Interview with the Author – Walt Soellner

Walter Soellner, the novelist, whose latest book is ‘How Soon the Flowers Fall’, announces its release date: May 18th, 2022.

He says, “It’s a comfort to have book four now in print, with only the fifth book in my five-book series yet to finish writing.  In 2007, I conceived of this family saga while riding a train from Munich to Berlin. I thought it would be one book! The story swirls through three generations of two German families, across three continents during the turbulent first half of the 20th century.”

Here are excerpts from a recent interview. (This personal interview follows the format used by the Sunday New York Times book section called, ‘By The Book’. Thank you, NYTimes.)

What books are on your nightstand?

“Almost always an easy read like Alan Furst’s ‘The Polish Officer’, or ‘The Spies of Warsaw’, one of his fifteen or so books. Furst is the ultimate espionage author. For a midnight laugh, I turn to my subscription to ‘Funny Times’. My wife wants to know why I’m always laughing! I have also revisited Thomas Cahill’s series including ‘How the Irish Saved Civilization’, ‘The Gift of The Jews’, or any of his five other historic volumes…very readable, very knowledgeable, very concise.”

What is the last great book you read?

“Just finished ‘Moonstone’ by Wilkie Collins, published in 1868! Considered to be, according to T.S. Elliot,”The first, longest and best modern English detective novel ever written.” He’s right!  OK, there is Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”, 1869, but that’s not a detective story.”

Describe your ideal reading experience…where, when, how.

“I’m a night reader so I prefer being horizontal with the book on my chest with one of our two cats curled up nearby. Daytime, sitting upright, bright lamp over my shoulder with multiple cups of coffee within reach.”

How do you arrange your books?

“We have seven bookcases on three floors of our Victorian home. The books are in no coherent order. However, I did build a bookcase for my writing research books. It’s unique in that the shelves are built so the covers of the books face outward within quick reach or as a reminder that something important is in one of them.”

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

“A cookbook! ‘Traditional Bavarian Cooking’ by Susanne Seethaler. A 140-page book with wonderful photos of each recipe – mouthwatering images that inspire me to include cooking/dinner scenes in my novels.”

What is the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?

“Unfortunately, it stemmed from research for my latest novel ‘How Soon the Flowers Fall’, which covers the timeframe 1924 to 1936. Hitler created a cult-like following using racism against the Slavs and Blacks, anti-semitism,  and nativism against ‘outsiders’, and the socioeconomic turmoil of a deep recession. These conditions are all reflected in today’s cult of Trumpism, racism, disinformation, and fear of ‘outsiders’. The Trumpian cult is very dangerous to our democracy.”

What kind of reader were you as a child?

“My sister Eve and I got to have two subscriptions each for comic books. I usually chose ‘The Lone Ranger’ and ‘Superman’. She chose ‘Betty and Veronica’ and ‘Archie’. I still have some copies! I also had permission to go down to the local library after dinner and stay till eight o’clock closing. I would sit on the floor in the children’s section, a truly happy time in my early elementary school years.”

Are there any classic books you recently read for the first time?

“Yes, ‘The Complete Books of Tacitus’. (56-118 AD). Considered the greatest historical writer of the 1st century. Deeply fact-based, he never embellished his accounts and wrote them in chronological order. He presented a true telling of the Roman senate and emperors of his time.”

What is your favorite book no one has ever heard of?

“That would have to be the book I am just now writing!”