Welcome to the blog, Jon! Could you tell us a little bit about your book?
Sure. The Last Way Station tells the story of what happens to Adolf Hitler after he kills himself to escape capture and to avoid any accountability for his unprecedented crimes against humanity.
What led you to write this book?
Thirteen years ago, when I started writing long form fiction, I found myself obsessed with the notion of Hitler’s brand of expansive, organized evil, which he carried out so shamelessly and on such a grand scale. One of the things which sets Hitler’s evil apart is the ‘loving’ way he paid attention to every detail of the holocaust. It was the kind of attention you might expect an artist to pay to his work, such as a painter carefully executing nuanced brush strokes to achieve a desired effect.
Sick, twisted references to Germanic culture, folk lore, and anti-semitic beliefs run, like a theme, through everything that Hitler and his henchmen did to their victims. They seemed to take a giddy, perverse pleasure in their ability to artfully manipulate the condemned, deceiving them about their fate, on the one hand, and yet teasing them with conflicting elements that all but screamed out the horrific nature of the evil awaiting them. They went to great pains to reassure and mollify those on their way to the gas chambers that they were not going to be killed, but relocated. Then, in the next breath, they packed them into sealed cattle cars which were used specifically to send animals to the slaughter house. At the camps, they sent the trainloads of now ‘dirty’ Jews that they had created through their gross mistreatment, to the ‘showers,’ for a much-needed cleaning. But, for most, the cleaning that awaited them was a brutal, painful ethnic cleansing with Zyklon B gas. They created their own twisted version of the Hansel and Gretel story by tossing live children directly into the ovens that a German bakery equipment manufacturer had built to their precise specifications. Then they turned the fat that the ovens baked out of the corpses of the ‘dirty’ Jews into soap,which they sold for a profit to German consumers. It bothered me that Hitler had never been tried for these crimes, even in absensia.
Hitler’s apologists also motivated me to write this book. At the time, there had been a resurgence in Holocaust denials and deniers, and I wanted to use Hitler’s final judgment at the hands of omniscient creatures who could not be swayed by his lies and manipulations, to help set the record straight. It turns out Hitler’s own words and ideas, which I extracted from the pages of Mein Kampf, proved quite helpful in this regard.
How did you strike a balance between historical fiction and fantasy?
That may have been the easiest aspect of writing this book. Every reference to events that occurred prior to Hitler’s death, except for the specific details of the made-up incident involving the Weiss family and Hitler’s encounter with his grandmother, came directly from the historical record. They remain faithful to it. Everything else - my vision of the hereafter, the supernatural caseworker character, and Hitler’s various assignments - constitute my fantastical imaginings. I relied heavily on the historical record and first-hand accounts by holocaust survivors to flavor the Weiss family’s story.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I have been writing since I was in the second grade. Initially, I wrote poems. I was so prolific by the third grade that our teacher got the entire class involved in writing poetry, and we put on an end-of-year assembly for the entire school. By the end of elementary school, I had decided on a career as a newspaper reporter, with eventual plans to write non-fiction books. I went on to edit my high school newspaper and then got my journalism degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of journalism. I wrote for Baltimore Magazine and several newspapers in Maryland and gradually shifted into marketing communications. Now, I’m finally writing books, but they’re fiction rather than non-fiction. So much for my grand plans!
What is your best advice on writing?
The best thing a writer can do is write, and write often. Your facility, and fluidity, as a writer will increase through practice. It’s like Jascha Heifitz, the great violinist, used to say. “If I don't practice one day, I know it; two days, the critics know it; three days, the public knows it.” (Of course, if you’re trying to write a book, and you intend to finish it, then, you need to write a few pages of it every day.) The other key piece of advice is something I find much easier to pass along than to follow, and that is: write recklessly and energetically first. Edit later. You’ll get a lot farther, faster. But you have to be a bit of a split personality to pull it off.
Your suggestion to ‘write recklessly’ is a one I’ll try to remember! Thanks so much for stopping by, Jon!
It was my pleasure.
A former newspaper and magazine journalist turned marketing consultant, Jon Reisfeld began writing long-form fiction in 1998. Most of his books address issues of social justice. He is currently expanding his next book, The Reform Artists, into a novel. The Reform Artists offers a male perspective on the dark side of divorce; Jon hopes to have it ready for release by fall. Then he will start work on a sci-fi trilogy that, he says, has been percolating in his mind for several years.
Jon Reisfeld can be found blogging at http://writeatyou.wordpress.com or on Facebook.
His ebook, The Last Way Station, is available at Amazon or at Smashwords.
See “TheLastWayStation” long book trailer here.
See “TheLastWayStation’s” short book trailer here.