Anne Carmichael is also the author of the Magoo series, Darby at the Derby, and Polar Opposites. She’s also one of our wonderful authors in this year’s Mystery Thriller Week event. Don’t miss it!
Gertrude spent the better part of her adult life scouring Europe for Helmut Klingenfelter, the father who vanished not only from her life and that of her mother but had forsaken everyone in his past.
With midlife looming on the horizon, Gertie made the decision to stop chasing the ghosts of the past and return to her childhood home of Pitch Pine, where she purchased a century-old house at 1211 Castle Lane sight unseen.
Elderhaus, as it came to be known, had a mysterious past of its own, one that would threaten more than Gertrude’s desire for finding happiness.
Who is Anyaleise Klingenfelter?
*Who is Anyaleise Klingenfelter?
Anyaleise Hoffmann (aka Anya Klingenfelter) is the mother of Gertrude Klingenfelter. Anya was born the daughter of a Jewish farmer named Jacob Hoffmann and his wife, Leah Hoffman.
*Does her name mean anything?
Anyaleise is a name of German origin. In German the meaning of the name Anyaleise is: Derived from a compound of Anna (meaning grace) and Liesa, which is a German diminutive of Elizabeth (God is bountiful).
*What part of Germany is she from?
from Alsace-Lorraine on the border of France and Germany.
*How did you come up with the concept for Anya?
Right before I awoke on a Saturday morning, I heard the name Gertrude Klingenfelter in a sort of dream. When I sat up in bed, I knew that this is was the day I was to begin my novel and that Gertrude Klingenfelter was to be my protagonist. I started researching the origin of the surname Klingenfelter, which lead me to a town in Germany in the 1500s. It was called Lingenfelter and since people in that time didn’t really have surnames, they were known by the village where they resided. In my book, all of Gertrude’s father, Helmut’s, family spells their name without the ‘K’ to their name. One of the questions Gertrude has in her quest to find her father is why he added the ‘K’to their name when he came to America. [Helmut had been a very secretive man and had never shared anything about his pasts with his wife or his child. As I continued my research on the family name, I found myself studying Nazi Germany and the back-story of Anya’s family came to life. The back story was eventually removed from ‘Elderhaus’ during editing, as the publisher felt it detracted from the evolution of the story. I’m so glad that I’m able to share some of it with you here, as it was very compelling as I was writing it.
*What was her experience like in Nazi Germany?
Jacob Hoffmann secluded his family in the hills outside Alsace-Lorraine. They farmed and lived off the land. Only Jacob ever ventured into town to purchase supplies and he sometimes picked up books for his wife Leah to home school Anya. Because they lived on the border of France and Germany, Leah taught Anya French and English, because she hoped someday her daughter would be able to leave the confines of their mountain sanctuary. One day, a strangely dressed man named Isaac who wore a tattered black hat with long curls down each side of his face appeared at their door and spoke in a foreign language that Anya did not understand. Her father, however, seemed to understand perfectly and hurried the man from the door and into the barn. She learned much later, that man irrevocably change their lives and those of future generations forever.
Anya overheard the following life-altering conversation between her father and mother in August of 1948:
“You and Anya must pack your personal belongings quickly and prepare for a trip via a military cargo ship to America. The American leader has signed a law called the Displaced Person’s Act. 205,000 displaced persons and 17,000 orphans are going to be permitted entry into the country and we will be among those immigrants,” said her Father. “In order to immigrate, a displaced person must have a sponsor who is willing to arrange for housing and employment upon arrival.
Perhaps you remember the man called Isaac, the transient, Hasidic Jew who visited our farm some time ago? It seemed he was traveling throughout Europe, as part of a mission trip to find, free and assist other Jews before they disappear, as so many of our brethren have done. Isaac told me the Nazi regime has been capturing trainloads of Jews and hauling them off to concentration camps where they are treated deplorably and murdered in gas chambers. He urged me to take our family and flee Germany.
Soon, their bags were loaded onto the cargo ship in Bremerhaven. After what seemed an eternity aboard the military cargo ship, they arrived in New York.
They spent two nights at a hostel in New York City before Isaac was able to manage transportation for them to Pennsylvania. He arranged work for Jacob at a small carpentry shop in Milford, near Pitch Pine”
*What impact did this have on her?
Anya had been segregated from the community growing up, so she was very anxious to find new friends in Pitch Pine. That also made her vulnerable to people who befriended her for their own agenda….particularly the mayor’s wife, Dottie Franklin. Anya trusted Dottie with her life and Dottie betrayed her.
After Gertie finished college, she left for Europe to try to find her father and get answers to his disappearance. Anya went to work in Polka Dot’s dress shop, which belonged to Dottie Franklin, the Mayor’s wife . One day Dot came in to find that Anya had apparently hanged herself with several yards of silk brocade, but was it really as it appeared?
*How did this impact her relationship with her daughter Gertrude?
After her Helmut abandoned Anya and Gertie when she was just five years old, she trusted no one, except her mother. She found that animals were more loyal and loving than people and she ‘collected’ every injured or stray animal she found. Old Doc Myers would patch them up and Gertie would care for them until they were able to go back out on their own (wild animals) or she would find homes for the domestic animals.
In later life, her love for the animals lead her to her one true love and her collection of senior dogs is why she named her home ‘Elderhaus’ (which means ‘old house’ in German).
*Who forced her to have an arranged marriage?
Anyaleise was seventeen when her family arrived in America. home-schooled me. Her father immediately set about finding a matchmaker who would choose a suitor for her. since she was almost eighteen years old and nearing an age when she would be considered an old maid.
As luck, or in Anya’s case fate would have it, there was just such a matchmaker right there in Pitch Pine. Her name was Zelda Baasch. Apparently, he had gone to Zelda with a checklist of the attributes he wished his future son-in- law to possess. Ultimately, Zelda returned to him with what she proclaimed to be the perfect suitor. She told him that the young man known as Helmut Klingenfelter was of German Jewish descent with an advanced degree in architecture and a 2nd major in Business Administration. Zelda was forced to admit that Helmut had not been forthcoming in sharing details of his past; but she knew that for so many refugees of World War II, there were memories which were too painful to recall, much less share.
Helmut told his prospective father-in- law, that he wished to raise his family in Pitch Pine. He said he wanted to become the City Planner of the township. He wanted to restore and develop the land and structures originally built by early settlers.
Anyaleise and Helmut were married in June of 1949 and exactly nine months to the day following our wedding, Gertrude Leah Klingenfelter was born.
*What are some facts about Anya that are not in the story?
Anya was far stronger than anyone ever gave her credit for and that’s not obvious to anyone who hasn’t been there themselves. She stood up to Helmut when she thought he was cheating on her and made the choice to raise Gertrude alone, rather than accept his philandering. She raised a child alone in a time when to do so was not as prevalent as it is today and she was wise enough to build a sizable inheritance to leave her daughter.
Anne is the author of the Magoo Who Series, which includes Book 1: ‘MAGOO WHO? LIFE THROUGH MY EYES’ Book 2: ‘MAY I BE FRANK’, Book 3: ‘SILENT VIGIL’ and Book 4: ‘MAGIC & MIRACLES: A HOMECOMING’ and ‘DARBY AT THE DERBY’, whose release coincided with the 2015 Kentucky Derby.