Author Feature: Irene Wittig

My name is Irene Wittig, and I am the author of ALL THAT LINGERS, an historical novel inspired by my family’s experiences.

The basic story: The rise of Nazism in Austria catapults Emma’s once idyllic life in Vienna into chaos. As she grapples with the harsh new reality of her country’s betrayal, she desperately clings to her humanity by hiding her Jewish friends. In the aftermath, she finds solace in helping those in even greater need than herself.

The war sends Sophie, an innocent young girl, down unexpected paths. When she returns to Vienna from her American refuge, she will seek her lost history.
Friedrich, Sophie’s uncle, teeters on the edge of what is right and his personal survival. His actions and inaction leave long-lasting repercussions that will threaten to throw all their lives into turmoil again.

Readers follow the interweaving stories of people as they endure loss, betrayal and heartache, while still clinging to hope for a better tomorrow.

I was born in liberated Rome to a half-Jewish Viennese mother who had found a modicum of safety in Italy after the Nazi annexation of Austria. My early childhood was spent changing countries and languages until we arrived in New York. There, from age seven, I lived in a Manhattan neighborhood of Holocaust survivors and fellow Europeans displaced by war. I absorbed their memories of betrayals and sacrifice, of courage and difficult decisions, of strangers’ kindnesses and sheer luck. I came to understand that their gratitude for having found safety in America was tinged with longing for the lives they’d once loved and had been forced to give up. I learned that the past is never quite past. These lingering shadows of all that had been lost are what inspired me to write ALL THAT LINGERS — yet, in writing the novel I found myself reflecting on what my family’s life might have been like had they not been able to leave Vienna.

I was eager to create characters one cared about, that would represent the different ways one might react to war and displacement. I wanted to show how, when faced with authoritarian regimes, people can resist, willingly adopt, or silently go along –each bringing its own costs.

Research was important, as I wanted the time and setting to be as accurate as possible. 

Aside from all the challenges of good writing, one main challenge for this novel was what to tell when. Should the reader know something that a character may not know or discover until later? How much can or should one foreshadow?

Another challenge was whether to tell the story in first or third person. I tried both. One of them worked better in first person than the others but was too dominant that way.

Choosing a title is always difficult and I went through several before deciding that All That Lingers best captured what I wanted to express.

The most surprising thing that happened to me—and thus the book—was the change in Austrian law after publication. After so many years of not fully acknowledging its complicity in Nazi atrocities, Austria now offers descendants of people who suffered persecution under the regime, the possibility of re-acquiring the Austrian citizenship their ancestors lost. I included this update in later editions of the novel.

In writing, I find I am most inspired by and attached to my characters, enjoy describing setting, and my challenges are usually related to plot. I hope I have resolved that well in my second novel THE BEST THING ABOUT BENNETT, which is not an historical novel, though it does include one elderly Viennese character, and has scenes that take place in Uganda.

The greatest post-writing challenge is marketing, especially for a self-published author.

In my website https://all-that-lingers.com readers can explore the historical, cultural, and gastronomic Vienna of my novel through videos, audio, articles, photographs and even recipes. The website also includes a book trailer, reviews, and information on my other books.

ALL THAT LINGERS can be found on Amazon in print, ebook, and audiobook as well as many other vendors and libraries through Draft2Digital. 

THE BEST THING ABOUT BENNETT can be found on Amazon in print and ebook.