Escape from the Past: The Duke’s Wrath
by Annette Oppenlander
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GENRE: YA historical/sci-fi
When fifteen-year old nerd and gamer Max Anderson thinks he’s sneaking a preview of an unpublished video game, he doesn’t realize that 1) He’s been secretly chosen as a beta, an experimental test player. 2) He’s playing the ultimate history game,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.
The road narrowed and climbed. Above me the castle loomed. I’d take a closer look. Distract myself. Maybe I’d missed some sign of how to end the game. The path got steeper and I began to pant. On the south side, right below the castle, more huts squatted against the mountain. That had to be Rimbach. Except for the church, the houses looked like shacks a strong wind would flatten. I ignored the few villagers working in their gardens and headed uphill. The path grew steeper and I noticed one of the two towers.
They looked impossibly high as if they could pierce the clouds above. I shivered. There was supposed to be a restaurant and parking lot to my left and a gate along the path, inviting tourists to pay an entry fee to see the ruins. There was no such thing— just perfect castle walls and vertical cliffs.
I kept walking, the trail now so sheer that I had to lean forward to keep my balance.
“You, there, state your business.” The guard had appeared out of nowhere and rammed a spear into the ground, barely missing the tips of my shoes. The man squinted. He was clad in chainmail and a leather vest. His visor-less helmet didn’t fit well and compressed his cheeks upward, giving him the appearance of a chipmunk. Despite the threatening figure, I had to suppress a grin. But when I saw the man’s eyes, I lowered my gaze.
“Sorry, sir, I was lost. I didn’t mean to…” I looked past the guy toward the humongous castle, the two towers and the keep. I’d never felt smaller in my life.
The guard zeroed in on my shoes and whistled. Another sentry approached through a door in the wall.
“This lad is lost,” the first guard said. “Unlikely tale. Take note of his outlandish robes, the boots. He speaks a foreign tongue. And what respectable man other than a ruffian has hair like that?”
Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Annette Oppenlander author of “Escape from the Past: The Duke’s Wrath.”
Hi Annette, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Please tell us a little about yourself and your background.
What were you like at school?
I attended an all-girls school in Germany and was pretty shy. In many classes I didn’t want to participate because I was required to “talk” in front of people. I was never very popular, nor super good-looking. It didn’t help I was about two years younger than most of my classmates. I was still scrawny when some of the girls already had c-cups. When they got boyfriends I was still hanging out in my ‘play’ cabin. I survived school okay with the help of a few loyal friends and lots of doubts about everything. I was glad when I graduated.
Were you good at English?
Actually, no. Growing up in Germany I studied English from 5th-12th grade. I pretty much loathed it. By the time I studied business administration at the University of Cologne I knew I had to work on English so I attended classes in England and spent three months in San Francisco. I became really good in English once I’d spent 20 years in the U.S. I’ve been here since 1987 so English has become my first language.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I see myself as a lifelong author. I absolutely love writing, editing and researching, developing a story from a tiny nugget of an idea to a full-fledged novel. I have all kinds of ideas for novels I want to write and I hope I can do this for a very long time.
Which writers inspire you?
James Alexander Thom is my favorite historical fiction author. J.R.R. Tolkien is, of course, the master of storytelling. I’ve read the “Lord of the Rings” five or six times and still marvel at his craft. You’re hooked from page one. I love Stephen King’s “On Writing” because it’s not just dry instruction. King teaches you more of a feel for what works and tells it how it is. I think over the years many writers have inspired my writing. They all melded into my subconscious and out of it I pull my own stories.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does s/he do that is so special?
That would be Max ‘Nerds,’ a slightly hapless gamer who lives in a foreign country, whose parents are divorced and who isn’t quite sure where he belongs inside and out. Max lands in medieval Germany and is now faced with insurmountable problems. Yet, he rises above, his inner convictions leading him on the right path, albeit a few detours, while he makes some terrific friends.
What are you working on at this minute?
I’m getting ready to write a story about a teen boy and girl growing up during WWII in Germany. This is a novel I’ve been working on for 12 years. It’s challenging because the characters are based on my parents’ experience.
Which actor would you like to see playing Max?
Mmmh, that’s a tough one. I’d love somebody like a young Daniel Radcliffe. Max is 15 in the first book and 17 in the third.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
I assume you mean start ‘writing’ something. This was a process that took several years. In the beginning – the late 90s – I wrote children’s stories for young readers. That went nowhere. In 2002 I interviewed my parents about their lives during WWII in Germany which led to a number of short stories. Even then I didn’t really imagine writing a novel, let alone several. But I became aware how much I enjoy the writing process. How I feel while I do it. So I grew more and more invested, took classes, read books on craft, attended conferences and joined a critique group.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I love creative – first draft type – writing in the morning. I typically sit down around 9 am after I’ve mucked off on FB and various social media networks. I write till noon and take a break, eat, walk the dog, chat with my husband, run errands, etc. If I’m deeply into a project which usually takes me two to three weeks, I continue writing in the afternoon. If not, I may do research, edit or read.
Where do your ideas come from?
I wish I knew. They sort of make themselves known. I love to travel so I often get some inspiration from things I come across during my trips. For instance I learn about an interesting character. In September I rode bicycles with my husband and we stopped at the ruins of Castle Pappenheim, Germany. I learned about a duke who’d fought in the 30-year war and accidentally burned down an entire city. He was a very colorful guy so I may decide to write something about him in the future.
I got the idea for “Escape from the Past” visiting Castle Hanstein in Thuringia, Germany. There was this paper stuck on the wall in one of the rooms that told of a knight who feuded with a duke over a beautiful lady. I also raised two boys who are avid gamers and somehow the two, the castle story and the gamer stuck together.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
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 is the hardest thing about writing?
For me beginnings are hardest. Putting that first paragraph, page and chapter down requires the author to commit to some degree. Even though any chapter can be edited or thrown out, I often have doubt. First pages also tie down the ‘voice’ of our character(s) and so it’s important that it’s done right. In fact there is a slew of twenty of thirty to-dos for first chapters. First chapters always daunt me when starting a new manuscript.
Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors.
I read every day unless I’m on the road and cannot find the time. Time varies, but I usually don’t get to it until evening. My favorite authors include in no particular order: Suzanne Collins, J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien, James Alexander Thom, Jane Austen, Harper Lee…
For your own reading, do you prefer eBooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
I never thought I’d say this but I’m trending toward eBooks. I often read in bed laying on my side and struggle holding up my book. If it’s a thick volume or hardback, it’s even worse. Also on trips it’s great to carry along an entire bookshelf on my Kindle. And as a bonus point I don’t have to wear reading glasses. I just read Sue Monk Kidd’s “The Invention of Wings” which had a tiny font.
What book are you reading at present?
I’m reading James Alexander Thom’s new book “Fire in the Water.” I love historical fiction.
Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about.
The image on the cover is an original drawing of Castle Hanstein by Walther Reccius dated 1450. Since almost the entire novel takes place in and around the castle this is perfect. There are few original documents preserved from the Middle Ages, so this was a real find.
Who designed your book cover?
My publisher, Lodestone Books, designed the cover.
Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one?
Yes, here is the link. My son helped produce it with some fancy software.
Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
I’m not sure. I think giveaways are great for readers. It’s fun to get a new book in a contest. I’m also not against doing a brief special of charging 0 dollars, but the flood of free eBooks that’s been washing over the market is overwhelming. In the long run any traditionally or even indie-published author cannot compete with those price points. A typical author may get $1 out of a $12 book. He needs to sell lots of books to make a living. Why should what he does be free to everyone. His art should be of value. Unfortunately, lots of art suffers this fate. The music industry and visual arts have been dealing with this for years.
How do you relax?
I walk the dog and enjoy nature, ride my bicycle and garden. Of course, reading always relaxes me.
What is your favorite quote?
What is your favorite movie?
Boy, that’s a tough one. There are so many awesome movies. I’ll pick “Avatar.”
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
I love to meet readers on my FB page: https://www.facebook.com/annetteoppenlanderauthor/
or my website www.annetteoppenlander.com
Any final words?
If you’re an aspiring author never give up, read and write a lot and join a good critique group. Everything will fall in place eventually.
It’s been a real pleasure chatting with you. Thank you for having me.
Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.
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.”
Annette Oppenlander will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card
to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.