Welcome to Author Wednesday. I’m pleased to welcome back Christoph Fischer to my blog. Christoph writes historical fiction and recently published the third book in his Three Nations Trilogy, The Black Eagle Inn. The Luck of the Weissensteiners, Sebastian, and The Black Eagle Inn are set in Europe during either World War I, World War II, or the post-war period. They offer a unique view of wars that pulled apart countries, cultures, and religions. Christoph uses the individual stories to narrate his historical perspective.
Welcome to Author Wednesday, Christoph. It’s always a pleasure to have you drop by for a chat. You’ve written a trilogy so I wonder about the similar messages and themes you used in all three books. What message are you trying to convey to your readers?
I try to write about new historical aspects, but also the human factor and how people deal with the trials of their lives. I hope that the importance of families, love, and tolerance shine through my pages. My motivation to write stories derives from a fascination with my chosen subjects, such as a particular era of history, Alzheimer’s, or mental health. I want to pass on what I have learned in the process, and I hope that what was new or intriguing to me will also be that to my readers.
Those are very important themes to express. To get to this point, who or what has the most influence on your writing?
The influences on my writing are more or less in this order: The reviewers and their invaluable feedback; my editors whose critiques can never be tough enough to help me improve; literature teachers in my past whose encouraging words saw me through waves of self-doubt; and great writers whose amazing books make me both jealous and ambitious.
You’ve stated you do have common themes throughout all of your books. What motivated you to write about those things?
I lost both of my parents when I was fairly young, and I guess that is why I am so prone to write about large families rather than about lovers. I had a huge support network at the time and that shows in the set-up of my stories.
Losing your parents at a young age is certainly something that left a mark on your life. You’ve chosen to use that in a positive way through your writing, which is admirable. Is there a broader message you’re expressing since the plots of all three books are in the context of the larger world that have created the individual angst and triumph.
In the widest sense, I am writing about the concept of Nations in my three books. Being a German from the Sudetenland made my father a bit of a foreigner in the eyes of some, and with my odd accent in Bavaria, I felt like that, too. After twenty years of living in the UK, I am branded a German there, but I don’t feel as if I belong to either of the Nations completely. In the first two books, it is the drawing of new borders, establishment of new governments, and blatant racism that help create new and bigger or smaller nations—multi-ethnic or not. In the third book, The Black Eagle Inn, I focus on the personal and how people choose to draw their own borders, and the foundations for all policies that exclude. Above all, it is about how a Nation can and must change.
I was very curious to learn more about post-war Germany, something not covered in our history lessons, yet a most important lesson for a country with such shame and guilt to deal with. I was trying to put into context the many contradictory experiences and comments (racist, chauvinist, or humble and riddled with guilt) which I had picked up in my childhood. By putting myself and my characters through the research and the writing experience, I hope I have come up with something that has interest and relevance for others, too.
What I love about the two books I’ve read is the knowledge I gained about the wars and the individual stories that you created. We don’t understand the impact of the global actions until we look at the individuals who live it. Do you have a favourite character that you created?
I love almost all of my characters, and all for different and valid reasons. Right now, I am thinking of Markus in The Black Eagle Inn. Initially, he is a misguided and selfish gay man who gradually becomes more aware. I was often asked if he is me, and I always rejected the idea because I never did what he does in the book. On longer reflection however, he served as a great tool of reflection on my life. I left a small town because I could not see myself living a gay life in a small and potentially judgmental environment. Like him I chose the safety of a big city instead of fighting in my corner, and like him, I too had irresponsible phases in my life. I thought that Markus was not a character I had put my heart in when I wrote him, but the longer I am reading him, the more he is growing on me.
I’m sure Markus came through your subconsicious in some ways. I always say that a little bit of me exists in all of my characters. What is the best thing said about any of your books by a reviewer?
“I loved Sebastian. A truly inspiring read for anyone!”
The best reviews are short and sweet. What is the one sentence pitch for The Black Eagle Inn?
A great family saga set in post war Germany about political and religious division, revenge, reformation, and redemption.
Those are some of my favorite themes in my books, too. What is the best thing that someone could say about The Black Eagle Inn?
A gripping family saga with an interesting setting of post-war Germany with great characters and some fascinating historical facts and insight.
How was the book conceived in your imagination?
A scene in the Oscar-nominated German film, The Bader Meinhoff Complex, stuck to my mind. It showed the hate of some of these post-war born terrorists towards their parents. I started to imagine life in post-war Germany: the guilty and the innocent living together, the bystanders, the blind witnesses and their offspring. Since much has been written about the Nuremberg Trials, I focused on the people not directly involved but were not totally innocent either. Then the first few characters came to life and soon the story followed.
Who would play you in a film about your life?
Ewan McGregor, please.
Good choice. What are you reading right now?
The Changeling by Christopher Shields, a fantasy story about Fae.
How did you come up with the title The Black Eagle Inn?
The Black Eagle Inn is a restaurant and hotel business in my book. When I remembered that there is a Black Eagle emblem on the official German Flag and also an Eagle on the speaker’s desk in the German parliament, this “accidental symbolism” seemed the perfect choice for a title. The bird theme began on the cover of Book 1(The Luck of the Weissensteiners) and continues in this saga of a blackened bird rising from the ashes.
I’m looking forward to reading it. Is there a book or an author that acts as standard bearer for your writing?
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts is one of my all-time favorite books with great multifaceted and developing characters. I wonder with all of my characters if they could be part of his books. Lionel Shriver (We Need to Talk About Kevin) has a bite and raw honesty that I also aspire too in my books.
Christoph, it’s always a pleasure. Thank you for writing such important historical pieces.
About Christoph Fischer: Christoph was born in Germany, near the Austrian border, as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. Not a full local in the eyes and ears of his peers, he developed an ambiguous sense of belonging and home in Bavaria. He moved to Hamburg in pursuit of his studies and to lead a life of literary indulgence. After a few years, he moved on to the UK where he still resides today. Besides the Three Nations Trilogy, he has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalization.