ABOUT THE BOOKAnna Dahlberg grew up eating dinner under her father’s war-trophy portrait of Eva Braun. Fifty years after the war, she discovers what he never did—that her mother and Hitler’s mistress were friends. Plunged into the world of the “ordinary” Munich girl who was her mother’s confidante—and a tyrant’s lover—Anna uncovers long-buried secrets, and unknown reaches of her heart, to reveal the enduring power of love in the legacies that always outlast war.
INTERVIEW WITH PHYLLIS EDGERLY RING
Phyllis, how did you get started writing?
I seem to have a contrary history (and personality, no doubt) as a writer. At first, I avoided it, because every member of my family was a writer or storyteller. Once I figured out that writing was an inevitable aspect of my own life, I did the writing others wanted done, working for magazines and other publications. Writing books requires a lot of resources, inner and outer, so I waited until later in life for that, once our kids were grown. My nonfiction books explore how to create balance between the spiritual and material requirements of our life. I write fiction because, like so much of art, it can help us discover just what shape this balance is taking within our own lives, and where that is leading our heart.
What books do you currently have published?
The latest is The Munich Girl, a story I honestly never expected to write, in which Hitler’s mistress, later wife, features as a character.
What's your favorite thing about the writing process?
While the generative, drafting part of writing is a joy because of the discovery it brings, revision, for me, is like the exquisite dessert worth waiting for. You can’t reach it without completing that first part, of course – by giving yourself clay to work with, so to speak. But the process of revision is where the real magic appears. So often during revising The Munich Girl I would suddenly see how things fit together, including things I’d written at separate stages, years apart, that I’d believed had no relation to each other. Revision revealed what something had been pointing to all along. One occurrence of this that still astonishes me is that in the final stages of revision, it became unmistakably clear how much Eva Braun’s house was an integral part of the story. Within days (even hours) of my book’s publication last November, that house was torn down. There is still an echo of metaphorical resonance reverberating for me in this. I felt an irresistible intuitive pull toward “spending” so much time there, in the writing, and especially the revising process. It almost feels as though something was calling for it to be set down in the indelible form of fiction because its physical permanence was so temporal.
What do you think is hardest aspect of writing a book?
For me, it is patience and faith, allowing each of these to sustain me the distance of the work. I certainly have the strong will to go that distance, but so often the process is calling for something much more like yielding and surrender.
What’s more important – characters or plot?
Characters lead, for me. Plot unfolds and unwinds, in my experience, from what would unfold naturally, and inevitably, on the path of their life.
What do you know now that you wish you knew then? That I can trust the process, if I’m willing to surrender to it.
What’s the oldest thing you own and still use?
A tiny porcelain creamer that came from my mother’s family home in England, likely more than a hundred years old now.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had? What did it teach you?
Being a server in a restaurant. It taught me that I don’t possess the skill set required to do this and spurred deep admiration for those who do. It seems like a sort of gracefulness of both inner and outer abilities. I gauge my comfort with others by how they relate to servers. There are people I can’t eat with because of their seeming inability to either treat a server respectfully or empathize, even slightly, with their circumstances. I see this as a kind of immaturity that’s very disappointing.
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 nonintrusive — 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.
If you could only watch one television station for a year, what would it be?
Public television. I’m pretty much already at that point.
I hear you! How often do you tweet?
Daily, usually about two or three times.
How do you feel about Facebook?
I appreciate the sense of accessible connection it provides with such a wide range of people.
What five things would you never want to live without?
Coffee, writing hours, reading, time in nature, edifying conversation.
What do you love about where you live?
The seasons and the fact that both the natural world and more rural living are all around, yet the stimulating experience of city life isn’t far away.
Where is your favorite place to visit?
Wertheim, Germany — most of Germany and much of Europe, too, but little Wertheim on the Main River, where I lived as a child for a time, feels the most like home. It has a romantic, fairy-tale appearance, and a welcoming attitude toward those who visit, no matter where in the world they come from. The world citizen in me just loves that.
Have you ever killed off a character fictionally, as revenge for something someone did in real life?
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?
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.
What is your favorite movie?
I suppose having watched Dr. Zhivago as many times as I have, it’s my desert-island choice.
What are you working on now?
A book about the book. It can sound so cliché, but my latest novel was a writing path like no other – events and synchronicities I likely won’t ever be able to explain. But I would like to chronicle them, memoir-style. Spiritual memoir, I guess you might say.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connect with Phyllis:
Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Buy the book: