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ODIN’S PROMISE by Sandy Brehl, Q&A and Giveaway
Oct 1st, 2015 by Liza Wiemer

ODIN’S PROMISE21918775

by Sandy Brehl

Q&A and Giveaway

Buy here: IndieBoundAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

 

GREAT NEWS AND HUGE CONGRATS to Sandy! She has signed a contract to write two more books, so Odin’s Promise is now going to be a trilogy! Click here for more info: Sequel Update: Good News- DOUBLED 

Literary awards: Midwest Independent Publishers AssociationMidwest Book Award (2014)Gold for Children’s Fiction

About the novel:

ODIN’S PROMISE is a historical novel for middle-grade readers, a story of the first year of German occupation of Norway in World War II as seen through the eyes of a young girl. Eleven-year-old Mari grew up tucked under the wings of her parents, grandma, and older siblings. After Hitler’s troops invade Norway in Spring 1940, she is forced to grow beyond her “little girl” nickname to deal with harsh new realities. At her side for support and protection is Odin, her faithful elkhound. As the year progresses, Mari, her family, and her neighbors are drawn into the activities of the Norwegian underground resistance.

About the author:7831795

Books have been a central part of Sandy’s life since bedtime read-alouds with siblings. Reading and writing with and for her students during her long teaching career led to some publications in magazines and journals.
When Sandy retired from teaching and joined SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) she gained a critique group and took part in professional workshops and conferences. The development of her writing craft and extensive research led to the publication of Odin’s Promise.
She writes picture book text, poetry, early reader paneled text, and professional articles on developing reading with quality literature.
Sandy hosts a blog about the use of picture books for all ages at http://UnpackingPictureBookPower.blog….
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To connect with Sandy: Goodreads | Website | Twitter

Q&A:

Readers might be surprised to find out that Odin is a dog. He’s very protective of eleven-year-old Mari. I noticed you dedicated the novel to the first Odin. What can you tell us about the first Odin and was he, too, protective of you?

Odin was a mixed breed, golden retriever-spaniel, and was a wise and gentle soul. He came into my life when he was already an older dog, full of humor and loyalty. Perhaps because he was nearly deaf by then he was very attuned to changes in household routines and the environment, so he would alert me to those. I have no doubt he would have defended me with his life, if needed (between naps).

Here’s an interesting fact: I avoid reading books featuring dogs, until I absolutely can’t stop myself because I know the book is so terrific. I’m sure there are other readers like that, and I NEVER planned to write a story with a dog in it. When dogs are in stories I’m in constant fear for their safety, even if I’m told in advance that nothing bad happens.

After I found Mari’s voice and perspective (or she found me) I had no choice. Mari needed a dog. She knew it and I knew it. I needed to give her the right one.

That’s when research about native Norwegian breeds began. The more I researched the more certain I was that she needed a Norwegian elkhound, even though I never had one or had even known one. Its breed traits (protective, intelligent, loyal, powerful, and fearless) were perfect for Mari. Even more importantly, elkhound traits represent the ideals of Norway as a country. Odin HAD to be his name. He became my symbol for Norway’s stand against the Nazis and refusal to accept their false claims of friendship.

I was relieved to find that there are black elkhounds, even though elkhound-blacks are not common. As a child we had a black dog with white toes and tail-tip, and the dog/family member I met on my first trip to Norway was also black with those markings. I was especially happy to find that was a realistic option for Mari’s dog, too.

Since Odin’s Promise was released I have been involved with members of the NEAA, the Norwegian Elkhound Association of America. Through their warm-hearted members (two- and four-footed ones) I’ve fallen in love with the breed and found that everything I read about them is true, and more.

Anyone interested in learning more about the breed and available dogs could contact: http://www.elkhoundrescue.org

 

Can you share any picture of the type of traditional dress Mari would have worn to her sister’s wedding?

hardanger bunad detail hardanger bunad iamge

Link here to a post with other links: http://www.sandybrehl.com/bunad-whats-that/

Norway is a single country but represents widely different cultures and climates because it stretches from northern Europe into the Arctic Circle. The country is divided into districts (something like our states), separated by geographic landmarks like mountain ranges, tundras, etc. As with our states, each district has its own local pride and practices. The bunad (traditional costumes) for each district are distinct and can be easily identified by most Norwegians. (Think cheeseheads and team logos.) Even when someone moves (within the country or by emigrating) the bunad design from their “homeland” or family-based district is usually the design they will continue to wear and use in succeeding generations.

Mari’s family in Ytre Arna would wear the Hardanger District bunad. (pictured). These are VERY expensive outfits and include many embellishments with silver or pewter buttons, laces, and jewelry adornments. When children are young and growing fast they may have simpler bunad, made in the general style, then finally receiving their adult version at fifteen. At that age they have Confirmation, a major event in Norwegian culture indicating passage to adulthood.

Over the course of the occupation many people found they needed to barter away the buttons and other valuable parts from personal and heirloom bunad in exchange for necessities.

What is your favorite food that Mari and her family would have eaten? Can you share a recipe?

(kranse kaka recipe sent, if you want it, from a master-expert Norwegian baker, a friend of mine.) Link to it on my blog is here, but the special eBook price no longer applies: http://www.sandybrehl.com/holiday-kranse-kake-recipe-a-bonus/

Recipe for Kranse Kake

3 – 8 ounce cans SOLO pure almond paste

1 cup granulated sugar

2 egg whites

Mix together in mixer until well-blended. Spray tins well with PAM for baking with flour. Use flat star template in cookie press to make a ring of dough in each section of the tins. Use a blunt tool such as a plastic orange peeler to press ends together. Be sure the ring of dough is perfectly round.

Bake tins (2 or 3 at a time) in a 325 degree oven for 17-22 minutes. Check at 15 minutes. Do not let the rings get too brown. They should be just turning and be golden brown on the edges. Remove from oven and let cool before removing from pans. (I take my orange slicer tool and gently lift here and there to make sure they aren’t sticking.)

After rings are completely cold, remove from tins and arrange in order on a counter. Begin with the largest and stack “gluing” them together with frosting:

1 egg white slightly beaten

3 drops white vinegar

1 cup powdered sugar

Put the “glue” into a strong zip-lock bag and when you are ready to assemble the cake, snip a very small piece off one corner of the bag. Pipe a solid band of frosting all around the top of the layer and then immediately set the next layer on top. Repeat until all layers are used.

If you wish, you may pipe “scallops” of frosting around the cake to decorate. Store the cake in an airtight container. It may also be frozen.

Norwegian flags or wrapped candies may be stuck into the cake for decoration. For special occasions, I have used a wired ribbon bow atop the cake.

 

This recipe makes an eighteen layer cake. You will likely have dough left over which can be used to make fingers. (Just pipe out long lines of dough on a cookie sheet and cut into uniform pieces and then bake.)

If you double the recipe (which we do for weddings) it will make a 36 layer cake and about 200 fingers.

Note: I always use the SOLO almond paste because it works the best. I have used other brands (Odense) and the cake does not turn out as well.

Nancy Sande

 

Food was extremely scarce during this time, but Mari didn’t complain. Would she have suffered in any other way besides weight loss, which you mentioned?

Odin’s Promise is only the first year of the occupation, so the rationing was not nearly as severe as it would become over the course of five long years of occupation. The conditions in specific areas varied greatly, as I suggested in the story. Mari lived near the southwest coast, a milder climate, and had access to the fjord for fishing.

Agricultural areas had more ability to provide for themselves despite the fact that much of their crops/livestock were confiscated for German use. From the beginning the Germans stayed well-fed and many reports say they considered being stationed in Norway a luxury posting.

Urban areas with limited garden space, dense populations, and a heavy concentration of soldiers suffered the greatest shortages.

Over time this had different effects depending on age and general health. Young children were allowed a modest milk ration until age five. Children had poor bone and dental development, including toothaches and decay as well as joint pain. It was common to develop severe and chronic coughs during the winter months, usually treated with nothing more than flannel rags soaked in warm camphor oil tied to their chests. Pneumonia posed the greatest threat to the very young, very old, and those with chronic illnesses because nutrition and resistance were so poor.

In the final year of the occupation the potato crop failed, an essential staple, at a time when troop numbers were the highest and resources had been severely depleted.

Mari and her family were VERY fortunate to be able to stay in their home when the Nazis came to their village. Please share what happened to other families who had to leave their homes or had to house Nazis during this time.

This changed after the first year and is a major component of Books Two and Three, and shapes major plot elements in both.

What topics would Mari have studied in school and how would they have been different or the same for children going to school at the same time in the United States?

First, Norway offers parents a full year paid maternity leave, followed by high-quality free or affordable early childhood services. Children usually attend preschools and child-care centers at which socialization, play, and other developmentally appropriate experiences fill their days.
Schools do not actually enroll children in “year one” (first grade) until they are seven years old. At that time they begin working with a single teacher and often stay with that teacher and group until “lower school” is completed at year six (age 13).

As you can imagine, these groups, including the other students, their teachers, and their families, become very close during those years. I heard numerous stories of people who remained lifelong friends from those shared years.

School subjects included the usual math, reading, writing, grammar, history, and science. Nature, art, music, fitness, and sports also played important roles.

Additional languages were taught as early as year four, and at that time the foreign language was often German. Norwegian language has variations in different regions of the country, but it is similar in many ways to Danish and Swedish, so those were picked up more naturally.

These days formal English instruction begins at year four and by the time students leave the school system most are fluent in three or more languages.

Foreign language was rarely taught in elementary schools in this country. In fact, those who spoke other languages were often treated with disdain or suspicion here, especially after war began in Europe and the Pacific areas.

School patterns were affected severely in the second year of occupation and beyond due to ever-increasing numbers of German troops. These changes play a significant part in Book Two of the trilogy, as Mari and her classmates move into upper school.

There were Norwegians who joined the Nazis. What kinds of things did they do for the Nazis and how was their relationship with the other Norwegians who refused to become members of their party? 

This was some of the most interesting research I was able to discover while preparing to write Odin’s Promise. The Germans quickly eliminated the authentic Norwegian government and constitution and replaced it with German control, a new flag, and a controlling party, the “NS”, or Nazi Norway. Anyone who openly joined and acted friendly toward the Germans and these changes was treated as if they were Germans. Anything seen as making the Germans welcome (chatting, dating, attending their events) was collaboration. The benefits granted meant some who agreed with the Germans weren’t the only ones supporting them. In order to provide additional food or medicine, some insisted they “had no choice” but to cooperate. It was understood that anyone might be “striped”, acting and talking as if loyal to Norway but then reporting on others to the Germans for extra ration tickets or because of threats.

This posed a challenge to everyone there, but especially to young Mari who had never doubted that everyone she met could be trusted—until the Germans arrived.

“The ice front” (social ostracizing) was a major tool used against the soldiers and anyone who openly supported them. This could be simple things like ignoring them to boycotting their businesses, ridiculing them in the underground newspapers, and making them the butt of jokes.

 

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