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Marie Bostwick | Exclusive Interview: THE BERLIN LETTERS by Katherine Reay


The Berlin Letters
Katherine Reay

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A Cold War Novel


March 2024
On Sale: March 5, 2024
Featuring: Luisa Voekler; Haris Voekler
384 pages
ISBN: 1400243068
EAN: 9781400243068
Kindle: B0CBH3L4H4
Paperback / e-Book
Add to Wish List

Also by Katherine Reay:
The Berlin Letters, March 2024
A Shadow in Moscow, June 2023
The Printed Letter Bookshop, May 2019
The Austen Escape, November 2017

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This month’s guest on the FF Women’s Fiction column is bestselling author, Katherine Reay.

Katherine’s newest book, THE BERLIN LETTERS, set in the Cold War era, tells the story of a CIA codebreaker who discovers that the father she long assumed was dead is actually imprisoned in East Germany. Her daring attempt to free her father and get him out of Berlin alive is full of twists, turns, danger, and love in the last place she expected to find it.

 

Q: Katherine, I’m so happy you’re with us today. What inspired you to write The Berlin Letters, and how did you create your characters Luisa and Haris?

A: While writing my previous novel, A Shadow in Moscow, I discovered more fascinating stories and hidden secrets, courageous acts and remarkable sacrifices, than I could use— and so many interesting ones out of Berlin too. I also was intrigued by the Wall, both as iconic symbol of the Cold War and as barrier that kept families apart for 28 years. Take all that and my discovery of the extraordinary women codebreakers of the CIA’s Venona Project and I was off and running.

As for my two main characters, Luisa and Haris, they naturally came from that time and all the pressures, family secrets, and sacrifices, that were swimming around daily life back. I loved giving Luisa that spark of stepping beyond codebreaking and into the role of an active CIA agent, and I loved how Haris changed within those 28 years. Lucky for me, both Haris and Luisa came to life very quickly during the writing process. That made them fun to work with and, I hope, made them feel authentic on the page.

 

Q: You’ve called The Berlin Letters "a love story, a spy story, and a story of hope, that takes place across both sides of the Berlin Wall from the day it goes up to the evening it comes down." Can you say more about how you balanced the love story, the spy story, and the history as you wrote the novel?

A: I think at the most basic level all stories are love stories. They may not be romantic stories or even stories that turn out well for the characters, but they are about the human experience and, first and foremost, that involves love. Of course, I added a bit of romance to this one because, well, it was fun to do — but the “spy story” was my original thread and it creates the pace and tension within the novel. I loved writing that part as it was a race in many ways, both for Luisa and for me — a certain energy was created that made writing this novel pure joy. As for history — I love it and “fact” is almost always more interesting and even shocking than fiction. That said, history and research must always support the story, never overwhelm it. It’s the table under the plate, never the dessert on top. I hope I achieved that balance within the final novel.

 

Q: How did you research The Berlin Letters, and what did you learn that especially surprised you?

A: Before writing a word, I did a ton of book research. And, after I began writing, I visited Berlin. I spent six amazing days walking that city, much as Haris does, and I got a feel for its structure, layout, and how people lived while the Wall stood. Despite over thirty years passing, my trip added incredible texture to the story. I think that surprised me the most — how my perception of their Haris’s life changed by walking those roads and looking up at those buildings.

 

Q: Many readers probably found you through some of your earlier books such as Dear Mr. Knightley and The Bronte Plot, which had links to classic literature of the Victorian era. Making the switch from that to writing suspense-filled novels about female spies seems like quite a leap! Tell us a little more about that journey and what made you want to take this new direction?

A: Yes, my early books are love letters to books and, I suppose, in some ways my later books are as well. I still cite a whole bunch of books in them and constantly allude to literature in both subtle and oblique ways. But my shift to historical fiction and to spies began with The Printed Letter Bookshop. I was intrigued at how important each woman’s past was, whether she fully understood that past or not. So, for my next book, I wanted to bring the past centerstage and not leave it as backstory — and if you’re going to dig into early WWII past, you’re going to run right into some incredible spy stories. That’s really how I got there and The London House was my first foray — and I had so much fun I decided to stay.

 

Q: The Berlin Letters is your eleventh novel. What do you know now about the lives of published authors that you didn't know before your first book was released? 

A: We are still as anxious as we were at the very beginning… Each novel is a unique and challenging experience, and the nerves around launches and sales are ever-present too. Another thing that is the same is that I still can’t control the outcome. Eleven books has not altered that reality. I can only control the journey — so I try to have fun and remember this is what I love to do!

 

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I just signed a contract for a book I titled The Forgery. Now that title may change as I’ve actually never titled any of my books beyond Dear Mr. Knightley, but I really like it and it fits the story perfectly — so I hope it sticks. This new story will publish sometime in early 2025 and it’s an art forgery caper that takes place in 1973 London. I’m having a wonderful time writing it.

 

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Thank you so much for inviting me here today and I hope your readers will want to keep in touch via social media. I also hope everyone feels compelled to check out The Berlin Letters.

And — wait there’s more — I am touring for the book this Spring and hope you’ll check out my events listing on my website’s Events page. Perhaps we can meet in person. Thanks again!

THE BERLIN LETTERS by Katherine Reay

A Cold War Novel

 

Bestselling author Katherine Reay returns with an unforgettable tale of the Cold War and a CIA code breaker who risks everything to free her father from an East German prison.

From the time she was a young girl, Luisa Voekler has loved solving puzzles and cracking codes. Brilliant and logical, she’s expected to quickly climb the career ladder at the CIA. But while her coworkers have moved on to thrilling Cold War assignments—especially in the exhilarating era of the late 1980s—Luisa’s work remains stuck in the past decoding messages from World War II.

Journalist Haris Voekler grew up a proud East Berliner. But as his eyes open to the realities of postwar East Germany, he realizes that the Soviet promises of a better future are not coming to fruition. After the Berlin Wall goes up, Haris finds himself separated from his young daughter and all alone after his wife dies. There’s only one way to reach his family—by sending coded letters to his father-in-law who lives on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

When Luisa Voekler discovers a secret cache of letters written by the father she has long presumed dead, she learns the truth about her grandfather’s work, her father’s identity, and why she has never progressed in her career. With little more than a rudimentary plan and hope, she journeys to Berlin and risks everything to free her father and get him out of East Berlin alive.

As Luisa and Haris take turns telling their stories, events speed toward one of the twentieth century’s most dramatic moments—the fall of the Berlin Wall and that night’s promise of freedom, truth, and reconciliation for those who lived, for twenty-eight years, behind the bleak shadow of the Iron Curtain’s most iconic symbol.

  • A Cold War novel that takes readers to the heart of Berlin to witness both the early and final days of the Berlin Wall
  • Stand-alone novel
  • Book length: approximately 107,000 words
  • Includes discussion questions for book clubs

 

Historical | Thriller Spy [Harper Muse, On Sale: March 5, 2024, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781400243068 / eISBN: 9781400243075]

Buy THE BERLIN LETTERSAmazon.com | Kindle | BN.com | Apple Books | Kobo | Google Play | Powell's Books | Books-A-Million | Indie BookShops | Ripped Bodice | Walmart.com | Target.com | Amazon CA | Amazon UK | Amazon DE | Amazon FR

About Katherine Reay

Katherine Reay

Katherine Reay is a national bestselling and award-winning author who has enjoyed a lifelong affair with books. She publishes both fiction and nonfiction, holds a BA and MS from Northwestern University, and currently lives outside Chicago, Illinois, with her husband and three children. Follow Katherine on Instagram, Facebook and her personal website here.

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About Marie Bostwick

Marie Bostwick

When not curled up with a good book, Marie Bostwick can usually be found in her office, trying to write one.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of eighteen uplifting works of historical and contemporary fiction, Marie’s books are beloved by readers across the globe.

Drawing on her lifelong love of quilting and her unshakable belief in the power of sisterhood, Marie’s popular Cobbled Court Quilt series has been embraced by quilters and non-sewers alike. Her standalone books have also found a passionate following among lovers of women’s fiction. Marie’s novel, The Second Sister” was adapted into the 2018 Hallmark Hall of Fame feature film “Christmas Everlasting”, starring Patti LaBelle. Marie’s most recent novel, Hope on the Inside, was published in March 2019 and was chosen as a Reader’s Digest “Select Editions” book.

Marie’s latest endeavor is Fiercely Marie, a lifestyle blog that encourages women to live every minute and love every moment. She is currently working on her next novel, “The Restoration of Celia Fairchild”, which will be published by William Morrow in the spring of 2021.

Marie lives in Washington state with her husband and a beautiful but moderately spoiled Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

 

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