So why did I start writing novels at age 67? After finishing a career teaching high school chemistry, I finally had the time—time to make up stories and the time to reflect on people and events that were important to me. I grew up moving—nine different schools by 9th grade, three different countries, and many areas of the States. Before retirement, the setting and people around me were always changing, so my focus had been on assimilating.
After retirement, I was finally settled, but the people around me had other interests and other topics they wanted to explore. Fair enough. The recourse I chose was to write. By writing fiction the stories didn’t have to be entirely true or true at all. I could describe a cranberry bog in Wisconsin, which no one I know would ever ask me about, and make the bog central to a story: Blood: the Color of Cranberries. I could explore the effect of the automobile on the city of Chicago in An Ostentation. I never have enough time to talk about birds, so they called me to write Gray Dominion. The attitude of a tour guide in Croatia irritated me enough to create a story presenting a more truthful account of the Bosnian War in Malheur.
This brings me to my latest novel: Die Birken. At first I wanted to understand what led most Germans to follow Hitler. In doing research, I discovered that 14 million East European refugees were forced to leave their lands of birth and migrate to Germany immediately following the World War II. Berliners were bombed out, had no food, were forced to receive that flood of refugees, and their disgraced Nazis leaders were superseded by equally pernicious Soviet leaders coming into Deutschland with another party line to impose. The story of East Berliners coping with these changes fascinated me. So I created Die Birken.
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