An Interview with an Amazon Top500 Reviewer

He’s very active in all areas of social media, a frequent blogger, and a top 500 Amazon reviewer. Like you, I wonder where he finds time to do all of this and publish three best-selling novels. I’ve read two of them and as I said in one of my reviews, his books should be required reading in history classes! He brings a sense of humanity to a difficult time in the world, the events before, of, and after World War II. Believe me, interviewing Christoph is a distinct delight!

A little background – he was born in Germany as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. Not a full local in the eyes and ears of his peers he developed an ambiguous sense of belonging and home in Bavaria. He moved to Hamburg in pursuit of his studies and to lead a life of literary indulgence. After a few years he moved on to the UK where he’s a resident. The Luck of The Weissensteiners is his first published work, followed by Sebastian and The Black Eagle Inn, all part of The Three Nations Trilogy.

First question. Have to ask the meaning of The Three Nations Trilogy.

Thanks for your kind introduction Dianne. Your books touch upon the issue of immigrants and tolerance. In fact the US is an immigrant Nation, depending on how far back you go in history. In Europe borders kept changing until much more recently (currently!) and regions which were part of one country suddenly became part of another.  Religion, loyalty to a throne, invasion and luck decided the fate of many border regions time and time again. I was brought up a near border and found it always fascinating that, at some point in History, our region and its neighbors had been part of the same Nation/different Nation more than once.

My trilogy covers Czechoslovakia, Austria and Germany:

In “The Luck of the Weissensteiners” a misguided and intolerant German and Slovak Nationalism robs other Nations of their freedom before and during WW2.
In “Sebastian” such a suppressed Nationalism forces the tired Union between the Austrian, Hungarian, Croatian, Slovakian Nations apart. The artificial political solutions after WW1 however created new problems for Europe that are said to have led to WW2.


In “The Black Eagle Inn” I tried to show how the Bavarian region sees itself as a Nation of its own and how divided a Nation can be on the inside. Especially after WW2 victims and hangmen still had to live together and were forced to rebuild the shamed Nation together.

Having read your books, I know that a lot of your family history is in them. Please elaborate.

My paternal grandparents got divorced in 1933. In two of my books there are split up scenarios that speculate about the reasons behind this: I never found out exactly what happened.
My grandmother Greta and her sister Wilma were Germans living in Slovakia during WW2 and “The Luck of the Weissensteiners” tells a very similar story to theirs.
My grandfather had one leg amputated (not war related) and his story is part of “Sebastian”, although I transferred it to Vienna and to 1913 for other reasons.
Distant maternal relatives of mine owned a similar business to “The Black Eagle Inn”. The people concerned are long dead and I never properly knew them but a few years ago my cousin published a family chronicle and the contained photographs inspired the story.


When did you decide to become a writer and why did you decide to write in this genre?

It is more like I suddenly wrote books without having had the ambition or the plan to do so. My first (unpublished) novel was inspired by a singular but rather remarkable event. I had just reduced my working hours and as an experiment I sat down to write a short story about a dreadful funeral. While this became a complete novel I was also reading a lot about Czechoslovakia and its history as part of my family research. What I found out was so fascinating to me that the idea for “The Luck of the Weissensteiners” and the Trilogy formed.

I don’t see myself exclusively as writer of Historical Fiction and I have a few non historical drafts/ideas on my computer, but history has always intrigued me and I find it can lend the personal and human stories a different dimension.

Do you see yourself continuing to write as a career path?

Definitely. I have a few more stories that I want to tell and much more to learn, which is very exciting. I am no Hemingway but I have had some touching feedback for my novels and as long as there are people out there who enjoy my stories I will keep on writing. I am very lucky to be able to do all this.

Which of your books is your favorite and why? Course that’s kind of like asking which of your dogs you prefer.

“The Luck of the Weissensteiners” was the first one published (first born so to speak) and will always have a special place in my heart. Everything about it was a first: The first review, the first check from Amazon etc.

And characters. Do you have a favorite?

Jonah Weissensteiner is such a warm and kind figure, very similar to my father, so I always have a very soft spot for him. However, I probably loved Johanna the most in that book. She is a nasty character but there are limits as to how far she would go and that makes her intriguing and a challenging and rewarding character to write.

Let’s talk about the future of the industry. Do you think the tendency toward eBook popularity will continue?

Yes, I think so. Their practicality is a winner, they are environmentally friendly and new e-readers are becoming increasingly user friendly and sophisticated.

I am a technophobe at heart and resisted and resented cell/ mobile phones and kindles with a vengeance. I succumbed in both cases due to necessity. I still don’t like my phone but I love my kindle. As a former librarian this is quite a statement.

To shift gears, you must read constantly to be one of Amazon’s top 500 reviewers. How did that come about and was it a conscious decision?

I am an avid reader and ended up on that list without trying. I know some reviewers on Amazon are quite competitive but I don’t have time for that. I am pleased that it lends the reviews an air of gravity but my reviews are just one opinion and the laurel is probably Amazon’s way of saying that I should get a life.

How many hours a day do you spend reading?

That depends on how much time I need for writing and marketing of my books. It used to be up to 6 hours. In my last job I had a lot of spare time on trains, planes and in hotel rooms. That habit or addiction still needs to be fed and I still steal myself away from the computer and read 2 -3 hours a day.

I’ve noticed you review books in a number of different genres. How do you choose the books you review?

I follow several book promotion publications and websites, I spot many finds on my Twitter feed and in Facebook groups, in posts on blogs I follow and I tend to read books by authors I already know. I get approached a lot via my website but that is a tiny fraction. I am curious, so I have tried new genres over the last year and find myself developing new tastes.

Since you’ve published three books and the series is called The Three Nations Trilogy, are you planning on starting another series? If so, will it portray the time period of the Trilogy? Please tell us about your upcoming books.

I have more historical novels in draft form but the connections are not that obvious. There is a Finnish theme in my upcoming novels and a mental health theme so there is always the temptation and possibility to link them via a trilogy. I will only do that if it fits naturally.

My next book, “A Time to Let Go”, is contemporary novel set in Britain and concerns a family (with Finnish ancestors) whose dynamics are challenged by the mother’s Alzheimer’s disease. That book is currently in the last stages of editing.

I am currently working on a Scandinavian/ Baltic War drama between 1918 and 1950, so here the time period caught up with me again. Since I have my eye on a few more theatres of war, this could well become part of a New Trilogy.

What advice do you have to beginning authors? To those who are planning to self-publish?

Join independent author groups. The information you need is out there and there is a large supportive online community of indie writers that will help you. Don’t be discouraged and follow your dream but work hard on everything: editing, formatting and marketing. It is necessary and worth it.

And Christoph, this is just for me. Your dogs are with you in almost every photo. I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your dogs!

All three are labradoodles – currently a very fashionable breed and most loveable family pets. [They were intended to be allergy free guide dogs when they were first bred in Australia in the 1980s.]

Nine years ago I met my partner Ryan and we didn’t get off on the right foot initially: He just came out of a complicated relationship and I was irrationally scared of dogs.

Molly, the apricot colored dog was only 18 months old, very lively and scary to me. Greta, the dark brown one, was 1 yo and very aloof, even though I immediately loved her for her teddy bear like looks. I overcame my fears gradually because of my feelings for Ryan but he and I were not a couple and I began to meet him only to borrow the dogs for walks. Eventually he changed his mind and we became one happy family. We treat our dogs like children which I am sure is very annoying to other people. Well, tough.

Molly had two litters, 9 and 12 lovely puppies. Then we got Wilma, the cappuccino coloured baby of the family. She had 6 puppies a year ago.

Thanks, Christoph. Is there anything you’d like to add to this?

I really need to return the compliments and tell your readers what an asset you are to the writing and writer’s community. Thank you for inviting me on your blog.

The Luck of the Weissensteiners (Three Nations Trilogy Book 1)

In the sleepy town of Bratislava in 1933 a romantic girl falls for a bookseller from Berlin. Greta Weissensteiner, daughter of a Jewish weaver, slowly settles in with the Winkelmeier clan just as the developments in Germany start to make waves in Europe and re-draws the visible and invisible borders. The political climate in the multifaceted cultural jigsaw puzzle of disintegrating Czechoslovakia becomes more complex and affects relations between the couple and the families. The story follows them through the war with its predictable and also its unexpected turns and events and the equally hard times after.
But this is no ordinary romance; in fact it is not a romance at all, but a powerful, often sad, Holocaust story. What makes The Luck of the Weissensteiners so extraordinary is the chance to consider the many different people who were never in concentration camps, never in the military, yet who nonetheless had their own indelible Holocaust experiences. This is a wide-ranging, historically accurate exploration of the connections between social location, personal integrity and, as the title says, luck.

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Sebastian (Three Nations Trilogy Book 2)

Sebastian is the story of a young man who has his leg amputated before World War I. When his father is drafted to the war it falls on to him to run the family grocery store in Vienna, to grow into his responsibilities, bear loss and uncertainty and hopefully find love.
Sebastian Schreiber, his extended family, their friends and the store employees experience the ‘golden days’ of pre-war Vienna and the timed of the war and the end of the Monarchy while trying to make a living and to preserve what they hold dear.
Fischer convincingly describes life in Vienna during the war, how it affected the people in an otherwise safe and prosperous location, the beginning of the end for the Monarchy, the arrival of modern thoughts and trends, the Viennese class system and the end of an era.
As in the first part of the trilogy, “The Luck of The Weissensteiners” we are confronted again with themes of identity, Nationality and borders. The step back in time made from Book 1 and the change of location from Slovakia to Austria enables the reader to see the parallels and the differences deliberately out of the sequential order. This helps to see one not as the consequence of the other, but to experience them as the momentary reality as it must have felt for the people at the time.

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The Black Eagle Inn (Three Nations Trilogy Book 3)

The Black Eagle Inn is an old established Restaurant and Farm business in the sleepy Bavarian countryside outside of Heimkirchen.  Childless Anna Hinterberger has fought hard to make it her own and keep it running through WWII. Religion and rivalry divide her family as one of her nephews, Markus has got her heart and another nephew, Lukas got her ear. Her husband Herbert is still missing and for the wider family life in post-war Germany also has some unexpected challenges in store.

Once again Fischer tells a family saga with war in the far background and weaves the political and religious into the personal. Being the third in the Three Nations Trilogy this book offers another perspective on war, its impact on people and the themes of nations and identity.

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ESP, Politics & a novel

Ever since I can remember, there’s been a little voice that tells me not to turn down a certain street,to lock my car door, and things of that nature. Generally I listen to it. Kind of have always thought it was my conscience. I well remember the time I had my two children in the car and the voice told me to get in another lane. I did and a second later an oncoming car jumped the median and smashed into the car on my left. It would have been me and my children.

When my children were in college they told me they always knew when I was thinking about them because a light bulb would go out when they walked under it. They remembered when they were children in the car and light bulbs would go out when my car passed under them. At their urging, I took a course in ESP and I was the only one in the class who could bend a silverplate spoon just by thinking about it. I’ve never done anything to develop it and rarely think about it.

Late yesterday my husband received a call from a former colleague of his in the California Senate. A prominent Senator had been arrested in an FBI sting. This was the second California Senator to be arrested in an FBI sting in the last two months. In the twelve years I spent with my husband while he was in the California Legislature, there were no incidents such as these. In fact, the last FBI sting in the California Legislature occurred almost thirty years ago. Here’s where it gets interesting, at least for me.

Two years ago I happened to be seated two nights in a row next to a politician who was the most biased, hate-mongering, person I think I’d ever met. He gave a new meaning to conservative. For several days I wondered what his wife was like, what his family was like, and why had he become so biased. I wrote a novel, fiction, based on him and it resulted in an FBI sting. The book is TEA PARTY TEDDY. Now after two arrests in FBI stings, with similarities to what I wrote about, I wonder if at some level I knew these were going to happen. It was almost a foreshadowing of these events. People always ask me the back story on my novels. Well, this one kind of has a front story. Certainly I was aware that some politicians bent the rules a little, but I never consciously knew of the illegal circumstances that led to these two arrests. Have to wonder if my subconscious did!



Marsha Roberts and her interview of me. Enjoy!

I’m taking a brief intermission from my “Angels, Miracles and Dogs” blog to welcome you to the ASMSG Electorate Blog Hop and RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY!

ASMSG is a dynamic group of authors from all genres who have come together to help get the word out about their books: new releases, bestsellers, books in a series and individual gems – they’re all here! Over the next few weeks, a selection of authors are swapping interviews in their blogs and I’m very happy to be part of this team of dedicated writers.

Check out the dates and blogs at the end of this interview. You wouldn’t want to miss any of the insights shared by these fascinating writers. Please take a moment to share and tweet and comment and whatever else you are inclined to do to pass along the news of this unique Blog Hop!

Plus – don’t forget to enter the RAFFLECOPTER with free e-books available to the lucky winner! Lot’s of great books are in the prize package!

It is my pleasure to interview a very special author: Dianne Harman:

First off, I have to say that Dianne is one of the few people I’ve met online that I consider to be a friend. We initially virtually “met” through the Goodreads Boomer Lit Group and then I began to notice that everywhere I went online, there was Dianne! Active in all areas of social media, a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post and a prolific blogger – all the while continuing to turn out novel after novel – I HAD to meet this woman! And I’m so very glad I did. She’s a delight!

Dianne’s personal and professional background includes a wide range of experience, which gives her a great deal to draw from as she formulates her stories and characters. She owned a national antique and art appraisal business for many years, leaving that industry and opening two yoga centers, where she taught yoga and certified yoga instructors.  Dianne has traveled extensively throughout the world, most recently dividing her time between Huntington Beach and Sacramento, California, with her husband, a former Senator.

Dianne has published two best selling novels in her Coyote Series: the award winning Blue Coyote Motel, a psychological thriller, and Coyote in Provence, a cozy mystery with lots of food, wine, and fine art! Her political novels, Tea Party Teddy and Tea Party Teddy’s Legacy, feature a multicultural romance set (very convincingly!) in the California political scene. I’ll get Dianne to share some thoughts on her terrific novels, the writing process and more! Now, for the interview:

MR:  Dianne, you’ve had such a diverse professional background, how did you end up being a writer?

DH:  It’s something I’d always wanted to do, but I never thought I had the necessary “credentials” to do it. Someone gave me a copy of Stephen King’s book, On Writing, and he more or less says, Just Do It, and I did!

MR:  At what point did you go from writing to thinking of yourself as an author? And was this a significant transition for you?

DH:  It was probably after I’d published two books. I realized that writing had become extremely important to me. You know the old question, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” Well, one day I decided that’s what I wanted to do!

MR:  The first book I read of yours, was your first, I believe: Blue Coyote Motel. Where did you get the idea for the feel-good-anti-aging formula, coupled with travelers who found themselves in such a dilemma in a motel in the middle of nowhere?

DH:  It was a very strange thing. My husband and I were guests at a boutique motel in Palm Springs, California, for a wedding. Our son was the best man. The bride was the daughter of an international children’s surgeon and guests had come from all over the world. It was in October and 106 degrees out. We welcomed the air-conditioning. I remember turning to my husband and saying, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if someone put a ‘feel-good’ drug in the air-conditioning and everyone felt good all the time?” I started writing the book on my iPad that afternoon. That night I sat next to a priest who wore a huge cross. He went in the book. At the wedding dinner, I was seated next to a couple who had gold mines in Brazil. They went in the book. And I kept meeting the rest of the characters!

MR:  Great story, and it does make it seem like it was “meant” to happen! Continuing with the Coyote Series, I’m a big fan of Coyote in Provence. 

MR:  You captured the beauty of that area of France while giving the reader an extremely enjoyable mystery. I was particularly fascinated by how you brought us into the world of fine art, especially since you owned an art appraisal business for years. How much of your past experiences have you interwoven into your books?

DH:  I own the Alfred Mitchell painting that’s in the book and I’ve spent time in Provence in the small village. So certainly, some of my experiences – like how the wine is put in jugs (fascinated me) – are in there, but it is a work of fiction. And I love to cook so food is a big part of that book.

MR:  Oh, I love knowing that you actually have that Alfred Mitchell painting! Lovely piece of trivia! Speaking of writing about what you’ve experienced personally, I recall that your first political novel, Tea Party Teddy, stirred up a bit of controversy, especially in California. Could you tell us a little about that?  

DH:  I knew when I wrote it was going to be controversial and it was. I got a couple of bad reviews from “staffers” in Sacramento who worked for people similar to the ones portrayed in the book. While it is a work of fiction, almost everything that took place has happened or is happening (currently one Senator has been indicted and another one just found guilty – and I’m talking about the last couple of weeks).

MR:  What impact did all of the hullabaloo have on your second “Teddy” book?

DH:  There are some very fine, honorable, honest politicians. I wanted to portray that side of politics as well.

MR:  You’ve published four novels so far and in the process have created dozens of characters. Who is your favorite and why?

DH:  My favorite character is a private investigator, Slade Kelly, and judging from the comments I receive, I’m not the only one who has fallen in love with the incorrigible investigator. I probably like him so much because he is just so very human, not unlike each of us!

MR:  What has been the most rewarding experience to come out of your writing?

DH:  It happened last week. We were at a reception and several people had read my books and commented favorably on them. The man the reception was being given for introduced me as the “distinguished writer of best sellers!” Wow!

MR:  In the process of writing and publishing your books, what’s the smartest thing you did?

DH:  Hire someone to do the art work and the formatting.

MR:  And what mistake did you make along the way that you would advise any writer to avoid at all costs?

DH:  Thinking I could format a book!

MR:  You often blog about the entire process of publishing a book, from writing to marketing and obviously keep up to date on the indie-pub world. How do you feel about where things currently stand for independent authors?

DH:  I think this is just the beginning. Our children and grandchildren have grown up with tablets and twitter. Everything is electronic for these generations. I see eBooks continue to rise. My granddaughter comes over and wants to know what books I have on my iPad for her. She’s never asked what books I have in the bookcases!

MR:  Where do you see the industry going? And perhaps I should also ask, where would you like to see it go?

DH:  There will always be people who like the feel of a print book between their hands. My son and daughter-in-law are voracious readers, but they prefer print to eBooks. There’s room for both. So saying, I sell 8 to 10 times more eBooks than print, so I do think that’s the future of the industry.

I haven’t talked about genres, and yes, we did meet on a Boomer group, there’s not that many of them. I have maintained for some time that the boomer lit genre is ripe for the picking. There are 75 to 78 million boomers in the US alone and from what I’ve researched, very little literature that deals with that group. One day a couple of years ago I was searching on the internet for books for boomers. A handful. That’s still on my bucket list – to write books in that genre. I have one that needs some editing, but after my next book is published, the third in the Coyote series, I intend to polish the boomer book and publish it!

MR:  Is writing your career path from here on out? Do you see yourself always being an author?

DH:  Yes.

MR:  Any closing thoughts?

DH:  Thanks so much for having me. And for those of you who have not read Marsha’s wonderful book, Confessions of an Instinctively Mutinous Baby Boomer and her Parable of the Tomato Plant, order it now!

MR: How typically kind of you, Dianne. It has been a delightful experience to get to know you a little better and to share you and your books with the readers here.

Further information about Dianne and her books can be found at:



Web Site http://


What are you waiting for? Just do it!

I’ve spoken to a number of book clubs lately and the same questions seem to come up at each one. How did you get the idea for ???  Do you put parts of yourself in the book? Have you had those experiences? How do you do your research? Did you always want to be a writer?

If you’re a reader, you’ve probably thought about becoming a writer. If you’re like me, you probably thought you didn’t have the necessary credentials. I’d never been to a writing school. I wasn’t part of a critique group. I’d always heard you should write about what you know. I didn’t think anything I’d done was worthy of being written about. I was wrong, and I owe my writing career to Stephen King. Thanks Stephen! Sorry I don’t read you because the one time I did I barely slept for weeks afterward. What gave me the confidence to become a writer was his book, On Writing. He more or less says, “Just Do It” a la Nike! I did and I’ve never looked back.

Do I put parts of myself in a book? Probably. If you’re writing in fantasy or dystopian genres, you might not recognize much of the author, but when you write a contemporary novel, it’s kind of hard not to put parts of ourselves in there, because that’s what we know! For example, in the Coyote series, I had trekked in Nepal and attended the Mani Rimdu Festival. In Tea Party Teddy, I did have a woman tell me it was so nice that a politician didn’t have a trophy wife and she was glad I wore the same outfit to the event I’d worn the year before. Swell! I’ve spent time in Provence, however, I’ve never been to Afghanistan and part of Coyote in Provence deals with young Afghan girls who are orphans as well as female genital mutilation which is still practiced in several countries.

Research? Lots and lots. I honestly don’t know what writers did before the Internet. Everything we want to put in a book is there from A to Z. There’s really no reason for sloppy research these days and I’m sure you’ve read a book and thought, did they even do any research? I recently read a book that was advertised as being a wonderful novel about Carmel, California. Well, it’s one of my favorite places, but I honestly don’t think the author ha ever been there or even researched it. The only thing in the book that even alluded to it being on the California coast was “the sound of the ocean.” I was hoping for some restaurants and places I knew. Not so. If the author wasn’t willing to spend the time to research a work properly, I’m not willing to spend my time reading anything else by her!

As far as idea? They are all around us. The Coyote series came about because we were staying at hotel in Palm Springs and I made the comment to my husband, “What if someone put something in the air-conditioning system and everyone felt good all the time?” Tea Party Teddy came about because I happened to sit next to the most biased, conservative politician I’d ever met two nights in a row at political functions. I wondered about his wife, his family, how did he get that way? I’m in the finishing stages of  a new book, The Dinner Diva and the Red Cedar Spa, which will be published shortly. My daughter-in-law and I took a vacation at a spa in British Columbia where one of the treatments I had was a facial. My skin looked great weeks later, but for several days after it I looked like a beet that was peeling. The story of a facialist who takes out her problems on her spa clients stemmed from that.

Just start writing. You don’t need permission. I did and it’s the most fun thing I’ve ever done. People ask if I wish I’d done it thirty years ago and I tell them, no, I wouldn’t have had the life experiences that help me to write my novels. So no matter what your age, to paraphrase Stephen, Do It!