Published by The Dome Press (12 April 2018)
Available in ebook and paperback
Welcome to my turn on the publisher blog tour for Half a World Away and my thanks to Emily for the tour invitation and for a copy of the book to review. Confession time. I was intending to post a review with this guest post but I have got so far behind with reading and reviewing recently, I just ran out of time to read. I will get to it, just as soon as everything is back on track!!
I have a guest post from Sue to share today and also a short extract but first, here’s what the book is about.
| About the Book |
East Berlin, 1987.
Alex is a talented saxophonist, flirting with ‘Western’ jazz as well as girls. When he meets Nicky – a beautiful English girl visiting East Berlin as an au pair – she makes him feel that his dreams could become reality.
Detlev’s love for his country has always been enough for him, until Alex makes him feel things he never thought possible. But what use is his passion when its object doesn’t even know he exists?
As Alex meets a new group of musicians, he moves closer to influences considered subversive by a state that has eyes and ears everywhere – and Detlev’s unrequited feelings threaten to endanger them all.
Guest Post by Sue Haasler
People often want to know how much of what an author writes is based on real life. The answer, in the case of Half A World Away, is that bits of real life were used as starting points for aspects of the story.
My husband was born and brought up in East Berlin. If I’d never known him, I’m fairly sure I would never have written HAWA. We met a few months after reunification, when he came to do voluntary work in London. After a year he returned to study in Berlin and I was working in London, so every few months I would go over and stay with him. This was in 1991. Berlin still felt like two distinct cities, and we spent most of the time in the East because those were the neighbourhoods he knew best.
Some things from those visits have found their way into the book. Alex’s flat is based partly on the flat my husband had, which was in an old building and was heated by a coal stove, but I’ve also mixed it with a flat I once stayed in in West Berlin – it was this second one that was dingy and had the shared toilet!
Talking to my husband and his family and friends about what life was like in the former GDR, I wanted to write something that reflected their experience, which was that to them it felt perfectly normal, and in fact had a lot to recommend it – excellent education, good childcare and so on. In one conversation my husband described it as “almost paradise,” and I nearly gave the book that title.
Just writing a book about how normal and perfectly pleasant everything was wouldn’t have been a very gripping story, so there had to be a darker element to it. I never met anyone who’d knowingly had anything to do with the Stasi (the key word being “knowingly,” as the more I read about their methods the more I realised there can’t have been many people who completely avoided attracting their attention) so all of that aspect of the story comes from my imagination.
He tapped the metal cover of the peephole lightly with the pad of his forefinger. It swung aside, making only a whisper of sound, like silk against silk. It still sounded alarmingly loud in the deep silence, but he was sure it couldn’t be heard from outside. The time spent unscrewing it and polishing it to a mirror finish had been time well spent. He experimented a little and found that, with a steady pressure from his index finger and a swift clockwise movement, it was almost silent.
He was just about to leave and go about the day’s business when he heard footsteps in the stairwell outside his door. The peephole gave a perfect view of the stairs, so he was able to watch whoever was going up or down for several seconds, noting what they were wearing, what they were carrying, who they were with, sometimes catching snatches of conversations.
This time it was just the old woman who lived on the floor above him. She was moving painfully slowly under the weight of a bucket of coal which she’d no doubt already carried up the flight of stairs from the cellar.
He could have just stayed there and watched, but there came a time when watching wasn’t enough. His scalp tingled as he decided what he would do.
He unfastened the bolt and three locks that secured the door. As an afterthought he threw a scarf around his neck and picked up an empty bucket that stood by the door, stepping out and coming face to face with his elderly neighbour.
She looked startled.
‘I see we have the same idea,’ he said, indicating his coal bucket. His voice sounded reedy and strange and he coughed to clear his throat.
She glanced up at him, her watery grey eyes suspicious and guarded. ‘Has to be done,’ she said. ‘If we aren’t to freeze to death.’
‘Please allow me to help.’ He locked his door and placed his own bucket down next to it, and took her heavy pail from her hand. She didn’t protest.
‘Thank you, Herr…’ she said, leaving a pause for him to supply his name. He didn’t, but there was nothing wrong with her eyesight as she quickly read the name written under his doorbell. ‘Herr Ohm. You’re very kind,’ she added.
| Author Bio |
Sue Haasler was born and brought up in Co. Durham and studied English Literature and Linguistics at Liverpool University. After graduating she moved to London and worked for three years as a residential social worker. Since then, she has lived as an administrator for a disability charity, which recruits volunteer carers for disabled adults. Many of the volunteers are from abroad and this is how she met her husband, who is from the former East Berlin.
Sue has written four books, True Colours, Time after Time, Two’s Company (all Orion paperbacks) and Better Than the Real Thing. Two’s Company was optioned for film by Warner Bros. She has been commissioned by the BBC to write an authorized tie-in to Holby City.
She is married with an adult daughter and lives in London.