This month, Andie Newton’s bestselling WW2 historical novel A Child for the Reich was published in paperback in the USA following its bookstore success in Canada and is stocked in Barnes and Noble stores across the country. The story follows Anna Dankova who goes undercover to rescue her daughter who was kidnapped by the Nazis as part of Himmler’s Lebensborn program.
With the book’s global success, including deals being secured to publish in Spanish, Italian and Danish, we asked Andie a few questions about this emotional and thrilling story which is now finding its way into the hands of new readers.
The Lebensborn project, under which thousands of children were kidnapped and relocated to German homes, is a less well-known part of WW2 history. What inspired you to write about this period in particular?
“Like so many, I wasn’t aware of the kidnapping component of Lebensborn before I began writing A Child for the Reich. In fact, I stumbled upon the topic while doing research for The Girls from the Beach. My thoughts went straight to the mothers. I don’t know one mother who wouldn’t go to the ends of the earth to find her child, though during the war this would have been extremely difficult for many reasons. But what if one of them was able to go all the way and break into one of the nurseries? Would she be able to steal her child back? This was the story I wanted to write.”
How do you approach historical research and what role did it play in shaping A Child for the Reich?
“I usually start with oral histories or written reports. There are many organizations out there that have compiled reports written by families and the orphans rescued after the war, but also tracing agents who tried to find their parents and what that was like. The German parents, in most cases, were lied to about where their child came from, so there was some resistance when a tracing agent showed up at their door. There is a fair amount of news coverage regarding the orphans’ legal case that happened a few years ago (now in their eighties and nineties, the stolen children sued Germany for what happened to them), and that led me in all sorts of different directions regarding sources. I remember watching a few documentaries too.”
Anna, the protagonist, is incredibly brave and resilient as she goes to great lengths to save her daughter. What inspired her character?
“Anna is brave, for sure. She’s also scared and has to battle her emotional responses with logical ones if she wants a good outcome, which is what I tried to remember throughout the story. Her child was kidnapped, and she might never see her again. To get her back, she has to pretend to be someone else, and if she’s caught, they both risk death. How hard would it be for a mother to manage her emotions in this situation? Pretty hard! With this story, I wasn’t inspired by any one particular person, but rather mothers as a whole—who I think are the definition of strength.”
What do you enjoy the most about writing historical fiction?
“I love bringing the past alive and challenging what people think they know about the past. I do a lot of research by reading diary entries and interviews left behind by those that lived where my stories are set. If my character does something you think a person wouldn’t have done during that period, I most likely have a primary source that begs to differ.”
How did it feel seeing your book on a Barnes & Noble shelf?
“Although my other books hit the USA Today bestseller list, they are largely available as ebooks in the US. In regards to A Child for the Reich, I have one big bookstore where I live and that is Barnes & Noble. When my kids were little, we’d go there several times a week and explore the children’s area. I’d always pass by the historical fiction table and think one day… So, it was a great moment walking into Barnes & Noble this time (though now my kids are grown and driving) and seeing my paperback on that display table. It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen.”