Tag Archives: those who save us

The Fun and Amazing Jenna Blum Part 2

I still cannot get over the fact that I was able to talk with Jenna Blum the best selling author of Those Who Save Us.  It was just a ton of fun to talk with her and learn more about her writing process for the novel, along with some things about herself.100_0653

Today I’ll tell you more about our Skype time that dealt with how Jenna wrote the novel, and interesting fact about the novel, and some things about herself!

woodrowI wrote in yesterday’s post, The Fun and Amazing Jenna Blum Part 1, about how the novel began and that it took her 10 years to finish.  What I didn’t tell you is how a story comes to Jenna and that she wrote the story in two separate parts.  Jenna told us that she is like a “medium” when it comes to writing.  She has to wait for the story to come to her, and constantly ask questions about what a character should do or what comes next.  When writer’s block strikes, she continues to ask herself the same questions over and over again while taking her lab, Woodrow, for constant walks.

Here is an excerpt from her blog, and it is exactly what she told us:

“When I was writing THOSE WHO SAVE US, I think I might have had it somewhat easier in that books were still my primary research source, as opposed to the Internet, which can lead one down such endless paths (and who knows what’s true?). I also incorporated emotional details from interviewing Jewish Holocaust survivors for the Spielberg Foundation–and for visceral detail watched every movie I could find about the era, and listened to German music and took German classes and baked everything that appears in the novel! so I would know as much as possible what it felt like to be my characters from the inside out. I did stop short of sleeping with an SS officer, however.

The sum total of this was 10 years’ worth of research; for my second book, I did the same.

My organizing principle is like Hemingway’s tip of the iceberg theory about writing: I know 90% more than what made it onto the page. And knowing that invisible 90% is what helped give me the confidence in my characters and their situations. I believe that confidence resonates with readers; you’re not showing it off to them, but they feel it by osmosis.”

The first part of the story she wrote was Anna’s story.  Anna’s story takes place in the past during WWII.  This part of the story only took her 6 months to finish.  Anna’s story “came” to her quite easily.  Trudy’s story (which takes place in the present); however, took her 2 1/2 years to write.  Jenna told us that Trudy’s story was a pain to write, and she made a few changes to it while writing.  She then went back and put the stories of the two women together; rotating between past and present throughout the novel.

One of the main questions our book club had for Jenna was:  Why wouldn’t Anna tell Trudy who her real father was?  The answer to that question is a simple one.  “Trudy was asking Anna the wrong questions.”  Not once during the novel did Trudy directly ask Anna who her father was.  If she had, “Anna would have set Trudy straight.”  Had Trudy asked the “right” question, she would have had a different life and relationship with her mother.

Now on to a few fun facts about the fun loving Jenna Blum!

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Jenna has a wonderful boyfriend, Jim Reed, who loves to “Skype bomb” while wearing a large Viking helmet.  This helmet was a birthday gift from Jenna, because, “That is what he should have for his 50th birthday.”  Mr. Reed is an amazing photographer of weather and it’s productions.  I have seen quite a few of his pics on Jenna’s Facebook page and they are beyond amazing!  I have also posted one of his pics below…Pretty amazing huh!?!

Reed

the stand

Lonesome doveGone with the wind

I remembered to ask Jenna one of my main questions for her right before we hung up…I was not thinking very well that night, and just about forgot this question:  What is your favorite book or books?  Jenna has 3 favorite books that she tries to reread every year, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, The Stand by Stephen King, and Gone With the Wind.  Honestly, these were the last books I would have guessed to be her favorites, and it was so neat to learn what she loves to read.

Jenna also listed several other books that she has recently read and loved.  One book she talked about for a bit was Molly Ringwald’s latest book, When it Happens to You. I’ll be reading this story very soon!!when it happens to you

The only other question I asked Jenna was if she was working on her 3rd book yet, and I was sweating buckets asking that question and praying I didn’t offend her by asking.  Thankfully she laughed and told me it was fine to ask.  She is currently in her “good” place when it comes to writing a new story.  Jenna has begun reading short stories again, and that is her “sign” that she is getting back into the writing mode again.  So, for all of you who are out there waiting, keep on hanging in there!!  It will come!!

Oh!!!  How could I forget!!  Those Who Save Us will be turned into a movie!!!  Jenna just submitted her screen play for the story to the producers!!  Yea!!!  I cannot wait to see it on the big screen!  Huummm, wonder if they will need any extras from North Dakota for the movieWinking smile?

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I had the most wonderful experience and time Skyping with Jenna Blum.  She was a ton of fun, and she took her time to talk to us for hours!  Here is a link to her website where she answers other commonly asked questions:  Jenna Blum.  I highly recommend you check out her website and learn more about her and her writing!!

The Fun and Amazing Jenna Blum Part 1

Monday night’s Skype session with Jenna Blum was just so amazing and beyond words!  Jenna was beyond fun and kind, and we all just had the greatest time chatting with Jenna about her book, Those Who Save Us, which takes place during WWII and the present.  Honestly, I’m still on cloud nine right now!  I came home from our Skype/Book Club meeting bouncing off of the walls with excitement.  My poor husband didn’t know what to do with me, and it was a miracle we both got to sleep that night due to me babbling nonstop about my evening.  Oh, and for once in my life I was at a loss for words while we were talking with Ms. Blum.  All normal and coherent thoughts left my head, and I was lucky enough to not have my jaw hanging on the floor with drool coming out during our whole conversation.

As for what I wore for the evening, well for once it wasn’t yoga pants or anything involving workout attire (it is pretty bad when your 7-year-old son points out that you are always wearing something that involves workout clothing).  I ended up going for the casual yet smart look for the evening.

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Here are two pics of Jenna from our Skype session. In one she is doing her best to try to be serious (she is really a total ham).

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I took a ton of notes during our Skype with Ms. Blum, and I really have no idea how to write it all up for ya.  Therefore, bear with me as we explore Those Who Save Us and other little tidbits of info I got from her.  I’ll start out with how the novel came to be.

In 1993 Jenna’s mom “made” her go to Germany, where her family was originally from.  Jenna was not all that thrilled about going to Germany for a vacation.  She was actually hoping for a more adventurous vacation in France, Morocco, Italy, or Arkansas (I swear she said that).  Well, Jenna ended up having an amazing time traveling throughout Germany and seeing all there was to see.    While in Germany Jenna began asking, “How such a great culture (…known for producing great artists in all forms) could produce the worst genocide in history?”  During their time in Germany they visited concentration camps, one of which was Buchenwald.  While in Buchenwald one of the main characters, Anna, “came” to Jenna, and the story began to write itself from there.  However, it was not a simple process, and the final version you read today took 10 years to develop.

While Jenna was working on Those Who Save Us she was also doing interviews for the Shoah Project.  It was her job to interview/document the stories of survivors of the Holocaust.  These interviews also helped her develop a better understanding of the time and helped her develop some of her characters.

The main antagonist of the story, the Obersturmfuhrer (or Big “O” as Jenna likes to call him) is, “Not a monster, but a person doing monstrous things.”  He is a high ranking SS officer during WWII who forces himself into the lives of Anna and Trudy (mother and daughter/main characters).  In order to develop his character and other Nazi officer’s characters, Jenna learned and read as much as she could about Nazi’s from the Nuremburg Trials.

My favorite part of the evening with Jenna Blum was our insights into the characters and what happened to them that was not part of the novel.  Honestly, it was so neat to hear about the lives Jenna created for them outside of the novel.  For example (and this one is my favorite), Anna’s father, Gerhard, “Is a character with no redeeming qualities at all.”  Jenna was kind enough to share with us the story of his “ending”, which is not in the novel.  The horrible Gerhard met his demise towards the end of the war, while sitting at dinner eating a big greasy turkey leg.  Then out of nowhere a bomb drops on him and vaporizes him.  As far as I’m concerned, this is a very fitting end for this evil man!  This is just one of the little stories about the characters from her novel, so if you would like to learn more you will have to Skype with her yourself!

I’m not going to be able to write-up everything we talked about during our Skype time, since Ms. Blum was kind enough to talk with us for over 2 hours.  However, I will have more from our Skype session for you tomorrow.

In the meantime, here is the recipe for the cannoli’s I made for our book club meeting!  They are a bit different from your typical cannoli recipe.  Hence the name.  Also, this is the recipe for the filling in the cannoli’s.  These cannoli’s have Mascarpone cheese in them to make them even richer!  Save yourself the time and go to your local grocery and buy premade cannoli shells in the Italian or specialty food aisle.  This is what I do, and if I can find the cannoli shells all the way up here in “nowhere” North Dakota, I know you will be able to find them in your local grocery store.

Not Your Italian Grandmother’s Cannoli’s

Not Your Italian Grandmother's Cannoli's

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 1 c Ricotta Cheese
  • 8 oz. container of Mascarpone Cheese
  • 3/4 c powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract or Amaretto liquor
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
  • powdered sugar for garnish
  • nuts, chocolate chips, fruit, etc. to garnish with.

Directions:

Combine all the ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Then, place the mixture in a plastic bag.  Close the bag and place in fridge for a few hours.  I put the bag in a glass with one corner of the bag in the bottom of the glass, and then fill the bag.  This will make it easier to “pipe” the mixture into the cannoli’s.  See picture below.  Cut the corner off of the bag containing the cannoli filling and begin piping it into the cannoli shells.  The filling is a bit messy and runny, but that is normal.  Once the shells are filled, place the cannoli’s in a freezer safe container and freeze for 1-2 hours.  Remove them from the freezer and place in the refrigerator 1 hour before serving.  Dust the tops with powdered sugar before serving, and any other garnishes you would like to add.  Enjoy!!!

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Preparations!!

Today is the big Skype day with Jenna Blum, author of Those Who Save Us!!  I have been spending my morning in the kitchen making food for our book clubs meeting and Skype session.  The cannoli’s (recipe to be posted tomorrow) are made, the coffee cake is in the oven, and the honey beer bread is cooling.  Of course, there will be other munchies too!  Now all I have to do is pick out an outfit to wear, and I’ve been staring at my closet for awhile now with no idea what I’m going to wear.  Arg!  Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post to see how our Skype session went with Ms. Blum and if I can find something to wear that does not involve yoga pants!!!

Well, I still have a workout to fit in, so I’m going to head on downstairs and do Workout A from Tina’s Best Body Bootcamp.  I’m totally loving the workouts she comes up for us.  In only a few weeks I’ve already gone up in the weights I use, and I’m really starting to see some nice looking muscles popping in my arms and shoulders again!!

Here is a 35 Minute Treadmill Workout that focuses on speed and increasing your endurance.  It is a favorite of mine!

35 Minute Treadmill Workout

Skyping with New York Times Best Seller

I started out having a hard time getting going this morning.  We were up late last night watching the election and then talking.  After that I stayed up even longer reading, and I have a good excuse for it.  Right now I’m rereading Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum. I absolutely loved this novel the first time I read it a few years ago, and I’m loving it all over again while currently rereading it. If you have not read this moving story, please pick it up to read today!

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I’m rereading this wonderful novel, because I’m going to be Skyping with the author, New York Times Best Seller Jenna Blum on Monday!!!!  I’ve been beyond excited about this since I set it up with Blum a few months back.  I’m not someone who really cares about celebrities you see on television and in the movies; however, authors are a whole different story.  Every time I received a reply email from the wonderful Ms. Blum I did a little happy dance (Did I mention that she is the sweetest person too?).  Basically, I turn into one of those star struck individuals who jump up and down and start clapping.  I swear I could talk to any author for hours.  How they come up with their stories just amazes me.

If you have read this story let me know if you have any good questions for Ms. Blum, and I’ll ask her for ya!

On to my morning…

Here is what I had for breakfast.  My hubby made us scrambled eggs and pancakes.  I let my son and husband eat the pancakes while I opted for healthier left over maple steel cut oats (I added a scoop of protein powder to the oats this morning to get even more protein in my breakfast).  It all tasted so good and gave me a ton of energy for my Best Body Bootcamp workout!

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I have been loving Tina’s workouts she has created for us this week, and today’s was awesome!!!  It really kicked my butt!  After Tina’s workout, I hoped on a treadmill and did the interval you see below.  This interval is more of a speed interval that has one small hill in it.  Hope y’all have a great workout today!


30 Minute Treadmill Intervals

What I’m Reading

Right now I am re-reading Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum, and reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  The most exciting news is that I will be Skyping with Jenna Blum, author of Those Who Save Us, with my local book club!!!  So, if you have questions…post them!!!  Happy Reading!!!

For fifty years, Anna Schlemmer has refused to talk about her life in Germany during World War II. Her daughter, Trudy, was only three when she and her mother were liberated by an American soldier and went to live with him in Minnesota. Trudy’s sole evidence of the past is an old photograph: a family portrait showing Anna, Trudy, and a Nazi officer, the Obersturmfuhrer of Buchenwald.

Driven by the guilt of her heritage, Trudy, now a professor of German history, begins investigating the past and finally unearths the dramatic and heartbreaking truth of her mother’s life.

Combining a passionate, doomed love story, a vivid evocation of life during the war, and a poignant mother/daughter drama, Those Who Save Usis a profound exploration of what we endure to survive and the legacy of shame.

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge.Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.