I’m beyond excited to have been asked by Sian at EDPR to be part of the launch celebrations for The Survivors by Kate Furnivall because I love Kate’s writing and have been privileged to meet her on several occasions, the first being a blogger and author event that you can read about here. Kate is such a lovely person as well as being a fabulous writer. You can read my review of Kate’s The Betrayal here.
Today, Kate stays in with me to tell me about her latest book.
Staying in with Kate Furnivall
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Kate. I’m delighted to have you here.
Hello, Linda, long time no see. So it is a real pleasure to be here with you this evening.
The pleasure’s all mine. I think the last time we saw one another we were yelling in each other’s ears trying to make ourselves heard at a Christmas do last year. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.
Look, I’ve treated us to a bottle of vino and chocs to enjoy while we chat in front of the fire.
(Oo. How lovely. As I’d just poured myself a Bailey’s before you arrived, I’ll trade you my share of the wine for your share of the chocolates.)
Now, in case I couldn’t guess, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?
I have brought along The Survivors because it is my new book which is published in paperback this week.
(Happy publication day for yesterday Kate!)
It is always a special moment. I am very excited because in this book I am moving further into the territory of the thriller genre. The suspense and tension levels are racked up quite a few notches and should have readers on the edge of their seats or hiding under the bedclothes. But the glue that holds all the book’s elements together is the love and loyalty between a young mother and her daughter.
(Given that the pace and tension nearly gave me a heart attack in The Betrayal Kate, I’m really looking forward to reading The Survivors over the Christmas break.)
What can we expect from an evening in with The Survivors?
Thrills, danger and a fierce kind of love await. At the core of my story is a mother’s undying love for her child, but one of the things I am also trying to convey is a greater understanding of what it means to be a refugee. My story is set in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany in 1945 when the Allied military powers were struggling to provide food and shelter for the millions of people left homeless when World War 2 came to an end. I am finding that this is a small blind spot of history that few people know much about.
(I think you’re right. It’s not something I’ve given much thought to.)
My main character Klara Janowska arrives in one of these camps with her daughter, 10 year-old Alicja, and believes she is safe. We feel acutely her overwhelming relief. But as soon as she spots Oskar Scholz – a Nazi officer from her past who is now masquerading as a refugee – in the Displaced Persons camp, her senses are on full alert because she knows he is a danger to her daughter. She reacts with the ferocity of a tigress. In that instant she makes the decision to kill him, a life-changing decision. There is no middle ground. His life or her daughter’s. Klara does not hesitate. How many of us are capable of making that decision? Capable of that kind of love. It raises all sorts of moral questions that Klara has to wrestle with in the silent still moments of the night. But the maternal instinct to protect her child drives her on. Would I do the same? Would you?
(Oh. What a question. I’m not a mother, but I do think I might be prepared to kill for those I love.)
It is this kind of situation that I love to explore in order to discover what people are capable of when faced with a cliff edge. To discover what happens when love and kindness are confronted by the darker side of human nature.
(And that’s something many people are living with on a daily basis now as much as those in the past I think.)
One of the aspects of writing historical fiction that I relish is making history more accessible to my readers. I love it when readers contact me to tell me they have learned something new from my books. I hope they will again with The Survivors. Though my narrative is set in 1945, I feel that the situation in which my characters find themselves resonates strongly with us today when we see the tragic pictures of desperate Syrian refugees on the news. It is the past repeating itself and we have to ask ourselves have we learned much in the last 70 years?
(Huh. Sadly not I fear.)
But above all I hope you will find your evening in with The Survivors an exciting one that will have you reaching for that glass of wine.
What else have you brought along Kate and why?
I have brought this beautiful old photograph with me. It is of my grandmother, Valentina. Though I never met her – sadly she passed away long before I was born – she has always been a strong presence in my life because this photograph stood on my mother’s piano for as long as I can remember. It watched over my family’s antics growing up, listened to our laughter and our woes, and I am sure winced with horror at my brief foray into playing the piano myself.
(Valentina was absolutely beautiful wasn’t she?)
My mother was an only child and was extremely close to her mother. She told us many exotic tales of Valentina’s charm and the concerts she gave on her baby-grand piano later in life. It was Valentina’s extraordinary life-story that inspired me to write my first historical novel, The Russian Concubine, which launched my writing career when it became a New York Times Bestseller. You see, Valentina was Russian and my mother was born in St Petersburg just before the Russian Revolution in 1917.
(And now, of course, I have to read The Russian Concubine too as Russia is on my wish list of places to visit.)
In a horrific journey they fled from the Communists all the way across Siberia to China where life was at first extremely hard for them. They were refugees. No money, no home, no future. So not only has Valentina inspired my first book, but now her experiences and emotions as a refugee have inspired me to write my latest book, The Survivors. I just wish I could have known her in person.
(What an incredible life Valentina must have led. Even if you didn’t get to meet her Kate, at least you’ve part of her with you through your writing.)
It’s been wonderful staying in with you Kate and finding out all about The Survivors (and Valentina). Thanks so much for being here and for the wine and chocolates!
Thanks so much for having me over, Linda. Oh gosh, we’ve certainly got through the wine!
(Not entirely convinced about we got through the wine there Kate!)
It was such a pleasure talking about The Survivors with you. Is it too early to wish you Happy Christmas?
Not at all! Happy Christmas Kate!
‘Directly I saw him, I knew he had to die.’
Germany, 1945.Klara Janowska and her daughter Alicja have walked for weeks to get to Graufeld Displaced Persons camp. In the cramped, dirty, dangerous conditions they, along with 3,200 others, are the lucky ones. They have survived and will do anything to find a way back home.
But when Klara recognises a man in the camp from her past, a deadly game of cat and mouse begins.
He knows exactly what she did during the war to save her daughter.
She knows his real identity.
What will be the price of silence? And will either make it out of the camp alive?
The Survivors by Kate Furnivall was published in paperback yesterday, 29th November 2018 by Simon and Schuster, priced £7.99 and is available for purchase through the links here.
About Kate Furnivall
Kate Furnivall didn’t set out to be a writer. It sort of grabbed her by the throat when she discovered the story of her grandmother – a White Russian refugee who fled from the Bolsheviks down into China. That extraordinary tale inspired her first book, The Russian Concubine. From then on, she was hooked.
Kate is also the author of The White Pearl and The Italian Wife. Her books have been translated into more than twenty languages and have been on the New York Times Bestseller list.
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