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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?
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.
Marie Silk has enjoyed writing stories and plays since childhood. She lives with her family in the United States and travels the globe as often as life permits. She is an admirer of history, antiques, and architecture. She enjoys traveling the world, sampling new cuisines, and learning about history. She has written stories and plays in many genres since childhood. Marie is the author of the Amazon Best Selling series Davenport House family saga.
*Where are you from originally?
I was born in sunny Southern California and now live in the rustic northwest USA.
I used to live in sunny Southern California, but I’ve only been to the northwest once. Can’t wait to go back!
*What sort of books did you read growing up?
I enjoyed reading books about angels, adventure, and history. I also liked the pioneer-type books about survival in early America.
I’m always up for a good adventure. Then history, admittedly my worst subject, has grown on me the entire year!
*Who were your favorite characters and what did you appreciate about them?
My favorite characters were probably Jay and Lila from Frank Peretti’s YA adventure series. I thought it was neat that they got to travel to amazing destinations.
Hmm…I haven’t heard of them before. I’ll have to look them up now!
*What sort of plays have you written?
The plays I have written are mostly comedy and parody.
Oh wow, I love comedy. I was practically raised by comedians. Guess that’s where I get my funny bones. I’d love to read your plays sometime.
*What are your favorite antiques?
My favorite antiques include centuries-old furniture like dressing tables, room dividers, and canopy beds.
Cool! I like antiques too. Pottery in particular. There’s something artistic about it that gives you a rich appreciation of history.
*What are your favorite historical architectures?
My favorite architecture is Gothic…not so much the skulls and gargoyles, but the intricate carved detail and stained glass windows!
I don’t know much about Gothic architecture, but I agree with you that it’s beautiful!!
*Can you describe any significant ones in your stories?
In my first book, the ladies go shopping at Wanamaker’s, which is a real store now known as the Macy’s that hosts the Thanksgiving parades. The building is exquisite!
*How did you come to love history?
I realized I loved history when I began to travel and visit ancient and historical sites. I wanted to know everything about the sites and the events surrounding them!
That normally does the trick. It probably draws a connection to past cultures, peoples and lands separated by the sea of time.
*What are your favorite 3 time periods?
My three favorite time periods to study are Ancient Greece, Tudor England, and the Progressive Era.
Ancient Greece is endlessly fascinating. Tudor England and the progressive Era also strikes a fancy.
*Tell us about Mary Davenport.
Mary Davenport is twenty-two years old and has lived a sheltered life in the family’s mansion. Her father is her ally, but her mother often degrades Mary and everyone else in the house. When Mary’s father dies, she seeks help and friendship from the servants of the house, the only people she feels she can trust.
I love the historical family saga that you’ve created. It makes you want to know more about them and their culture. Well done.
*Why have you chosen this particular time period as a setting?
I chose the Progressive Era because there was so much happening in America due to the advancement in technology. I explore the reactions to experiencing cars, telephones, and electricity for the first time.
I’d like to see the look on someone’s face when riding a car for the first time!
*What kind of mansion do the Davenports live in?
It is a colonial mansion with many rooms. The family lives in the upstairs bedroom while the servants reside in the level below the main house.
The mansion must be a place of many adventures.
*Tell us about your newest book release.
My newest book is titled Davenport House 6: House Secrets and is a continuation of the family saga as they enter the Roaring 20’s. There are more secrets in the house to be explored that have only been hinted at in the previous book.
Love secrets! Your book covers are fabulous too.
According to Goodreads:
The family saga continues in this sixth book to Davenport House. It is 1919 when America begins to heal from the Great War and take her first steps into a roaring new Era.
The residents of Davenport House are changing with the times as new fashions and new laws are introduced. Clara turns a blind eye to her troubles at home and plans a grand masquerade ball for the county. Bridget uncovers a distressing truth and returns to the house to warn the others, but soon finds that she is no longer welcome there.
When a suspicious death occurs on the estate, the abundance of motives and sudden hushed lips cause tensions to rise throughout the house. Only the painful truth can set everyone free, but it will come at a price to reveal the house secrets once and for all.
*Does Mary have any sidekicks or companions?
Yes, Mary relies on friendships with her maid and the stable boy, but realizes she wants to have a lady’s companion for deeper friendship.
This makes me more curious to see who it is!
*Is it difficult writing and conveying historical fiction ?
I do not find it difficult to write. I take real historical events and create stories for characters to then experience those things.
Wow. Hats off to you for pulling off a bestselling historical mystery series.
*Does Mary have a favorite dress or outfit?
Mary is in mourning for her father for much of the series, so she wears a black mourning dress. Other than that, she does not care about clothes very much.
Interesting. Losing family is always the hardest.
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