Annette Oppenlander will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
Tell us about yourself:
Hi there, I grew up in Germany and have been living in the U.S. since 1987. 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.
What was your first book?
My first published book, “A Different Truth,” tells the story of a sixteen-year old kid who’s banished to a military boarding school where he has to solve the hazing crime of his best friend.
I suppose my husband inspired it because he experienced such a school in the late 1960s. I’ve always been fascinated with the Vietnam War and how the country dealt with the political pressures, taking things in their own hands and affecting real change in the government. They made themselves heard and demonstrated and convinced Nixon to end the war. What happens at the military school is sort of a parallel to the turmoil stirring the nation.
I also was curious about what goes on behind the secretive doors of a boys’ military school. You don’t really know how it is to live in there unless you’ve attended one yourself. So, my husband gave me all this amazing info about the discipline and rules, the hazing and bullying going on between the older and younger boys. Of course, the story is fiction, but I drew a lot of inspiration from my husband’s experience.
Describe your first break.
My first break was submitting my first-ever short story to Glimmertrain and receiving an honorable mention. It made me feel really good to get this recognition.
What is your favorite genre to read? To write?
I read a lot of historical fiction and YA because that’s what I write. However, I also love fantasy, a good mystery or thriller. I’m a bit tired of dystopian though I’m currently reading “Wool” by Hugh Howey and enjoying it.
I’m fascinated by history and the many colorful and exciting times humans have lived through. I find that the more I dig into the past of an individual, the more interesting that person becomes. Let’s take Lord Werner von Hanstein, a knight who lived in Thuringia, Germany during the late Middle Ages. He was master of Castle Hanstein and had a hot love affair with a beautiful woman. He also feuded with a nasty duke, did a bit of street robbery and later in life became city captain of Lübeck in Northern Germany.
I typically use real characters who lived in a particular era and weave my stories around them.
Are Happy Endings are must in your stories?
I’m not one for tearjerker endings, but I do believe in meaningful story. By that I mean I want my character(s) to deal with adversity, emotional and exterior, and through the experiences change. This struggle should evoke an emotion in the reader, maybe something s/he didn’t know before, something that changes the way s/he sees something. I’m not against killing off characters though not my main protagonist(s) or making them go through terrible hardship. I think the end should be somewhat happy but with a grain of salt.
What makes a protagonist interesting?
A protagonist’s internal and external struggle makes the character arc meaningful. I also love to give a main character some serious flaws s/he must deal with and hopefully overcome. Since I write YA, a bit of outrageous and sometimes funny off-the-wall behavior adds spice.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
I’m not a morning person so getting up for work was always a struggle. I love setting my own hours and having the freedom to arrange my day. I’m also somewhat introverted – aren’t we all – and enjoy being in my home office working away. Oh, there’s never an issue with finding the right outfit to wear.
What is the worst thing?
That no matter how much I work, write, edit, research, etc., I never feel that I’ve done enough. There is always that little voice whispering how there is so much more to do. When you have a physical project or any defined task in your job, you go do the work and pat yourself on the back. Being an author and working for yourself there is no limit and the sense of accomplishment, if felt at all, is short-lived.
Pantser or plotter?
I’m a pantser so I don’t outline. I have a general idea about my main character(s) and a broad idea of a plot. That’s it. I do, however, develop a detailed bio with external and internal characteristics for all main characters.
What do you see the direction of your future writing taking? What can we expect next? Give us a little taste.
I just finished the third book in the Escape from the Past trilogy, called “Escape from the Past: At Witches’ End.” I’m expecting a release date in the fall of 2016. I’m starting a new project this week about a couple of teens growing up during WW2 in Germany. This story is based on true events so I’ll continue to do research along the way.
Just for fun
I love to fly-fish. Once or twice a year my husband and I travel to Missouri where we fly-fish for several days. It’s typically a men’s sport and sometimes I feel self-conscious sharing the river with a bunch of guys. But there is nothing better than spending time in fresh cool water, listening to birdsong and watching your line float. It’s Zen for me.
Cat or dog person?
I love cats but I’m definitely a dog person. If my dog let me, I’d probably have a cat. But she’s old and picky and doesn’t like other dogs. She huffs and puffs when she sees a cat across the street.
I suppose I love a dog’s dedication, its undivided attention and to some degree trainability. Our dog, Mocha, gets the paper for us from the driveway every morning. She runs outside as soon as we mention “paper.” I also enjoy walking her every day. She doesn’t need a leash and walks with me on the sidewalk.
From an early age I’ve been a chocoholic. I don’t remember too many days I haven’t eaten some form of chocolate. Not cookies or pudding or other sweets. No, it’s got to be chocolate. I particularly love European chocolates because I grew up in Germany. There are hundreds of choices in a German grocery store and it took me a long time to get used to the smallish candy aisles in the U.S.
My all-time favorite has to be J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.” I read the books including “The Hobbit” five or six times and still marvel at the creativity and ease of storytelling. I mean you already love the hobbit on page one. You can’t help it. It’s magical.
Boy, that’s a tough one. There are so many awesome movies. I’ll pick “Avatar.”
You’re talking to a travel nut. I love traveling and until recently my time was quite restricted by the vacation time my husband and I received from our jobs. Now that he’s retired and I’m a fulltime author we get to travel a lot more. My ideal summer trip combines a week at a beautiful warm beach, a few days bike riding along a river in Germany, drinking wine and enjoying fabulous dishes and some time with my aging father.
Would you rather be the princess or the villain? Why?
If I only have the choice between the two I’d be the villain. A good villain is a colorful character with lots of interesting background. I was a tomboy growing up, wearing old pants and hanging out with my neighbor. I remember refusing to wear skirts. The princess theme is just not me.
Who has more fun, orcs or hobbits?
Hobbits, of course. Wouldn’t you love to live in a beautiful apartment with round doors and windows? I think hobbits are such fun-loving characters who enjoy food to its fullest and live in the moment. They’re colorful and loyal to each other. Orcs dwell in the dark, cold earth and my goodness are they ugly. Give me those wooly hobbit feet anytime.
Thank you very much for hosting me.
When fifteen-year old nerd and gamer Max Anderson thinks he’s sneaking a preview of an unpublished video game, he doesn’t realize that 1) He’s been secretly chosen as a beta, an experimental test player. 2) He’s playing the ultimate history game, transporting him into the actual past: anywhere and anytime. And 3) Survival is optional: To return home he must decipher the game’s rules and complete its missions—if he lives long enough. To fail means to stay in the past—forever.
Now Max is trapped in medieval Germany, unprepared and clueless. It is 1471 and he quickly learns that being an outcast may cost him his head. Especially after rescuing a beautiful peasant girl from a deadly infection and thus provoking sinister wannabe duke Ott. Overnight he is dragged into a hornet’s nest of feuding lords who will stop at nothing to bring down the conjuring stranger in their midst.
I heard more rustling. Louder now. Not from the men, but from the woods behind me. My knees buckled and I was vaguely aware of the thudding sound I’d made. I had to figure out what had just happened, retrace my steps. Where was my room? My mind churned as I scanned the ground for some sign of home, something familiar.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw the bearded thug turn his head. Ducking behind a hazelnut bush, I squinted through the leaves. The thug had raised his sword and stepped toward my hiding place.
I crouched lower, my ears filled with the pounding of my own heartbeat. Rough laughter came from the other two riders. Despite my panic I caught a glimpse of them poking their swords at the injured man’s shoulder. I smelled their stench—and the wounded man’s fear.
The bearded thug continued in my direction. Sunlight bounced off the edge of his blade. He took another step, scanning, listening. I forced my shaking body to be absolutely still. This had to be some kind of challenge in the game.
The man kept coming. Twenty feet. Everything about him looked menacing: his eyes the color of mud, his razor-sharp sword wide as a hand. Fifteen feet. I held my breath.
A scream rang out.
“Have mercy, My Lords,” the bleeding man cried. He was kneeling now, waiving his good arm in a pleading gesture. “I beg you,” he wailed.
I lowered my gaze. Somewhere I’d read that the white of a man’s eyes could give you away. Keeping my lids half-closed, I peeked through the leaves once more. The thug was ten feet away. Close up he looked worse, a brute with arms the size of my thighs, his chest covered in leather and wide as a barrel. Despite his size he had the soundless walk of a stalking animal. I watched with paralyzed fascination. Any second I’d be discovered, but all I managed was to shove my hands into my jeans pockets to keep them from trembling. It’s a computer game, my brain screamed. It’s real, my gut argued.
Annette Oppenlander writes historical fiction for young adults. 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.”
Social Media Links:
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/escape-from-the-past-annette-oppenlander/1121795814?ean=9781846949739