Hockessin native will debut new book, "Fraulein M," at 8th & Union Kitchen in Wilmington on Jan. 6
Author Caroline Woods, a Hockessin native now living in Boston, published her first book at the age of 16.
Jump ahead 16 years later, and Woods has just published her latest novel, “Fraulein M,” set in the Weimar Republic in Germany at the advent of the Nazi regime.
The book follows the lives of two sisters as they make their way through a changing political and cultural landscape, jumping ahead to the 1970s to examine their familial legacy.
We sat down with Woods to talk about the creation of her latest book.
Q What attracted you to the subject matter of Fraulein M.?
A Berni and Grete, the two sisters at the heart of "Fraulein M.," grow up in a Berlin orphanage before they're propelled to opposite sides of the politically charged Weimar Republic (1919-1933). My great-grandmother spent some time in St. Vincent’s Home in Philadelphia, a Catholic home for children, but the inspiration for the novel’s setting came from art. Ten years ago I went to an exhibit of Weimar-era portraits at the Met in New York City and was captivated by that period’s glamour, its artistic and personal freedoms. The Weimar years were dark, too, of course: massive inflation, unemployment, and violence. I was drawn to that tension.
Q What kind of research goes into a period piece?
A I relied most heavily on books written by the people who were there—German women, mostly, as well as expats who spent time in "Gay Berlin." These writers became my eyes and ears; only they could tell me what it felt like to watch Hitler come to power, to see their favorite bars closed or friends arrested. Their books also helped me fill in the details of everyday life—what they ate and drank, what kind of clothes they wore, how they spoke. My favorites were “The Artificial Silk Girl” by Irmgard Keun, “Some Girls, Some Hats, and Hitler” by Trudi Kanter, and “The Berlin Stories” by Christopher Isherwood.
Q You published very young - what's your advice for other young writers?
A Write about what you can’t stop thinking about, not what seems to be selling. And then, don’t be afraid to send your work out. I spent a while looking for an agent, and then my agent spent a while looking for a publisher. Those years produced some of my best work, as I revised based on professionals’ suggestions. You can’t (and shouldn’t) change your work to suit everyone’s tastes. It’s quite a subjective business. But I found the most direct and useful advice in rejection letters, as painful as they can be. Get ready to wince, and get out there.