Kate. Hi there, dudes, it’s great to be with you again. Thank you for inviting me over. I heard from Cat Cavendish and from that Aussie troublemaker Noelle Clark that I should think twice before accepting the invitation because it could be … well … traumatic. But I’m not nervous. Because we have an understanding, don’t we, Bobby Bub? *wink wink*
Okay, you ask what made me pick Germany as the setting for my latest book, The Survivors.
The choice was triggered by what I saw on my television screen night after night – the desperate flight of refugees arriving frightened and exhausted in flimsy boats on the shores of Italy and Greece. It was heart-breaking to watch. It got me thinking about how Europe dealt with the problem of refugees in the past. Have we learned nothing?
It seems not.
I started to delve deeper and became totally engrossed in the story of the millions – yes, millions – of refugees who flooded across Europe at the end of World War 2. Homeless, jobless and starving, many fleeing from Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe, it was the biggest mass migration in the history of mankind.
So what did the Allied Military Government do?
They set up camps throughout Germany, just like we do today, to house the refugees. Some were in disused factories or military barracks, some in vast purpose-built enclosures. All had pretty basic facilities. Too often they were dangerous places. But they held out the offer of a dream of a better future.
To me it felt SO relevant to what is happening now and I knew I had found my story – a young mother and her child in one of the Displaced Persons camps in Germany, forced to confront the shadows of her wartime past when a man she knew in Warsaw enters the camp disguised as a refugee.
Kate : I’m sorry, Bobby Bub, but all the hamsters in the camp were tossed into the stewpot with onions and garlic. Very tasty, apparently. Note to dudes:- steer clear of refugee camps!
I wish I knew. To be honest, it varies. Sometimes it’s the characters who come to me first, walking into my life as bold as brass. But at other times it is the location that spills into my mind first, seducing me with its beauty or its history. This was particularly true of my last book, The Betrayal, which was set in Paris 1938. All that glamour and decadence. Oh, those delicious hot Parisian nights that I had to research …. I’m looking at you, Bobby Bub.
Kate. – I regard the location in each of my books as a character in the story, with a voice of its own. In The Survivors it’s not just the Displaced Persons camp location, but also the bomb-damaged cities of Berlin and Hanover that play a major role in the twists and turns of the plot.
At one point my main character Klara is taken to a scary prison in East Berlin and when she escapes, all hell lets loose. I loved stalking through the blackened ruins of the city at night with her, aware of its presence looming over her, feeling its breath on her neck. Yes, location for me is a crucial part of my books.
Kate. The Survivors does exactly what it says on the tin – it is about those who endured the war and now have to survive the peace. At its heart lies the question of how far a mother will go to protect her daughter. The answer is to hell and back. Klara, who lost her husband early in the war, is a strong and resourceful young woman whose love for 10 year-old Alicja is absolute and unshakeable. This is what drives the story through its many heart-stopping moments.
Klara and Alicja are incarcerated in the Displaced Persons camp with thousands of others, caught in a twilit existence somewhere between night and day. When the arrogant Oskar Scholtz walks into the camp pretending to be a refugee, she knows he is a threat to her life. But more importantly a threat to her daughter’s life. Because they both know the truth about his Nazi past. Klara decides he has to die, but they begin a dangerous game in which neither can trust the other. Klara is helped by her close friend Davide and by Hanna, the camp’s mighty laundrywoman.
But who will leave the camp alive?
Kate. Berlin is a beautiful city full of parks, bicycles and fun. We’ll have a fab weekend there, Bobby B. I’ll take you first to explore the must-see thrills of the magnificent Brandenburg Gate, the infamous Checkpoint Charlie, the historic remains of the Wall and the Reichstag parliament building, reconstructed by our own British architect Norman Foster. Then we’ll head on down to Hackescher Markt for a spot of Apfelkuchen and beer, and a breeze round its warren of exquisite shops – chocs and leather goods to die for.
But for me the place in Berlin that I love most is right in the heart of the busy city – the awesome Holocaust Memorial designed by Peter Eisenman. It is so moving, it brings me to tears without fail every time I go there. Photographs do not do it justice. It swallows you whole in a maze of tombstones. Utterly brilliant.
In the evening we will enjoy a delicious dinner in the revolving Sphere restaurant at the top of Berlin’s television tower. Not scared of heights, are you, BB? It is 680ft high. Stunning views across the city.
After that we’ll hit the nightspots in Friedrichsheim where the bars and clubs rock to live music all night.
I’m packing my case as we speak …
I certainly do. I am a sucker for German Apfelkuchen … that’s Apple Cake. It’s always moist, spicy and deliciously moreish. Sehr lecker! Here is my fave recipe:-
3 large eggs
250ml vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
300g plain flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
600g peeled and finely chopped tart apples, I use Granny Smith
150g chopped pecans
250g cream cheese
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk
250g icing sugar
1 Preheat oven to 170c degrees. Spray a 9×13-inch pan with cooking spray.
2 In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla extract until completely combined.
3 In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt.
4 Add dry ingredients to wet and stir to combine.
5 Fold in apples and pecans. Pour batter into prepared pan.
6 Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Allow to cool.
7 Make frosting. Place cream cheese and butter in a large bowl. Beat with electric mixer until smooth.
8 Add vanilla extract and icing sugar. Beat until smooth.
9 Spread on top of cake. Store leftovers in refrigerator
Kate. My next project? I am VERY excited about it. The story is set in France in 1953 – a new era for me – during the escalating nuclear threat of the Cold War. The story takes place in the Camargue, the French region famous for its gorgeous wild white horses and black bulls. The divisions within a family lead it into a sinister web of secrets and lies. Think Soviet spies, think danger, think thrills.
Thank you, dudes, for inviting me over. I really enjoyed catching up again.
Bobby B, you got your passport ready?
*** THE TOP TEN BESTSELLING AUTHOR ***
Directly I saw him, I knew he had to die.’
Germany, 1945. Klara Janowska and her daughter Alicja have walked for weeks to get to Graufeld Displaced Persons camp. In the cramped, dirty, dangerous conditions they, along with 3,200 others, are the lucky ones. They have survived and will do anything to find a way back home.
But when Klara recognises a man in the camp from her past, a deadly game of cat and mouse begins.
He knows exactly what she did during the war to save her daughter.
She knows his real identity.
What will be the price of silence? And will either make it out of the camp alive?
Kate Furnivall had the shock proof of her life when she learned just over a decade ago that she was part Russian. Not a demure all-English rose after all then. It changed her life. Triggered those Russian genes into action. Inspired by her grandmother’s dramatic St Petersburg life-story at the time of the Soviet Revolution, Kate wrote her first historical novel, The Russian Concubine, which hit the New York Times Bestseller list and was sold in 25 countries.It hooked Kate into the thrill of setting powerful emotional stories in dramatic far-off locations. She took to travelling with a vengeance – Russia, China, Malaya, Egypt, Bahamas, Italy, France. All became backdrops for her sweeping tales set in the first half of the 20th century when the world was in turmoil.
Research trips were riddled with wonderful adventures and weird discoveries that enrich her books. She delves into dark themes as well as intense love stories, and strips her characters to the bare bones in times of crisis to see what they are made of. Her books are full of tension, twists and thrills, atmosphere and romance.
Kate was raised in Wales, went to London Uni and worked in advertising in London. She now lives in blissful Devon with her husband, snuggled up close to Agatha Christie’s house for inspiration. She has two sons and a manky cat.
Kate has written ten historical novels, two of which have been shortlisted for the RNA Historical Novel of the Year Award.