I’m pleased to welcome you today to my stop on the blog tour for Sisters of Berlin by Juliet Conlin. Thank you to Kelly Lacey from Love Books Tours and the publisher for giving me the opportunity to share this guest post with you today.
Berlin 2014. The 25th anniversary of the fall of the Wall, and the city is gearing up for a celebration of unity and liberation. But, beneath the surface, are those for whom the divisions and allegiances of the past remain close to home.
In her hushed and leafy corner of Berlin, Nina’s life is a comfortable, conventional one– until her younger sister Marie, a free-spirited writer, is attacked and left for dead.
For Nina, Marie’s brutal demise – and that of her unborn child – tips her own carefully controlled life into a nightmare. Stonewalled by official incompetence and subterfuge,
Nina begins to realise that her sister’s past and the secrets of the once-divided city are connected in unimaginable ways. As she seeks out justice for Marie, Nina becomes caught in a tangle of obsessions, lies and hidden truths that threatens to destroy her marriage, her livelihood and all that she holds dear.
Juliet Conlin was born in London and grew up in England and Germany. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University and a PhD in Psychology from the University of Durham. She works as a writer and translator and lives with her family in Berlin. Her novels include The Fractured Man (Cargo, 2013), The Uncommon Life of Alfred Warner in Six Days (Black & White, 2017), The Lives Before Us (Black & White, 2019).
Black & White Publishing was founded in 1999 by Managing Director Campbell Brown and Publishing Director Alison McBride. Since then, the business has grown into one of Scotland’s leading independent publishers with over 300 books in print across a variety of genres. Committed to publishing the best books from the most talented writers in the UK and beyond, some of our bestselling authors include Daniela Sacerdoti, James Robertson, Estelle Maskame, Nick Alexander, Richard Gordon, Alex Norton, Millie Gray, Sally Magnusson and Tony Black. We produce an extensive range of titles, including general non-fiction, biography, sport and humour, as well as selected fiction, young adult and children’s books.
This year, we’ve started an exciting new alliance with PGUK who now provide sales representation for our titles, and GBS continue to distribute our books. Our eBooks are distributed by Faber Factory. Over recent years, our range of fiction has grown following recent eBook successes such as Daniela Sacerdoti’s Glen Avich series, which has sold nearly a million copies to date. These new alliances and our e-book successes are helping us shape and develop the list in new ways to bring more exciting new titles to both local and global markets.
by Juliet Conlin
I’m often asked how long it takes me to write a book. That’s a very difficult question to answer, as (for me, at least) it is not a linear process. That is, I don’t sit down and map out the plot, construct my characters, do the research, and then start typing away. (In fact, I hardly type at all during my first draft; I write almost all of it longhand!)
The process is far more helter-skelter than that. The idea for a novel is usually sown as a tiny, tiny seed somewhere in my brain, many years before it actually becomes a writing project. Then, in between the demands of everyday life – children, housework, the day job, paperwork – the idea gradually takes on form until I get a real sense that it can be crafted into a story.
Sisters of Berlin began, some six years ago, as a writing project entitled A Hunger Artist, from an idea my husband gave me. Originally, it was about a woman suffering from an eating disorder, who discovers that her great-grandfather was a hunger artist – these were performers, common in the 18th to 20th centuries, who starved themselves for extended periods of time at “freak shows” for the amusement of paying audiences. (It was also supposed to be an homage to Franz Kafka, who wrote a short story by the same name.) I wrote a couple of pages before deciding that this was not going where I had hoped, so I put it aside and wrote another book instead– The Lives Before Us, my third novel.
Then, around the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (in 2014), I decided I really wanted to write a book about Berlin, my adopted home city, and a place I love. The character of Nina (the protagonist in Sisters of Berlin) had never left me, so I rifled through my notes, drafted some more, and gradually, the story came together. In the very first draft, Nina’s eating disorder takes centre stage, but some very constructive feedback from a good friend as well as from my agent suggested that there were two competing storylines, neither of which were being realised to their full potential. So I took the book apart again and set about doing a complete re-write, and this time, it became clear that the book was primarily about sisterhood.
Sisters of Berlin is not the first novel I have written, but it is my first novel set so close to home. While I have always wanted to write about Berlin, it took me some time to find a story that fit the city. So many thrillers have been written about Berlin, I didn’t want to add to that list. I wanted to tell a story exploring themes that most interest me – human relationships, grief, sisterhood, love, and most of all, hope. These themes crop up in my writing time and again, as they are universal, always present in our lives, no matter who and where we are. As a writer, I am always trying to make sense of the world, or at least shine a light on certain aspects of it. I hope I have done my hometown justice in Sister of Berlin, and that my readers are inspired to visit!
Thank you so much to Juliet for sharing her thoughts with us today.
Sisters of Berlin by Juliet Conlin is out to buy now!