top of page

Author Interview with Bookouture's Rose Alexander

Book Blurb:

Germany, 1945. As the ground shakes and the air raid sirens wail, Katja holds her tiny baby to her chest. She pictures Karl’s handsome face and kind blue eyes, her breath catching at the thought of him heading back to the front. She must never tell anyone about the letters she delivered for him, or the other secret she is hiding…

London, present day. In the midst of a divorce and with her mother Katja recovering from major surgery, Jo is heartbroken and lost: especially because Katja has always been distant, even when Jo was a child. Now, Katja is too frail to be alone, and has moved in to Jo’s cosy bungalow – where Jo hopes they can finally find peace with each other.

But clearing out her mother’s empty home, Jo discovers a dog-eared black diary hidden in a tiny kitchen cupboard. Tucked within the pages is a yellowed envelope with an unfamiliar, faded postmark. The scrawled handwriting reveals a shocking past Jo can scarcely believe, and she realises that she must finally learn the truth about where she came from, before time runs out…

As Katja slowly opens up, she is thrown back to the war-ravaged German countryside: where a brave young woman in love risked everything to memorise detailed maps by candlelight, and had to flee from soldiers in the early light of dawn to save herself and her child.

But Jo can see the pain in Katja’s eyes. She is still holding something back, and the key to her silence lies within the pages of the diary.

Will uncovering the devastating truth about a forbidden love affair kept secret for decades tear mother and daughter apart forever? Or will confronting the past finally help Jo and Katja heal?

Fans of The Letter, The Nightingale and We Were the Lucky Ones will be utterly swept away by this heart-wrenching read. Based on an incredible true story, The Lost Diary is a gripping and unforgettable tale about bravery in the face of unimaginable terror and how a woman pushed to the brink was forced to make a terrible choice.

Book Buy Link:

Author Bio:

I've had more careers than I care to mention and am currently working full-time as a secondary school English teacher. I write in the holidays, weekends and evenings, whenever I have a chance, although with three children, a husband, a lodger and a cat, this isn't always as often as i'd like. My book is the result of much hard work, research and patience. The greatest reward possible would be my readers' enjoyment, so I hope it does it for you!

Author Interview:

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

When I was in sixth form and studying English A-Level, our teachers proposed a trip to Dublin, as one of our set texts was James Joyce’s Dubliners. To the teachers great delight, nearly the whole class immediately signed up. Of course they weren’t to know that it was the hope of encountering Bono or The Edge from U2 that was our real motivation, far more than retracing the steps of Joyce’s characters! Having said that, I absolutely loved Dubliners and, like all of the texts I read for that exam, its influence has stayed with me to this day.

It seems like my school studies had a big impact on my literary pilgrimages because my yearning to visit Zanzibar was also fostered by a set text - this time, ‘Sansibar oder Der Letzte Grund’ by Alfred Andersch, which I read for German A-level. Whether you’ve been inspired by a book or not, I defy anyone not to fall in love with this island off Tanzania, which is fascinating and beautiful in equal measure. Whilst I was there, I did find out that it was the birthplace of Freddie Mercury, which made it a doubly good place to visit.

Last year, my youngest daughter and I finally made it to Corfu to indulge in our love of ‘My Family And Other Animals’ by Gerald Durrell. I think I first read the book when I was about fourteen and since then I have re-read it many times. It never fails to delight.

There have been several film and TV adaptations over the years but ITV’s The Durrells came along when my daughter was at just the right age to be captivated, and she and I decided that Corfu would be our next holiday destination. Then the pandemic came along, together with various family difficulties and illnesses, and the trip was put off. But when we eventually got there, the island didn’t disappoint.

Tell us the best writing tip you can think of, something that helps you.

My best writing tip is to keep at it. Whenever you have time to write, then do so - write something, anything, don’t worry if it’s no good, you can always cross it out or edit it. But if you sit around waiting for inspiration, or you want everything to be perfect, you’ll end up never getting anything down on paper.

What are common traps for aspiring writers? Advice for young writers starting out.

I don’t advertise the fact that I’m a writer to the pupils I teach but I do sometimes run writing workshops in school, around World Book Day and other events, so some of the young people are aware of my other job. Sometimes they come and ask me, ‘Miss, how can I be a writer?’ And the reply is simple. ‘Just write something.’

So I would say that to any young writer - just do it. Write, write, and write.

Don’t expect your first manuscript to be published, or even perhaps your second, third or fourth. If you really want it, you can do it, but you have to keep at it, you have to brace yourself for rejection and you have to have realistic expectations.

I have six published novels with two more coming out this year and next and I still have to work full-time in my teaching job. If you go into writing expecting money, fame and glory, you will probably be disappointed. Do it because you love it. And make sure you read. The best writers are also prolific readers.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

After my first novel, Garden of Stars, was published, I realised that I’d never get anything else written unless I refined my way of working because that book had taken me so long to get off the ground - around two years.

Now, I try to map out the whole book before I start, first of all with a detailed synopsis, which I then turn into a chapter-by-chapter plan. I only have the weekends and school holidays when I can write, so being organised like this means I can have a first draft written in around four months or so.

But the whole process is still really lengthy - I have to put the manuscript aside for a while, then re-read/edit it, then send it to my agent for her thoughts, or straight to the commissioning editor if it’s already part of a deal.

I think I’ve always been able to write quite well but patience is not one of my virtues! I’ve really had to work on that - things take time and that’s just the way it is.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

I honestly think you can be a writer with very little money - I guess a laptop might be considered essential, plus might want a printer, although I rarely print out what I write - perhaps because the cost of printer ink seems to be more than that of liquid gold! I also pay for websites that I built myself with Wix. In terms of the best money, that’s probably when I hired a translator through Fiver to translate a short film I’d found from Montenegrin/Serbian into English. It didn’t cost me that much, but it provided me with valuable information for my second novel, Under an Amber Sky, which is set in the beautiful country of Montenegro. This book has a Serbian version called Nebo boje Meda, which translates as ‘Under a Honey Sky’.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I remember, when I was about seven or eight, going on a playdate after school with a friend. As she and I, plus two others who were also invited, sat in her mother’s car, someone got out a notebook with a picture on the front and, underneath it, the words ‘vice versa’.

A discussion ensued about what ‘vice versa’ meant, and the general agreement was that it was something to do with ‘verse’ and that the book was intended for writing poetry in. I knew that this was not correct, and that ‘vice versa’ meant ‘the other way round’ but I didn’t say anything because I was fairly new to the school and had already been branded a ‘swot’ and a ‘clever clogs.’ I didn’t want to do anything that would cement those views in these girls who had deigned to be my friends.

But what it showed me is that understanding words and language, and knowing how to use them correctly, is really important.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I do quite a lot of research for my World War Two plotlines, mostly through reading books and online articles. Sometimes the smallest thing can be the spark that ignites a whole new story idea. I was visiting Albania for the first time and read in the guidebook that the country was the only one in Europe to end the war with a larger Jewish population than at the beginning, and that the Albanian people sheltered Jews who fled there from Germany and Austria throughout the Italian and then the Nazi occupation. This led to my fourth novel, Out of the Mountain’s Shadow, and I noticed recently that the BBC podcast History’s Secret Heroes has also featured this story.

I’ve recently been writing a dual timeline book set in WW2 and the 1970s and I really enjoyed researching that one.

What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?

I’m fairly relaxed about how accurate fiction needs to be - I carefully research the historical parts of my books, but if I don’t know something and can’t find it out, I’m happy to make it up! My excuse would be that I’m a novelist not a historian. No one should be reading my books to mug up for their History GCSE. When it comes to characters’ thoughts and feelings, usually no one knows for sure what these were, unless that person kept a meticulous diary detailing every aspect of their life. So I think it’s fine to make reasonable guesses. Readers can make their own minds up about the veracity!

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I have to confess that I do read my reviews. Over time, I’ve learnt to rise above the bad ones and not take them too much to heart. Though I would rather they followed my mother’s adage that ‘if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all’, everyone’s entitled to their opinion.

On the other hand, reading good reviews can really raise my spirits when I’m feeling low, finding the writing hard and even wondering whether I should just give up on it and spend my free time like normal people do, going out and having fun, rather than being tied to my desk. The best ones are when readers say that the book struck some personal chord, or gave them hope for the future. That kind of feedback is invaluable and makes up for any negativity.

Tell us your favourite quote and how the quote tells us something about you.

There are so many brilliant quotes out there - how to choose! At my school, the fridge in the staff kitchen is adorned with a variety of inspirational sayings. One that seems particularly apt for teachers is Winston Churchill’s ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat’; that’s certainly how it feels at the end of every term, if not every day or week.

Another one I like to remind myself of is this famous rejection from a publisher to an author: ‘You'd have a decent book if you'd get rid of that Gatsby character.’

It just shows that so much about the publishing and literary world is subjective and there are as many different opinions as there are readers.

Since then, Scott-Fitzgerald’s classic, and one of my all-time favourite books, The Great Gatsby, has sold 25 million copies. And, spoiler alert, he didn’t follow the advice.


bottom of page