free during Hitler’s reign. …

“I was pleased that this book wasn’t centered around, or bogged down with the politics of World War II. Instead it was more of a tale about friendship, sacrifices and legacies.” tumblr_mt4oxuoa4b1s7jim8o1_1280

Reading The Munich Girl was like taking a journey to another place and another time,” writes Cynthia Minor. “It is difficult to know where the ‘real’ ends and the ‘possible’ begins.The story weaves itself across continents and decades, and is a beautiful image of the way our lives are not only connected to those we know and share life with, but with those in our past, whom we may or may not even be aware of.

scnee s-l500“As the author states:

‘One could look at another’s life and judge or envy what it seemed to show. But things were almost always more complex than they appeared.’

This was and is still true, of everyone we meet.”

 

Find the Goodreads page for The Munich Girl here:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27914910-the-munich-girl#other_reviews


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Blue Million fun – and a reading sale for every hemisphere

12939510_10209722543888161_1278498025_nAuthor Amy Metz at A Blue Million Books generously shared the chance for a fun interview this week.

Among a host of thought-provoking questions, she revealed some of my murderous tendencies:

Have you ever killed off a character fictionally, as revenge for something someone did in real life?

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Photo: Diane Kirkup

[Semi-spoiler alert:]

Oh, my, did I ever. :).  One of the most fun experiences I have with my newest book is when friends call up to tell me how satisfied THEY felt when they got to that part.

What would your main character say about you?

“Ease up. Be gentle, and grateful. Don’t miss the good stuff.”

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to write? Why?

The memorial for a 90-year-old artist friend who’d had a remarkable life. He was one of my earliest mentors. It was hard because I also had to read it at the funeral and knew I wasn’t likely to make it through. It helped me give myself permission to cry in public, when that’s what my heart needs to do.

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“Marketing”: Well, there’s always leaving it around in somewhat obvious places, hoping someone will find it 🙂

Do you have any marketing tips you could pass on to indie authors?

Oh, lord — I think you have to really believe in your work, in the way a parent believes in a child because she knows his or her innermost strengths, even when others can’t see them.

In promoting my books, I strive for a balance between the innovative and creative and the non-intrusive — finding creative ways to make a book discoverable without alienating or annoying anyone. After being published by trade publishers, then going it alone, I’ve learned that it is appreciative readers, more than any other factor, that can best help potential readers find a book, and understand why they’d want to read it. So an important focus is how to reach and build connection with those readers who will connect with your work.

AND — you can always lower a book’s price!!!

Just in time for summer (or Southern-Hemisphere winter) reading — 

SALE for the Kindle version of The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies that Outlast War –

Albert Marquet - Jardin du Luxembourg, 1898. Oil on canvas, 15 x 17 3_4 in. (38 x 45 cm). @ Sotheby's Images, London_n

Albert Marquet – Jardin du Luxembourg, 1898. Oil on canvas.

  $2.99 US (*)

Find it at:

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

(*Also discounted in all countries with an Amazon marketplace.)

 

Read my interview with Amy Metz of A Blue Million Books at:

http://abluemillionbooks.blogspot.com/2016/06/featured-author-phyllis-edgerly-ring.html


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Another view: Through readers’ eyes

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Publishing a book is a gateway to the unexpected in countless ways, as well as a nonstop curve of learning and discovery.

One of the most delightful parts of the experience is the way it reconnects you with people you know, and opens the door to a whole world of making new friends.

Reader Mary Spires and I met years ago at a writer’s conference but I haven’t seen her since she traveled half a world away and back. In her review at Goodreads, she called The Munich Girl “a story of love, power and the meaning of family” and wrote: “Readers see 1930s and ’40s Germany through the eyes of young women growing into adulthood. In the midst of increasing chaos, they fall in love, develop allegiances and make sacrifices. While family secrets unfold to the next generation, we see how their support for one another has allowed each to play out her role in a period of transition. These themes cross barriers of time, nationality and political persuasion.” munichgirl_card_front

Reader Linda Marie Marsh approached me very politely after I’d held a giveaway for the book and she hadn’t managed to be one of the winners. I’m so grateful that she proved the maxim: “If you don’t ask, the answer’s always no,” and, in her courteous courage, opened the door to a friendship that the book and I are so grateful to have.

goodreads_icon_100x100-4a7d81b31d932cfc0be621ee15a14e70“I KNOW it’s quite early in the year,” she wrote at Goodreads on February 1, “but I will say this anyway. The Munich Girl will be one of the best books I read this year … The author has taken and blended a mix of stories and created a whopper of historical fiction — well-kept secrets, unknown family ties, true friendship, and an ease of flowing back and forth in time — from the 1930s and ’40s to the present day. I have always wondered why Eva Braun Hitler was assumed to be a blonde ditz and historically shoved aside. Phyllis Ring uses words to make a page-flattened person become whole, become real, and gives us a 3-dimensional woman who had brains, beauty and just happened to fall for the charms of a sociopath. Yes, I loved that aspect, but there was so much more to the ‘what if’ novel. I devoured it.”

EvaHertaNA242EB27_39DReader Cynthia Minor is another book friend of the heart with whom I’ve been connected through the virtual world, and through a wonderful writer named Donna Baptiste. In her thoughts about the book, Cynthia wrote at Goodreads: “It is difficult to know where the ‘real’ ends and the ‘possible’ begins. Reading The Munich Girl was like taking a journey to another place and another time. … The story weaves itself across continents and decades, and is a beautiful image of the way our lives are not only connected to those we know and share life with, but with those in our past, whom we may or may not even be aware of. 424

“As the author states: ‘One could look at another’s life and judge or envy what it seemed to show. But things were almost always more complex than they appeared.’ This was and is still true, of everyone we meet.”

What a privilege it is for this writer, that the pathway of a book and its story leads to meeting so many thoughtful souls.

Find the Goodreads page for The Munich Girl here:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27914910-the-munich-girl#other_reviews

 

 


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“Local author” life

IMG_4080My thanks to editor Rebecca Skane of Portsmouth Review for the interview she offered me this month.

And my gratitude to Stef Kiper Schmidt at Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, NH, for including me in this month’s visiting-authors calendar, AND creating such a wonderful window display for The Munch Girl!

waterlogoIf you’re near enough on the evening of Wednesday, March 23, come by and say hello and hear a little of the story behind the book.

 

Meanwhile, here are a few questions from Portsmouth Review:

 

424What is the most critical piece of advice you would give to new authors?

Be unceasingly willing to persevere, learn, and come to understand just what part of your inner blueprint your work most truly wants to represent, and how the process itself brings you closer to that reality, i.e. creativity and spirit want to shape each other, and us.

Coming up with a title can be difficult. Tell me how you came up with yours.

It came once I’d seen the rendering of the book’s cover, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t understood earlier what it had to be. Munich’s the place that unites the lives of all three main characters, instantly conveys the story’s German atmosphere, and was, at heart, the way Eva Braun saw herself – reflected in some of her very last words: a Munich girl. The subtitle helped round out the story’s deeper themes: A Novel of the Legacies that Outlast War.

Find the interview here: http://portsmouthreview.com/interview-local-author-phyllis-edgerly-ring/