# Can you please introduce yourself and your book?
I am Helene Munson, the author of ‘Boy Soldiers, The story of an elite Nazi education and a legacy of trauma,’ to be published in the UK in the fall of 2021 and the USA in the spring of 2022.
# What is the real-life story behind your book?
I used my father’s WWII diary as an underage Nazi soldier fighting a lost war to tell the story of Germany’s children under the Nazis. It is a forgotten group of victims that has kept their suffering secret out of shame. The time has come to tell their stories.
# What inspires your creativity?
I like to show my readers a different way of seeing the world. I am interested in forgotten history and explore what is going on underneath the surface.
# How do you deal with creative block?
I do not fight creative block. Some days I have nothing to say. On those days, I update my website and social media accounts.
# What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
You can never assume that your first draft is your final draft. You’ll have to continue to edit, edit and do some more editing. You also need to have a clear idea of who your readers are. Not knowing your book’s genre can be a problem.
# Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
I was fortunate that both my UK and USA publishers came up with titles and cover designs. If I had to do it on my own, I would go to bookstores and look on the shelves to see what is similar. Before this book, I experimented with self-publishing. I found that all the print-on-demand platforms like Ingram, Amazon, Lulu and Blurb have pretty good tools to help you make a cover design. I prefer to use photographs I took myself.
# How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
For my subject matter, I will get negative responses. I must distinguish between legitimate criticism of my writing and confused, emotional reactions to the controversial subject matter. Constructive feedback that helps me become a better writer and researcher or fills in some previously unmentioned facts is good, even if it is painful. Attacking me groundlessly on the Internet by people who did not even read the book is not, but it is still hard to ignore. I have to resist the temptation to engage with them. Don’t feed the trolls!
# How has your creation process improved over time?
I always knew what I wanted to write. I had to learn how. The money I have invested in attending well-reviewed workshops such as Grub Street Inc. in Boston or the Southampton Writers Conference and others was worth it. My advice would be to make sure that the program you choose is suitable for your genre before spending your money.
# What were the best, worst, and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book?
Initially, I only wanted to write about my father as a boy soldier on the Eastern Front as an example of the great injustice done to children worldwide who must fight before they can vote. Later, I found my father’s school diary and realized that I had to add a section on the Nazi elite educational system for the readers to understand why these boys went so gullibly to be slaughtered. I worked on the book for over ten years. While I felt very alone at the beginning, I realized towards the end that more and more people were becoming interested in the subject matters and willing to speak out on what has been kept a secret in Germany for over eighty years.
# Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
Every author gets some personal satisfaction out of putting his/her book out there. I wrote my book primarily to inform my readers. It is such an important, overlooked part of German history that I wanted to put it out there as though it is my duty. Besides my satisfaction and my readers, there is one more motivating factor: my responsibility towards those who no longer can tell their own stories.
# What role do emotions play in creativity?
If you cannot take your readers on an emotional journey, you have no business being a creative writer. Whether artists choose visual arts, music or writing, all are emotional beings; otherwise, they cannot create.
# What are your plans for future books?
The book ‘Boy Soldiers’ was about my father and his generation of war children. The next book will be on my generation, Germany’s grandchildren of war, how we deal with the transgenerational trauma and Nazi guilt passed on to us, and our conflicted relationships with our parents who were in search of their lost childhoods. I am considering calling it ‘The German Guilt’. Or do you have a better suggestion?
# Tell us some quirky facts about yourself!
My feline muse is called Trotzki. That small, grey cat is a rescue from the local shelter and the most faithful comrade a writer can have.
Thank you for the opportunity for this interview. Please check my website www.helenemunson.com for updates on my work.