From the Ashes by Sandra Saidak Genre: Science Fiction, Alternate History
In a dramatic departure from her popular prehistoric fiction, Sandra Saidak now offers up her first alternate history novel.
Two generations after Germany won World War II, a lonely college student named Adolf Goebbels wanders into a dusty museum and discovers books and artifacts of a dead race called “Jews”. Although a member of the Nazi elite, Adolf resents the oppression, fear, and isolation that are part of daily life in the Aryan “paradise” his grandparents helped build.
As he reads the forgotten books, and meets the outcasts who gather at the museum, Adolf discovers a purpose he has long been searching for—and danger he has never imagined.
Based on real-life Nazi plans for museums of dead races, this sprawling alternate history novel takes the reader from decadent Berlin, the capital of the Nazi world empire, across the conquered nations of Europe to uncover the startling secrets at the heart of the worldwide Reich.
Fans of Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle and Robert Harris’ Fatherland will want to read this new voice in alternate history.
I’ve loved escaping into other worlds for as long as I can remember. Sometimes, through books and movies, I found worlds created by others. Sometimes, I created them myself.
The upside of this quirk was two ready-made careers. The first is teaching high school English so I could share my passion for books and stories with the people I believe need it the most: teenagers. The second is writing, so I could share the worlds I created with everyone.
While not all my fantasy life centers on history, all of my early writing did, probably because of the huge impact Jean Auel and her Earth’s Children series had on me. Despite the rich niche of prehistoric fiction, and authors like Sue Harrison, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, Mary Mackey and Michael and Kathleen Gear, I couldn’t get enough of it. More properly, I couldn’t find the exact story I wanted to read.
So, I wrote it. And in 2011, published Daughter of the Goddess Lands, Book 1 in my Kalie’s Journey series. I added alternative history with From the Ashes and That This Nation Might Live, and historical fantasy with The Seal Queen.
This year, I am taking the plunge into epic fantasy, with Songs of Light.
When not writing, I enjoy dancing, music, attending science fiction conventions and hearing from my readers. I live in California with my husband and fellow author Tom, our two daughters, Heather and Melissa, and a cat named Oreo.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
My favorite way to relax is to go outside—and preferably take a long hike. I’m amazed at how quickly problems fall away—or even better, story ideas start popping—when I’m alone in nature. The weather doesn’t even have to be beautiful. Or, to put it another way, the weather is always beautiful, even when it’s cold or foggy. In fact, walking through a heavy mist, when I can’t see or hear any other humans, is my favorite way to connect with a story. The biggest problem with it, so far, is that when it starts to feel magical, I start hoping I won’t have to go back.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I’m starting to suspect that the lizards I keep seeing have chosen me, and not the other way around. I don’t know why there are suddenly so many of them, but I see them everywhere I hike. They’re small and quick and very pretty: the patterns on them are what I can only describe as jewel-like, even though the colors are shades of brown and gray and black. I find them relaxing to watch, so I’m down with having them as my spirit animal. However, I don’t know what kind of lizard they are. Hopefully, that’s not a requirement.
What are you currently reading?/ What should everyone read?
Scarlet Carnation, by Laila Ibrahim. It’s the fourth book in a series without a name. I’m going to suggest the author give the series a name, because I accidentally started with book 3! However, it was so good that I went back and read the first two, despite several spoilers. I recommend this series to everyone who wants to better understand some of the strife and division in the U.S. today. So far, the series takes us from Virginia, 1837 to California, 1918, and follows two intertwined families, starting with a plantation owner’s unloved daughter and the slave woman who raises her. Some of it is painful to read, but always worth it.
What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?
Orson Scott Card
What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always been a devoted student of WWII—especially the Holocaust. One night, while watching a documentary on Simon Wiesenthal I learned of the Nazi plan to create museums of dead races after they won the war. While the narrator mentioned various relics, such as ritual objects, the main thing he focused on was books. The irony struck me immediately: what if it had happened that way? A world under Nazi rule would produce countless unhappy subjects, even among the ruling class. So, what would happen if some of those people wandered into those museums, and started reading? After that, the book wrote itself.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I’m currently writing YA fantasy. “Song of Light,” the first book in a series, was recently released. Here’s the Amazon description:
Sold into servitude by her father to settle his debts with a brutal innkeeper, Salia dreams of a better life. Desperate for a way out, she finds her escape in a portal to another world… a world where magic still flourishes.
Welcomed by a band of wildlings into a land of eternal childhood, time passes happily, until the injury of one of her friends forces Salia to seek help at the temple of healing. There she meets Alyssa, an elven warrior princess who encourages Salia to explore the wider world with her.
But the Darkness, an evil force that drained Salia’s former world of magic, now threatens her new home with the same fate. Salia finds herself thrust into a race to save this new world. Can she prevent it from falling victim to a similar destiny?
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
Several of my readers have requested a story about Ilsa, the icily determined leading lady in From the Ashes. I’d like to give it a try someday, but frankly, she scares me. And I’m not sure I want to live inside her head that long.
How did you come up with the title of the book?
I went through more titles for this book than any other project! I started with “A Rabbi Named Adolf” but my father pointed out that there actually were a number of rabbis named Adolf, and so most readers wouldn’t get where I was going with it (not a good idea if you want sales). I tried several other titles, none of which were quite right. The perfect title arrived when a member of my writers group dropped the phrase as part of his critique. Something like, “If you want to show the Jews rising from the ashes…” I stopped him and said, “That’s it! That’s the title!”
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
Most of my characters come from my imagination. Only in From the Ashes and That This Nation Might Live did I draw on, and actually include, real historical figures. Both novels are alternate history, so it was fun researching the people, and then deciding how they might have turned out if things had been different. For example, the protagonist of From the Ashes is Adolf Goebbels—fictional grandson of Paul Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s very real Minister of Propaganda. In That This Nation Might Live, Tom and I had to wright dialogue for Abraham Lincoln, Joshua Chamberlin, Sitting Bull, Frederick Douglass, and a host of others. That was exhausting!
Do your characters seem to hijack the story, or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
My characters always hijack the story. Ilsa, in From the Ashes, got so overwhelming I had to send her off on a secret mission halfway through the book, just so I could write the other half. Riyik, from my Kalie’s Journey series, became so important that he tried to become a point-of-view character. (I found a way around that, but he still ended up with more scenes than I originally intended!) It’s gotten to the point that I can’t imagine how it would feel to be completely in charge of anything I write. Actually, I’m not sure I’d want to.
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