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I am aware that not much has been written in English about the period immediately after World War II in Germany. I hope this book will fill a little bit of that lacuna.

Interview with Helga Stipa Madland, Author of ‘You’re Not From Around Here, Are You? Reminiscences’

Helga MadlandHelga Stipa Madland was born in Upper Silesia in 1939 and moved to the United States in 1953. She has a PhD in German literature with a minor in Spanish, taught German literature at OU from 1981 to 2005, and served as department chair from 1999 to 2005. She is the author of academic books and articles, started publishing fiction and nonfiction in 2006, and is now Professor Emerita of Modern Languages at the University of Oklahoma.

What was your inspiration for You’re Not From Around Here, Are You? Reminiscences 

I had returned from a visit to the German Literary Archive in Marbach near Stuttgart and needed to do some shopping. At the largest department store in Norman, one of the customers standing in line said to me: “You’re not from around here, are you?” That is exactly what I had been asked a few days ago in Germany. Hm, I thought, I should write about this. And so my book was born. 

What is your book about? 

February 13, 2015, was the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Dresden; the city was destroyed and thousands of people were killed. I was there a day later. Luckily the engineer had turned the train around before the bombs started falling. I write about my family’s experience as refugees from Upper Silesia, our emigration to Canada and later the United States, and my life after that until about 1981.

What do you hope readers will get from your book?

I am aware that not much has been written in English about the period immediately after World War II in Germany. I hope this book will fill a little bit of that lacuna. Also, I describe a rather intense twenty years after my marriage and divorce, and my entry into graduate school, with a good deal of humor. It might help someone laugh. 

You're Not From Around Here Are YouDid your book require a lot of research? 

Yesterday, I gave a presentation to a class on German Thought and Culture at the University of Oklahoma. The subject was German forests; my father was a forester, and I grew up in a forester’s house. When I did a bit of research for the class, I discovered the enormous quantity of material available. It could easily have doubled the size of my book and most likely bore the reader to tears. As is, I did consult the Internet a number of times while writing my book, but most of it comes from memory. 

Do you have a writing schedule? Are you disciplined? 

I am disciplined, but my writing schedule is flexible. I well remember when I was trying to complete my dissertation and complained about the many comments and corrections made by my dissertation advisor. My son’s girlfriend said: “Now you stop that, take your dissertation, go up to your room, and finish it.” I have followed that advice ever since.  Driven on by a demon—my foot!  Writing is creation not inspiration! 

What was your publishing process like? 

My publishing process is predictable. Since publishing my first non-academic book in 2006, I have worked with Aventine Press, a self-publishing press that is reliable. I do my own editing and provide images for the covers. Of course, it costs a little bit, but publishing in this manner is no sweat and cuts out the hassle of finding agents and publishers.   

Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about your work? 

I have Facebook Pages for three of my books:

Dachshunds Can Fly, www.facebook.com/dachshundscanfly

Turtle Bay, A Mystery, www.facebook.com/turtlebaymystery

You’re Not From Around Here, Are you? Reminiscences www.facebook.comHelgaMadlandReminiscences 

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.

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