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What made you decide to become an author?

I have no idea. I think I wanted to get paid for making up stories. But a fellow debut author said we were drinking The Kool-aid. I’m beginning to think she’s right.

 

The Kool-aid?

Yes. It’s strawberry and tastes like ice cream and summertime.

 

Where do you get The Kool-aid?

I can’t answer that.

 

Are you still drinking The Kool-aid?

No. I drink Jägermeister now.

 

Why the switch?

Because I’m an author.

 

Are you saying that being an author is hard? Do you wish you hadn’t drunk The Kool-aid?

You can’t get drunk on Kool-aid.

 

Well, technically you can if you add a little vodka to it. But now we’re going in circles. The question is, do you think being an author is hard?

Like raising my two children, being an author is the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done. I’m glad I drank the Kool-aid, but Jägermeister is warm, dark and mysterious. Aren’t authors supposed to be dark and mysterious?

 

I don’t know, are they? I thought authors were supposed to be accessible. Isn’t that why they invented Facebook?

Authors didn’t invent Facebook. They were too busy being tortured recluses, shut inside their whiskey-sodden, skull-sized universes and trying to tame the beast. Now they’re exactly the same, but they have to put a smiley face at the end of every sentence.

 

It’s true that a lot of famous writers had drinking problems. Do you have a drinking problem?

No. But I’m thinking about getting one. I bought a bottle of Jägermeister after my German uncles gave me a shot of it to cure my nausea. My bottle is for medicinal purposes only. I take a swig when I have an upset stomach. It really helps. You should try it sometime.

 

Interesting. Now, let’s move on to something else.

Hang on. I’m feeling a little queasy.

 

Hello? Are you still there?

I’m here. J

 

Let’s get back on track, shall we? What background experience do you have that is relevant to being an author? Have you been published previously?

No background experience whatsoever. I once wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper that made my boss so mad he fired me. Does that count?

 

Let’s start over. If you were a food, what kind would you be?

What kind of question is that?

 

I don’t know. I’m running out of ideas. You’re all over the place. It’s confusing me.

Maybe this job isn’t right for you. What kind of background do you have that qualifies you for interviewing authors? Have you been drinking The Kool-aid?

 

No, I don’t even know what The Kool-aid is. You won’t tell me.

If I told you, something bad might happen.

 

We’re not getting anywhere.

Why don’t you ask me about my upcoming novel?

 

Why don’t you tell us something about your upcoming novel, THE PLUM TREE?

I thought you’d never ask. It’s set in Nazi Germany during WWII. They didn’t have Kool-aid in Germany back then. But they had a lot of other good things to drink, like plum schnapps and warm, dark beer.

 

Why do you keep talking about alcohol? Is your novel about turning plums into schnapps?

No. It’s about Christine Bölz, a young German woman who falls in love with Isaac Bauerman, the son of her wealthy Jewish employer, on the eve of WWII.

 

Oh, it’s a LOVE story.

No it’s a war story. On the surface it’s a love story, but at its heart is an attempt to put a face on the countless destitute German woman and children who lived and died under Hitler’s regime, most often as victims of their government’s actions, while a majority of the guilty men survived to die of old age in their beds.

 

Sounds intense.

I grew up listening to my mother’s stories about what it was like to live in Germany during the war; horrifying tales of poverty, hunger, bombings, and constant fear. At the time, Germany was made up of the women, children and the elderly struggling to stay alive while the men were drafted and sent off to fight. I wanted to write a novel about how the war affected the average, working-class German while still being sensitive to what the Nazis did to the Jews. I’m hoping people will realize that collective guilt as opposed to individual guilt is senseless, that retrospective condemnation is easy. I hope they will ask themselves how far they would be willing to go to protect their friends and neighbors; if they would risk their lives or the lives of their children to save someone else.

 

Good luck with that.

Exactly. Cheers.

______________

Ellen Marie Wiseman was born and raised in Three Mile Bay, a tiny hamlet in Northern New York, A first generation American, Ellen has traveled frequently to visit her family in Germany, where she fell in love with the country’s history and culture. She lives peacefully on the shores of Lake Ontario with her husband and three dogs.

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Fiction Editor GINA FRANGELLO is the author of three books of fiction: My Sister's Continent (Chiasmus); Slut Lullabies (Emergency Press); and A Life in Men (forthcoming from Algonquin Books). She is also the co-founder and Executive Editor of the independent press, Other Voices Books, and the Sunday Editor at The Rumpus.

Fiction Editor J. RYAN STRADAL's writing has also appeared in Hobart, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Rumpus, The Rattling Wall, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Trop, and Joyland, among other places. He lives in Los Angeles, where he volunteers at 826LA, helps create products and materials for the Echo Park Time Travel Mart, and sometimes works on TV shows.

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