On Fridays right here, writers talk about their books, their process, where they’ve been, and where they’re going. Today Roberta Kagan joins us to celebrate the launch of her novel, THE PROMISED LAND, a Kindle Scout winner published by Kindle Press.
The Holocaust robbed Zofia Weiss of all she holds dear. The Secret State Police have confiscated her home, killed her friends, and imprisoned the man she loves. After searching through displaced persons' camps and finding nothing, Zofia is sure that her lover is dead. With only her life, a dream, and a terrifying secret, Zofia illegally boards The Exodus, bound for Palestine.
Along with a group of emaciated Jewish survivors, Zofia sets out to find the Promised Land. Despite the renewed sense of hope, Zofia lives in constant fear since the one person who knows her dark secret is a sadistic SS officer with the power to ruin her life and the life of an innocent, Lebensborn child.
When the Nuremburg trials convict the SS Officer of crimes against humanity, Zofia believes she is finally safe and does her best to raise the beautiful girl entrusted to her care. As the child becomes a woman in her own right, can she find true love and belonging in a post-war society, or will the secrets of her heritage tear apart the only family she’s ever known?
- What were the most challenging aspects of writing this book, and what came easily?
I would have to say that the most challenging aspects of writing my books would be the research, especially the meetings with Holocaust survivors. Because I write in the genre of Holocaust Fiction, it is essential that I listen to the stories of many survivors in order to authenticate the stories I create. Each story is a miracle, because it is told to me by someone who has survived against impossible odds. These miracles are a flicker of light in the darkest time known to mankind. Every time I leave a survivor and go home to my family I look into the eyes of those I love, and I know that it is only the era and the country where I was born that separates us from the same fate as the poor souls who suffered under the Third Reich.
As for the parts that came easily, I felt that once I began to write, the stories told themselves. I feel I am only there as a narrator, for my characters. I cry along with them as they experience the love, joy, pain, suffering, and loss.
- Tell us about your main characters and what drives them.
My main characters are driven by three very important factors: the desire to survive against a regime that threatens the very existence of their race, the need to protect those they love regardless of the cost to themselves, and a dream of a Jewish homeland that keeps them alive through unfathomable circumstances of starvation, loss, and pain. It is a dream of a Promised Land, where Jews can live without the threat of another Hitler.
- Can you describe your journey to publication: the torment and elation, the times none of it made any sense, the moments when it all came together?
Oh my gosh…well. It’s been an uphill climb. But I have to say that the wonderful encouraging letters, emails, facebook messages, and reviews from my readers have kept me going. I have been so blessed to have a large group of the most awesome people who have written to tell me how my books have helped them, taught them, and encouraged them. I’ve received letters from readers who feel that through my work they have found a new respect for their heritage. My readers are both Jews and non-Jews. They are survivors, children of survivors, and people who before my books never even knew about the Holocaust. In fact, I have even received emails--some apologetic, others angry and in denial--from the children and grandchildren of SS officers. I’ve gotten emails telling me that I should not be writing because I am not proficient in grammar and all of my editors have not helped. But overall, good, and bad, these letters are what keep me up writing and researching long into the night. They are a constant reminder of why I must continue to do this work. Soon the time will come when all of the survivors will be gone. But before they go, someone must tell their stories, the memory must live on. Only through education can we assure that this does not happen again.
- You get to the end of your life, and there to escort you through the tunnel to the light beyond and show you around is a philosopher / author / artist / scientist / celebrity you've always revered. Who is it, and why him/her?
When I reach the end of my time on this planet, I hope I will have fulfilled my purpose for being here. And then if I have done this correctly, and I hope I will have, all of the victims of the Holocaust will be waiting for me with open arms. They will say, “You have done well, you’ve told our stories as we would have told them with love and compassion. You have encouraged love and understanding amongst all people. Your work is done. Welcome home.”
- Tell us about your other books, past or in the pipeline.
THE PROMISED LAND is the third book in the ALL MY LOVE, DETRICK series. The series begins in 1923 in Berlin, ten years before Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany, and includes five books that go all the way through 1986. The series tells the story of how the Nazis came to power, how the state of Israel was born, and what it means to be and live as an Israeli. The order of the series is as follows.
TO BE AN ISRAELI
FOREVER, MY HOMELAND
Thank you so much, Jennifer, for giving me this wonderful opportunity to speak on your blog. I wish you and all of your readers good health, prosperity and many blessings, Roberta.
When I was a child, my mother kept a black suitcase in our basement. She forbade me to look inside. Of course, as we all know the way to spark a child's curiosity is to tell them they are forbidden to do or see a particular thing. One afternoon when my mother was out, I raced downstairs. Nobody was around, so I opened the suitcase. Inside I found pictures and letters in a foreign language. Later that night I asked my mother what all of it meant. She told me that she was trying to protect me by keeping the suitcase out of my reach, but since I'd found it I might as well know that she and my father both lost their entire extended families in the Holocaust. So began my obsession with the Nazi occupation of Eastern Europe. Being that my father was Romany and my mother was Jewish, I had many aspects to research and much to learn. Finally, many years later...I wrote my first novel. It is set in this period. It comes to you, along with all of my work, from my heart, with love and hopes that someday there will be understanding and tolerance among all peoples. I thank you so much for your interest in my writing.
Love, Blessings, Good Fortune, and as the Gypsies say, Good Road to all of you, Roberta Kagan
Thank you for sharing your poignant insight and journey, Roberta, and wishing you great success with your novels.
Buy THE PROMISED LAND and other books in the series, and look for Roberta on: