Q: You note that All the Little Hopes is based on your mother's experiences. What did you see as the right blend of history and fiction as you wrote the book?
A: I chose to write a plot separate from the history I was researching, then wove the facts through the fiction. The many history points provide an authentic setting that elevates the story and turns it into a treasure hunt for fact-checkers.
Q: How did you research the novel, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?
A: Research always unlocks surprises, and it’s one of my favorite parts of the writing process. For example, I was able to meet with six people in Williamston, North Carolina, who remembered German POWs working on their family farms.
That wonderful conversation yielded facts I never could have imagined: the government contract for beeswax and purple honey, for example. Because I don’t try to force my writing to fit a preconceived outline, I can use anything that falls in my lap.
Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?
A: The credit for All the Little Hopes goes to the talent at Sourcebooks. I learned with my first book that my writing talent doesn’t extend to finding the unforgettable title. In both books the publisher did a fantastic job of marrying the title with the content.
And with Hopes, the reference is spot on. The word “hope” is mentioned close to 60 times in the book with different intent. Hope is something we can all use.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
A: This is an uplifting book that is more than its premise: WWII is tearing families apart, Nazi prisoners are coming to work beside locals and two girls are inching toward maturity.
Hopes has us look below the surface to discover hidden truths that aren’t initially apparent. It has us answer an important question: Do we ever really know who the enemy is?
Q: What are you working on now?
A: My next book will return to the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina. I am in love with that region and have discovered an interesting piece of truth I want to explore.
One of my goals in the next book is to incorporate a few of the characters from the first two books. This should give readers answers about the future of some of the people they’ve come to care about.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I am particularly proud that I became a published author when I was 70. I believe all those years of living and learning made for richer and deeper storytelling.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Leah Weiss.