March 23, 2015

An Author A (Mon)day: Anne Blankman

I consider it a true privilege to be able to welcome Anne Blankman for this week's author interview. She's the mastermind behind Prisoner of Night and Fog, and the upcoming sequel Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke. These historical fiction novels are centered around a girl named Gretchen, and we see Hitler, his rise to political fame and so much more from her perspective. Both are well-written and compelling reads! Without further ado, please give Anne a warm welcome to Alexa Loves Books.

Alexa: Hi Anne! Welcome to Alexa Loves Books. Okay, first of all, I really think it's interesting that you chose to write about this particular historical time. What made you want to write about it? How did you come up with the idea for this story?

Anne: I read Anne Frank’s diary when I was twelve, and I fell in love with her the way you do for a friend when you’re twelve—deeply and irrevocably. For days after I finished her diary, I slunk around the house, feeling depressed. Finally my dad suggested that we go to the public library, where I could check out some books on World War Two. He thought that learning about the Resistance might help me see that not everyone had followed Hitler’s orders. I got out a book on the Nazi leadership and an autobiography of a Dutch resistance fighter, and I’ve been hooked on history ever since.

Alexa: Such a cool story! And I love that your dad played a part in it too. Did you have to do anything fun or interesting for research?

Anne: I’m a big history nerd, so I find ALL of my research interesting! A topic that was particularly fun, though, was the Ringvereine, Berlin’s organized criminal underworld. In some respects, Ringvereine were similar to the American Mafia, but they were rarely violent and certain criminals—such as those who had committed murder or sexual assaults—were banned from membership. 

Today a lot of people don’t know this, but one of the reasons for the Nazi Party’s early electoral successes was their tough stance on organized crime. Hitler pledged to stamp them out. Once he was appointed chancellor in 1933, he launched an all-out attack on Ringvereine. For these reasons, I realized that Rings would be likely allies for my main characters, Gretchen and Daniel. I had a great time plunging into Berlin’s seamy, shadowy universe of organized crime, and I can’t wait readers to explore that world in my book!

Alexa: Oh yes, the Ringevereine was fascinating! I liked learning about them through your book. Okay, now on to the good stuff - not to play favorites, but which character (apart from Gretchen and Daniel, of course) did you enjoy bringing to life?

Anne: Ooo, what a fun question! I’ve written three books so far, and while working on each of them I became fascinated by one of their real-life characters. When I wrote Prisoner of Night and Fog, for example, I found myself haunted by Fritz Gerlich, a courageous anti-Nazi journalist. Even though he knew he was putting himself in grave danger, he never stopped writing scathing, investigative articles about Hitler. Just thinking about him now brings a lump to my throat. For readers who want to know what happened to Gerlich, I promise you’ll find out in the sequel.

When I wrote Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke, I fell hard for Ernst Gennat, a legendary homicide detective in the Berlin Metropolitan Police Force. Gennat was tough as nails, with a brilliant, nimble mind. He investigated some of the most notorious murder cases in 1920s Germany, and revolutionized forensic science. Not only that, but he came up with the phrase “serial murderer”, when he wrote a 1931 article about infamous killer Peter Kürten, the so-called Vampire of Düsseldorf. 

As for my third book…well, I’d better not say too much yet! J It’s a romantic historical adventure set in a different time period and featuring an all-new cast of characters. Two of the real-life characters have been stuck in my head ever since I took a college course on one of them, and learned he had secretly met the other centuries ago in Italy after the latter had been arrested. And I’d better stop talking or I’ll give too much away! 

Alexa: Your third book sounds fascinating. I can't wait to read it! And now, let's finish off the interview with a quick seasonal question. What are your favorite winter traditions?

Anne: Cuddling under a quilt with a book and a cup of hot chocolate. It doesn't get much better than that!

Alexa: That sounds like a very good idea to me. Thank you for visiting the blog today, Anne! It was fun to learn a little more about you and your books, and I can't wait for that mysterious third novel of which you speak...

For more of Anne, visit her website and Twitter

Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke book cover
Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman
Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog #2
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: April 21, 2015

The girl known as Gretchen Whitestone has a secret: She used to be part of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle. More than a year after she made an enemy of her old family friend and fled Munich, she lives with a kindly English family, posing as an ordinary German immigrant, and is preparing to graduate from high school. Her love, Daniel Cohen, is a reporter in town. For the first time in her life, Gretchen is content.

But then, Daniel gets a telegram that sends him back to Germany, and Gretchen’s world turns upside-down. And when she receives word that Daniel is wanted for murder, she has to face the danger she thought she’d escaped-and return to her homeland.

Gretchen must do everything she can to avoid capture and recognition, even though saving Daniel will mean consorting with her former friends, the Nazi elite. And as they work to clear Daniel’s name, Gretchen and Daniel discover a deadly conspiracy stretching from the slums of Berlin to the Reichstag itself. Can they dig up the explosive truth and get out in time-or will Hitler discover them first?

Why should you read this book? If you love seeing how authors take on history and give it a fictional spin, you will enjoy this book. It's an exciting sequel, filled with interesting new twists and moments that will have your heart pounding! I enjoyed getting to see what does wind up happening to Gretchen and Daniel, and getting a definitive end to their tale. My official review is up next week, but in the meantime, you can check out my review of book one.


  1. What a great interview! While this series is still on my shelf to read - and honestly, I WANT to read it oh so badly! - I love things about this time period. Not so much the obvious ones (Holocaust, bombings, etc.) that we had drilled into us in grade school history, but the ones you don't hear about all the time. I love my eyes being opened to different sides of this time period, to things that happened but you never hear about. I've read a few books that have sparked a major interesting and feel like this may be a series that sparks even more! Great interview!

    1. I really think that Anne does a great job of doing that in Prisoner of Night and Fog! I only know what I've learned in school, really, but she offers an alternative + unexpected perspective in her novel. I think you'll really like both!

  2. Oh my gosh, I need to pick up A Prisoner of Night and Fog soon! I do adore Anne and have had the pleasure of interviewing her before as well but I enjoyed reading your Q&A with her, Alexa! You asked some great questions. :)

    1. Thank you, Hazel! Anne is a sweetheart. And her novels - Prisoner of Night and Fog and the upcoming Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke - are phenomenal! I enjoyed them because they were so different, and definitely gave me another perspective of that time period.

  3. I loved reading this interview! I absolutely adored PoNaF! I am so excited to start Conspiracy!


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