Karin Brising is a theater professional who has performed in opera as well as musical theater. A graduate of New England Conservatory and the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, she also studied at Carnegie Tech, and worked with Martha Graham, Sanford Meisner and Louis Horst. She later traveled to Germany to sing, and upon her return became a teacher, a music critic, and arts feature writer for a chain of weekly newspapers in Connecticut. With a fertile grounding in theater, history and music, she has written a series of novels that draw upon those rich elements. She resides in Connecticut.
In your novel, “North Star,” some of the action takes place in northern Poland during the Second World War. How plausible do you think you have to be, as an author, especially when dealing with an historical subject?
After Germany overran and conquered Poland, slaughtering Jews, intellectuals, priests, upper class people, anyone opposed to them. As with most of the conquered countries, there was a Resistance, which was somewhat effective, and there was an uprising in the dreadful Warsaw Ghetto in 1943, which lasted for several months before the Jewish fighters were defeated, and most died. Germany located several of its most notorious concentration camps in Poland. The camp in North Star is supposedly a Todt labor camp, not a concentration camp. It was created for a very different purpose, as the reader will discover quickly.
Do you think your reading audience will research the time period to see how well you integrated your story with history?
I must have done years of research! I have very large book which is a day-to-day history of WWII which was of enormous help. Of course, I couldn’t lift it! It lived on a table for a long time.
Some of the high-ranking Nazis in your book actually are helpful to your heroine. Do you think that the reader gets a distorted idea about them—how horrible they really were—when reading about them being polite and helpful?
Reinhard Heydrich was, in addition to being one of the worst of the Nazis, a very complex man. When he wasn’t dreaming up ways to use or get rid of people, he was a womanizer, an accomplished violinist, and a pragmatic technocrat. He could be charming if it served his purpose, but he was considered the “dangerous man in the Third Reich,” a devious, scheming, ambitious, villainous man, as our hero and heroine discover. His cohort, in the book, Brandenburg is one of the few people he trusts. Brandenburg, though married, falls in love with Sophia, when he sees her in The Marriage of Figaro which amuses Heydrich. Nevertheless, both of these powerful men rescue her from a terrible fate.
Is Sophia, your soprano-heroine, based on any real-life operatic personality?
Not really, or perhaps several. Sweden has produced many great singers; so, having had a father born in Sweden, and many relatives myself, and having also been an opera singer, I used that as her background, although she was actually born in the USA, and emigrated to Sweden with her parents after a family tragedy.
Knowing theater-people, and opera-personalities as well, how does Sophia’s character see her through her ordeal in “North Star?”
She has a very tough, gutsy streak, which enables her to make many personal sacrifices for her career, but that toughness serves her well. Successful early, she definitely has a true “diva temperament,” but is liked and admired by her colleagues, and her public loves her. Ah, but when she falls in love with her hero, we see a completely different side of her.
How long did it take you to write this book? Did it all come to you at once, or did you need to think about the storyline for a while?
The idea came very quickly, but I wanted it to be plausible and accurate, thus the hours of research. I worked quite a long time on it, because my first try at writing a story like this, (getting it published!) I’ve gone on to other writings, with two works-in-progress in the pipeline! but I confess to missing Sophia and Kai. I pick up the book occasionally. Just to say hello.
If you were to cast this novel as a film, who would play the main roles?
Well – for Kai, I’d really like Thor, i.e. Chris Hemsworth, who would have to stay blond,of course,but with much shorter hair. I think someone like Tea Leoni would be possible – the actress wouldn’t have to do her own singing. A few years ago, I would have cast Renee Fleming immediately. Brandenburg should be someone like Thomas Gibson. He has the right look. Would Christoph Waltz be willing to play Heydrich?
Music plays a large role in “North Star.” Do you think the reader needs to be fluent in classical music to understand the story?
Not really, but if the story piqued a few people to be interested in opera, I think that would be wonderful.
Who, of all your readers, will enjoy this book the most?
I think probably anyone interested in romantic stories or of people who overcome adversities, or the history of the WWII period would enjoy it.