When I decided to write a novel set during the 1950s, the first problem I had to tackle was the exact year. The building of air bases and army posts provided plenty of material, to be sure. But the decisive factor for setting my book in 1958 was the arrival of Elvis Presley in Germany on October 1, 1958, when he joined the 3rd Armored Division in Friedberg.
That explains the word “Oktober” with its German spelling. Oktober not only conjures up images of beer and harvest festivals, but also Cold War novels and movies. Heat, on the other hand, is not only a slang word for police, but also a term for excitement, thrill, enthusiasm, stress, passion – all of which occur in the book.
Once I settled on a month and year I was ready to research in earnest. During my next visits to Germany I scoured newspaper and photo archives to get an idea of current events, weather, fashion, lifestyle, and the availability of consumer goods. I found old photos particularly helpful in bringing my characters to life. Research was so much fun that I am now considering a sequel to my novel. It will take years to finish it, I am sure, because I will publish a picture book about birds next spring. Stay tuned for updates!
Doris Dumrauf is the author of “Oktober Heat” and “Create Your Own Backyard Wildlife Habitat
Autoren historischer Romane müssen gründlich recherchieren. Obwohl ich viele meiner Kindheitserinnerungen in meinem Roman der Fünfziger Jahre verewigen konnte, brauchte ich mehr Informationen und wollte die Autos jener Zeit mit eigenen Augen sehen.
„Oktober Heat“ behandelt das Aufeinanderprallen zweier Kulturen: Auf der einen Seite waren die amerikanischen Soldaten mit ihren großen Autos und auf der anderen die Deutschen, die froh waren, wenn sie ein Fahrrad besaßen. Die Hauptfigur meines Romans spart für einen Motorroller und sehnt sich nach einer Fahrt in einem amerikanischen Straßenkreuzer.
Deshalb wollte ich wissen, wie ein Auto der Fünfziger Jahre von nahem aussieht. Wir fuhren zu einer großen Car Show, wo Chevrolet BelAir und Ford Fairlane mit mehreren Exemplaren vertreten waren. Ich fotografierte die Autos und fragte sogar einen Besitzer, wie sich der Motor des Autos anhörte. Obwohl ich bisher nicht das Glück hatte, in einem klassischen Auto mitzufahren, kann ich mir jetzt bildlich vorstellen, warum solch ein Auto auf den engen deutschen Straßen für Aufsehen sorgte.
Publishing my debut novel has been quite an adventure. Here is what I learned so far:
I’ve tested Kindle Unlimited for 90 days and had just one borrow. Subsequently, I signed up with a distributor to service other channels.
Price promotions: Giving away an e-book for free only makes sense if you have more than one book to sell, e.g. the first in a series. Otherwise, a price point of $.99 yielded much better results for me than a price of $1.99.
Paperbacks: Readers are still buying paperbacks and I am glad that I decided to offer them. I sell paperbacks at speaking and networking events, author talks, shows, and online.
Relationships sell books. Hard as it is for many authors to talk about ourselves and our book, it is the only way to get the word out. Just don’t be the author who keeps writing “Buy my book” on all her social media posts. That only turns off readers.
Early reviews benefit authors and readers. I found several early reviewers on Goodreads who also posted on Amazon.
Never stop learning: Read blogs by successful self-publishers and marketing experts, join Facebook groups where authors exchange experiences, and be willing to share your knowledge with others. Marketing strategies that worked years ago don’t necessarily work anymore today because the market is much more crowded nowadays and readers have a lot more titles to choose from. You need to decide what makes your book different from others.
Public speaking: As an experienced Toastmaster, that part comes easy for me. Many authors, however, struggle when asked to speak in public, which I find baffling. They are storytellers and are also able to write a coherent story with a beginning, a middle, and an ending. What could be easier than telling stories about their life, their work, and the theme of their book?
Last Thursday was a big day for me: Moon Township’s Access Television, a volunteer-operated community TV studio, interviewed me about my recently published novel “Oktober Heat.” Moon Township is home to several military installations, so it seemed an appropriate topic.
My interviewer had read my book and prepared some questions for me. I was not too nervous (thanks to my Toastmasters experience), at least until I realized that they had three high-definition cameras. I have no idea who invented high-definition cameras, but I’m sure it was not a middle-aged woman!
After the interview, one of the two young cameramen asked me questions about writing and publishing. I told him some resources and asked him, “Are you on Facebook?” With much indignation, he replied, “Of course!”
Now I am waiting to hear when my interview will air but I won’t be able to see it until I get a DVD.
In a 1958 West German village, twenty-one-year-old German police officer Walter Hofmann wants nothing more than to dance to the latest rock ‘n’ roll tunes at the nearby American air base. But the girls flock to the easy-going GIs, their dollars, and their fancy cars. Worse yet, the entire country—including his younger sister—is ecstatic about the recent arrival of Private Elvis Presley.
Old World values and New World pop culture clash, even before a young woman gets killed near the base and the military arrests Walter’s GI friend Jeff for murder. Walter believes in Jeff’s innocence, even after he learns that Jeff has won the heart of the girl he secretly adores. While Walter and his partner are on the trail of an elusive killer, his sister disappears in an attempt to see the famous singer and Walter races to her rescue before she becomes the next victim.