Hello, reader friends! Join me in welcoming author friend Amanda Barratt for a little chat and giveaway celebrating My Dearest Dietrich! I’m eager to read this book and delighted to have Amanda drop by for a visit!
about the author
ECPA best-selling author Amanda Barratt fell in love with writing in grade school when she wrote her first story—a spinoff of Jane Eyre. Now, Amanda writes romantic, historical fiction, penning stories of beauty and brokenness set against the backdrop of bygone eras not so very different from our own. Her novel My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love, released from Kregel Publications in June 2019.
She’s also the author of My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls, New York: Adele’s Journey, as well as seven novellas with Barbour Publishing. Two of her novellas have been finalists in the FHL Reader’s Choice Awards.
Amanda lives in the woods of Michigan with her fabulous family, where she can be found reading way too many books, plotting her next novel, and jotting down imaginary travel itineraries for her dream vacation to Europe.
Describe My Dearest Dietrich in five words.
A: Poignant, romantic, thoughtful, dramatic, heartbreaking.
B: No! Amanda, don’t break my heart!
Share your inspiration behind My Dearest Dietrich.
A: The first time I heard Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s story, I was sitting around the dinner table, and my mom was sharing about the book she was currently reading, Eric Metaxas’s Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness. I was fascinated by the story of a pastor and theologian who stood boldly against the Nazi regime—a German pastor, no less.
A few months later, I came across a quote from Love Letters from Cell 92, the book containing Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Maria von Wedemeyer’s correspondence. Instantly, a question begged to be answered: What kind of a woman would capture the heart of a man like Dietrich Bonhoeffer?
Time went by, and I couldn’t stop thinking about this remarkable love story, and wondering why it had never been told in narrative form. I’ve heard it said, “If you can’t find the book you want to read, write it.” After a lot of prayer, I decided to do just that.
B: I’m so glad you did!
What are some of the challenges you faced while writing My Dearest Dietrich?
A: At the beginning of the research process, I was confronted with a flood of opinions and conjectures that have been pinned on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s work, life, and even his relationship with Maria. I felt a great responsibility to portray their lives and their love story as truthfully as I could, and that meant getting to the heart of who they were as individuals, as Christians, and as a couple.
Sometimes it felt like picking through a massive pile of sand to extract the diamonds. Ultimately, I wanted to understand the story through their eyes, and so I spent hours studying the letters they wrote to each other, excerpts from Maria’s diary, the volumes of letters, sermons, poems, and theological works that comprise the Bonhoeffer canon. Those, along with reliable biographies, interviews, and historical texts, provided the backbone of the novel.
Another challenge I faced was quite literally, a language barrier. Though I’ve learned some basic German since I wasn’t familiar enough with the language to sit down and read it. Thankfully, all primary source materials have been translated into English, and when I came across a book only available in German, a wonderful friend who’d spent several years in Austria offered to read it to me over Skype. A nine-hour Skype call later, I had pages of notes and the inspiration for the final scene in My Dearest Dietrich.
B: That’s a lot of hurdles!
What did you learn or discover about Dietrich Bonhoeffer while writing My Dearest Dietrich?
A: I loved discovering him, not only as an author, pastor, theologian, and man of resistance, but as a very human, even flawed, man. It’s a temptation to consign heroes of faith to a pedestal, but in many ways, that makes them distant and unrelatable. The man I discovered lived out costly discipleship and served God with all his heart, but he was also as human as the rest of us. A man who struggled with raw emotions of fear and uncertainty, who fell in love at the most unlikely time in his life, and who fought falling in love. In the end, that was the Dietrich Bonhoeffer who became most real to me, the whole person, not a cardboard cutout labeled “brilliant theologian and martyr.”
B: This is one of my favorite aspects of historical fiction, the way historical figures truly become real to us as readers.
What books are you reading right now?
A: I’ve been savoring Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes, and can’t recommend it highly enough! It’s a novel brimming with unforgettable characters, seaside secrets, and profound truths.
B: I couldn’t agree more!
What’s your reading style?
A: Print books all the way! Only rarely will I read an e-book, and it’s usually because the book is unavailable in print. As for routine…over the past couple of years I’ve started reading for fifteen minutes or half an hour before bed. During busy seasons, this is usually my only reading time, and I love a lazy Sunday afternoon or long weekend when I can sit and read for hours. Bliss!
B: Even though I read all formats, there’s something special about print!
What’s your writing style?
A: With My Dearest Dietrich, I spent almost as much time researching as I did writing, so while working on the first draft my desk was covered with STACKS of books I referenced frequently during almost every scene. Because the timeline of this story was already set, I didn’t have to do as much plotting, though I did sit down and think about the major players in the novel as I would for a fictional story, figuring out their character arcs, personalities, etc.
I tend to be a mix between a pantser and plotter. I outline, but leave room for unexpected twists and for the characters to surprise me. I love every part of the writing process—from research, to outlining, to the first draft, to editing. Every stage reveals a different layer, and though they all have their ups and downs, they’re all a pivotal piece in the puzzle.
B: I love it when characters go rogue!
Do you have any writing quirks?
A: Though this may make me sound like a demanding artistic type, I do my best writing when it’s absolutely quiet. My desk is located in the upstairs loft of our home, so that level of quiet is usually hard to achieve. Over the years, I’ve become better at blocking out background noise with music, though I still love the rare times when I’m home alone and can work in silence to my heart’s content.
B: There’s nothing like a little peace and quiet when you’re trying to work! Thank you for taking the time to share a little bit of this story with us, Amanda! I’m looking forward to reading it!
about the book
My Dearest Dietrich by Amanda Barratt
A staggering love illuminating the dark corners of a Nazi prison…
Renowned German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer is famous for his resistance to the Nazi regime and for his allegiance to God over government. But what few realize is that the last years of his life also held a love story that rivals any romance novel.
Maria von Wedemeyer knows the realities of war. Her beloved father and brother have both been killed on the battlefield. The last thing this spirited young woman needs is to fall for a man under constant surveillance by the Gestapo. How can she give another piece of her heart to a man so likely to share the same final fate? Yet when Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an old family friend, comes to comfort the von Wedemeyers after their losses, she discovers that love isn’t always logical.
Dietrich himself has determined to keep his distance from romantic attachments. There is too much work to be done for God, and his involvement in the conspiracy is far too important. But when he encounters a woman whose intelligence and conviction match his own, he’s unprepared for how easy it is to give away his heart.
With their deep love comes risk–and neither Dietrich nor Maria is prepared for just how great that risk soon becomes.
Based on detailed historical research, this true love story is at once beautiful and heartrending. My Dearest Dietrich sheds new light on a world-famous theologian . . . and the woman who changed his life.
Thanks to the generosity of the author, one fortunate Faithfully Bookish reader friend will win a print copy of My Dearest Dietrich.
US only | ends 6/6 | giveaway policy
Reader friends, I hope y’all join me in reading My Dearest Dietrich!
Tell me what aspect of historical fiction most appeals to you.
Are you a fan? why or why not?