Tuesday, September 13, 2011

BBAW Interview Swap - Featuring Anna at Diary of Eccentric

The second day of BBAW is my absolute favorite day of the week...the Interview Swap!  This event is where you are randomly matched up with another participating blogger, and you interview each other.  I was so pleased that this year, I actually knew my matchee - Anna from Diary of an Eccentric.

I've been following Anna for probably about 2 1/2 years, or about six months into my blogging life.  I loved that she was so involved in her daughter's love for reading, and we had something in common besides the love of books...WWII!

So without further ado, here is my conversation with Anna:

1. (Sandy) Predictable question I know, but I think it is always fun to hear every blogger’s genesis story. As in, when and why did you become a blogger?
(Anna) I had been reading knitting blogs for several months when I thought having a blog would be a good way to keep track of my finished knitting projects. So Diary of an Eccentric was born in June 2007 as a knitting blog, but I soon realized that I didn't knit fast enough to have a lot of knitting content. I've always been an avid reader, so I figured I'd also take stock of the books I plowed through in order to remember what I'd read and have more to talk about on the blog. I didn't really post on a regular basis during my first year of blogging, but by mid-2008, I was doing more reading than knitting and posting more about books, so it became obvious that I was officially a book blogger.

I've always blogged mainly for myself, to chronicle my reading and my knitting and as a creative outlet. I love to write, and when I can't think of where to go with my novel or a short story, writing a book review or a random post can get the creative juices flowing. I blogged when my only commenters were my good friend, Serena, and my knitting buddy, Dawn, but as the book blogging community has grown, I've really enjoyed "meeting" new friends and having a space where I can chat with others about my passion for the written word.

2. (Sandy) For those who know you, we are all aware that a special relationship exists between you and Serena, another very successful book blogger (Savvy Verse and Wit). I’ve always envied the fact that the two of you share such a cool hobby, and are best friends as well. Someone to help with technical problems! Someone to do readathons with! Tell us more about your friendship, how long you have known each other, and how the both of you came to embrace the same hobby.

(Anna) Serena and I have known each other since August 1995 when we were freshman roommates at Quinnipiac College (now University). We were randomly thrown together and weren't sure we'd like each other from the one phone call before we met in person. When I arrived the day before classes started, Serena was hard at work at her desk, typing furiously, and I couldn't figure out for the life of me what she was doing when classes hadn't even started yet. So I asked her what she was writing, and she told me she was taking a correspondence course that involved writing children's stories. When I told her that I was enrolled in the same exact course...well, I guess we realized our friendship was meant to be, and it sparked a conversation about our similar passions for reading and writing.

I think we're more like sisters than friends. We transferred to the same college in Boston two years later, and I even lived with her in her parents' house. We bought a dog together, and she helped me get the job I have right now, and we share an office. We've been really lucky to share so much, but that also means we butt heads a lot and argue like sisters. I wasn't surprised that we both jumped into the blogosphere around the same time; I think she started her blog only a few days after I started mine. It's been great trading books, discussing what we're reading, and helping each other with our blogs. I'm glad I have someone to share the whole experience with because I think I'd drive my husband crazy otherwise!

3. (Sandy) For me, you are the go-to blog for all things WWII. I know this is one of many things we have in common. What is your inspiration for the love you have of this genre?

(Anna) I've always been drawn to books set during or dealing in some way with WWII, but over the last few years, they've really taken over my personal library. I am drawn to the European theater of the war because of my family's ties to it. My great uncle on my father's side was killed in France in 1944, and to this day, my grandmother (who celebrated her 93rd birthday in June) chokes up talking about it. My mother was born in Germany after the war, and her family came to the States in 1956 when she was three. So my grandparents were German living in Germany during the war, but I know so few details. I know my grandparents and uncles were in a camp, but I don't know if it was German or Soviet, and I know my infant uncle perished there from starvation. My uncle (who passed away in 2006) made references to Siberia, but whether they were there or not, I have no idea. My great-grandfather was taken away at gunpoint and never seen again, I think by the Soviets, but I am not sure. I know I had a great aunt living in Berlin when the Soviets invaded, and she was gang raped by Soviet soldiers. My grandmother died when I was 10, but I remember her telling me that Hitler was an evil, evil man and that she had to turn on the radio when he was making one of his speeches because if she didn't, she was scared one of her neighbors would tell on them. I remember her scolding me if I didn't finish all the food on my plate, but I didn't understand at the time that she had lost a baby to starvation.

I guess I just want to know what my family experienced during the war, and since my grandparents and my uncle are gone and my mother doesn't know all the details, I turned to books to give me an idea of what it was like for them. I have no idea if they were among the Germans celebrating Hitler's rise to power or whether they were among those who thought he was a madman from the start. I have no idea where they lived during the war, how they came to be in a camp, or what happened to them afterward. I am strong enough to accept whatever the facts are if I ever come to know them, but I don't even know where to start. I don't even know whether I still have family in Germany, but I'm sure I must. My cousin says she can tell me something of what her father (my uncle) told her, but we haven't had that chat yet. There are just so many unanswered questions.

I also find the whole era fascinating. Every time I read a book about WWII, whether fiction or non-fiction, I learn something new. The Nazis took control of every aspect of society, from government to family planning, and it seems like they didn't leave out any details. How were they able to do that? How were they able to kill so many people and so systematically and, for the most part, get away with it? It sickens me and boggles my mind. There are so many stories of resistance that underscore the strength, the resilience, and the hope of the people. The survivors' stories are so raw and heartbreaking, but I think they are so important to read, to know what happened, and to remember those who lost their lives so senselessly. They are a testament to the human spirit and the will to live.

4. (Sandy) What are some of your other interests, outside blogging and reading?
(Anna) I've always been a writer. I just love creating characters and stories, but I don't do as much of it as I'd like. I've been working on a novel for years in my free time, and my personal goal is to complete it in the next year or so. I also enjoy knitting, having recently picked up the needles for the first time in a couple of years, and I love camping and taking nature walks. I'm more of a leisurely stroller than a hard-core hiker, though.

5. (Sandy) Tell us one fact about yourself that we might not know, and would surprise us!
(Anna) That's a hard one. I honestly think I'm pretty boring. :) I'm not sure if this is surprising, but I'm sure people will think I'm weird. I'm a book sniffer. I love to flip the pages and smell the paper and the ink. That's one of the reasons I'm so resistant to getting an e-reader. I also can't stand bent covers and constantly smooth them out when I read. Yet for some reason, I'm okay with dog-earring one or two pages while I read...but then I spend a lot of time unfolding and pressing the creases so it's like they were never there. I'm a bit eccentric, but that's okay.  (Note from Sandy:  Actually, after we wrapped up our interview, in our back and forth chit-chat about ancestry, Anna revealed to me that she discovered she is related to Jane Austen (7th cousin 8 times removed) and Emily Dickinson (8th cousin 3 times removed).  How is that for literary mojo?)

Thank you so much Anna, for those wonderful, thoughtful answers.  I think I learned a thing or two about you even! 

Don't forget to visit Anna, where I answer a few questions from her!


Julie P. said...

That whole relation thing is beyond cool! So envious!

Anna said...

Thanks, Sandy! I'm so happy we were able to interview each other. I always enjoy chatting with you!

Julie: I was so surprised when I saw that, given that they are two of my favorite writers. Apparently, I'm related to them through my paternal grandfather's line. I hope to do more research on it at some point.

Julie @ Read Handed said...

How interesting about Anna's WWII heritage! It was fun learning more about a blogger I read daily!

Serena said...

I would love to know what happened to Anna's family as well....I think it would be a great story to tell, heck maybe even a fiction novel...to imagine it out.

I like that's she's related to literary royalty. I, on the other hand, have no famous literary relations. :)

Serena said...

Oh, and yes, that correspondence course was a sign from the stars I think. It also taught me that I cannot write stories for children...that vocab is too advanced..or so the institute told me.

Unknown said...

Holy cow, what a fascinating interview! I cannot believe you, Anna, think you're boring! Ha! Not in the least. I am sorry your family is so connected to Hitler's reign and the Nazis and awful things happened to them. I totally understand wanting to know all the stories. I would too.
How cool that you are relayed to Jane Austen, one of your favorite authors, and Emily Dickinson. Such awesome connections!
It's wonderful that you and Serena have such a fantastic friendship. It's wonderful that you connected so well.

Thank you Sandy and Anna!

gautami tripathy said...

I loved this interview and the photo! Great questions. Wonderful answers!

Reading the interviews is so much fun! I am learning so much about the book bloggers..

Here is my post:

BBAW 2011: Interview


rhapsodyinbooks said...

Totally best interview ever! But would one expect any less of a combo like you and Anna?!!!

Unknown said...

What an amazing family history. I can feel the emotion in the words - I agree with Serena - Anna should write a book!

Anonymous said...

I have always loved reading Anna's blog so it is nice to get to know her a bit more.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

She's got some seriously awesome literary heritage.

Marie Cloutier said...

Great interview!I hope I get to read Anna's book some day!

Marce said...

I didn't realise you and Serena were that close, how wonderful.

The book sniffer made me laugh and gasp a little :-)

Zibilee said...

I think it's so nice that she and Serena are such good friends. It's sort of inspiring to me that two bloggers can come to mean so much to each other. And I have to agree that the book sniffing was surprising, but also kind of wonderful. This was a truly great interview. Thanks Sandy and Anna for sharing it!

bermudaonion said...

I love Anna and think her friendship with Serena is the best!

Nise' said...

Glad to know the story behind your interest in WWII Anna. I am glad you know as much as you do.

Wonderful interview ladies.

Florinda said...

You two did a terrific interview! I was fortunate to meet Anna (and Serena) in person during a family trip to DC last summer, but I don't think her literary legacy ever came up in our conversation :-).

Suko said...

Excellent interview! I enjoyed the whole thing, and learned about the relationship between Serena and Anna (I knew they were great friends but I didn't have the background story provided here). I love Anna's blog and am a frequent visitor and commenter.

Heidenkind said...

So cool! I think next year I'm going to ask my interview partner if they're related to any famous writers. :)

Melody said...

Wow, this is one of the best interviews I read! And I'm glad to learn a bit more about Anna after reading this interview. :)

Trisha said...

Awesome interview! It was great getting to know more about you Anna. It's crazy that we've actually met, but we didn't really get a chance to talk!

Anna said...

Julie: Thanks!

Serena: It helped me discover I wasn't cut about to be a children's writer, too. I'd love to write a book about my family, but I think I'd need money to travel for the research. :)

Amy: Thanks! If only my author ancestry would prompt me to finish my novel!

Gautami: Thanks!

Anna said...

Rhapsody: Thanks! I'm flattered! Sandy rocks!

Farmlanebooks: Thanks! I have thought about penning a WWII novel. Must finish the one I'm writing first and go from there. :)

Lola: Thanks!

Melissa: Thanks! It makes me wish I had more time to spend on constructing my family tree.

Marie: Thanks! I hope so, too!

Marce: I was hoping there were more book sniffers out there...but then again, I was never normal. ;)

Zibilee: Thanks! Serena and I have known each other for so long and have done so many things together since college that I'm not surprised we both took up blogging simultaneously. It's made the journey a bit easier, that's for sure!

Bermudaonion: Me, too. :)

Nise': Thanks! I consider myself lucky that I know even a little of the story.

Erin said...

Yes! I love to sniff books, too!! I do have an ereader, but my paper books will always be all over my house. Great interview, with very thoughtful answers. I enjoyed getting to know Anna a little!

Anna said...

Florinda: Thanks! I found out about the literary connections in 2008, and haven't thought about it much since then. It only came to mind when Sandy and I were discussing our ancestry.

Suko: Thanks! Serena and I go way back, and the more I think about it, the more I think that our being assigned as roommates wasn't a complete coincidence. ;)

Heidenkind: I'd love to hear about other bloggers' literary connections!

Melody: Thanks!

Trisha: Too bad we didn't have a chance to meet up somewhere else and really talk!

Erin: Yea! A fellow book sniffer! :)

Jenners said...

What a great interview! And related to Jane Austen!! And I always wondered about how she and Serena became friends. I wish I had IRL blogging buddies like that!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

These interview swaps are so much fun -- and what a wonderful literary connection!