Monday, October 10, 2022

CRADLES OF THE REICH, by author JENNIFER COBURN (debuts October 11th)

Three women, a nation seduced by a madman, and the Nazi breeding program to create a so-called master race.

At Heim Hochland, a Nazi breeding home in Bavaria, three women's fates are irrevocably intertwined. Gundi is a pregnant university student from Berlin. An Aryan beauty, she's secretly a member of a resistance group. Hilde, only eighteen, is a true believer in the cause and is thrilled to carry a Nazi official's child. And Irma, a 44-year-old nurse, is desperate to build a new life for herself after personal devastation. All three have everything to lose.

Based on untold historical events, this novel brings us intimately inside the Lebensborn Society maternity homes that actually existed in several countries during World War II, where thousands of "racially fit" babies were bred and taken from their mothers to be raised as part of the new Germany. But it proves that in a dark period of history, the connections women forge can carry us through, even driving us to heroism we didn't know we had within us.


The Handmaid's Tale meets WWII in Cradles of the Reich...Jennifer Coburn's debut historical novel is adept, unforgettable, and brilliantly unsettling!

-- "Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author"

Jennifer Coburn gives compelling and necessary literary voice to those impacted the most by Adolf Hitler's haunting and ironically dehumanizing scheme to generate racially pure infants. Skillfully researched and told with great care and insight, here is a World War II story whose lessons should not―must not―be forgotten.

-- "Susan Meissner, USA Today bestselling author"

With grace and a deft hand, Jennifer Coburn creates indelible female characters that leave us heart-torn. This book kept me breathless from chapter to chapter. I couldn't put it down until the final heroic page.

-- "Sarah McCoy, New York Times bestselling author" 

Author interview with Jennifer~

Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.

I have always loved writing but never thought it was something I could do for a living. Instead, I got a job in public affairs at Planned Parenthood, which was wonderful because it gave me the chance to write about reproductive freedom in the agency newsletter, constituent letters, and brochures. Soon my boss started letting me draft opinion pieces for the local newspaper and I was hooked. 

When I was on maternity leave, I decided to write a book of essays about motherhood, which morphed into a romantic comedy called Tales from the Crib. I wrote six romantic comedies, a mother-daughter travel memoir called We’ll Always Have Paris, then made a sharp turn to historical fiction about lesser-known Nazi programs.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

I love reading, attending theatre, eating (really good) food, and traveling.

How do you start your day (a routine of sorts?)

Mornings are for chores that don’t require a lot of brainpower. It’s when I reluctantly exercise, go to Costco, or do laundry. I start writing or revising at noon – alright, more like 4 PM -- and work late.

Finish this: “I can’t write without…” 

Anxiety. I wish I could, but anxiety is my constant companion.

If I had to spend a week on a deserted island, I would need… a lovely spot to read.

What is something about you that would surprise people? 

I am a sucker for singing audition clips like America’s Got Talent, etc. It’s rare that I don’t cry watching those amazing singers belt their hearts out. Man, would I love to be able to sing like some of those women who just get up there and rock the mic. I’m easily moved by music – or I’m jealous of their talent – probably a mix of the two.


What was the original title for this book?


It was called Spring of Life because that is the English translation of Lebensborn. It also had such a creepy vibe, I just loved it. As the manuscript was being shopped to different publishers, several editors told me that they loved the book but thought a title change was in order.


Where do you get your ideas?


I learned about the Lebensborn Society from a TV show called The Man in the High Castle when a character mentioned she was bred through this Nazi program. I thought it had to be a fictional element of the show but started digging and found it was real. The idea of women volunteering to have “a child for Hitler” was intriguing. It gripped me like nothing had before and I could not stop asking why women would do this, how it worked, and how many babies were bred. With every answer, I had even more questions. Then I wondered who might be at one of these breeding homes – and what might happen if each was there with conflicting goals and desires.


If you have written more than one book, which story would you choose to live?


Certainly not Cradles of the Reich, though I have to say, I would find a day of time-travel to Nazi Germany (with a foolproof escape hatch) fascinating. I wouldn’t mind living the life of Mona in my second rom-com Reinventing Mona because she lives in a sprawling mansion on the beach in Coronado with the love of her life.


Do you have a go-to first reader after you feel your manuscript is ready? 

My 25-year-old daughter Katie is an incredibly insightful reader. I have come to rely on her comments. I am working on a new novel now and book time with her to discuss ideas and plotlines. She’s a Ph.D. candidate so she’s insanely busy, but I’m grateful that she still makes time for her mama.


What are you working on now?


I am working on a novel set in the Theresienstadt Nazi propaganda ghetto/camp in northern Czechoslovakia. In writing Cradles of the Reich, my interest in Nazi propaganda grew deeper. I knew about propaganda films, posters, books, music, and even board games. What I hadn’t known about was a special camp the Nazis created for so-called privileged prisoners. Prisoners were slave laborers, lived in wretched conditions, and were often transported to Auschwitz. It was also a place where some of the greatest artists, musicians, and writers in Europe were sent. 

The arts scene was incredible. There were concerts, operas, symphonies, lectures, and readings every day. At the same time, thousands died from disease and starvation. In 1944, the Nazis “beautified” the ghetto for a Red Cross inspection and propaganda film. My story is about two women: a prisoner and a Nazi filmmaker whose lives intersect at Theresienstadt.


Is anything in your book based on real-life experiences?


Both Cradles of the Reich and (working title) The Glimmer Factory are set in real life, albeit the past. I am getting wonderful feedback on the Author’s Note at the end of Cradles.


Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?


No spoilers, but an editor told me that I talked a lot about Gundi having to prove her trustworthiness to the resistance, but I never showed it in action. This led to my writing a scene that is by far a reader favorite. I am so grateful to all the smart people I had in my corner for the writing and marketing of this novel. (Have you seen the book trailer? How much do I love the Sourcebooks marketing team and their stellar graphic designers?)


Do you have a favorite character? 

The easy answer is Gundi since she is the heroine, but I’m going to shout out to my favorite minor character, Rivka Solomon. She is Gundi’s boyfriend Leo’s mother. In one scene, she privately asks Gundi if she would be willing to convert to Judaism. Leo is upset because it’s dangerous to be Jewish in Germany in 1939, and he cannot believe his mother would put Gundi at risk. Her response was absolutely what my Aunt Rita would have said.


 “We were having a conversation, Leo. Do you see a rabbi here? Do you see a Torah rolled out on the kitchen table? It was a discussion, such a big intellectual like you should understand that talk and actions are two different things. I’m a mother, I have questions.”


Finish this sentence: “If I could write about anything, it would be…?” 

Exactly what I’m writing about. I am enormously grateful to be able to write about a topic I feel deeply connected to.


What was some unique research you had to do for a book?

So, so many research rabbit holes, and I loved every minute of it! I spoke with historians of propaganda, architectural historians, food historians (who knew there was such a thing?) and German elders. I was fortunate enough to have the German author Bernhard Schlink support me in ensuring cultural and linguistic authenticity. And I made an unlikely friendship with a 90-year-old man who was part of the Hitler Youth. (He was in the junior arm and was not involved in any violence.) Please read the Author’s Note for all my stories on the research that went into Cradles of the Reich. I hope that it will add to your reading experience.


Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? 

Don’t compare your draft to someone else’s finished book. Do the work, take the hits, get back up, and revise when feedback feels right. Lather, rinse, repeat.



Place you’d like to travel? 

My husband and I are going to Prague, Vienna, and Budapest for our 30th anniversary next spring. I cannot wait! And just because he’s a total mensch, we are taking a day trip to the Theresienstadt ghetto for research on the next novel.


Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans

Thank you for reading Cradles of the Reich. There are thousands of great books and only so much time to read so I appreciate you giving my historical novel a chance. Please visit for the story behind the novel and a listing of events. I would love to meet you in person and am happy to zoom into book clubs for a Q&A.


To connect with Jennifer:




No comments:

Post a Comment