Sunday, November 01, 2020

Tania Blanchard on Why I Love Writing About Family History

Today I am delighted to welcome Australian author Tania Blanchard to my blog as part of my newly revamped Why I Love series. Tania's latest book, Letters from Berlin, is a book that I really enjoyed. I plan to have my review up this week but hopefully this tempts you to take a look at the book, or her first two books The Girl from Munich and Suitcase of Dreams. I hope you all enjoy reading the post. I certainly did!


I’ve always been intrigued by family stories and how they fit into our history. I grew up listening to my German grandmother tell us about her life in Germany during World War Two and the Allied Occupation, her family’s migration to Australia in the 1950s and their early days in Sydney. She was always larger than life to me and I knew that one day I wanted to tell her story which resulted in me writing The Girl from Munich and Suitcase of Dreams.

While researching The Girl from Munich, and sifting through the documents, photos and memorabilia that my German grandmother left behind after she died, I discovered the letter that started the journey to Letters from Berlin. It was written by my grandmother’s cousin, recently returned to Germany after spending nearly forty years living in South America.

It was wonderful to discover a part of my grandmother’s family that I knew nothing about but the icing on the cake was the copy of a German newspaper article that accompanied the letter. As this cousin was involved in a landmark legal case in Germany in an attempt to reclaim property lost to his family at the end of the war, the article covered the story of his family through WW2 in Germany and into the Soviet occupation. Besides being an incredible story, one that I had to tell, the amazing thing for me was to learn more about my family.

With all three novels, thankfully there were enough details through story and documents that I could research further, investigating the historical events surrounding significant moments in these families’ lives. Using the pivotal experiences as anchor points in the novels, I was able to join the dots to construct an authentic story, weaving fact and research with fiction as I filled the gaps with what I imagined might have happened, to bring each family story to life.

I’ve been privileged to be able to share the stories of my family members. I’ve been delighted to hear from many readers who shared their own or their family stories and that is always a real honour. For me, as a writer and a lover of history, it doesn’t get better than that. I think that fictionalising family stories allows us to bring our characters to life, to make them flesh and blood, make them real and ordinary like the rest of us. At the end of the day I think that’s what intrigues us most. The lives of ordinary people touched by the events of their time. It’s their very human and often inspiring actions and reactions that make us believe in humanity and help us understand who we are. Our ancestors’ stories are their legacy and ours too. If we share them, passing them on to future generations, we’ll never forget their stories, who they were and in turn, where we come from.

About the book:
Berlin, 1943

As the Allied forces edge closer, the Third Reich tightens its grip on its people. For eighteen-year-old Susanna Göttmann, this means her adopted family including the man she loves, Leo, are at risk.

Desperate to protect her loved ones any way she can, Susie accepts the help of an influential Nazi officer. But it comes at a terrible cost – she must abandon any hope of a future with Leo and enter the frightening world of the Nazi elite.

Yet all is not lost as her newfound position offers more than she could have hoped for … With critical intelligence at her fingertips, Susie seizes a dangerous opportunity to help the Resistance.

The decisions she makes could change the course of the war, but what will they mean for her family and her future? About the author Tania Blanchard was inspired to write by the fascinating stories her German grandmother told her as a child. Coming from a family with a rich cultural heritage, stories have always been in her blood. Her first novel published by Simon & Schuster Australia, The Girl from Munich, was a runaway bestseller, as was the sequel, Suitcase of Dreams. Tania lives in Sydney with her husband and three children.

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